It’s Christmas Eve, 1990, Antony Price (with Rupert Everett) is sitting on Madonna’s bed watching rough cuts of In Bed With Madonna. Next day sees the three of them having lunch at Herb Ritt’s Malibu place. ‘I got to know her well when we were watching a famous film, and though everybody else didn’t like it, she and I were mesmerised by it. The film? It was Pasolini’s Saló, which is one of the weirdest, most bizarre films ever made. I first saw it in Soho in the early 1970s, before it was taken off by the police. It’s the story of three prostitutes and they tell their fantasies and Madonna’s looking at me and going, "Where was he coming from?” and I’m going, “I know!”, so we struck up a rapport, She’s fabulous! I love her desire to top the worst enemy she has- which is herself. I’ve met her lots of times now because she always sees Nick Kamen when she’s over here and my partner manages him.'
We’re talking serious stardom here, serious decadence and serious glamour, but then you wouldn’t expect anything less from Price, the man who fused rock and fashion long before Gaultier discovered conical brassieres. Price is the designer who put a capital G into Glamour.
Roxy Music were Price’s first vehicle on the road to stardom; he not only masterminded the band’s album covers and outfits for the girls on tour, but also made suits for Bryan Ferry, establishing the lead singer as the ultimate lounge lizard. 'Yes, I suppose most people do connect me with Roxy Music,' admits Price, lazily. He’s a big man in his mid-forties with a strong jaw and a short haircut, dressed in denim jacket and jeans; black shoes with white socks; his Bradford accent is still detectable and his approach is refreshingly direct. 'Well, the men remember me for Roxy. Women are not aware of Roxy Music in the way that men are. It’s a man’s band. It’s always been a man’s band. And he (Ferry) is a man’s idol; the young men have always admire him, he’s what they aspire to, to have taste like that, to be in the rock business but still have taste and credibility, which is very thin on the ground in the rock business, darling, let’s face it.'
Price should know. His association with Ferry goes back 20 years, back in the days when, fresh from Bradford School of Art and a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, ‘I went straight into Stirling Cooper, which wasn’t happening at all then, with Jane Whiteside and we made Stirling Cooper. I did menswear, she did womenswear. It was very successful.’ Price then opened Plaza, the cheap chic outlet, but it was his shop near World’s End, under his own name, that carried the form-fitting, theatrical fantasies for which he is famous today- divinely desirable constructions for shapely sirens, made up in satin, taffeta, velvet, lame, all drop-dead visions of the peerless party dress. The shop itself was an exercise in pure stylistics.
'It was ahead of its time,' says Price. 'It was the new uncluttered way of presenting clothes which is now standard, but then people would say “Where’s the stock?”. Clothes were presented as an art form, plus passers-by didn’t know if it was a sex shop or a betting shop. It had great lighting - everybody looked fabulous.'
We’re back to Glamour again. 'It’s the shows I do,' smiles Price. 'I always use all the girls who are going out with all the guys and most of the audience at my shows are boys anyway, who whoop and whistle throughout. I’m the only designer who gets the place full of guys who want to watch what I can do with girls, because what I do is a man’s ideal of women’s clothes. They’re clothes that men would choose to wear if they were women. I have a lot of straight male friends and I listen to their sexual scenarios and what exactly is going on in their minds.' Price laughs mischievously. 'I don’t think many women designers know about that and a lot of men don’t actually speak about it but I can get it out of them.'
'There’s still an enormous rift between the male and female psyches - of what the sexes require of each other - and there doesn’t seem to be much of a bridge between them but I can make a bridge and they come to watch the shows to cross over that bridge. You should see the smiling faces on the men looking at my clothes. They grin, watching their dreams come true.'
Price has dressed most of the world’s dream women - Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Jerry Hall, Marie Helvin, Yasmin Le Bon, Lucy Ferry - as well as designing for the organisers of the current London fave venue, Kinky Gerlinky. 'I’ve dressed royalty, yes, but we’re not allowed to mention that, and I dress a lot of those LA girls - Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith, Cher, Diana Ross buys a lot of my stuff. I’ve dressed just about everybody. They’ve all come to me at some point or another.'
One name is conspicuously absent from Price’s list. 'Ah yes, Madonna,' he drawls. 'That’s the one who hasn’t'. Surprising really, as Madonna would be perfect for Price’s aggressive, sexy elegance. What is his ideal? 'I love those Olympian women with big shoulders and long bodies.’ Maybe Madonna is too tiny for his clothes then? 'No, no, no!' says Price. 'Please! Her ego! Let’s talk about her ego! It’s monumental. That’s what I’d be designing for.'
Originally published in Time Out, 18 December-1 January 1992