Amelia’s Magazine | Fashion Philosophy Fashion Week Poland S/S 2012 in Łódź: Monika Ptaszek

Monika Ptaszek S/S 2012 by Antonia Parker.

One of my very favourite collections at Fashion Week Poland this time around came courtesy of Monika Ptaszek, who showed a menswear collection that mashed together a variety of eclectic styles to great effect. Think teddyboy meets punk meets rave meets grunge: the final effect was the epitome of Polish style when it’s done right.

Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek S/S 2012. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Models came with serious attitude, sporting impressive quiffs and pouting with great intent at the end of the catwalk. Androgynous elements such as lace swing tops, swirly sheer leggings and bespoke brocade shoes sat together easily with manly studded details on sleeves and cropped tartan jackets. Colourful floral prints and patchwork hoods were accessorised with chunky woven scarves. I spoke with Monika Ptaszek afterwards at her stand, and was intrigued to discover that her last collection was entirely black. For S/S 2012 she cites the metropolitan man who roams Paris as her ideal customer, and I can well imagine him wearing Ptaszek for Men. Loved it.

Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory

And not forgetting the fabulous brocade shoes:

Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory
Monika Ptaszek Fashion Week Poland SS 2012-photo by Amelia Gregory

Categories ,80s, ,Antonia Parker, ,Brocade, ,Fashion Philosophy Fashion Week Poland, ,gay, ,grunge, ,Lodz, ,menswear, ,Metropolitan, ,Monika Ptaszek, ,paris, ,Patchwork, ,Ptaszek for Men, ,punk, ,rave, ,Teddyboy

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Amelia’s Magazine | Fashion in Film Festival: Pink Narcissus

Illustration by Running for Crayons

So the third Fashion in Film Festival kicked off last week and had film fans and fashionistas flocking to cinemas to catch rare and unreleased archival screenings.

First on my list was a trip to The Horse Hospital. I’d never heard of it before either, case search but it’s a treat. Situated behind Russell Square station (not the insalubrious bit, although the evening was to turn insalubrious as I’ll explain later…) the name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s London’s only existing and accessible two-floor horse stable, and the interior remains relatively unchanged, save a bit of black paint splashed on the walls. Down a cobbled ramp and behind a heavy black curtain lies a cinema screen with few seats. The only traditional ‘cinema-style’ seats were a row of four at the front, the rest were school-dinners chairs, so me and my colleague made a dart for them. It was bloody freezing I tell ya – it was London’s snowiest evening so far and two tiny heaters aren’t going to warm a cavernous black room. Still, we were forewarned and had wrapped up.

Now, Pink Narcissus isn’t your typical ‘fashion film’. Forget what you know of fashion films, particularly in the glamorous OTT perfume advertisement sense. Pink Narcissus is unadulterated, gratuitous porn. Gay porn, at that. Essentially it’s a pervy New Yorker who fancied the pants (literally) off some young Brando-esque model and decided to make an ‘art film’ over seven years, making sure most scenes contained said Brando-esque model’s round bottom and various appendages. Cue titters from me and my colleague. It’s hard not too, right?

Illustration by Alison Day

That’s the short version, but there’s a lot more to it. Ryan Powell, lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College, gave a fascinating introduction into the circumstances surrounding the film’s production and release. Bidgood, the film’s director, was a photographer and costume designer with very little (if any) filmmaker training. That didn’t stop him though. Oh no. Bidgood transformed his apartment with lavish sets over the course of seven years. These are, by anybody’s estimation, incredible. It’s the kind of film where you have to continually remind yourself of this fact because some of the sets – a New York cityscape or a decadent bullfighter’s arena, for example, are unbelievable.

The film, as Powell told us, was originally released amidst much controversy with nobody actually claiming ownership. It took almost a decade for Bidgood to step forward after much deliberation in the press as to which closeted artist or filmmaker had produced it.

Illustration by Caroline Duffy

So, the plot. Well, there isn’t one really. I’d be kidding you if I suggested that this is anything other than an erotic exploration of the male form. The film ‘aims’ to tell the story of the sexual fantasies of a male prostitute, who sexually envisions himself as various characters, from a Roman slave to a matador. Bobby Kendall, star of the show, is drop-dead gorgeous and it’s no surprise that Bidgood formed such a fixation on the man. Most people keep there obsessions in private, but not Bidgood. Oh no. He makes a film about it. It reminded me somewhat of the unusual relationship between Lagerfeld and his ‘male muse’ Baptiste Giabiconi – Kendall has the same exotic look as Baptiste and it seems the former was equally as exploited in his day as the latter is now. I can only imagine the conversations. ‘Yes, that’s it, this scene/shoot will look MUCH BETTER if you take your knickers off. Go on. Cheers.’

Illustration by Charlotte Hoyle

Pink Narcissus, for all its perversions, is undoubtedly a stunning film, and its easy to see why it was selected to be screened during the Fashion in Film Festival. There’s only so much you can say about the physical fashion in a gay porn flick, but I will do my damn best. Powell told us that, as a costume designer by day, Bidgood salvaged materials from the projects he was commissioned for and turned them into the costumes we see in the film. They don’t leave much to the imagination – particularly translucent onesies. When costumes do feature, they are incredible. The ‘bullfighting scene’ (read: leather-clad biker in hot-pants riding towards translucent-onesie-wearing Kendall wafting red material) features a lavishly embellished bolero jacket that would be the envy of millions. Fabrics drape all over the place, loin-cloths are made of silk, and my favourite scene – with ‘just a glimpse of cock’ – features a dancer enveloped in an exotic beaded-creation that dazzles. It’s evident that the director has a talent for dress.

It’s high camp at its best. All at the same time, its a master-class in decadence, trash and beauty, and Bidgood could teach modern filmmakers a thing or two, with his saturated colours, confronting close-ups and innovative cuts. The colours vary from bright blues to hot pinks, purples and greens; it’s a bit like being trapped in somebody else’s vivid dream. It’s totally mesmerising.

Thanks, Fashion in Film Festival, for bringing it to the cinema once again.

The Fashion in Film Festival runs until 12 December. Get all the details in our listings section.

Categories ,1970s, ,Baptiste Giabiconi, ,Bobby Kendall, ,Bolero, ,Brando, ,Fashion in Film Festival, ,film, ,gay, ,Homoeroticism, ,James Bidgood, ,Karl Lagerfeld, ,Kings College, ,Matador, ,Pink Narcissus, ,Porn, ,Russel Square, ,Ryan Powell, ,The Horse Hospital

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Amelia’s Magazine | About a Boy

Since Ewan MacGregor sang to Nicole Kidman to the light of a Moulin Rouge, viagra information pills or perhaps since Don Quixote tilted heroically over the hills to La Mancha at those giant-like shapes, cialis 40mg they’ve caught our hearts as surely as Windy Miller once did, waving to us from the music box as an episode of Camberwick Green came on telly. Given the topicality of their gleaming three-pronged younger brothers, the turbines bedecking our beloved bemoorlands, eyes turned to Vestas’ factory on the Isle of Wight, I thought I’d glance back a little, to quieter ages.

Illustrations by Jeffrey Bowman

They were the great technological innovation of the twelth century, at least in Northern Europe. The Persians had been happily pumping water with wind power 1500 or so years earlier, and the Greeks on the Cyclades out-sourced their grain grinding expertise to the mainland, charging a nifty 1/10 of the flour fee. Their three pronged modern successors are the best developed shot at renewable energy we’ve properly developed yet.

When you scratch the surface of windmill history, you come across the attractively-named International Molinological Society, whose members meet every four years or so to talk over anything from ‘oblique scoopwheels’ to industrial espionage – mill technology from the USA in the early 19th century was carried across the ocean by the German spies Ganzel and Wulff to form the start of a new development in european mill technology. Can you imagine the excitement and tension in that debriefing room?

Darrell M Dodge (of Littleton, Colorado)’s Illustrated History of Wind Power Development calls windmills ‘the electrical motor of pre-industrial Europe’. They did all sorts : pumping water from wells, for irrigation, or drainage using a scoop wheel, grain-grinding, saw-milling wood, and processing spices, cocoa, paints and dyes, and tobacco.


To see the first main kind of northern european windmill, you can take a trip down to Outwood, Britain’s oldest still-functioning windmill, built in 1665 by Thomas Budgen of Nutfield. It’s a post mill : the whole body, weighing around 25 tons, rotates on a central post made of a single enormous oak tree, to bring the mill round into the wind.

The post mill was the most common design in the twelfth century, when they were just getting going (the first reference to a British windmill is in 1191). By the end of the thirteenth century, though, the masonry tower mill had been introduced. These had the neat innovation of a turning timber cap, built on a stone tower – so the moving bit was lighter, and the windmill could be built taller with larger sails to get more power.

William Cubitt was a curious engineer from Norfolk, obsessed with the efficient use of energy. He straightened out an unsatisfactory bit of canal north of Oxford, and invented the prison treadwheel, a device which perhaps sums up that mechanical, peculiarly Victorian vision that every cog and wheel of society should find its place, in workhouse, town house or courthouse. He installed the first one in Bury St Edmunds Gaol in 1819, followed enthusiastically by ones at Cold Bath Fields (London), Swaffham, Worcester, Liverpool and probably more besides.

On the more picturesque side of his engineering, in 1807, he invented and swiftly patented a new type of sail, known from then on as ‘Patent Sails’, which combined the innovations of a Scottish millwright, Andrew Meikle (‘descended from a line of ingenious mechanics’ according to his tombstone) and Stephen Hooper. Meikle developed spring sails in 1772 made of a series of parallel shutters that could be adjusted according to windspeed, and had springs which let them open a little more if the wind gusted. Hooper invented a device in 1789 which let the sails be adjusted without ever stopping – he called it the roller reefing sail. Patent Sails became the basis of self-regulating sails, avoiding the need for tiresome constant supervision – and proved successful. Windmills on this design outlasted steam power and the industrial revolution – they were still in use as drainage pumps on the Norfolk Broads until 1959.

So, though grinding grain for bread has mostly been swapped for juicing up the national grid, some of the old guard hold on. And though I’d love to get confused about upwind turbines and Betz limits – why exactly the new wind power is generated from only three pretty fine blades slicing through the sky, we’d best leave it there for now.


 What is the magic formula that the Secret Garden Party have got their bejeweled mitts on? Having just spent a weekend with them – and 6, for sale 000 happy, friendly campers – I would go so far as to say that there are cosmic forces at work which have taken all the ingredients needed to turn a great festival into a glorious one. For those who are as yet uninitiated, The Secret Garden Party is ever so much more than a weekend away listening to top tunes. It’s a soul liberating free fall of wonderment and the bizarre; a playground for grown up children to indulge in fairy tales and fantasy. I succumbed to such an extent that I feared returning to the harsher edges of reality would be a painful bump, but it turned out that the magic dust managed to stick and I awoke Monday morning with a serious dose of the happy’s.





Our arrival didn’t have the most auspicious beginning. What should have been a mornings car journey turned into a 6 hour stint on the M25 and M11, where roadworks defied us at every turn. By the time we dragged our sorry selves to the camp site we were tired, hot and irritable. “This better be bloody brilliant” I muttered to myself as I hastily assembled my tent. (minor lie – my wonderful Amelia’s Magazine colleagues assembled it; I couldn’t erect a tent if my life depended on it). Yet, as we walked into the site, all grumblings melted away.



The afternoons dark clouds had gave way to a glowing sunset which bathed everyone in a soft light. Not knowing what to expect, we were instantly struck by how beautifully visual our new surroundings were. Every inch of the vast grounds are designed in a way that your senses take a direct hit every time you turn your head. The activities take place around a great lake; lit up at dark, and open for swimming by day. At the centre is a floating island, home to the Tower of Babel (which serves a very important purpose later on in the weekend). Feeling very much like a group of Alice’s heading down the rabbit hole to a more peculiar, colourful world, we ventured over bridges, through patches of woodland, past strange sculptures, finding cosy hiding spots wherever we went. And the outfits we saw! It is common knowledge that dressing up is encouraged at SGP, but I wasn’t prepared for the dizzy heights that many had taken their creativity. Thousands of people had clearly had a determined rummage in the dressing up box; glitter adorned most, fairies mixed with pirates who consorted with mythical creatures who hung out with boys in dresses and feathers who were making friends with girls in top hats and tails.




Eventually, our adventures took us to the main stage, which was perfect timing, because Phoenix were headlining, and they were one of the must-see bands on my list for the weekend. Grabbing a delicious dinner to go (think Moroccan Mezze rather than greasy noodles or burgers), we found a patch on the hill to watch the French alternative rockers have such a great rapport with their audience that they invited a couple of hundred to get up on stage and sing along, until the stage was so full that the band had to climb up equipment to make themselves seen.


The rest of the night was a heady mix of dancing, drinking, sometimes being spectators and sometimes participating. Our packed schedule of what to see gave way to a more relaxed amble, stopping off when something took our fancy. Translated – we stopped every 10 feet. As we found ourselves in the ‘salacious hothouse of Babylon’ (the region south of the lake), it was only to be expected that we were treated to earthy pleasures of the flesh; once we found the pole dancers, we were transfixed. The boys around us were almost too incredulous to be turned on. “My God, that girl must have thighs of steel!” I heard one marvel to his girlfriend.



It’s hard to recall too much more about the night, but pictures document wild dancing on bales of hay to seventies disco tunes in a heaving tent, and discovering that the party was clearly going on in the wildly popular One Taste venue, home to a mixture of live beat-boxing and ska, cheering crowds, and a bar dispensing deliciously spicy chai teas. We watched night turn into morning on the Eden side of the lake, (also known as the oasis) in the Laa of Soft Things, a tent where straw bales doubled as fluffy clouds and turned us into rag dolls. Limbs entwined, friendships were quickly formed over the common ground of happy tiredness and sensory overload.




Saturday dawned to brilliant sunshine, which made swimming in the lake an extra special and necessary experience. For those who wanted more than music, a multitude of informative events and discussions had been laid on, such as The Bohemian Artists Studio, The Poetry Playhouse, and the Dodge Ball Tournament, to name but a few. Early birds could participate in the yoga sanctuary, ( I think you can guess that we didn’t make that one). Instead, we lazed the afternoon away watching some of our favourite bands; Soku, The Dø, Slow Club (interviewed in Issue 9 of Amelia’s Magazine) and Noah and The Whale, as well as our newest discovery, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, described as acoustic folk rock metal, with a Spanish flamenco twist.




The highlight of the weekend had to be the events of Saturday night. As dark descended, Thai lanterns were released into the air, floating away and burning bright. We followed the crowds towards the lake to witness the epic spectacle of The Burn; the wooden Tower of Babel set ablaze and lighting up the night sky. As the organisers of SGP explained, this was the marriage and the end of the divide between Babylon & Eden. The SGP team had obviously learnt a lot from their trips into the Nevada desert to take part in The Burning Man Festival, and this union of art, nature and performance was the perfect example of the box of tricks which the Secret Garden Party have up their sleeve.



The weekend drew to a close for us in the sweetest way possible – getting to watch Au Revoir Simone play their beautifully crafted melodies to a rapt audience. The girls sound more divine with each listen, and treated us to the songs from their sublime new album Still Night, Still Bright. As our regular readers know, Au Revoir bring out the fangirl in Amelia’s Magazine, so I shamelessly sang along at the top of my lungs to their harmonies. Thank God their keyboards were loud enough to drown me out is all that I can say in sober hindsight. By the way, I thought the guy that I was standing next to was absolutely adorable, but I was a little shy about saying hello, so if you were wearing a straw hat and a baggy red jumper, and are reading this, then get in touch!


All that is left to add is to encourage you all to do whatever you can to get your hands on a ticket to 2010′s SGP. The organisers are already promising that they will ‘blow our minds’ with what they have in store. I don’t doubt that for a moment. From now on, I have complete faith that what whatever the Secret Garden Party organises, it will be like nothing that you have ever experienced. Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to plan my outfits for next years festivities.

We owe a great deal to the 1970s. I shudder to think where we might be today without the post it note, pill without Punk, symptoms and of course without the phenomena that is The Roller Disco. Every element of the theme has triumphantly survived the three decades since it first hit the dancefloors and is still as much of a thrill today as it was then; pumping nightspot glam pop tunes serenading couples holding hands circuiting the room gripping to each other equal parts lust and fear; the wallflowers carefully inching along the handrails with unsure feet, the solo regulars strutting their fierce routines with every right to be showing off; everyone dressed in all that is spangly and sequined, flared and cropped; fuelled by diner dogs and sugary slushies, it was and still is the perfect night out.


Tonight sees a huge homage to the roller disco down at Shoreditch’s top warehouse venue Village Underground, hosted by Vauxhall Skate and it promises to knock our knee high socks off. The all important music accompaniment is in the very capable hands of DJs ex Libertines Carl Barat, Smash and Grab darlings Queens of Noize, recently Mercury Prize nominated Florence Welch of ‘& the Machines’ fame, Alfie Allen, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Richard Jones and a last minute addition to the bill, NYC’s Cory Kennedy.

Florence Welch

Queens of Noize

The roller skating part is pitched as entirely optional, but for those who are concerned that having not been on a pair of skates since childhood might result in rather a lot of shameful cringing better watch out for the fabulous Jonny Woo, who will be hosting a ‘car-aoke’ sing song courtesy of Lucky Voice, with a brimming dressing up box full of props. No event would be complete without the option to update or completely overhaul one’s look, so thank the lord that the very talented Lyndell Mansfield will be joining the crew for the night with her ‘pit-stop salon’ for free hairstyling.

Jonny Woo

Kate Moross

In terms of visuals the guests are for a real treat. Kate Moross who has designed shop windows for Diesel, poster artwork for Animal Collective and covers for Vice and Fact magazines, has customised her first car, a Vauxhall Corsa, especially for the party in her signature cutting edge style. The Vauxhall Corsa was wrapped in white vinyl while Kate painted directly onto it with acrylic paint and Posca semi permanent markers. The colours were chosen because of the rainbow spectrums and light fields used in SciFi imagery, a key influence in the ‘Vauxhall Skate’ set design. ‘Vauxhall Skate’ extends Vauxhall‘s commitment to driving excitement on four wheels. the car company has also created a unique pair of roller boots, in true Corsa style, which will be showcased in all their glory on the evening. Other cars to be on show include a Car-aoke Vauxhall Corsa adorned with retro green UV wire frames and a rotating mirror-ball Vauxhall Tigra, most recently seen at the Vauxhall Style catwalk shows.


Catering includes free hot dogs and cupcakes, and the all important bar is kindly provided by Bacardi Mojito. Tickets for the evening were solely allocated on a lottery basis to all those that RSVPed and entered the draw. If you managed to get your hands on a pair then congratulations are in order. If you were less lucky, then panic ye not- Dazed Digital and Vauxhall have partnered up to give away 35 pairs of free tickets. Click here to enter your email address for a chance to win. Alternatively, have a go here.

The Village Underground

Vauxhall Skate

The Village Underground
54 Holywell Lane
London, EC2A

Wednesday July 29th
8pm – 1am

Free, but invitation only.

It might be worth arguing that more than any form of artistic expression, page fashion can be indicative of the societal state of mind. In particular we can witness changing attitudes towards gender norms within different social spheres – this is one of the premises that the exhibition at the Photographers’ GalleryWhen You’re a Boy: Men’s Fashion Styled by Simon Foxton’ grounds itself in, diagnosis and indeed one that Foxton has worked with throughout his whole career.


The fact that it’s rare to for a stylist’s work to be put on show like this denotes that it’s a role that’s underrated by many, diagnosis but here’s a retrospective that vindicates the work of a stylist as a real agent of social commentary, working with ideas as well as clothes. Foxton in particular has admitted to “using clothes as a tool” to make a statement, paradoxically suggesting that while these are examples of photographs that might appear in fashion magazines, they are not necessarily about the clothes themselves.


Taking its title from the David Bowie song, ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ the tight selection of images span Foxton’s collaborations with photographers Nick Knight, Alasdair McLellan and Jason Evans. Addressing issues of gender, race and class amongst others, we see our attitudes mirrored often by sartorial contradiction, through a process of revealing and concealing.


Take the images from i-D magazine (shot by Nick Knight) under the title ‘English Heritage’, with one showing an image of the traditional English couple ‘Mr & Mrs Andrews’ with the husband standing dutifully behind his wife perched in an armchair. Yet in their place two muscular black male models, wearing leather bondage gear and a gimp suit respectively, subverting our preconceptions of hegemonic masculinity and femininity that are implicitly nothing more than societal constructs.


Elsewhere, by continually addressing issues of butchness and effeminateness through the references to gay subcultures, we see the capacity of visual media to reconstruct and recreate by using fantasy (potentially) as a weapon.


Foxton seems to share with Oscar Wilde a wry amusement about the way masculinity has been appropriated historically, by juxtaposing strange images and affronting us with a sense of disorder and fantasy to ask us questions about what we understand as normal. Race is also explored, with Jason Evans’ ‘Strictly’ series, uncannily presenting black models wearing plus fours and hunting jackets against urban backdrops, posing questions about ethnicity and Englishness, as well as masculinity at the start of the 1990s.


The extensive and indiscriminate cultural references evident in Foxton’s scrapbooks are striking, with torn out images of tribal warriors wrestling in the dust sharing page space with flyers for gay leather club nights. Foxton is definitely a visionary, and one of fashion’s black sheep as somebody who has never followed trends, instead preferring to choose garments with a cultural reference. Styling here proves itself as an intellectual platform, a means of capitalising on what a readership attaches to a particular fashion – questioning our subscription to their ideals by playing on discrepancies. Fashion has been said to be about fiction and fantasy – but Foxton has proven that a far more interesting arena to be explored is, in fact, reality.

Categories ,English Heritage, ,exhibition, ,Fantasy, ,Gay, ,Menswear, ,Punk, ,Sportswear, ,Styling, ,Tailoring

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Amelia’s Magazine | Donna Summer 1948 – 2012

Donna Summer by Naomi Ryder

Rumours had been circulating all year that undisputed Queen of Disco, matriarch of the 12″ record and five-times Grammy award-winning Donna Summer would perform at London’s Lovebox festival. I bought a ticket in advance and, even when Grace Jones was announced as the headline act, I hoped that Donna Summer would make a surprise appearance and I would finally see one of my favourite artists of all time perform live. So it came as a massive shock to discover (via Twitter as is fast becoming the norm) that the legend had lost her battle with cancer; a battle we didn’t even know she was fighting.

Donna Summer by Sam Parr

Most tributes you’ve read by now probably tell you that LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born on New Year’s Eve 1948, performed in church from the age of ten and moved to Munich in her teens, where she met and married Helmut Sommer – anglicising his name when they split. It was a chance meeting with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte in Germany that would change Donna Summer‘s life forever.

Donna Summer by Nicola O’prey

It was in 1975 that Donna Summer had the idea for a song with the lyric ‘I love to love you’ and Moroder developed the track for another artist, asking Donna only to record a demo. Rumour has it that Donna asked for the lights to be turned off so she could get into the zone, as it were, and her recorded version was so powerful that Moroder insisted it should be released. Casablanca Records‘ chief Neil Bogart was impressed with the song but felt that discotheques would desire a longer track. Wasting no time, Summer moaned her way through 17 minutes – played in full in clubs – and the 12″ record was born.

In 1977, Moroder got his synthesiser out, and with Donna Summer created, in my opinion, one of the greatest dance records of all time – I Feel Love. This song is THIRTY FIVE years old. Its hypnotic beat and Summer‘s ethereal vocals are an impeccable match. The video’s elegant and raunchy simplicity makes it timeless. It makes my knees knock even now.

Donna Summer by Gemma Champ

A string of Summer/Moroder hits and albums followed: I Remember Yesterday featured dance floor classic Love’s Unkind (see below) and I Feel Love; Once Upon a Time has my favourite photograph of Summer that many of our illustrators have used as a source. The end of the seventies saw Summer trying to break from disco with album Bad Girls, featuring some of my favourite records ever – the title track and Dim All The Lights and the infamous Hot Stuff, for which Donna won the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal (making her the first woman and first African-American to win a Rock performance Grammy). You could argue, considering that this category was created the year Donna Summer won, that it was created especially for her – it would have been criminal if she hadn’t won for this incredible performance.

Donna Summer by Inês Neto dos Santos

It’s at this point where things go a bit grey. Tensions rose with Casablanca Records, eventually parting ways in 1980. Summer renounced her saucy past as a born-again Christian and said that she resented her sex-symbol image and erotic persona. Whatever her reasons, it is my firm belief that nobody can fake an orgasm for 17 minutes with such conviction like on Love to Love You, Baby. I just don’t buy it. Hell, we’ve all had a go, but that breathy performance is definitely not a fake. Also, check her out in the I Feel Love video – she’s hot for that microphone stand and it looks pretty real to me.

Donna Summer by Gemma Champ

Donna Summer by Gilly Rochester

Some pretty ambiguous comments followed about HIV, AIDS and the gay community. Most reports suggest Summer said that AIDS was a punishment for homosexuality. She consistently denied it whenever questioned, but I never felt like she really meant it – her documented responses always skirt around the issue, when really she should have just said ‘ LOOK, I HEART GAYS, THEY BOUGHT MY RECORDS.’ A lot of fans never forgave her, but as has been evident from press coverage, social media and online tributes, it’s her music that we’ll remember her for.

Donna Summer by Sarah Ushurhe

Donna Summer by Claire Kearns

As a tribute, here are five of my favourite Summer songs. Ask me tomorrow and this list would probably change entirely, but here goes anyway:

Last Dance

Last Dance is one of my favourite disco records ever. It introduced a completely revolutionary song structure that, like Dim All The Lights and Enough is Enough after it (see below), began as a ballad before speeding up to the up-tempo mainstay that we love. It received an Oscar, a Golden Globe and earned Donna Summer her first Grammy award for best vocal performance. It’s a beautiful example of the genre at its finest – with disco strings and horns aplenty and Donna soaring vocals.

Love’s Unkind

Love’s Unkind always has me leaping around a dance floor. The lyrics are hilarious – Donna fancies some bloke who fancies her mate, but her mate fancies somebody else – oh, the drama. She’s desperate to cop off with him at the dance but the love rat has already asked her best mate and Donna is left legging it from the school in tears. It’s no sonnet but it’s a camp disco classic that I adore.

Bad Girls

Toot toot, beep beep. Need I say more? Look out for Twiggy’s hilarious cameo in this video.

Enough is Enough (No More Tears)

1979 saw Barbra Streisand‘s melancholic vocals teamed with Donna Summer‘s powerhouse disco sound . Legend has it that Summer went wild the night before and turned up to the recording studio with a terrible hangover, passing out whilst Babs was singing – hence the super long note Barbra delivers before the beat kicks in.

Love to Love You, Baby

I hadn’t got this on my original list, but the burden of not including it was too much. Enjoy 16 minutes 50 seconds (or, according to the BBC‘s statistics department, 23 orgasms) of disco heaven.

Donna Summer by Rebecca Strickson

I haven’t even included Summer‘s epic version of Could it Be Magic, the hypnotising Try Me, I know We Can Make It, the wonderful Dim All the Lights, the epic cover of the bonkers MacArthur Park or Sunset People, On The Radio, I Love You or Love Is In Control. The list is endless. Donna Summer was the Queen of a genre that transformed not only dance music but music as a whole, and continues to influence the greatest producers and performers. I’m sure you’ll agree that all of the songs I’ve mentioned (and more) sound as fresh today as they ever did, and I hope they’ll be continued to be played – now more than ever. Long Live the Queen!

Categories ,1948 – 2012, ,African-American, ,AIDS, ,Bad Girls, ,Best Female Rock Vocal, ,Casablanca Records, ,Claire Kearns, ,Could it Be Magic, ,Dim All The Lights, ,disco, ,Donna Summer, ,Enough is Enough, ,gay, ,Gemma Champ, ,Gilly Rochester, ,Giorgio Moroder, ,Grace Jones, ,Grammy, ,Helmut Sommer, ,HIV, ,I Feel Love, ,I Love You, ,I Remember Yesterday, ,Ines Neto dos Santos, ,Last Dance, ,Love Is In Control, ,Love to Love You Baby, ,Love’s Unkind, ,Lovebox Festival, ,MacArthur Park, ,Matt Bramford, ,Naomi Ryder, ,Nicola O’prey, ,No More Tears, ,On the Radio, ,Once Upon A Time, ,Orgasm, ,Oscar, ,Pete Bollette, ,Queen of Disco, ,Rebecca Strickson, ,Sam Parr, ,Sarah Ushurhe, ,Sunset People, ,Try Me I Know We Can Make It, ,twitter

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