Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Roger K. Burton's Words

by Jovana Popovic

While researching my case study movie Quadrophenia, I was not completely satisfied with the information available on the Internet. At that point, I decided to give it a try and email a person who appeared to have had one of the key roles when it comes to the costume aesthetics in the movie, Mr. Richard K. Burton. Contrary to my expectations, the response arrived less than a day after, full of insights that increased my understanding of the movie. Following his biography are some of the most interesting parts.

Roger Burton started out in the vintage clothes industry supplying thousands of choice garments to shops across Europe and as far as Japan. After forming the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection he became primary consultant/supplier to Dick Clark's "Birth of the Beatles". In 1980, he designed Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren's landmark "Worlds End" shop on the Kings Rd in London. Burton styled and design promos for all the major artistes of the time,from Culture Club and The Kinks to Blondie and the Human League as well as video projects for ABC, The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie. At the time Burton worked very closely with Bowie, styling his public image. By the end of the 80s, he designed over 100 music promos.
Burton also worked with Wrangler, Panasonic,Volkswagen, Kellogg's, McDonald’s and Coca Cola on over 150 commercials and 50 music promos. He also designed Michael Haussman's debut feature "Blind Horizon". Contemporary Wardrobe Collection also became an invaluable source for hundreds of authentically clad popsters for the 2006 movie "Stoned", a biopic about the original 60s Rolling Stone.

"Quadrophenia is one of those rare films that had no costume designer, only a production designer and wardrobe supervisor (a person who looks after the clothes), and as such there was no one person with an overall vision for the costume.
So it was decided that I - among others - as an ex Mod and vintage clothes wholesaler would be taken on as a consultant and main supplier, as I would be able to lend an authenticity to the film.
As so often happens in these circumstances, most of the aesthetic decisions were made by the director and production designer, who to some extent were dictated to by what original clothes the suppliers were able to find. Having said that, some of the suits had to be designed (not by me) and tailor-made for the fight scenes e.g. Sting, as they need to be duplicated.
We all had our say about who should wear what, and put forward ideas, but at the end of the day it was the director who had the last say.I remember suggesting that one of the leads (probably Sting) should wear a full length pink suede coat, but this idea was thrown out quite early on as not being believable! This decision seemed to me, to go against the whole aesthetic of mod, as there were far more extreme looks worn by kids at the time, but heigh ho...Ironically then someone decided that Sting should wear an awful 1970s grey leather coat... for what reason I will never know?"

"Due to the frantic nature of movie making and tight schedules, often key descisions are made by the wardrobe supervisor without consultation, e.g. the director will urgently call for 'any old coat' for an actor when shooting in the middle of the night just to keep them warm, and then because of continuity, the coat may end up being featured throughout the entire movie.
I remember during shooting of the fight scenes, because of lack of budget there not enough authentic clothes for all the hundreds of extras, so the wardrobe crew were instructed to throw a parka or a leather jacket on kids who didn't have anything else original on, believing they would just get lost or blend into the large crowd, not so...many of those kids with 70s haircuts and clothes were heavily featured."
"Maybe as an ex mod I was too close to the subject, after all it was an important part of my life and I thought this was a great opoutunity to get it right, but then of course its only a movie and as such it has to have mass appeal...therefore in my opinion there was a quite lot wrong with the look and feel of the film, but overall I think it captured the spirit of the movement and painted a pretty fair picture of mods as they had become so commercialized during those closing months"

Thank you, Roger!

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