Judy Blame Illustration & Design
Judy Blame has worked at the forefront of jewellery design, fashion styling and art direction for over 35 years. He was one of the architects and key faces of London’s underground club culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s – a boom time for unfettered creativity whose energies continue to fuel the fashion industry today. He pioneered the DIY ethic of making beautiful clothes and accessories from found objects, resculpting the notion of beauty in the process of creating his distinctive wearable assemblages. It was in those days of dressing up for endless nights out that he adopted the name Judy Blame and became one of the legendary figures of London nightlife.
Born in Leatherhead, Judy spent much of his childhood in Spain, where he has happy memories of wondering around the Prado museum in Madrid and marvelling at the work of the old masters. In his teenage years he left his family home in Devon to join the punk explosion that was rumbling through Britain’s cities. It was during a spell in Manchester that he started experimenting with clothes. ‘I’d get a jacket, deconstruct it and put it back together again,’ he remembers. ‘Or cover it with badges and pins. I’m still doing it! I’ve got good mileage out of the safety pin!’
Moving to London, he quickly became a walking advert for his own jewellery creations, their eccentric inventiveness driven by a lack of money. ‘I don't know what it is about England, but we're really good at accessories,’ he says. ‘When we haven't got the money, we have to use our imagination. I used to go and scavenge around the River Thames.’ Using readily available materials to startlingly glamorous effect, he stood out from the crown in clubs such as Blitz, Hell and Club For Heroes – no mean feat among such imaginatively dressed revellers – and was quickly inundated with one-off commissions for clothes and jewellery.
With his friend Scarlett Cannon he launched and hosted the night Cha Cha’s. It quickly established itself as one of the key clubs in the post-punk scene which was later dubbed ‘New Romantic’. ‘Boy George, Stephen Jones, Marilyn, BodyMap… it was the start of a really fertile time in London,’ remembers Judy, ‘where everyone was trying to do something new, in fashion, music and film. All of a sudden it became a big media thing – in 1981 The Face called us ‘The Cult With No Name’ – and it exploded on us. We were all starving, living on baked beans, but we were in all the papers and magazines.’
One of the people who would regularly buy his jewellery was Boy George, who brought Judy’s work to an international audience when he gave an acceptance speech at the 1983 Grammy Awards wearing his earrings and several of his oversized necklaces. Judy was selling his work in trendy markets and boutiques in London and, thanks to the Manhattan nightlife entrepreneur Susanne Bartsch, in New York too.
Judy also ventured into styling fashion shoots and cover stories for the London magazines i-D, The Face and Blitz. Collaborating with his friends the shoemaker John Moore, fashion designer Christopher Nemeth and knitwear designer Richard Torry, he set up the legendary boutique The House of Beauty and Culture in east London. It was through Nemeth that he met the singer Neneh Cherry and became her personal stylist, working on shoots, sleeve art and videos – even appearing in the video for her 1989 hit single, ‘Manchild’, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. He worked solidly with Cherry in the late 1980s, while collaborating on further video projects with Mondino, John Maybury and Derek Jarman.
With the 1990s came grunge which, despite his DIY credentials, never appealed to Judy: ‘My roots are in glam and hair and make-up and zhuzhe. It wasn’t about a moth-eaten vest with a pair of knickers and a flip-flop, you know what I mean?’ He continued to work on styling and art direction for musicians: Massive Attack, Björk on her first solo album, Kylie Minogue, Shakespears Sister and Culture Club. Kylie became a long-term client and Blame worked on her ambitious international tours, making costumes and jewellery for the singer and her dancers. To this day he continues to work with artists such as Iggy Pop and the Senegalese singer Babba Maal, as well as his old friends Neneh Cherry and Boy George.
In the early 2000s he was contacted by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, who invited him to sell his jewellery in her Dover Street Market stall. He ended up making chunky, maximal pink and gold jewellery for the label’s Homme Plus as part of its spring/summer 2005 ‘Pink Panther’ collection.
In the wake of his work with Comme des Garçons, the fashion establishment began to acknowledge his longstanding and uncompromising commitment to creativity. In 2006 Marc Jacobs invited him to work at Louis Vuitton, on the house’s ‘Icon’ line of denim pieces and embellishing dresses for the 2007 cruise collection. Other recent fashion clients include Giles Rossier, Gareth Pugh, Umbro and Christopher Shannon. His latest triumph was working with Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier on Marc Jacob’s newly relaunched MBMJ line for autumn/winter 2014, for which he designed jewellery. He continues to style for i-D magazine as well as leading men’s biannuals Numero Homme, GQ Style and Another Man.
To high aclaim in February 2015 Judy collaborated with Louis Vuitton's menswear designer, Kim Jones, to create the accessories and jewellry pieces for the AW15 Christopher Nemeth inspired collection. As personally mentioned by Tim Blanks on style.com review: "Judy Blame, Nemeth's compadre in the legendary House of Beauty and Culture collective, created the gorgeous bricolage that stood for jewelry".