In memoriam: the life and influence of Judy Blame (1960-2018)
Judy Blame has passed away at the age of 58. Born in 1960 in Leatherhead, Surrey, he ran away to London at 17, ushering in a new era of styling.
He was a man of many fabulous hats: accessories designer, fashion stylist, celebrity confidante, ahead-of-the-curve underground club icon. A true visionary who did ‘art direction’ before it was a thing, creating the look for Björk’s Debut album (1992), and draping Massive Attack in fake Rolexes and Kangols for their Blue Lines era. He was the maverick who encouraged Boy George into headgear and styled Neneh Cherry in that gold bomber jacket and oversized dollar sign pendant when she burst onto the pop scene (seven-months pregnant) with Buffalo Stance in 1988.
Like many of his contemporaries, Blame nurtured his outré style while immersed in London’s colourful, underground club scene – most notably as part of the Blitz crowd alongside the likes of Leigh Bowery, Stephen Jones, Steve Jones and John Galliano. This post-punk club-night ran between 1979-80 in Covent Garden and is credited with fostering the androgynous New Romantic style and music subculture.
In 2016, London’s ICA (an institute known for championing the radical, unexpected and malapropos side of contemporary art) presented the first major retrospective of the British iconoclastic powerhouse. ‘Never Again’ included his outlandish, safety-pin tangled jewellery, his found-art photomontages and his mixed-media fashion sculpture. ‘Although Judy is primarily recognised for his jewellery, he has been a polymath and an inspiration to artists past, present and hopefully future,’ curator Matt Williams told me. ‘His ability to respond to the detritus of the everyday and transform it into an object or an image that touches upon pertinent social and political themes of its time, is a rare talent.’ A series of vitrines (‘Black Magic’, ‘Filthy Rich’, ‘Old Rope’) collated this vast and eclectic array of work thematically, organising Blame’s colourful creative process into comprehensible tableau.
‘The layout for this display could easily be the surface of my desk when I’m working on a number of jobs simultaneously,’ Blame wrote on the vitrine entitled ‘Beautiful Chaos’. ‘This is an illustration of my working process and inspirations – from sketchbook to editorial and then through to the final product.’
Blame is significant on the wider fashion and jewellery stage, having worked with the likes of Mark Lebon, ‘infamous night-clubber’ Trojan and Juergen Teller. Not forgetting Kim Jones, Chris Nemeth and Gareth Pugh who were drawn to his punk aesthetic and radical sensibility.
Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, who Judy mentored around his first season of shows in Paris back in the day, posted on Instagram: ‘R.I.P. my dear Judy. I will always remember our house on Mortimer Road, fun days at @i_d, your kind heart, unparalleled creativity and how you pushed me to be the editor I am today, I will miss you always xoxo #JudyBlame #legend’.
He will be remembered for his services to cross-disciplinary style, as a curious art-maverick with far-reaching influence. We doff our cap to the man of many fabulous hats.