Jeffrey Bryant: Modernist Visionary

When you receive an e-mail that begins… “Oooh, I just met Sophia Loren in Giorgio Armani’s kitchen. I was with Duran Duran. I looked over and she just nodded to me and said ‘Buona sera’ and all I could say was, ‘No, I’m just pleased to see you!’”  You know it can only be from the wonderful and fantastic Jeffrey Bryant.

The eccentric designer has been partying in London since the Blitz Club days. One day, whilst flicking through my beloved ‘Blitz Kids’ book together, he said very casually “Oh yes Dear, I’m in that book!” I nearly died, as the book has been my main source of inspiration since Portobella.  A regular with the Kinki Gerlinki party gang, which included the legendary Leigh Bowery who called Jeffrey “The Most Wonderful Creature,” his stories can keep you entertained for hours and his creations can leave you breathless. He’s dressed everyone from Lady Gaga to Goldfrapp, has been responsible for The Pet Shop Boys world tours live wardrobe as well as my own signature looks for years.

jeffrey_web_headerMy writing partner, Nick Clow, first introduced me to Jeffrey in 2007. Nick was singing back up vocals on the PSB’s Fundamental Tour and was raving about the costumes that had been made for everyone by Jeffrey, he said ‘You just have to meet Jeffrey. He’s a genius and I know you will love each other.” Of course, it was love at first sight and I was totally blown away by his energy and creative vision. When Jeffrey told me he wanted to dress me I was in heaven. A shoot soon followed for Sony where, he created outfit after outfit including the famous ‘flag dress.’  Each piece was so skillfully created and beautifully tailored. I felt divine and so inspired. He interpreted our drawings for the ‘What Planet U On’ video with intricate detail adding his own flair making me feel every inch the glamorous superhero from a fantasy comic. I knew then and there that this was a relationship that would last forever and that I’d fallen hard for this crazy-ass Welsh Man.

For me when I’m on stage, as well as feeling edgy, I have to believe in my look. Jeffrey hits the mark every time and even his most outrageous creations are comfortable. His shapes are unmistakable as is his sewing prowess. It’s rare that stylists and designers can actually sew what they draw but Jeffrey can not only sew, he can breathe life into the most unlikely fabrics, turning every day items, like drinking straws and trash bags, into high fashion sci-fi couture. From the Silver Feather Boa (featured in the ‘I’m Still Hot’ video, even gaining it’s own Facebook page), to the Radiator Coat, to the dress made of drinking straws (see #Hashtag video.) Jeffrey Bryant is a modernist visionary. His costumes are always a conversation starter on tour, on radio and TV shows. I’m often asked how many straws are in that straw dress. (There are 3,900 by the way) Whilst on tour in London this summer, I caught up with Jeffrey for a fitting of our latest creation. A very modest and private man, he shared his secrets of success, his hatred of wire coat hangers and why you should NEVER wear less then 6inch heels in the bathtub, (‘So that when your legs stick out through the bubbles you will still look fabulous and seven feet tall’).

When I was featured on the cover of Left Magazine in June wearing the infamous straw dress, the dress received as much fanfare as I did. I knew then that I wanted to showcase the talent of Jeffrey Bryant. It’s always a delight to chat with him.

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<LUCIANA> What was it like being part of the Blitz Kids scene in the 80s?
<JEFFREY> I was ever so slightly too young to feel part of the ‘A’ list, so I felt like an outsider at The Blitz Club. The scene had only just hit the Sunday papers and was yet to explode on the mainstream. Visage had just released ‘TAR’ and Spandau Ballet weren’t even signed. The term ‘New Romantic’ hadn’t even been invented yet. Did I mention I was at Spandau’s first show on HMS Belfast? Kim Bowen complimented my outfit, which made my day! My older friends were going to Billy’s, the first club Steve Strange started in 1978. The first time I saw Boy George he was arm in arm with the bleached blonde Kirk Brandon. I would see him out in the daytime around Oxford street, and we would speak. I remember I saw him outside the Lyceum Theater about summer 1981. He introduced me to a dark haired guy – Jon (Moss) – just before he exploded on to the scene with Culture Club.

How did you start working with the Pet Shop Boys. I first met Neil Tennant at a party in 1989. I was wearing a giant Issey Miyake kimono coat, which touched the floor. I had the model boyfriend (artist Robert Doble) who had been in Vogue and the Kathryn Hamnett campaign. Neil spotted the coat and the boyfriend! He saw I had the right qualifications to be allowed into the club. Then in 1991 I was sent to audition for the Pet Shop Boys video ‘Was It Worth It.’  I was dressed in daywear, but I had with my book full of photographs of loads of my outfits. They asked “Who are these people?” – “It’s all me,’’ I replied, “I have many different looks!’’ I got the gig because I looked FAAANTAAAASTIC, but I couldn’t dance to save my life! Then we crossed paths again for the ‘Discovery Tour’ in 1994. Super stylist Alan Keyes got me in to do many sections of the show. Then its been almost full time since 1999.

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Who have you dressed? Luciana (of course!) But also Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, George Michael, Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Goldfrapp, Lady GaGa, Billie Ray Martin, Marina and The Diamonds, Will Young – to name a but a few. Also three films and over twenty television commercials.

Who were you most nervous about dressing? The bizarre thing is that it wasn’t until 1991 that my clothes were featured in music videos. Then in 1992, I dressed Right Said Fred for the USA no.1 hit ‘I’m Too Sexy.’ I was so excited being in the industry that I never in the slightest bit got nervous. It was just the most incredible feeling to have my clothes seen by millions. I remember doing ‘LIVE 8’ in Rome in 2005 with Duran Duran and we were having clothes altered by Italian tailors that weren’t finished till 1pm, then 2 hours later they were on stage, seen by millions at 3pm. The Pet Shop Boys were also onstage at ‘LIVE 8′ in Moscow in a mix of my clothes and Dior Homme. It wasn’t until days later I was having panic attacks about the crazy deadlines.

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What inspires you?
Everything! I look at food packaging and drinks containers, firstly as clothing components, secondly for the nutrition! Soap powder boxes turn into helmets, protein powder tubs turn into shoulder pads. Table mats become face masks.

Is it true that you didn’t speak to a boyfriend for 19 years because he got jam on your ironing board? It is true! How did you remember that?! I met this handsome mad Australian called Warren Price in Mykonos 1988 (acid house year zero). He came to London with me, and then I went to Sydney with him in 89. Then he came back to london in 94. One day whilst making toast, he got jam (jelly) on my ironing board. An argument followed and I threw him out of my apartment. He moved to New York where he had a quick romantic fling with Thierry Mugler and hung out with Alan Cummings backstage at Cabaret on Broadway. He’s back in Sydney now and we are friends again! I spent New Year’s Eve in Sydney with him in 2012. He comes to all the shows I’m working. All is forgiven.

I heard that you were once a fabulous drag artist – did you have a drag name and can we see pics? <laughs> I can send you lots of pictures! What have been your proudest moments? So many. Hedi Slimane and Miuccia Prada have complimented my clothes on two occasions. Jean Paul Gaultier told Neil Tennant my jackets were ‘magnifique’ and Sarah Burton (Mcqueen) emailed Neil saying “those jackets look absolutely amazing.”

When did you know that fashion and designing was going to be your life? Hard to explain, I just did what I did. Dressed up in curtains miming to David Bowie, that progressed to buying fabric and making stuff. Luckily I made clothes for myself that everybody wanted, my friends became the best dressed in town. I dressed the ‘A list’ nightclub drag queens and gogo boys and models. People approached them and asked “where did you get that?” Dressing the stylists, hairdressers and make-up artists got me contacts into the pop industry. It snowballed – insanity sells! Or at least gets you noticed!

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Jeffrey (center) with RuPaul & friend, 1990

If you could change anything about your career, what would it be and would you? I would love to be a supermodel (yes, big surprise!) but I would still have to sew between other people’s shows. There is a lot I’d change, yes, starting with bigger shoulder pads!

Tell us your most extravagant moment? (I know you have many!) Well…  I always take a giant bag of M&M’s with me when flying. I never eat the odd food they serve. Vegetables cut to look like spaceships and meat sauce with grass in it. Also when I’m at home, I hate wasting money on food. I will buy the thousand dollar coat but wont spend more than $3 on a sandwich! I am in the line at the supermarket checkout buying the discounted, out of date food, wearing a $1500 Jil Sander jacket and $600 chrome Dior Homme sneakers with a $1000 Prada leather holdall. But if the food isn’t reduced, I wont buy it.

I heard you only ever eat desserts on tour is this this true? I find sugary cakes so quick to eat. I’m afraid if I sit down too long waiting for the main course to arrive, I might miss something like a nice bag or a pair of shoes!

You did the video for the amazing Duran Duran’s ‘Girl Panic’ which featured Naomi Cambell, Linda Evangalista, Yasmin Le Bon, Eva Hertzagova and Cindy Crawford, what was that like? Firstly, Duran Duran are some of the most fabulous people you could wish to meet. Remember you met Mr Rhodes backstage at Jimmy Kimell’s TV show?  It was a three day shoot. Two days for fittings prior and two to get the suits together. I got a call from the New York office asking if I could go shopping with the fashion editor of Harpers Bazzar. I thought she would fill me in on what was going on and she thought I would tell her what was needed. It turned out Jonus Akerlund, the director, hadn’t released the story/treatment. So we just had a basic grasp on what was needed. I had the easy job getting the suits for the supermodels to wear to look like Duran Duran. The Harpers Bazaar team (Vanessa Coyle and Camilla Pole) got all the other clothes for the 30 extra models and all the multiple changes.

Do you have any stories about difficult clients? (prey, do tell, we like a good old gossip at Left!) <laughs> I can’t! I won’t get any more work!

At what moment did you realise you had a special talent? I’m too busy worrying about my hairline to think about my talent.

Lady Gaga VIVA Glam live broadcast 3-1-10 photo 5What do you think of Lady Gaga? I love GAGA, she’s a true artist. I loved her accapella on the Muppet Show with Elton. You can see the romance between them and then it kicks into Artpop. She’s like the most fabulous dessert, her outfits are like the sprinkles and chocolate sauce you get over ice cream. You lick them off and still get the heavenly centre! Stripped bare she’s still got it. Where do you think fashion is going – what would you most like to see come back?

Where is fashion going? Hmm, The early 90’s saw the big 70’s revival at Dolce and Versace, with flares and bold prints. Then black shinny Prada ruled the earth. The early 2000’s had every High Street in the world flooded with faded blue denim, then the skinny jeans grey/black movement arrived. In summer 2012, Prada and Givenchy started the flower revolution. Now we have a tecnocolor flower/leopard print explosion. Also in London we have the faded black diluted Rick Owens/All Saints trend running along the tracks next to the print train. We are desperate for a new fashion messiah! Besides the big houses using a recipe of 80’s & 90’s mixed up re-modelled retro. We have designers like Iris Van Herpen, who could be the most important original designer since the 80’s to arrive. She is doing really original sculptured clothing. Above all, the most fabulous thing I’d like to see back is my hairline! Seriously! <laughs>

Thank you, Jeffrey, as always it’s a pleasure just to listen to your stories and thank you for all the fabulousness. It’s an honor to be dressed by you.

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Check out and follow Jeffrey’s amazing creations on instagram@jeffreywork.

Also visit jeffreybryant.net


About Luciana: At the forefront of the Electro Dance movement, the feisty Brit has blazed a colorful trail with her unmistakeable vocals and ‘in your face’ lyrics. Currently living in Los Angeles, she continues to perform all over the world and writes for artists such as Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears. She reamins a resounding voice for equality and a fearless advocate to the gay community. Left Magazine is proud to introduce, Luciana Caporaso, our June cover girl and ongoing guest columnist. Keep up with Luciana online at luciana.com. Follow her on Instagram@TheLucianaCaporaso

About David T. Burgoyne: A truly creative soul and quintessential renaissance man, David‘s eye for style is unmatched. As a professional stylist, he has accompanied Luciana on adventures around the world. He is also a respected photographer and writer. He is a regular contributor to Left Magazine. David lives with his husband in a bungalow just outside West Hollywood. It’s very gay there. Visit davidtburgoyne.com

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  1. Luciana’s debut as guest writer for LEFT magazine. — LUCIANA

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