DRESSING FOR PLEASURE
Guardian Review of the book.
Bizzare Magazine review.
Review from icon Magazine:
This book all began on a visit to my old chums Whitaker Malem. Patrick Whitaker and Kier Malem are leather artisans who work in the fashion, art and film business. When not designing costumes for cinematic superheroes like Batman they’re dressing Allen Jones sculptures or making weird chairs or something. Anyway we were having a cup of Mellow Birds and talking about film music when I spied a small A5 magazine on their workbench. I picked it up and was immediately engaged by the simplicity, crudeness, inspired photography and folk arty oddness of the whole thing. The magazine was called AtomAge and within about 30 seconds of seeing it I knew I’d have to investigate it all further. And so I did.
Over the next few months I found out all sorts of interesting things: there were 32 issues of the magazine between 1972 and 1980. John Sutcliffe, who started AtomAge in 1957 as a “company that manufactured leather wear for lady pillion riders” was a fascinating, creative man who was obsessed by leather and women on motorbikes. He’d started making leatherwear for women almost by accident and never really looked back. By the mid 60s he’s was involved in film and TV costumes, had made the Girl On A Motorbike outfit for Marianne Faithful and all those freaky futuristic costumes for Moon Zero Two. He’s also dressed those Allen Jones sculptures of chair, table and female hatstand, and also worked with him on prototypes for Korova Milk Bar waitress costumes for Stanley Kubrick.
His business premises moved into Covent Garden in about 1965 and he’d been working extensively with Anello And Davide who had provided many of the bespoke boots for his exciting and quite extraordinary leather creations. IT was here, in Covent Garden that he met a man called Robert Henley, who saw the potential in the AtomAge business and eventually convinced Sutcliffe to start a small magazine, which would work both as a catalogue for his designs and good publicity. By 1972 the first AtomAge magazine was published, and it featured all the vinyl and leather costumes Sutcliffe had made for the stage version of The Avengers. Pretty soon a following for the magazine had developed, even thought it was only available sporadically and via mail order. Over the next eight years it became a beacon for lovers of leathers and also for all sorts of developing fetish scenes, from Macintosh appreciation to wading and mudlarking. Each issue of the magazine not only featured new Sutcliffe creations but also stories and theories of dressing up by Robert Henley or his wife Helen, along with regular letters and photos from readers. In 1976 two film makers from the Beaconsfield film and TV school decided to make a film about AtomAge and the scenes that surrounded it. The resulting short documentary called Dressing For Pleasure was (and still is) an extraordinary peek into a world that had really remained hidden behind the drawn curtains of middle England. It also featured rare footage of the SEX Boutique in the Kings Road and an even rarer interview with Sutcliffe himself. But the film was delayed before release by of one of the interviewees complaining and was never broadcast.
By the mid 70s AtomAge should have been a flourishing business. But Sutcliffe was an artist, a craftsman and a visionary with no business sense whatsoever. He failed to capitalise on the many opportunities that had come his way and by the early 1980s had stopped the A5 magazine and redesigned it into three separate larger publications. He also published a two part story which gained unwanted attention from the Police, who then raided his premises, confiscated his archive and destroyed all his printing plates. The business was in tatters, and never really recovered. Sutcliffe worked on and died at his desk in 1987.
This year I traced the owners of the AtomAge and with the help of Fuel put together the first ever homage to this groundbreaking and fascinating publication. It features imagery and letters from the 32 issues of the magazine, published between 1972 and 1980. It offers a view into a world rarely seen in the 1970s, with some stunning imagery, bizarre scenes and some of the best magazine covers you will ever see.
Copies of the book can be bought directly from Fuel, and here is a link
I will also be producing a short series of very limited large black and white screen prints of these stunning AtomAge images. Please let me know if you are interested.
I have also made a limited run of tee shirts with the Atomage belt logo on the front (see below). Lovely they are too. These can only be bought in ye olde Trunk shoppe.
Below are some samples from the book and here is a video sampler by Damon from Fuel.