Born in 1961, Leigh Bowery was an Australian performance artist, fashion designer and nightlife maverick. Bowery began a fashion design degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, but moved to London in 1980. After briefly working at a Burger King on the Strand, he became an unclassifiable fixture in London nightlife, known for his eccentric, expertly crafted looks. Using his body as a canvas, Bowery transformed himself into a radical, androgynous spectacle. "He liked to create chaos around him, and with Taboo [Bowery’s subversive short-lived party] he created a scene where there were no rules," said Boy George.
Bowery’s influence quickly broadened beyond nightlife. In the early 1980s, choreographer Michael Clark hired Bowery to design costumes for his eponymous dance company. Bowery soon became part of the group’s performances, captured by filmmaker Charles Atlas. In one 1988 episode of BBC’s The Clothes Show, Bowery shows off several of his designs – including a Michael Clark Company costume and a face-covering floral silk gown – during afternoon tea at Harrods. Five years later, Bowery wore the same floor-length gown (this time with a military helmet) to the opening of British painter Lucian Freud’s Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective, which featured Freud’s nude portraits of Bowery. Created over a four-year period, these portraits are considered among Freud’s major artworks.
With all facets of his life and work, Bowery sought to disrupt and stimulate. His performances in the 1990s became more bodily and grotesque. At the 1993 iteration of downtown New York drag festival Wigstock, Bowery famously “gave birth” to his assistant and wife Nicola Bowery, who burst from his dress covered in slime. That same year, Bowery and artist Richard Torry formed a band, Minty. At one Minty show, a naked Bowery, suspended upside down, sang as he smashed through a glass panel. “There’s hardly anything I forbid myself to do,” said Bowery. “I always want to do more extreme things and be in contact with more extreme people and ideas and practices." Bowery died from AIDS-related complications in 1994.
This Spring, Supreme has created a collection featuring imagery of Leigh Bowery. The collection consists of an L/S Shirt, two Hooded Sweatshirts and a T-Shirt.
A portion of the proceeds from the Leigh Bowery collection will benefit Visual AIDS. For more information, visit: visualaids.org
Available June 25th.
Available in Japan stores and online June 27th.
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