Born: London, England, 1959. Education: Studied at Southend College of Technology, 1975-78, and St. Martin's School of Art, London, 1978-81. Career: Designer, Notre Dame X, 1981-82; showed first two womenswear collections, 1982; introduced mens-wear line, 1983; designer, Bigi, Japan; designer, Georges Sand Range for Jun Co., Japan; designer, Beyond Stephen Linard range for Bazaar; designer for Powder Blue, 1986; assistant designer, Drakes.
"Cue: Future Talent," in Vogue (London), October 1981.
Grieve, Amanda, "Quids In," in Harper's & Queen (London), April 1983.
"Da Londra: Moda Come Provocazione Eclettica," in L'Uomo Vogue (Milan), December 1985.
Mower, Sarah, "It's Westwood Redux in London 1980s Time Warp," in the International Herald Tribune, 14 March 2001.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of Stephen Linard's degree collection when his models appeared on the catwalk at St. Martin's School of Art in London in the summer of 1981. Linard was a menswear student, and his models were real men, with real muscle, stubble, tattoos, and the demeanor of East End toughs about to enter the boxing ring. The Reluctant Emigrés collection was a subtle mix of solid and transparent, the safely known and the unpredictable. Traditional pinstripe trousers had contrast patches at the derriére, solid dark waistcoat fronts and shadowy organza backs. Striped city shirts were seen to have curious underarm patches, and all was concealed beneath swirling black greatcoats. The clothes were instantly covetable, thoroughly masculine in an entirely new way, and electrifying in the way that only the truly innovative can be.
Linard was famous overnight, and his charisma and photogenic air ensured him an enthusiastic press. He joined a leading young design team known as Notre Dame X, with Richard Ostell and Darlajane Gilroy, among others. When he split from this group, backers set him up in a city studio, where he produced sought-after garments in esoterically titled collections—Angels with Dirty Faces, Les Enfants du Chemin de Fer. He was an early revivalist of bias cutting, and showed underwear as outerwear. He continued with an anarchic mix of fabrics and influences appealing to the glam-sex clubbers always in search of new heroes, and labels with cachet. These were great days of club couture, with punters in fierce competition over their evening toilettes. New heights of sartorial extravagance were scaled, with Linard and art-world personality Leigh Bowery in the running for chief mountaineer.
British rag-trade backing is notoriously fickle, however, and when Linard's company collapsed, he went to Japan to join the stable of eccentric models at Men's Bigi. The Japanese are always swiftly attracted to high-profile talent with high-profile personality, and Linard was soon designing the prestigious Georges Sand range for Jun Company selling in Japan, the Far East, and the United States. At home, he designed the Beyond Stephen Linard ranges for Bazaar in South Moulton Street, London. Starting Powder Blue in 1986, he designed the Chess and Innocents Abroad collections, the latter an eclectic mix of leopard skin, broderie Anglaise and Edwardian schoolgirls. Since teaching at Southend, his former college, and Middlesex, he has been the assistant designer at Drakes, producing exclusive menswear accessories in silk and cashmere.
Linard has long been involved in the fashion and music mix, designing for singers David Bowie and Boy George and for pop groups such as Fun Boy 3, Spandau Ballet, and the Pet Shop Boys. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys says on their website, "I wore [a black coat] in the first Opportunities video and for West End Girls. It's designed by Stephen Linard who, interestingly enough, played Envy in the It's a Sin video. Eric Watson, a friend of mine who does most of our photography, had one first; I loved it and got one, the last one they had. It's made of black linen, so it creases all the time. I liked it because it was very, very severe, and I wanted to look a bit like a preacher from the Wild West. It's what people associated us [the Pet Shop Boys] with in the beginning."
Linard also hosted the "Total Fashion Victims" theme nights at the Wag club, introducing Sadé and Swing Out Sister, with John Maybury's light installations dazzling the crowd. He has styled for The Face and interviewed for Blitz, two top London style magazines. In short, for more than a decade, he has lived and worked a life of glamour and style.
Though the industry has become accustomed to real men on the catwalk, some agencies—So Dam' Tuf, for example—deal in nothing else. Yet back in the early 1980s, all this was new, and therein lies Linard's contribution to his time—he did it first. At the dawn of the 21st century, two decades after his first collection stunned the fashion world, Linard is enjoying a resurgence of interest in his work. Along with the likes of designers and firms such as Bodymap, Boy, PX, Richmond/Cornejo, and Vivienne Westwood, Linard's work has come to the forefront as retro, gaining a whole new band of followers. The works of these seminal 1980s designers has also been catching the interest of new designers such as Maria Chen and Anthony Symonds, who grew up in the heyday of the fashion-industry-meets-music-industry-meets-the-club-scene era.
—Alan J. Flux;
updated by Daryl F. Mallett