One of my first two accounts was Barney’s. This led to an interview for Vogue Nippon. We talked Rock fashion. Afterwards the interviewer suggested I meet their Fashion Director Gene Krell. She thought we’d get along well. She affected an introduction.
At that time I was unaware that Gene was a more innovative and influential figure in fashion design than almost all the designers he wrote about. He’d also been a central figure in the most legendary creative milieus of the late 20th Century.
He’d been creative chief and co-owner of famed London boutique Granny Takes A Trip, where he shifted their inventory away from hippie clothes and towards a new sensibility: Glam.
Granny’s disseminated this look to the world by selling clothes to every rock star of note from the late 60s through the mid 70s. Gene knew everybody. Jimi Hendrix ordered an entire wardrobe the day before he died (he never got the chance to wear it). Gene toured with the Rolling Stones doing their wardrobe during the period many consider their most stylish. I asked if he’d ever crossed paths with Syd Barrett. Not only had Syd mistaken the boutique for a laundromat (Syd brought in bags of his dirty laundry), but Gene dated Syd’s ex-fiancee Gala Pinion when she was on the rebound from Syd! I began to realize Gene was sort of like Baron Munchausen only everything he’d done was verifiable.
Other girlfriends included Nico and Christine Keeler. I once asked him, “Hey Gene, how’d you score all those beautiful women. He replied, “It’s easy when you’ve got Mick Jagger sleeping on the floor of your store”.
Significantly the store became a hangout for Rock Royalty in the early 1970s, which perpetuated the customer base and further proliferated the fashion. By the late 1970s the Glam look was everywhere. Granny Takes A Trip had been the central node.
Gene did amazing stuff before and after Granny’s: he was doorman for Steve Paul’s Scene Club in New York which hosted Hendrix and the Doors before they were famous, was later doorman at Studio 54, and worked with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, inventors of Punk, from the late 1970s through early 1980s, helping launch their work in the U.S. He wrote what’s considered the best reference on Vivienne Westwood.
This bio is a post in and of itself.
We’ll talk to Gene on Monday.
Our featured image today is Elton John from the cover of his album Caribou. Granny’s is credited with the whole outfit – sunglasses, too. More on Monday…