Gene Krell talks Glam and Sunglasses – Keith Richards Deeply Moved, Elton John Breaking Rules

Part One of this interview can be found by clicking: HERE.

Gene Krell, father of Glam, as Vogue Japan fashion editor in sunglasses

Gene Krell as he appears today, looking crisply tailored in fine blazer and sunglasses.

I’ve spoken to Gene since Friday’s post. He offered a couple of clarifications. Firstly he only worked at Steve Paul’s Scene club for special events. “I worked mainly at Trax, Ondine and the Salvation”.

Secondly, the famous story about Syd Barrett dropping off dirty laundry at Granny Takes A Trip might not have been as off the beam as it’s made out to be. “Yes, I loved Syd. He confused our shop with the Sunlight Laundry that was next door”. Perhaps an honest mistake, but… “He questioned me afterwards as well asking if Granny’s could do his laundry.” As for Gala Pinion, “Gala was unearthly! Did God create such a creature?”, but stressed his wife is the most beautiful of all.

And thirdly Keith Richards wasn’t wearing a jacket from Granny’s in the photograph below: he was wearing an entire suit from Granny’s.

Bob Dylan in mirrored aviator sunglasses, Keith Richard in Granny Takes a Trip Jacket, Mick Jagger hovering overhead

Bob Dylan in mirrored aviator sunglasses, Keith Richard in Granny Takes a Trip suit, at Mick Jagger’s 30th Birthday party – shot by Ken Regan

Gene recalls he and Keith laughed about that photo, about Bob Dylan saying, “Hey Keef, where ja git da suit?”.

Nowadays stylists choose most performers’ wardrobe. I work far more often with stylists than performers. Back then musicians with style shopped for themselves. A key to Granny’s success in the Krell era was that musicians simply liked to come there and hang out. Although the clothes were great the scene helped keep them coming back. Gene’s taste in music was a factor.

Keith Richards, in fact, shared Gene’s love for American roots music; old Country and Bluegrass like the Monroe Brothers and Lefty Frizzell. This was around the time Gram Parsons was living with Keith. Gene would play obscure records, rare examples of the high and lonesome sound. Keith’s passion for music was so intense such records could move him almost to tears. He describes Keith as “gracious and generous”, Charlie Watts as “a lovely man”. Many years later when Gene worked for Barney’s Charlie swung by just to say hello.

In this day and age it’s hard to believe it was ever possible for a brand to forge relationships with high profile clients this way. Nowadays you’re aware of the army of flacks pulling oars below deck like galley slaves. In Gene’s words Granny’s was “a time not a place”.

He calls the milieu in which he, his partners, and competitors (including Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren) worked a “Passion Culture”. He feels the personalities and talents of that era would likely get buried in today’s more corporate environment.

Indeed, the work was as intense an expression of individuality as any fashion seen in the 20th Century.

Gene Krell era Granny Takes A Trip three piece suit in purple velvet brocade, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) Hippie Chic exhibition, 2013

Gene Krell era Granny Takes A Trip three piece suit in purple velvet brocade, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) Hippie Chic exhibition, 2013

Granny Takes A Trip leather boots in blue with applied white stars.   Joe Cocker took the stage wearing a similar pair during his famous appearance at Woodstock. From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) Hippie Chic exhibition, 2013.

Granny Takes A Trip leather boots in blue with applied white stars. Joe Cocker took the stage wearing a similar pair during his famous appearance at Woodstock. From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) Hippie Chic exhibition, 2013.

So what were Gene’s inspirations for Glam? “As a kid I loved cowboys. I was simply astonished at the way they looked. They were my inspiration. Still are in many respects.” As such Nudie Cohn was an influence. More conceptually it was “decadence meets pragmatism”.

But around here we’re concerned with eyewear.

What did you wear? “Hollywood wraparound sunglasses, aviator sunglasses . It’s what was happening at the time.” Some sunglasses were pretty elaborate, but many pictures of Glam Rockers show them in variations of traditional styles.

I ask about Elton John. “Elton bought out the entire shop at one point and we made a number of things for him… I always felt he got it wrong.”

I argue the costumes helped elevate him from a great singer/songwriter to an icon.

“There were rules my son…”

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Image of Gene in Sunglasses acquired HERE from www.sublime.ag
Images of Granny Takes A Trip clothes from the MFA exhibition acquired HERE from www.curatedobject.us

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17 Responses

  1. James Spina says:

    Glad to see “cowboys” checked as an inspiration. Those Nudie suits and those Granny suits share a gram of solidarity, so to speak.

    • Moss Lipow says:

      I was just listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers! Click the name “Gram Parsons” and you’ll get a video discussing Gram’s Nudie suit. I figured you’d like this post; I’m glad you did. Gene is amazing and knows practically everything about style. From the Rock & Roll era on he was a participant in most of it.

      • James Spina says:

        My son’s name is Gram so I too am deep on all things Burrito! I was always tempted by those Nudie suits. I believe Marty Stuart has quite a collection including (I think) Gram’s marijuana jacket. Will check out that link for sure.

        • Moss Lipow says:

          I think more than one person claims to have that suit. It’s kind of like trying to add up all the people that were “at” Game Six of the 1986 World Series. The numbers don’t add up.

          • James Spina says:

            Sure wish I had it. It would look great on MY Gram!

          • Moss Lipow says:

            I’d have thought you’d prefer one of Nudie’s cars.

          • James Spina says:

            I know those great pictures of it with Gram Parsons in the Joshua Tree Desert. The Caddy with the bull horns. I’d rather have the suit! Gram drove a jag and had a Harley he crashed at on point. I’d rather have the suit!

          • Moss Lipow says:

            One of Gene’s favorite experiences was riding in Nudie’s car. Keith took Gram’s death hard. I’m guessing the Jaguar was an E-Type?

          • James Spina says:

            Not sure which Jag. All the bios just note it as a Jag but I believe it might have been one of the clumsy sedans. Keith has always been very clear that Parsons had a big impact on him and his music and the fact that their friendship was very important an influencial. I’ve long felt there is a giant piece of Gram in songs such as Salt of the Earth, Country Honk, Sweet Virginia and, of course, Wild Horses.

          • Moss Lipow says:

            Of course. I think the Flying Burrito Brothers beat the Rolling Stones to vinyl with their release of Wild Horses. I suspect Gram Parsons owned an E-Type.

  2. Michael I. Davis, O.D. says:

    So I am trying to look up Gene on Wikipedia; no page for him?! Looking at his picture I would put him at early 60 years old? But that would have made him what, 12 when he was dressing the Stones? I don’t think so. There must a portrait of this guy in the attic that is looking quite rough

    • Moss Lipow says:

      No, he looks great. He’s Fashion Director at Japanese Vogue right now, dresses beautifully and looks better than ever. I have a recent picture of us I’ll post soon. He was only in his early 20s when he took over Granny Takes A Trip. I believe the opportunity came when he was still answering fan mail for the Small Faces at Immediate Records. Gene and his partners took over what had been a distressed business for $1!

      But he looks exactly like that nowadays.

      • Michael I. Davis, O.D. says:

        I agree he looks great! (I was going for a Picture of Dorian Gray reference). He was defiantly in the right place at the right time and took advantage of opportunity.

        • Moss Lipow says:

          I got the reference. My favorite version of the story was the 1945 film which starred Angela Lansbury in one of her first roles. Ivan Albright executed the painting.

  3. gotdablouse says:

    Talking about sunglasses, anyone know what brand Keith’s current sunglasses are : http://s21.postimg.org/u59ni7pp3/So6_Ygq_MKI2_Lr.jpg#1006_4ql or http://s27.postimg.org/f11fei3sz/0z95qy_Mj2n_R3.jpg?1006_GfY – thanks !

    • Moss Lipow says:

      Well, they’re acetate aviators. Thing is there are so many styles out now similar to that I’m not sure I could say which it is. It’s a classic shape, though, and they look becoming on him.

      • gotdablouse says:

        Thanks, yes there’s a ton out there as I’m finding with Google Images, but not with that yellow (or white) “border”. I was hoping that they were maybe from a big brand which would make them identifiable. Tried Louis Vuitton as he’d taken part in a LVMH commercial but no joy…will keep on looking!

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