The man who told Beth Ditto to wear lyrca
Johnny Blue Eyes

The man who told Beth Ditto to wear lyrca and be proud of her size, Johnny Blue Eyes is a stylist who understands how to dress musicians to make them iconic. He has a wardrobe that would rival Keith Richards’, the A-list on speed dial and a new Mecca that rock ‘n’ roll designers and performers called The House Of Blue Eyes.

Johnny Blue Eyes, a man with a big personality and big heart, cares for the artists he works with, and many become close friends. In 2008 he launched his House Of Blue Eyes, a collaborative fashion and art house, and Beth Ditto and Ana Matronic flew in to town to model in support of their favorite stylist’s new project. Kate Moss also took to the catwalk and the shots of the supermodel, who had not modeled on any other catwalk that decade, were syndicated round the world, highlighting Johnny’s ability to make a statement.

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This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the March issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from February 4th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.

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Born in Ireland and raised in Shepherd’s Bush, the “out and proud, passionate Londoner” certainly makes a first impression. Sat in Nando’s with his leather trousers and a pair of heels on, flicking back his long black hair, his towering presence and dramatic appearance mirrors his similarly outrageous personality.

He gets his kicks from dressing up and is ever the advocate of his mantra, that what you wear is who you are on the world’s stage. But underneath this theatrical facade, Johnny is actually a very humble soul, from humble beginnings, and is a shimmering example of philanthropy (Johnny raises money for Indian childrens charity Shuktara through House Of Blue Eyes parties, shows and events).

Expelled from school at the age of fifteen because he “fucking hated everything about it”, preferring instead to “smoke weed, go to parties and dance”, his creative mind clearly did not work within the restraints of education. His focus even then was fashion, music and its bond. “I have always been really into clothes: I remember getting a pair of Bay City Rollers platforms when I was just six or seven,” he recalls.

Johnny was introduced to styling by a certain Fee Doran, AKA Mrs. Jones (featured in December’s Fashion Profile), who recognised he had a good eye clothes and a flair for putting outfits together. “I had a stall on Portobello Market for about ten years at that point - I owe a lot to that place - Fee used to come to my stall and buy pieces from me,” he says. “She happened to be designing for the Scissor Sisters at the time, making all their iconic pieces, and asked me to jump on board and bring my rock ‘n’ roll vintage collection.”

“I had heard ‘Comfortably Numb’ - the track which broke them over here - but I already knew them as an underground band before I started to work with them,” he says. “I had this wonderful time meeting and connecting with them. I then went off on this journey from Shepherd’s Bush and Portobello Road to Tokyo, New York, LA: I went on tour with them and had this really magical experience.”

Johnny says that the look of a band defines them, whether it be dramatic or subtle. “Music has got to have a face and the face needs look, it could be something which is not always that obvious - Oasis’ casual Northern look is still a look.”

He goes on to defend the role of a stylist, as he feels many think that this is a fairly new and contrived product of manufactured popular music. Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Marc Bolan all had stylists to thank for their memorable images.

“Artists have always had people to create their looks - Elvis’ look never came entirely from him, it’s just that the term ‘stylist’ has recently evolved into common vocabulary.”

One thing Johnny does stress is that the artists he is drawn to work with already have their own innate sense of style that he then builds on. “So many artists don’t have any style at all,” he retorts. “I think it’s fine to give them a helping hand if they need it, I think an artist’s look is as interchangeable as their music.
The Noisettes, Gossip and Scissor Sisters are the acts that Johnny is most proud of having worked with. Hardly a shrinking violet himself, Johnny naturally suits those with larger than life personalities. But how did his work with the infamous Beth come about?

“I met her through a friend of mine when she was signed to a label in London, pre-Sony. I knew and loved the Gossip before I had met her, so when I heard my friend was working with her, I asked him if I could help out,” he recalls.

With his undying appreciation for women, Johnny single-handedly orchestrated Beth Ditto’s transformation from dowdy plus-sized songstress to sexy, rock and roll diva, defying critics with his blue cat-suit design.

Why does Johnny find himself so often drawn towards women? “I absolutely love women, really powerful, really fucking rock ‘n’ roll women,” he exclaims. “I just really like working with them because I feel that I can provide them with some proper armour.”

It is this steadfast commitment to the cause of female empowerment that led him to style this month’s Peaches for a Clash shoot.

“When Peaches came up, I knew at once that I wanted to work with her,” he says. “Because she’s clearly a goddess and a rock ‘n’ roll queen, I came up with the concept for the shoot: futuristic goddess meets pagan rock ‘n’ roll queen, referencing Jordan dancing around the fire in Derek Jarman’s film Jubilee, and that iconic picture of The Slits when they’re topless and covered in mud.”

Who else would Johnny consider working with? “Madonna!” he says. “I absolutely love her. For me it would be about collaborating with her as an artist and seeing what she’s doing musically -I’m intrigued about the way as a woman she has literally moved through the decades with such ease. She’s always changing and I like the way she dips into different genres and is inspired by different things.”

Material Girl, if you’re reading this, and you need some fierce outfits for your next style reincarnation, Johnny is up for it.
The House Of Blue Eyes will be showing at this month’s London Fashion Week.
Words by April Welsh