January 21, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 4

Tune in every Saturday as Nicholas recalls the Disco Decade in Manila when Martial Law, Cuban heels, Donna Summer, Coco Banana and a lot of hair combined in a frenzy of uncertain excitement.

Chapter 4 - Curfew Passes

Jeans were jeans were jeans. But not designer jeans. Not DESIGNER jeans! It was a new concept back then and I happened to land in the middle of Manila just at a time when Ready to Wear was about to burst forth in all its glory. Considering that jeans were the new "uniform" then it was about time to inject a bit of pizzazz into the arena. The first good idea I had was to make jeans for women in women's sizes! Not an outlandish idea but something that hadn't been done before. Previously they'd have to buy a pair of men's jeans and have the waist taken in two or three inches. Great for the customer but hell for production double the patterns, double the everything. "How come," I was asked, "is it REALLY necessary?" "After all." etc etc etc. Bahala na. How often was I to come across THAT particular expression!

The second good idea was that jeans should get away from the Levis flat arsed approach that tended to desex the wearer. Using a few techniques I had picked up from the Valentino couture department I therefore taught the cutter techniques on how to get the jeans to actually fit and flatter the body to mold themselves around ones nether regions in a sensual and highly profitable manner.

This of course was all a bit of a revolution in Manila in the middle of the 70's where if you had wanted anything that was even remotely stylish you went to a tailor with a sketch or a photograph ripped from a magazine and hoped for the best or you got a pair of Levis that desexed you. And desexing wasn't really on with the sensual throbbing of the disco enticing you into the darker corners of the night; that's if you were lucky and got a Curfew Pass!

Ah the Curfew Pass! Strange how something so onerous can actually engender nostalgia when viewed in retrospect. They were a sort of status symbol you could always tell the best parties because Curfew Passes were handed out like confetti ..the more passes, the more important the celebrant. There were the days when you had to rush home cut off very much before your prime in order to escape the police but there were other, glorious nights, when armed with a curfew pass you could roar through Manila's deserted streets at top speed without seeing anyone or anything, except perhaps the odd road block or two. That's why it paid to stay focused. No good speeding down Aurora Boulevard at 160 in a semi-alcoholic haze if a group of police had erected a barrier across the road and were attempting to slow you down by waving a dimly lit flashlight wildly in your direction that obviously needed new batteries. I didn't even see them until it was too late! And they had guns. Lot's of them. Driving, as I did in those days, a Mach 1 Ford Mustang with a V8 engine, the only sensible thing to do was to accelerate as fast as possible and turn off the main road at the first opportunity. I still live today but it was close. They shot people that did that. But not me that night thanks God!

The third good idea I had was deciding that if I was going to start something new then I might as well go for it and make it ALL new. Not just the clothes but the marketing as well. So I did it myself.

DON'T BUY MY CLOTHES ran one advertisement with nothing else on the page except my signature and my trade mark: a sensual red kiss mark. NICHOLAS STOODLEY CLOTHES ARE TOO EXPENSIVE. Again nothing more on the page. This was probably the clincher. The shop was packed with people after that came out. It was a fun time. I was playing around defying convention and getting away with it.


Previously: Chapter 3 - Playboy Magazine

Start from the beginning! Read: Chapter 1 - An English Virgin

Nicholas Stoodley was born near London and has lived at one time or another in the South of France, Rome, Sydney, Tagaytay, England, Paris and Manila with plans to move to Ibiza shortly. A former assistant to Valentino in Rome, he arrived in Manila in 1976 and pioneered Ready to Wear in the Philippines with the NICHOLAS STOODLEY brand of casual clothing. During his stay in the Philippines Nicholas also won the PBA Invitational Basketball Conference in 1980 with his team from Los Angeles, designed and manufactured a Stainless Steel Sports Utility Jeep that was featured in the Frankfurt Motor Show and opened "Skatetown", a Roller Disco with Jorge Araneta in Cubao. And that was just the first course!

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3 comments:

Teddy said...

This is so funny! I'm now a big fan of Nicholas Stoodley. More stories!

Anonymous said...

that kiss mark! dunno, but it's so effin cool, back in the day...you gotta have a nicholas stoodley to be 'in'..

jeemee said...

My brother and I frequented the shop in Makati. We liked his design which we believed were ahead of its time. so much class and yet not at all pretentious.
How about sharing some photos of some Nicholas Stoodley designs.



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