I am off to take Paris by calm. I am about to make my entrance on the Catwalk modelling for Comme des Garcon’s. My new years resolution was to become more superficial. To stop being a man and become a mannequin. It's going quite well. Deep below the glitter, it's all solid tinsel.
It did not start well. I have always hated the fashion world. Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are. A substitute for taste. A barricade behind which women hide their nothingness. To a dandy it is the antithesis of style. Fashion can be bought. Style cannot. Style one must possess.
And naturally I had already managed to piss off all the right people - including the monarch and figurehead of the entire Queendom: Kate Moss.
An article appeared in the press a few weeks before I arrived in Paris. It was headlined I'LL LIVE WITHOUT KATE MOSS and went like this :
The opening exchange with Adrian Joffe the head of Comme des Garcons also did not start well.
Him : “Would you consider modelling for us?”
Me : “Absolutely not. I design everything and I have everything made. My suits, my shirts, my socks, my shoes, my ties, my scarves, my coats, my gloves, my hats. When I walk in to a room I want people to say :”There is Sebastian Horsley.” I don’t want them saying “There’s Ozwald Fucking Botang“ - nothing personal against Ozwald Fucking Botang you understand. You see, I never shop. I never wear brands apart from my own. I can't be a Clothes horse for you. I can only be a Clothes Horsley for me.”
I was reclining back so admiring my verbal dexterity that I was rather taken aback by Adrian’s reply.
“That’s exactly what we want you for.”
“We don’t just want to invite you onto the runway. We want to design a collection based on you. It has never happened before. Sure we have had people like John Malkovich wear our clothes but we have never used someone to inspire a season.”
Well, what can I say? Flattery has got to be pretty thick before I object to it. Which is just as well, as Adrian was pretty and I was thick.
And so it was that the five of us met at Waterloo Eurostar. We were a mismatched crew. There was Andrew Logan, who created the Alternative Miss World, Duggie Fields the pop painter, and Michael Costiff, the set designer. And last of all, bringing up an extremely impressive rear, Rachel 2.
On the Journey I learnt that Duggie was a hypochondriac, Andrew was Zen and Michael was punky ethnic. Apparently the famous designer and wife of Adrian, Rei Kawakubo was building four different collections based on the four of us. What was I going to get? If Andrew was Spiritual Spice, Duggie, Teddy spice and Michael Ethnic Spice, I was here as Dandy Spice. At 44 I was also baby spice. Everyone else was 60. This suited me just fine. If you want to look young and stupid hang around with old clever people.
We had the most lovely passage to Paris. Have you ever travelled first class on Eurostar? No I’m just sure you haven’t. But don’t think I don’t care about you. I mean, whenever there is a train crash I like it when the passengers in third class get hurt the most.
As we pulled in to the station I realised that I hadn't been to Paris for years. I had spent my eighteenth birthday here in a brothel smoking opium. And about ten years ago I decided to run away to Paris to try and get off crack. It was my birthday. I had sat alone in a tiny hotel for a week. Smoking crack as it happens. I hated it then. “Rue” this and “Rue” that and rue the fucking day I ever came to this shit hole.
But I was straight now. And I had been asked to come here which is always different. I hate leaving Soho. My preferred form of travel is to lie on a divan and have the scenery carried past me. I travel not to see but to be seen. And boy was I going to be seen.
We had all been asked to send images and songs which were dear to us. And to write a piece for the programme describing our outermost thoughts. I had brought Marc Bolan’s Dandy In The Underworld and sent a brief manifesto.
"Sebastian Horsley was reluctantly born in 1962. He is an artist, writer and failed suicide. To become a work of art was the object of his life. And you should never judge a work of art by its defects. Yes, he is preposterous, vulgar, absurd. But he answers no social need whatsoever. He is a futile blast of colour in a futile colourless world.
His autobiography “Dandy in the Underworld” will be published by Sceptre in September 2007. It features a middle-aged loser poncing around in make-up, fixing up drugs, fucking whores and failing successfully to be an artist. He is too beautiful for words, but not for books. He once was crucified and like God, he wants nothing but praise."
The next day when I met Stephen Jones the famous milliner he told me that this had caused quite a fuss. “Well, it had to be sent to everyone in the company for approval. The French are quite conservative, you know.” I have to say I was rather surprised. I thought France was that country to which lesbianism is what cricket is to England. That being French was a form of depravity in itself. That it was unthinkable for a Frenchman to arrive at middle age without having syphilis. I thought France was simply home from home.
“Morning Syph boy” said Rachel 2.
I had been down to have a sauna and hopefully get raped at the same time since consenting sex was off the menu. Rachel was up and dressed and tottering around the bedroom like Jessica Rabbit.
Most men, when they cannot catch a bird of paradise, settle for a chicken. I have never been a chicken kind of guy. My God, look at her. Nature never blunders : when she makes someone beautiful, she means it. Here was a girl who could not have been invented if the whole world had sat up all night. Squaw, doormat, trophy, Barbie. She had the shy, modest, virginal, sexless look of the professional nymphomaniac. When I looked at her I almost fainted with pleasure. Her figure resembled a giant economy size tube of toothpaste squeezed in the middle to acquire a shape that defied definition. Her long smooth neck, and the elegant S of her body, exaggerated by the extraordinary curve of her spine that made her breasts swell further forward and her bottom further back. She looked as though she were offering to kiss the whole world across an invisible shop counter. God would have made everyone like her if He had the money.
She helped me get dressed. Apart from the syphilis all over my body I had another slight problem. I don’t wear underwear and I imagined I was just about to have to get naked with my employer.
“Darling I know not wearing underwear is as informal as you ever hope to get. Or moral for that matter, but the Japanese are a respectful nation. Why don’t you put some of mine on, be a good Bast.”
As I was climbing into a pair of her Rigby and Peller low rise mini briefs the phone rang. It was Henry.
“Hello Big Boy. There's a little piece in the paper over here.”
“Oh goody. What does it say?”
He read it out to me.
“FIRST it was Sebastian Horsley the artist, who crucified himself. Now it's Horsley the catwalk model as he makes his entrance at the Paris shows taking place over this weekend, modelling for Comme des Garcons, the Japanese Design Company.
'They are making me two suits which is good news as London is so tired of my wardrobe,' the six-foot tall painter tells me.
'I am in arrears to the tune of £10,000 bill with my Savile Row tailor, Richard Anderson, so free clothes rather winning. I don't know what they will do about my platform shoes,' says the six foot tall painter. 'I work on the basis that you simply can't make a fool of yourself as long as you are on stage.'
I put the phone down. I hoped I was right. I was getting rather nervous. When we got to Comme Des Garcons HQ at the Place Vendome we were met by Stephen Jones, Adrian Joffe and the designer Rei Kawakubo. Rei was so slight as to be hardly visible to the naked eye and barely said a word. Stephen was like some magical child. It seemed he had decided that he didn’t want to grow up until he had exhausted all other possibilities. Adrian was calm and gentle and floated about the place like a water lily on a Chinese lagoon.
We did the run through. I had been terrified that I wouldn’t be seen naked in the clothes. “If you don’t like what we have made for you, you can just wear your own clothes” Adrian had said which had reassured me. One can give everything else away except one’s identity; that you have to hold on to for dear life.
But when I saw what they had made for me I almost fainted with pleasure! Long black Edwardian style Jacket, a red velvet waistcoat which I nicked from Duggies collection and a hat Stephen had made for me which was utterly divine. Of course, hats are the crowning glory of a dandy. Like Beau Brummell and Byron I usually went to Locks. But I have never really found anything that I loved. I came to the conclusion that a hat should be kept on when you greet a lady - and left off for the rest of your life. But Stephen’s elongated top hat was something else. “I took the design from the front cover of The Slider - Marc Bolan’s album and exaggerated it for you.” he told me. The man was a genius. He didn’t even know what Marc Bolan meant to me.
The dressers fused over me and I turned my back to them crumpling in on myself wincing with embarrassment. I did what I could to shield them from my condition. It wasn’t easy. Nudity is a threat to my existence at the best of times. But covered in sores?
After a back breaking day of posing we all went off for dinner and then bed.
The next morning I had a conversation with myself in the bath. It was a big day. I knew that the projection of style could be effected by three principal means - speech, movement and appearance. I was denied one so determined to push the others. I had a clear plan. The only way to succeed is to make certain people hate you. That way they remember you. And if you make some people hate you, then that will make those who like you love you that much more intensely.
All very well but it didn’t help with my nerves. I may just have been about to be to the glory of the universe but I was actually a sewer of insecurity. As Rachel clapped on as much make up as the forces of gravity would allow and Andrew Logan flew into a great calm beside me I consoled myself that the bigger the nerves, the better the performance. Or so I hoped.
We were at the Bibliotheque National and the place was full of high up grown ups. I had never been to a fashion show let alone been in one. It was too late for all that. We were off. Michael padded down the runway smiling like a golden Labrador. Duggie was strict and went up and down as fast and straight as a bullet. Andrew floated down like a hovercraft. Bloody hell look at him! He was so into his spiritual journey that he hardly existed on a physical plane, whereas my spiritual journey revolved around going to the off-licence.
Suddenly it was my turn to go out.
With “Dandy In The Underworld” on my whistling lips and a fold of Rachel's silk underpants trapped between my well-powdered buttocks, I waltzed onto the catwalk caked in make up, covered with Syphilis, and knew deep in my artificial heart as I approached the blazing arc lights and the wall of Paparazzi flashes at the end of the runway that life simply didn’t get any better. Let me tell you it was a spiritual moment. Jesus was wrong. It is better to go to Hell well tailored than to Heaven in rags.
I executed my three point pan. Seduction. Playfulness. Defiance. I blew a kiss. I winked. Then I flicked the V’s. I was done. I have to say posing was the first job I had ever had in which I understood what I was doing. On stage I am natural, simple, affecting. It is only when I am off that I am acting.
It was over faster than an advert. And by the next day we had been tossed aside like used condoms.
We went up to Commes de Garcons and saw the buyers flocking in from all over the world. The two outfits I had modelled were at the front. And there were shirts which had been emblazed with some of my lines :
"There are only two actions I cannot tolerate. The first is wearing denim. The second is murder.”
"A man with no talent must have a tailor."
"Natural style, unnatural drugs, supernatural tailors."
I have to say, I couldn’t see that working. I mean - be realistic. If people don’t want to listen to you what makes you think they want to hear from your sweater?
“Your section is outselling all the others” Adrian told me.
“That’s nice Adrian.” I replied. But inwardly I was concerned. My reputation was terrible, which comforted me a lot. But I hoped I hadn’t finished his.
It was all very strange. I went into this as a pig and I was coming out as a sausage. I had very mixed feelings about the idea of people walking around the world dressed like me. On the one hand in the unlikely event that I had any effect on anything I wanted to be an inspiration to find yourself, not clone yourself. On the other I knew that if I was typical it would be the end of civilisation - which I was definitely up for.
The first review came in.
“The finale made the raison d’être behind today's Comme des Garçons show crystal clear: As Sid Vicious hollered “My Way”, four idiosyncratically stylish English artists shuffled into the spotlight. Like Sid, they’d done it their way, and Rei Kawakubo wanted to give them their due. She did that not just by inviting them onto the runway, but by sending out a collection that extemporised on what has made each man special to her
Michael Kostiff’s store, World, was a fashionable farrago of ethnic style in London in the eighties. For him, Kawakubo offered pajama-like prints in layers torn and frayed. Duggie Fields pioneered the appetite for fifties retro that gripped London in the early seventies. She nodded to his formal Teddy Boy style in a three-piece red suit with black revers. Andrew Logan’s Eastern leanings were reflected in a mandarin-collared brocade suit, paired with huge mirrored brooches of his own devise. And last, but not least, Sebastian Horsley pranced down the catwalk in platform boots to the strains of T.Rex’s “Dandy in the Underworld,” the title of which accurately defined the cutaway Edwardiana of his look.
The sensibility of each man was filtered through Kawakubo’s own, so some fabrics had the washed, worn look that has become something of a CdG signature. Proportions were shrunken. And the designer’s eye for curious detail was evident in a covered button on Horsley’s tailcoat and a trompe l’oeil jeweled belt on Logan’s maharajah jacket.
It all made for a fascinating gesture on Kawakubo’s part. Though Japan’s affection for English idiosyncrasy is the stuff of fashion legend, it’s rare that you see a designer of Rei’s stature so openly and warmly acknowledging the people who inspire her. And by elevating their individuality, she encouraged the rest of us to take more fashion risks.”
It was an auspicious start. When I got back to London everyone it seemed had an opinion. I read all my press. I needed to find out who I was, a shaman or a showman - “A total Wow“(GQ) or “a sinister Mad Hatter” (Sunday Times). There was plenty to choose from: “these men mean nothing” (Some American bitch), “Glam, dandy dud“ (The Telegraph), “Old Bag” (New York Times), - well, at least they were calling me names I liked.
But the one that really annoyed me was Hadley Freeman in The Guardian: -
“Contrary to understandable popular perception, not all designers are so enamoured of the flash and glitz. Comme des Garçons has a reputation for quiet originality so it was a surprise to see a couple of celebrities in the show, although only Comme des Garçons would consider the set designer Michael Costiff a celebrity. But aside from the catwalk presence of the reliably annoying Sebastian Horsley, a man whose two claims to fame are having once volunteered to crucify himself and voicing a proclaimed fondness for frequenting prostitutes, this was a smart collection based on sharp British tailoring.”
I have always despised the left and long before The Observer fired me. A bunch of liberal-minded, feminist-flag-waving, socially-embracing set of closed minded prigs who will happily shoot anyone who dare disagree with their all-inclusive opinions.
I sent Miss Freeman a hand written card.
“I'm on the catwalk, purring. Appropriate really. God gave me unlimited beauty and I exceeded it.
You're on the dogwalk, yapping. Appropriate really. From your writing I imagine you have a face like a bull-dog licking piss off a nettle.
Good day madam. xxx”
Well, we can’t have people saying: “He can take it but he can’t dish it out.”
I have to tell you my darlings, I never got a reply.
But then I got that rare thing - something which made my life worthwhile.
You looked great, I'm so happy you sent me this e-mail. How have you
been? I will return to London in the near future ... see you soon,
Rolan Bolan is Marc Bolan’s son. My work was done. People who understand the spirit of Marc Bolan do not read the Guardian. They do not need to. They understand the dance. “Well, you dance when you walk so lets dance take a chance understand me.”
And they know that it is not enough to know how to make a dazzling entry : that you need to know how to vacate the stage with the same panache.
“The models paraded to 'Dandy in the Underworld' and the finale featured the Sex Pistols' "My Way" with Sebastian Horsley offering a Sid Vicious "salute" as he left the stage.”