You may have never heard of legendary punk-aesthetic fashion stylist, prophetic art director, designer Judy Blame, but his influence was undeniable. He is considered one of the key crafters of the 80s underground look that ultimately infused into the mainstream. Blame died earlier this week at age 58.
Blame was born in Leatherhead, Surrey, England, as Chris Barnes. As a teen, Blame ran away to London where he became a fixture in the club scene, eventually making outrageous cultural waves as trendsetting stylist. The nickname Judy (lifted from Garland) was bestowed by designer Antony Price; Blame was suggested by fellow “Blitz kid” Scarlett Cannon, Blame’s co-host for Cha-Cha, a weekly soirée at the New Romantic nightclub Heaven. Blame founded—along with John Moore, Christopher Nemeth and Alan MacDonald—The House of Beauty and Style, a collective “ideas factory” from which his artistic vision exploded. With Thatcher in office, Blame cleverly resorted to found objects—safety pins, scrap metal—for incorporation into his work.
“When we [Brits] haven’t got the money,” he said in an interview with Iain R. Webb, “we have to use our imagination. I used to go and scavenge around the River Thames.”
Blame also worked with stylist Ray Petri in the 1980s.
Blame’s assemblage of style and imagery permeated the go-to burgeoning subculture magazines of the era, such as The Face, i-D, and Blitz, an influence that endured through the 1990s.
In 1989, he famously collaborated with music artist and close friend Neneh Cherry to form for her an impactful look that Paul Flynn described in The Guardian as “a swaggering cross between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Roxanne Shanté.” The likes of Boy George, Björk, Kylie Minogue, Massive Attack, and Siobhan Fahey also benefited from Blame’s keen sense of style and reinvention. Other Blame collabs are impressive: fellow club kid Leigh Bowery, Helmut Lang, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton, so many more. He worked with Comme de Garçons’s Rei Kawakubo, creating necklaces of toy soldiers and gold chains for her Homme Plus show in Spring 2005. In 2016, the Institute of Contemporary Arts mounted a solo exhibition of Blame’s work, “presented as a montage rather than a chronology that brings together an arrangement of artefacts, including clothing, collages, jewelry, fashion editorials, sketchbooks and T-shirts alongside unique commissions that bear witness to Blame’s tactile, thought-provoking, approach to fashion and his propensity towards collaboration and experimentation.”
Blame’s prolific, creative genius will be missed.
Below is one of Blame’s most impactful art directing gigs. Neneh Cherry, updating Nat King Cole’s classic, produced for the “Red Hot + Blue” AIDS benefit.