According to Judith Watt's book Ossie Clark 1965/1974, Ossie first started using snakeskin in his collections sometime around late 1966 after he discovered in a warehouse possibly owned by Alma Leathers, several rolls of untouched python and watersnake skins which had been stored there for the previous twenty years. He somehow managed to successfully hide his enthusiasm about the find from the vendor and proceeded to purchase the skins for the bargain price of 30 bob a foot. The first outfit that he made from it was a suit modelled by Linda Keith in april 1967, as part of the Quorum A/W collection and the rest as they say is history. They instantly became a much sought after item and still are to this day! Clients at the time included Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Britt Ekland, Verushka, Twiggy and Keith Richards. Although considering the popularity of these jackets, particularly among the Stones and their entourage, I have to say that I found it difficult to find what I would consider to be any truly decent examples of either Marianne or Anita photographed wearing them, even though the Sweet Jane household is in possession (at last count) of approximately 26 books on the Rolling Stones! But out of all of the various snakeskin jackets/coats that Ossie Clark designed, the jacket in the first picture below is without a doubt my personal favourite, it was photographed by Duffy for an Observer magazine fashion editorial in march of 1968. I'm not lucky enough to own an original jacket as of yet, but this particular design has been the idealized template for almost every other vintage leather jacket that I have ever worn or made for myself. I just love the cut...slim-fit, centre zipper, banded waist detail with over-lapped front and snap closure. I have also included some examples of Ossie's watersnake skin jackets in this post, as well as a documentary about the photographer Brian Duffy, which is titled 'Duffy: The Man who Shot the Sixties' and a link to his website archive. (For further examples of Ossie Clark snakeskin jackets, click on the Linda Keith link which will take you over to The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion.)
Python jacket, waisted and slinky, by Ossie Clark, 25gn. with cream linen shorts, 3gn., from Quorum, 52 Radnor Walk, SW3; all branches of fifth Avenue. Jungle-striped chiffon scarf, £2 17s 6d. by Bernard Neville from Liberty. Bamboo bangles by Adrian Mann, 7s. 6d. each. Gilt rings by Corocraft, 7s. 6d. each from Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1. Mesh knee socks by Bonnie Doon 1gn., from Fenwicks. Ochre brogues, 6gns., from Ronald Keith, 117 Oxford Street, W1.
Ossie's watersnake-skin Jacket with zip, fitted at waist, £28 13s 11d, Quorum and Just Looking.
(featured in Vogue october 1968)
Ossie's snakeskin Rocker jacket c.1966-7 from the private collection of Celia Birtwell
Duffy: The Man Who Shot The Sixties
All Images scanned by Sweet Jane from The Observer March 1968, Vogue October 1968 and Ossie Clark 1965/74 by Judith Watt.