Posted: 10.03.21 at 09:40 by Derek Davis
UP CLOSE with Malcolm Hall the renowned fashion designer who has dressed Elvis Presley, Jimmy Page, Tony Curtis and Princess Diana among many celebrity clients, and is now opening a bespoke bridal studio in Shotley Gate.
There is a glint in Malcolm's eye when Nub News asks him abut the heady days of mixing with pop legends, and film stars but there will be no juicy, indiscreet revelations from this man about his A list clients.
Over coffee and delicious home made blueberry muffins at his studio in the magnificent Admiralty Pier development Malcolm does tell me: "Tony Curtis was a lot of fun. He came to my studio in London where I designed many of his outfits, which he wore in the Persuaders when he starred alongside Roger Moore.
"Tony invited us to his home in Bel Air, where we met Frank Sinatra - that was interesting.
"I have met a lot of people but can't tell a lot of the stories."
In fairness, colourful tales from the past are not necessary because Malcolm's story of who he has helped dress over the years is fascinating in itself, not least due to the flamboyant style of his outfits.
Many of you will recognise the clothes, the stars and the differing eras, without necessarily having a clue about the man who designed them - until now.
ABBA's colourful stage outfits from their hit Waterloo, which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, Led Zeppellin star Jimmy Page's suits - now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Elvis' embroidered denim and diamanté outfits during his Las Vegas show nights, Princess Diana's gowns to many a red carpet event - all Malcolm Hall.
Then there are the Glam Rock days and those memorable showmen, The Kinks, Slade, Mud, and Mott the Hoople, all clad in Malcolm Hall, cut in his distinctive, flamboyant style with all the velvet, satin, silk and rich brocades in vivid, psychedelic colours.
Malcolm learnt his craft from the best after initially attending the London College of Fashion and St Martins College of Art, before refining his skills at the prestigious Tailor and Cutter Academy in Central London.
After graduating with a first class degree Malcolm became design assistant to the legendary and internationally renowned fashion designer Ossie Clark, collaborating on what were to become highly sought after iconic fashion heirlooms.
Malcolm struck out with his own fashion label in 1972, which included two boutiques in central London. Stevie Wonder, Bill Wyman and The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross and Patti LaBelle, the Three Degrees were soon fans and before long his clients also included celebrity actors including Curtis, Goldie Hawn and Ursula Andress.
Malcolm set up a manufacturing operation from his Islington factory, supplying boutiques globally with his avant-garde menswear and did something not many British manufactures can do, he cracked America.
There are some parallels to today's market with Brexit, as he explained.
He said: "I started in 1969, I missed the sixties as such as I was too young but in the early 70s menswear really took off.
"I put together a small collection and took it with the Clothing Export Council to America before we were in the Common Market and it really took off.
"Even before import duty (about 12%) because the pound was so low, as it is now, the duty did not make much difference.
"Now, with Brexit it is the same, exporters should not worry about duty into other countries. The pound is low and as long as it stays low it balances the costings out."
It was these early days that Malcolm remembers fondly, with one of the stand out moments coming when he put on a fashion show in the USA.
"Our second trip to New York in 1972 when we did a show over five days and we took more than a million pounds worth of orders," said Malcolm
"That covered every state in America, we had customers coming in from nine in the morning until midnight every day."
Malcolm admits he could not cope with demand and his company was in its infancy, although by then he had a factory in Islington.
He got through that and before long, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman of New York, Fred Segal, Boutique of Wearable Art and 24 Collection were among the many boutiques that Malcolm exported to America during the 1970’s. It was when working with the Suzy Creamcheese label that he started putting together's Elvis' memorable stage wear.
Closer to home Malcolm also supplied his collection to Harrod’s in London and many fashionable boutiques in the United Kingdom. and one of the Malcolm Hall’s first customers was Paul Smith, who had one small shop in Nottingham at the time.
During this period Malcolm also worked closely with the BBC costume department and designed many outfits for their light entertainment shows.
From 1995 Malcolm began collaborating with many internationally renowned designers such as Catherine Walker and Bruce Oldfield designing for Princess Diana.
Although not a young man, Malcolm's enthusiasm and talent is still abundantly clear and he talks with passion about his plans for designing and making bespoke wedding wear from his Admiralty Pier studio.
"I enjoy producing designs from a blank canvass," said Malcolm. "I always enjoy the shows we do, which we can't at the moment, but will from the autumn onwards. I enjoy meeting clients and making them outfits they can wear for special occasions, like weddings.
"I'm not ready to retire, I love the work. It would be good to help people locally."
After months searching for the right home and studio, Malcolm and his long time partner Rita (maker of delicious muffins and bespoke cushion and patchwork designs), found their three bedroom home in Shotley Gate, with stunning views down the river Stour and across to Harwich, and just as importantly the perfect studio.
"We love it here in Shotley," said Malcolm. "During the lockdown it has been amazing for us. It is not busy, we have our boat in the marina, and sail out in the estuary whenever we can.
"We love the local walks, we have new neighbours, a pub across the road, and lovely views.
"The views at night are amazing, the colours are always changing."
Admiralty Pier was built by the Royal Navy in 1910, and a huge boat shed and boatyard followed as young sailors learnt their seamanship skills on cutters and whalers.
Although a slower pace of life, Malcolm and Rita have fitted right in and are already benefitting from the move and iready for this new chapter.
"Being here is inspirational for my creative work as a fashion designer, I can't put my finger on exactly how, but it does help me," said Malcolm.
"Those rock days are well gone. We have moved into bridal wear because we feel there is a market here. Although due to the lockdown we have not really opened the bridal side yet. The Admiralty Pier Bridal Studio will open officially in September but we are ready.
"The bridal gowns are custom made by appointment and we will help with ideas and the design."
The new bridal collection is to be launched this Sepetmber and with overheads a lot lower than London prices, the estimated cost of an original Malcolm Hall wedding creation in silk, will be around £2,000.
Malcolm has two bridal shows planned for the autumn, at Wherstead Park and the Trinity Showground, and has pencilled in shows in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Paris and Dubai in 2022.
Just as he has led the way in fashion design, Malcolm believes more world class talent will be following him out of London to places like the Shotley peninsula.
"It is quite possible people will move out of London to places like this." he said. "With modern technology you don't need a shop. You can do business worldwide without a shop.
"A studio like this is all I need."