MR FREEDOM - TOMMY ROBERTS
"Tommy is an inspiration, a real character and one of Britain's true eccentrics. He has always been at the forefront of what is new, constantly looking to the future and expanding the boundaries of retailing, fashion and design."
Sir Paul Smith
When Liz Taylor & Richard Burton chose to publicly express their love for each other in 1970 they commissioned Tommy Roberts to create matching t-shirts with sequinned portraits. Elton John's 1971 outfit for his first Rolling Stone cover came from Mr Freedom; Jimi Hendrix bought his frilly shirts for his historic Saville Theatre gigs in 1966 from Roberts' Carnaby Street store Kleptomania and City Lights Studio provided David Bowie with suits he wore on the sleeve of his album Pin-Ups.
In the 80s Roberts pioneered high-tech design at his shop Practical Styling and in the 90s inspired collecting of art and furniture with his store TomTom.
With unlimited access to its subject and his archives, this in-depth 160pp jacketed hardback is not only a visual treat with more than 400 images, many rare and never previously published, but also includes contributions from designers and design authorities, musicians, artists and business partners,
MR FREEDOM traces Roberts career from his time as a student at London's Goldsmith's art school in the late 50s to the present day at the Shoreditch outlet Two Columbia Road including:
- His first store Kleptomania off Carnaby Street, where Roberts pioneered Victoriana and military-wear via customers Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Who.
- Mr Freedom King's Road, where Roberts was not only the first to sell slogan t-shirts but also the first fashionista anywhere in the world to license images from Disney.
- Mr Freedom Kensington, the inspiration for Biba: a four-storey department store with fashion, furniture, children's wear and basement diner Mr Feed'Em.
- Helping friends Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood find rehearsal space for the Sex Pistols + securing their premises at 430 King's Road (where Westwood continues to run her shop Worlds End)
- City Lights Studio, the first fashion store in London's Covent Garden, ten years ahead of the area's regeneration as the UK fashion neighborhood. Among the customers were Jack Nicholson, David Bowie and Roxy Music
- Roberts' management of Ian Dury's eccentric art-rock band Kilburn & The High Road, providing the model for Malcolm McLaren's management of the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols.
- Opening of high-tech home-wares and kitsch furniture outlet Practical Styling, which became an international design mecca
- 90s move into art and design collectibles with new store TomTom. along with fashion collaborations with label Maharishi and streetwear guru Michael Kopleman
- 2002 launch of Two Columbia Road in Shoreditch: thriving today as shopping destination for furniture and artefacts with clients such as artists Tracy Emin and Gilbert + George.