Saturday, 16 February 2008

_Ray Petri: Buffalo Style

Buffalo is one of the most influential styles in fashion; the founders were essentially Ray, photographers Jamie Morgan, Cameron McVey and Mark Lebon, and Mitzi Lorens. And later on includes Nick Kamen (of Levi ad fame) and his brother Barry, as well as Neneh Cherry and Naomi Campbell and. Ray Petri was the vision leader of the gang. Petri brought street fashion into the mainstream when before it was just all about power dressing. Ray turned his back on designer clothes. He pioneered the DIY post-punk styling. Ray believed that you can re-create all of these looks from thrift shop clothes and stuff that you've borrowed from your grandparents. Petri's look took bits and pieces of Britain's post-punk '80s: East Indians, blacks, punk whites, rude boys, mods, ragamuffin Jamaicans, New Romantics and boxers, and tossed them into an exotic whole. His revolutionary ideas spawned a generation of designers.

The Buffalo phenomena infiltrated pretty much everything, from ad campaigns to style magazines, all the way from the street to high fashion.

Photographer Jamie Morgan in one of his interviews on Showstudio said “What Buffalo did was to try to create its own agenda outside the fashion system. We were interested in the images and the attitude. Yes, we loved the style and the fashion but that was just part of it. We would use an Armani jacket because we liked the cut, not because of the label. What Buffalo helped to create was a force outside the establishment.”

Who would forget the image of Nick Kamen in a leather skirt, boys in Doc Martens and their underpants, ring-scarred black boxers in nursery-pink bobble hats, Armani suit jackets, boxing gear, and flags wrapped as sarongs, headlines ripped out and pinned to lapels. It was fashion with an attitude.

Ray Petri pioneered an aesthetic that brought the natural style of men of African descent to the forefront of fashion, adding sensuous androgyny with hardcore urban survival edgy-ness. Petri brought black models into the limelight, discovering Naomi Campbell at 14 and Neneh Cherry before her first recording. In fact using black models and models of other races was something pioneered by Ray, “no one had done it before.” “It was about the face, as they would say, 'Start with the face and the rest falls into place” said Mitzi Lorenz one of the founder of Buffalo.

Unfortunately Ray Petri died from AIDS in 1989. Fashion may come and go, but style, as Buffalo will show you, lives forever

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