Clifford Jago is a stylist and self-confessed “messiah of fashion”. He’s also not real. The culmination of two photographers – who have chosen to remain anonymous – Clifford’s character, and resulting work, is a response to the modern culture of magazines in which publications have to shoot brands simply because they advertise with them.
“Created” in 2015, Clifford has garnered a reputation for making work that appropriates contemporary culture, while also poking fun at it. Silly and light-hearted, Clifford’s styling sees him using tents, McDonald’s takeaway bags and hot water bottles as accessories, clumped together in sarcastically over-the-top zines. A recent project, Clifford Jago & the Ice Queens, for example, features a double page spread with the words “double page spread” emblazoned across it.
With such a specific aesthetic and, clearly, an understanding of how to utilise irony to its full effect, we got in touch with Clifford to find out which books have helped inform his smart and downright hilarious portfolio.
David Bailey: Chasing Rainbows
This book was a great find in a Manchester charity shop, it mixes Bailey’s fashion and beauty photography, abstract paintings and documentary work from his travels around the world on fashion commissions. Bailey’s sense of colour is striking and unfamiliar compared to his work for Vogue and the more mainstream portraits. This book portrays the imbalance between Bailey and fashion, instead of conforming to the traditional approach set by upmarket glossy magazines, this is an all-out “I’m doing it my way assault” on the industry. The photographs are still relevant even today; there are many rare finds and photographs you wouldn’t have a clue were his.
Merlin’s Premier League ’97 Sticker Book
This was one of the first books I would obsess over, that year in primary school – 1997 – I would religiously spend all my pocket money trying to complete it. Only to be beaten by my older sister. Besides the fact it had some of the biggest legends in there, the design of the book is incredible, with a mix and match of loud graphics, which somehow all works together.
Also, the book was literally created by a magician. Shout out to Merlin for his creative sorcery on this one.
Salvador Dali: Dali
The master of abstract art. I think this book definitely had an effect on the way I perceive objects and how they can transform the body. You can take the smallest of details from one of his paintings and it can inspire a whole photo-shoot.
Salvador Dali was a wizard, his paintings were only limited by his imagination and he had more imagination than Merlin and Gandalf put together. I love the fact that he used to travel around the world with his pet ocelot, I have a Chihuahua and I thought that was fresh.
Shoichi Aoki: Fruits and Fresh Fruits
When I came across this book it completely captured my imagination, it was like the Bible of fashion when I was at college. All the scene kids wanted to replicate the Harajuku kids. These straight ups were originally documented by Shoichi Aoki for his FRUiTS magazine in the early 90s and then later were published in these two books. For these guys it was like fancy dress every day, I would of loved to have gone to a house party in Tokyo during that era. The Normcore kids these days would stick out like a sore thumb.
The outfits take elements of Western Club Kids and Japanese heritage and mix it all up together. They reminded me of something out of a video game character selection screen. I take a lot of inspiration from games, so seeing the bizarre and fantastical scenes translated into real-life scenarios really resonated with me.
Hannah Montana: Pillow Book Speaker
This is possibly one of the most inventive books I have come across. I think if it had been created by anyone else it probably would have won the Turner Prize. The design of this book includes storage space for photos and objects, a built-in speaker to plug your music device into and the whole thing is held in a padded casing making the book double as a pillow. The whole thing screams fun and comfort.
I love seeing design that is forward-thinking and stretches the boundaries or what objects are intended for. I know it’s just a kids book, but I think its ingenuity cannot be overlooked.
Shout out to Hannah Montana and her forward-thinking design.
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