- Ray Brown (designer)
Ray Brown (born
September 27 1949) is an Australian custom tailor and rock clothing designer for numerous rock and roll, heavy metal, hard rock, teddy boy and pop stars and celebrities including Brian Setzer, Tony Iommi, Styx, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe and John Mellencamp using the label "It's a Ray! design". Brown is one of only 20 Australian designers recognized on the Official Australian Culture Web Portal. cite web|url=http://www.culture.gov.au/articles/fashion/ |title=Modern Australian Fashion - Australia's Culture Portal |accessdate=2008-01-22 |date=2008-01-11 |work=Culture.Gov.Au |publisher=Australian Government Culture and Recreational Portal |archiveurl=http://www.culture.gov.au/articles/fashion/ |archivedate=2008-01-11 ]
Brown was born in Darwin,
Australiato Ron Brown, a labor rights activist for the Building Trades, and Clarice Brown, a housewife. As a child, Brown learned the carpentry craft from his father. He completed a 4-year training course as a "shop fitter" which included carpentry. He soon discovered that he was good with his hands — good at making things.
When he was fifteen years old, Brown, fancying himself a “greaser,” was hugely dissatisfied with the so-called tight jeans in the local stores which were, of course, completely vital to the look. And so he took to his mom's sewing machine and re-designed the jeans. He turned out to have an aptitude for working with fabric, and thus was born a career which would take him across the world and leave a lasting mark on the world of fashion.
Brown relocated to Melbourne to find more opportunities for him to make a living while developing his talent. Working as a designer in a leather store he so impressed the owner that he was elevated to a full partner in the business, but would eventually leave to open his own high-end Western-style clothing store after being inspired by the famous
Nudie Cohn-designed shirts sported by Elvis Presley.
Brown's store 'Wyoming' was a big hit in Australia, and his ambitions had begun to extend beyond running a successful store in a remote corner of the globe. It was then that Brown took the traditional route of ambitious Australians and relocated to London, where he chanced upon rooms for rent in the famous Rainbow Theatre. At the time – late in the seventies – it was arguably the premier rock venue in Europe, and Ray found himself in the middle of a vibrant music scene.
It was designing clothes for musicians that would subsequently make Brown's name, but in spite of his surroundings he would not make the transition quite yet. Instead he continued making custom hand-colored Western-style shirts, which were selling through select Kings Road boutiques, and word was beginning to spread. He received a large order for export to Germany, and invested everything he had to fulfil the order. But just before the shirts were due to ship out a marauding group of Rastas broke into his room during a Bob Marley show and stole everything.
When Brown complained bitterly about the security lapses to the management of The Rainbow, he was promptly given the job of making sure nothing like it ever happened again. It wasn't long before he was promoted to manager of the facility, and would spend the next three years running the venue, often booking acts that nobody else was brave enough to handle, amongst them
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damnedand Siouxsie And The Banshees. The Rainbow continued to be the top venue in town, in no small part thanks to the astute booking policy of its manager.
Over those three years Ray was busily burning the candle at both ends, which didn't leave much time for clothing work. But hanging out with musicians as much as Ray did, the subject would sometimes come up, and as a result he did find himself making outfits for a variety of artists including fellow Australians
Bon Scottand The Little River Band, as well as Adam Antand obscure Brit rockers Charlie [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_%28band%29] . And then the job ended – the Rainbow's lease was coming to an end, and the extensive renovations the building needed were precluded by a preservation order. Ray saw the writing on the wall, and decided to leave.
Rather than picking up the loose ends in London, Brown opted to pack his bags and move on yet again, arriving in Los Angeles with just $300 in his pocket. He rented a room in Hollywood and went back to his roots, making jeans on a rented sewing machine.
His first real commission was for video producer Jerry Kramer. When Ray delivered the jeans to the studio where Kramer was editing a Styx video he fatefully chanced to meet the band's guitarist
Tommy Shaw. Of similar stature to Ray, Tommy complained of the difficulty he had in finding stageworthy clothing that fit. The end result of the conversation was a commission for Ray to make Tommy's famous red jumpsuit; not long after delivering it he was on a Learjet bound for Chicago, where he would be making all the stage gear for the band's upcoming 'Paradise Theatre' tour, which would kick off early in 1981.
Over the coming years Los Angeles would stake its claim as the hard rock capital of the music world, but ironically Brown's next clients would be transplanted Brits — first it was Ozzy Osbourne, then it was
Judas Priest. The local groups started to catch on and his client list began to grow at a very fast pace. Image was becoming critical in the rock world, every band wanted a striking look which would both open eyes and mark them apart, and Ray's ingenuity was constantly being challenged to come up with something new for his latest high-profile clients. Some of them had clear ideas of what they wanted, and Ray proved to be a master at translating their visions into reality; he was no less skilled at satisfying the clueless ones who just wanted Ray Brown to design their outfits, due to the positive word of mouth spread regarding Ray's work.
Although most of his work centered on the rock world, Brown's reputation for quality work spread throughout the music business, and he has dressed clients as diverse as
Cher, The Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, and Brian Setzer. He has also created off-stage wear for a number of his clients, not least wedding outfits for Jon Bon Jovi, Vince Neil, Tommy Leeand John Mellencamp– as well as a black wedding dress for the cover of Lita Ford's never-completed 'The Bride Wore Black' album. Another project saw Ray creating a grossly over the top diamond-studded leather jacket for the This Is Spinal Tapmovie , and more recently it was Ray who was chosen to design and make the jackets for the newly-minted Arizona Diamondbacksbaseball team.
Brown is best known for his rock work, and it presented challenges above and beyond 'just' looking good — it had to be durable enough to survive the rigors of stage performance. There were other designers offering their wares, but after the embarrassment of Graham Bonnet ripping one of his suits onstage with Ray in the audience, he had developed proprietary techniques to ensure that his clothing simply would not come apart. He, in fact, inadvertently sabotaged a move that
Bruce Dickinsonhad developed, ripping the sleeves off his shirt onstage — a new shirt from Ray Brown simply refused to sacrifice its sleeves and the singer was left clawing at the unyielding shirt in front of several thousand people.
One day in his never-ending search for new materials to work with, Ray discovered a hugely expensive fabric which he stumbled across — a synthetic washable leather. It was significantly more durable then real leather, much less likely to rip. And whenever it got baggy at the joints – this was the era of tight leather clothing — all one had to do was throw it into the washing machine, and it was as good as new. Of course some bands usually insisted on real leather out of principle – Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest amongst them – but most of the eighties bands you see in their elaborate leather outfits weren't actually wearing leather at all, which also had the added bonus of making their dressing rooms far less pungent places to be, late in a world tour.
A number of Brown's ideas have crept into mainstream fashion over the years, ranging from the pyramid-studded leather he developed with Judas Priest to the skulls and crosses which so commonly adorn leather today, but hadn't been used before he first began integrating them into his outfits for artists like Mötley Crüe. Brown is credited with many rock fashion innovations, such as lace front leather pants, which he first did for Jon Bon Jovi; Lacing up the side of leather pants, first done for Mötley Crüe; And the huge banners on the back of jackets and coats, not seen outside of motorcycle gangs before the concept was developed in a brainstorming session with Mötley Crüe. Ray took the idea to new lengths, and it became one of his most popular motifs. Early adopters included Axl Rose and Jon Bon Jovi. One jacket he designed for Jon Bon Jovi would end up with
On Brown's work,
Tony Iommi, Black Sabbathguitarist has stated,
"Considering Ray only has one color (black) to work with when designing my clothes, he is always able to come-up with interesting and adventurous pieces. For over 25 years Ray has been creating my outfits for both on and off stage, yet he is still able to produce new ideas and concepts." cite web|url=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=87215 |title=BLABBERMOUTH.NET - Fashion Designer For JUDAS PRIEST, TONY IOMMI, SLASH To Launch Women’s Ready-to-Wear Line |accessdate=2008-01-22 |date=2007-12-23 |work=Blabbermouth.net |publisher=Road Runner Records |archiveurl=http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=87215 |archivedate=2007-12-23 ]
Brown has also been featured in numerous exhibitions and books focusing on the style and fashion of rock and roll, perhaps most notably four of his outfits featured in
Tommy Hilfiger's 'Rock Style'. More of his iconic outfits can be seen in numerous Hard Rock Cafes [http://www.hardrockcafe.com] around the world, and several fashion and museum shows devoted to the era have leaned heavily on the Ray Brown collection to make their point; the popular culture of every era has consistently been indelibly associated with a certain look, and the prime mover behind the look which characterized the rock genre throughout the eighties, nineties to current day is Ray Brown. And, as with every era, that look has subsequently permeated into popular fashion.
Clothing On Display
Phoenix Art Museum1997 Exhibit commemorating 80's rock fashion. Clothing designed, made and loaned to the Museum by R. Brown
Judas Priest: Jacket (1991) [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/priest/museum.jpg]
Nelson Twins: Jacket, Vest and Pants (1992) [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/nelson/cover.jpg]
Cher: Pair of Jeans (1993) [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/cher/cher001.jpg]
Yngwie Malmsteen: Jacket (1994) [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/ymalmsteen/museum.jpg]
Hard Rock Cafes:
Mumbai, India: Alice Cooper
White Tux & Tails [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/acooper/alice001.jpg]
Used on every tour from 1986 until some fairly recent shows in North America in 1998. Worn at each concert during the performance of 'School's Out'. Can be seen on the front cover of the video 'Prime Cuts' and in the 'Alice Cooper - Trashes the World' concert video.
Munich, Germany: Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe)
Black and White Polka Dotted Outfit from "Theatre of Pain" Tour [http://www.raybrownfashion.com/clients/crue/hardrock.jpg]
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Yngwie Malmsteen
Pants and Shirt
Puerta Vallarta, Mexico: Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe)
Sleeveless Biker Jacket from "Theatre of Pain" Tour
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame(Cleveland, OH): Bang Your Head Exhibit Glenn Tipton(Judas Priest) Stage Outfit
Jon Bon Jovi Long Patchwork Skull Coat
Mentions and Photos in Important Books Documenting Rock Fashion
"RockStyle how fashion moves to music" by Tommy Hilfiger
"Getting It On: The Clothing Of Rock And Roll" by Mablen Jones
"Heavy Metal" by Mick St. Michael
This is Spinal Tap Jacket
Full Tour Designs
Mötley Crüe: Girls! Girls! Girls!
Mötley Crüe: Theatre of Pain
Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet
Bon Jovi: New Jersey
Judas Priest: World Vengeance
Judas Priest: Jugulator
Judas Priest: The Painkiller Tour
Judas Priest: World Tour 1984
Judas Priest: World Tour 2005
Judas Priest: Mercenaries of Metal
Brian Setzer Orchestra
*Dear Mr. President
Guns N' Roses
* [http://www.johnmellencamp.com John Mellencamp]
*Jon Bon Jovi (Solo)
*Little River Band
*Spinal Tap Jacket
*Tommy Shaw (Solo)
* [http://www.tonyiommi.com Tony Iommi (Solo)]
Personal Wedding Clothing:
Tommy Lee & Heather
Vince Neil & Sharise
Jon Bon Jovi & Dorothea
* [http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,142323,00.html Ozzy Osbourne/Ultimate Sin Discography]
* [http://www.legacyrecordings.com/Krokus/The-Blitz.aspx Krokus Discography]
* [http://www.roadrun.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=33224 Judas Priest Interview]
*Arizona Tribune Newspapers, Thursday April 17, 1997, "Valley designer's costumes for rock 'n' roll's elite has put him A Cut Above", Carrie White
* [http://www.yezzz.com/auctions/31888068.html?locale=nl Joepie (Belgium)] , November 29, 1997, Java Magazine (Phoenix, Arizona) February 1997
*"House of Brown: Rock and Roll Costumer", Jim Cherry, L.A. Weekly (California), September 26-October 2, 1986
*"Tailor to the Best-Dressed Bands", Shelly Da Cunha, Musik Express Sounds (Germany), October 1986
*"Styling A La Hollywood", L.A. Weekly (California), October 11-17, 1985, Full page feature in "Style" section, Liz Blackman
* [http://www.raybrownfashion.com Ray Brown Fashion]
* [http://judaspriest.com/home/default.asp JudasPriest.com :: Home]
* [http://www.iommi.com/links.htm Official website of Tony Iommi]
* [http://www.briansetzer.com/links.php Brian Setzer]
* [http://www.hardrock.com/locations/cafes3/cafes.aspx?LocationID=455&MIBenumID=3&MenuID=3 Hard Rock Cafe: Mumbai, India - Memorabilia Section] (#10 Alice Cooper's White Tux)
* [http://www.hardrock.com/locations/cafes3/cafes.aspx?LocationID=94&MIBenumID=3&MenuID=3 Hard Rock Cafe: Munich, Germany - Memorabilia Section] (#5 Nikki Sixx Outfit)
* [http://www.rockhall.com/exhibitpast/bang-your-head Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Bang Your Head Exhibit]
* [http://www.phxart.org Phoenix Art Museum]
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