Here at Olympia we love hearing from our authors and getting an insight into their lives This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Moller about her book, her writing, fashion and things she learnt on the way.
You have had an absolutely fascinating life, not everyone could say they met Andy Warhol and Twiggy. Do you have a personal highlight in your life in fashion?
Warhol had a great influence on fashion not only the influence of his painting but also his attitude which is responsible for much of how we treat the media today. Andy had grasped the significance of American Pop culture and transformed Pop into Tantric icons; even fame became Pop, and in his eyes, something to be devoutly desired. I fact he didn’t invent images; he simply framed them, and by framing them made us see them in a new way. His sentimental, inarticulate and silly approach, especially his pretense that making art was as easy as turning on the TV, foreshadowed our present superficial world, where people follow the real-life activities of football stars, fashion models and actors as if they are all close friends. Something I find difficult to accept. After Any was shot by Valerie Solanas he was in constant pain and had to stay at home for months, and then wear a surgical corset that more or less glued him together which prevented him from continuing with his paintings and films. I heard from friends that he avoided people and would sit alone in his office listening to the tapes he’d previous recorded of various crazy, druggy people jabbering away and doing insane things. Yet Andy was amazing—even being shot did not alter his creative spirit and because of these recording he decided to created a magazine called Interview, composed of people just talking to one another, their human speech creating a sort of symphony of words. For fifteen minutes Warhol offered a feeling of significance to the neglected, insecure, unhappy people that surrounded him by opening the invisible aspects of their lives that lurked in the shadows. Andy would say Nice, nice, good, oh, beautiful, which helped people feel accepted, maybe even prevented a few suicides. When he put them in front of the camera, they weren’t acting, they were doing their own thing.’
How would you describe your personal sense of style?
I guess it isn’t a sense of style more a sense of what people will want to wear in the future
What has been your favourite era of fashion so far?
I love all periods of fashion except maybe today ‘s fashions
Why did you decide to write a book? And where did you write it?
What’s certain is that writing a memoir is guaranteed to engage one emotionally—no one is indifferent to their own history. The initial driving force for writing about the 1960’s was the rarity of books written by women about that period. Most of the books of that era tend to be written by men and are about particular subjects, when in fact everything was connected: the 1960’s Beats, hippies, art and experimental poetry, Pop music and fashion design, and the political, ecological, sexual and feminist protests. The early Hipsters/Beats came of age in the 1950s and early 60s; the later hippie years from the mid sixties were a heavenly time to be part of the London intellectual and artistic world. The expression Turn on, tune in, and drop out was less an invitation to party, but more a call to experience life more intimately, more positively. Those years were perhaps the longest gap year in history and they had a profound effect on many of societies rules. Unfortunately there was not enough political will from the older generation to achieve the more general aims: to improve education and our environment, to clean up our air and water, to end wars and to share our wealth.
A frequent question in the sixties by outsiders was, “But what is it all for? What are you getting out of it—being a hippie and all?” The answer was simply the breathless exaltation of being part of a movement that aimed to change the world! I would say to the present generation—Why be content with the rules that others impose on us or accept the script that society assigns us? People my age remember the 1967 Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, the 1968 barricades, the movies like Blow-up and Woodstock, the songs: The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel’s, We Can Work It Out by the Beatles, and much more. Pick up and magazine or book about the sixties and there we are looking sexy in our mini-skirts, as short as was decent, and seemingly thrilled to be alive at such a moment. Social approval of friends replaced the approval of elders. For the first time: rentals no longer required a marriage certificate, contraceptives and abortions were available. Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalogue, is known as the playfully earnest hippie that helped create the idealistic techno-counterculture that helped changed how we connect to the world. The question that may sticks in the minds of the readers of my memoir Technicolor Dreamin’ in her own fashion—is how did acid dropping hippies like Stewart Brand and Steve Jobs get together with engineers and communal idealists and create the counter culture of technology and entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley? Both believed that individual computers would create a social network for communication where the individual set the rules. Here is a quote from the Whole Earth Catalog, ‘A realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.’ Later, in 1995, Stewart Brand’s wrote in Time magazine, We Owe It All To The Hippies.
Just as my generation looked back at to the 1920s with nostalgia young people today look back on the 1960’s pop music, art exhibitions, and fashion as a source of inspiration. I would add a warning—The great changes in civil rights, relaxing of censorship of books and films, freedom of speech, women’s equal pay, right to divorce and freedom of choice for abortion that we help bring about in the 1960s should be guarded carefully. Attempts by today’s politically correct thought police to rescind these rights is already materializing.
What is your opinion on the current state of freedom in fashion – after all it’s thanks to inspirational souls such as yourself that many can express themselves so freely?
I did help create freedom in fashion and unisex looks but I think it is sad today there are no real fashion leaders and no real fashion trends. Mostly people don’t even make an attempt to dress up, I would even go so far as to say people avoid dressing up and simply buy the cheapest garment they can find.
You’ve partied with the greats of rock and roll, do you have any stories to tell outside the world of fashion, enough to make up another book perhaps?
Yes I am writing another book and since it is mostly about my early years in Paris there is a great deal about the publisher Girodias and his publishing house –Olympia Press