Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Birthday Salute to Bunny Roger

Neil Munroe “Bunny” Roger was the epitomy of a gentleman peacock. This phenomenon of energy possessed wit, good taste and enormous courage. He was famous as a couturier for wealthy women, and had a reputation for throwing some of the most extravagant parties of the last century. His colorful persona can be considered an acquired taste for some folks, however, his original flair and joy for life can’t be denied.

Above: Bunny Roger with his younger brother, Alexander, "Sandy" in 1962.

This eccentric socialite (and fellow Gemini) was born on June 9, 1911—the middle of 3 boys. His father was a self-made business tycoon, and his mother was a natural beauty who liked culture and fashion, which undoubtedly rubbed off on Bunny (a nickname from infancy given to him from a nanny). Bunny, along with his brothers, Sandy and Alan, were life-long bachelors and remained close their entire lives.

During the Second World War he saw active duty in Italy and North Africa. He claimed to have advanced through enemy lines wearing a chiffon scarf and carrying a copy of Vogue.

Above: Neil "Bunny" Roger photographed in London in 1954 by fellow peacock, Norman Parkinson.

This dandy had many notable bon mots including: “When in doubt…powder.” One of his favored colors was “menopausal mauve.” Beneath his flamboyant exterior was an encyclopedic and formidably well-read mind, and courteous man.

After the war he opened his own shop, Neil Roger, with a £1000 backing from his father. His clients included Vivien Leigh and Princess Marina.

Each year he would purchase 15 custom Savile Row suits, of his own designs, in the best fabrics and colors—including lilac, cerulean, and canary yellow (above from his estate auction catalog 1998). He often had several pairs of the same shoe made when he found a favorite leather color or type.

Above: A peek in one of Bunny Roger's closets. It reminds Mr. Peacock of Tartan Scot's closet.

In the last decades of his life, during his routine walks to lunch at Fortnum & Mason, he enjoyed people staring at his neo-Edwardian inspired attire and signature silhouette—broad shoulders (40” chest), narrow waist (29”), and small feet (size 7)!

Above: The living room of Roger's house on Addison Road in London.

Bunny and his brothers hosted many fabulous parties and balls over the decades at their homes. In their day, these extravaganzas were outrageous and very eccentric. His “Fetish” party in 1956 made the gossip pages of the newspaper.

At his “Amethyst” Ball, celebrating his 70th birthday in 1981, Bunny wore a catsuit with an egret feather headdress (above). A decade later, he made an entrance at his “Ball of Fire” 80th birthday ball, emerging through fire and smoke to the applause of 400 friends!

Above: A sampling of Mr. Roger's wardrobe from the auction catalog of his estate, 1998.

Quoting Bunny’s obituary (April 1997) written by Clive Fisher in The Independent, “… He was true: beneath his mauve mannerisms he was stalwart, frank, dependable and undeceived; to onlookers a passing peacock, to intimates a life enhancer and exemplary friend.”

Mr. Peacock tips his bowler in salutation to Neil “Bunny” Roger for living his life with his own conviction and style.


Barima said...

Roger was also perhaps the ne plus ultra of Neo-Edwardians and was said to be "respected" by the Teddy Boys

However, he had quite a remarkable diversity, given the plaids, tartans, Nehrus and colours that, beyond the label of "dandy," makes him less simple to categorise. And I like that

And of course, there was the drag predilection

Other tidbits:

* Shirts by Turnbull & Asser. High collars
* His waist increased to 31 later in life; his inseam was 32
* He's apparently responsible for Capri trousers, although I forget where I read that
* He's a possible inspiration for John Steed of The Avengers; they certainly had a similar taste in bowler brims
* His tailors, Watson, Fargerstrom & Hughes, strove to find him rare fabrics in recognition of his individuality and cultivated tastes
* He was fond of customising his shoes with different coloured laces. He was actually fairly exacting about colur matching his accessories, such as his carnations
* He had four pairs of shoes or boots made for each of his suits to maximize possible ensembles for each trouser/jacket combination. And he owned over 150 Savile Row suits
* Bryan Ferry and Hamish Bowles were perhaps the biggest winners at his posthumous auction

A fascinating fellow, indeed


Susan said...

What an amazing post and a curiously fabulous man. I'd heard the name, but thanks for all the wonderful photos and fashion history. Love the icon medal too.. Long live the English gentleman dandy!

jon said...

glad to see you're back! hope all has been swell-

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Anonymous said...

For a time now I have been fascinated by this man. Yesterday at an antiques fair I saw his amethyst ball egret headdress for sale. Also I once met Francis Goodman who took Roger's photo on your blog.

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