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Obituary: Stephen King, menswear designer and fashion lecturer

Eric Musgrave
22 November 2022

Tributes have been paid to menswear designer and fashion lecturer Stephen King, who has died aged 74.

A charismatic larger-than-life figure, in the the early 1980s King was a founder-member of the English Menswear Designer Collections (EMDC) group of  talents including Roger Dack, Charlie Allen, Stephen Linard, Stuart Hudson, Anne Smith, Modzart, Molto! and Su Thomas of Sioux.

For a few years the EMDC attracted much positive attention at international trade fairs like Sehm in Paris for the mainly London-based designers.

At the time King had a small shop on King's Road, Chelsea from where he dressed celebrities of the day, including Elton John.His specialty was bright and bold shirts under the Otto label.

Openly and often outrageously gay, King regularly dispensed bitchy comments that upset even his friends but as the many comments on social media following his death have shown, he was regarded as a kind and sociable man with a wicked sense of fun.

“Stephen was one of my oldest and dearest friends. He was also one of the nicest and rudest people I have ever met,” says Charlie Allen, who is now a bespoke tailor in Islington. “In the early 1980s Stephen King shirts were unmistakeable. After designers in the 1960s like Mr Fish, Stephen was the first to revive big flamboyant prints for menswear.”

Stephen King

Stephen King, (back row, centre) with fellow members of the EMDC pictured in Mens's Wear magazine in 1982

King graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1972. In the latter part of his career he moved into fashion education. He was proud to run what he described as the UK’s the first menswear-only fashion design course at Northbrook College, Sussex in the 1990s.

After the course was closed down, he headed up design for the Indian conglomerate Madura Garments and lived in India and Sri Lanka in 2000-2004.

In 2012 he was appointed as a fashion lecturer at the University of Ulster in Belfast, where we worked until retiring about four years ago.

In Northern Ireland his many friends affectionately named him "The Duchess" because of his camp and put-on grand manner.

Stephen King was born on 15 September 1948 in Chelsea to working-class parents who owned a fish and chip shop. He was the first of his family to go to university.

He died in Belfast on 17 November after suffering with dementia, Parkinson's and other ailments. He is survived by his two younger sisters, Christine and Deb.

His funeral will be held in Belfast on 29 November. The dress code is “Whatever you like”.

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