BUFFALO :30 years later and still as relevant to fashion today as it was back in the 1980s.
Buffalo was the collective name of a group of young photographers, stylists and models under the guidance of stylist Ray Petri. They changed the whole approach to the imagery of mens and some women’s fashion in the media. Especially working with 80’s trendy fashion/cultural magazines, The Face, I-D and Arena.
Petri was born in Dundee, Scotland on the 16th September 1948. His parents took him and his family and emigrated to Australia in 1963. Once there Petri found a love of music which led him to sing with and R & B group called ‘The Chelsea Set’. Returning to England in 1968 he had many jobs around the music business, a stall selling antique jewellery in Camden Market in London, before becoming a photographic assistant to a renowned fashion photographer of the time, Roger Charity.
Petri went on to become a fashion stylist who is the person on a fashion shoot who chooses the clothes for the models to wear. Petri was actually more than a stylist, he used clothes to create an atmosphere and an attitude. In so doing he defined a menswear look of the 1980s.
Petri teamed up with young photographer Jamie Morgan and between them set a look for the time. Petri was a cultural phenomenon who was very involved in music, fashion, lifestyle and spirituality. He became the older brother and father to these creative young people.
Petri called his group of collaborators Buffalo after, as he once explained,“It’s a Caribbean expression to describe people who are rude boys or rebels. Not necessarily tough, but with style taken from the street ….. a functional and stylish look, non-fashion with a hard attitude”. In part of the group he formed were photographers Jamie Morgan, Marc LeBon, Cameron McVey and singer Neneh Cherry. Cherry at the time released a track called “Buffalo Stance” which you can find on You Tube.
“No money can win my love
It’s sweetness that I’m thinking of
We always hang in a Buffalo stance
We do the dive every time we dance”
Also in the group were Barry and Nick Kamen, brothers and models. Barry Kamen is most famous for the laundrette scene in a Levi’s jean ad. Also involved was the very young stylist Mitzi Lorenz and a 14 year old Naomi Campbell who modelled for them often.
The Buffalo look is easily recognised as a kind of post punk DIY approach to fashion drawing on club influences and a radical approach to sportswear often using non white models. “It is not the clothes that are the stars of his work it’s the people” Petri said “the important thing in styling is good casting. Once you have that, everything else falls into place”.
The whole look of Buffalo is the stance and mix of clothes from different cultures. The most iconic look that Petri and Morgan championed is the USAF MA1 flight jacket in black nylon and aviator sunglasses. Every guy had one at the time, either from a designer, from a surplus store or made by the manufacturer Schott. Nearly every fashion aware guy around the world wore a version of this jacket and it still looks relevant today.
The look that Buffalo created still influences fashion pages today and can be seen on the backs of hip young things on the high street.
He was a very respected, kind man and no-one had a bad word to say about him. He always kept a distance from the bitchiness of the fashion world.
Sadly Ray Petri died of AIDS in London, August 15, 1989 surrounded by his friends.
Book : Buffalo - Ray Petri Published by Schirmer/Mosel 2000.
GRAHAM FRASER Queerguru’s Culture, Fashion and Arts Correspondent was once half of the award winning FASHION DESIGNER duo WORKERS FOR FREEDOM. Years spent working in the luxury end of INTERNATIONAL FASHION he now lives with his partner the artist RICHARD NOTT and their two Cavapoos Albert and Raf in a stunning renovated 1950’s house on the edge of the Sussex Downs with distant sea views.