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Belly-dance to catwalk

08 June, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Elizabeth Gordon and Hussein Chalayan, the fashion designer she inspired

ELIZABETH Gordon, a trim legal secretary, used to leave her law chambers once a week to don a daring costume and perform a belly dance at a north London restaurant.

She laughed as she told me from her Highgate home of her passion for belly dancing. I knew a centenarian, Rose Hacker, who swore about how life-enhancing this exotic dance was – and she, at the time, was in her late 90s.

But as Elizabeth Gordon explained to me its historical cultural background, it seemed as if Rose was right.

Elizabeth in her belly dancing days

After Elizabeth’s performances, the 11-year-old son of the owner of the restaurant talked to her about her costume. Later in life Hussein Chalayan became a top fashion designer and, as a result, Elizabeth’s life took a new turn. She showed him her mother’s children’s book, The Adventures of Plonk – published in the 1940s – and he was inspired by its illustrations to design a new range which caused a sensation in Paris a couple of years ago.

A design by Hussein Chalayan featuring the character Plonk (below)

Now, Elizabeth has brought out a new edition of her mother’s book – she was known as Joan Davies – and will be promoting it at the Primrose Hill Fair on Saturday.

Her mother attended a school of art in Manchester where she was thought highly of by such artists as Lowry. After she left she wrote The Adventures of Plonk, and to her surprise it became a best seller. It may be making a comeback.

The Adventures of Plonk, by Joan M Davies, is published by Troubador.


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