Tamás Király (1950-2014) was an avantgarde fashion designer (Király often referred to himself as “a clothing sculptor” - “ruhaszobrász”). He grew up in the countryside (Gyöngyös), and he studied decoration and then later worked as an exhibition and window display designer. Beginning in the late 1970s, Király gradually became obsessed with fashion design. Initially, he worked as a decorator at a gallery. He then turned to a fashion boutique launched by the fashion designer Gizi Koppány in the centre of Budapest called “New Art Studio,” until Koppány emigrated to Berlin in 1988. The boutique was visited by many artists for whom Koppány designed different kinds of costumes. The boutique also had another interesting feature: it had live window displays created by Tamás Király with live models. From this spot, he started his first “fashion walk” in 1981 (followed by many others), crossing the downtown area of Budapest to FMK (Fiatal Művészek Klubja, “Club for Young Artists”), of which Király was also a member. During these tours, professional models and his acquaintances took a walk wearing flashy and extravagant clothes designed by him. According to Király, these walks also served as a counterpoint to the grey, boring visual appearance of the city and its inhabitants (the socialist clothing industry provided only a poor assortment of garments).
FMK was an important venue of the 1980s Budapest art scene. Király was also part of the circle of conceptual artist Miklós Erdély. In 1983, he organised his first fashion show at FMK under the title “Hidden fashion.” Generally, avantgarde fashion in the 1980s did not exist in Hungary. Király was the only person who represented this kind of attitude and aesthetics.
Király constantly tried to question the boundaries of fashion design, performance, and the visual arts, which were strongly influenced by the cultural and social context of the 1980s, when new cultural tendencies (e.g. “new wave” bands and the Albert Einstein Committee, which represented a new kind of Gesamtkunstwerk) had emerged. His oeuvre was not related to politics or ideology directly, but the act of reusing, or re-appropriating political symbols (for example in the case of the Red star dress, etc.) and his subversive performances always contained critical elements. Beginning in the middle of the 1980s, Király started to organize shows in Berlin (1984, 1988) and New York (1985), and he gained international fame. Even the magazine Stern called him the “Gautier of Eastern Europe.”[ Király might have got more recognition abroad, but he decided to remain in Hungary. Simultaneously, Király created four different thematic fashion shows at the Petőfi Hall (Baby’s Dreams 1985, Boy’s Dreams 1986, Animal’s Dreams 1987, and Király’s Dreams 1989). During the performances, underground bands like URH, Kontroll Csoport, and Sziámi played music, and the “unwearable” clothes were presented by ordinary people of Budapest. Additionally, beginning in the 1980s, Király extended his activities by creating dresses for theatre plays and movies.
Show on map
- Gyöngyös Bethlen Gábor utca 41, Hungary
Date of death
Author(s) of this page
- Bódi, Lóránt