Born: May 24, 1953.

Died: February 8, 2021.

STEVEN Purvis, who has died at the age of 67, less than six months after being diagnosed with cancer, was an extraordinary Glasgow tailor and costume-maker, whose truly original work continues to be appreciated by his many friends and clients.

Among them were many television personalities, actors, artists and musicians, but his ‘black book’ was kept strictly confidential. His skill in interpreting and developing customers’ ideas built a loyal and repeat business, fuelled by word of mouth and recommendations; he was also an integral part of the very niche world of UK mods, who came to him for their authentic mohair and tonic suits.

Steven Purvis was born and raised in Battlefield, Glasgow. He grew up with his older brother, Iain, and attended Hutchesons’ Boys Grammar School, before going to Glasgow School of Art in 1970, as the youngest in his year.

At that time the GSA offered Degree Courses, where years three and four were spent in the department of the student’s choice. Despite selecting Murals and Stained Glass, Steven was allowed to bring his innate interest in fabrics and newly gained sewing skills to the fore.

His 1974 degree show included collaged panels of ‘The Four Seasons’; ‘Winter’, featuring recycled denim jeans, and ‘Spring’, including a flock of shoulder pads flying across the sky. His innovative dissertation (a poster) was of the 1930s costume designer, Erte. There was a sense of style and humour in his final degree show, which was unique at that time.

While still a student he was commissioned to make jackets by people who admired his own outfits. In Glasgow at that time it was hard, for young men especially, to find really fashionable clothes, so he would go to London to party, shop, and pick up ideas that he brought back and incorporated in his own work.

He participated in GSA fashion shows from 1972 onwards, where his stand-out collections were a marked contrast to his contemporaries, incorporating Hollywood glamour, skinny fit and, what was to become his trademark, sharp silhouettes and precise tailoring.

He soundtracked his shows with songs by Roxy Music, and his friends (and early clients) from Bus Stop Boutique came to model his sharp suits, accessorised with cigarettes in holders and high platform heels. Another major design influence was the classic leather Western Rodeo jacket, with contrast yoke and piping, featuring suede floral applique, many of which have been lovingly saved by old customers.

After graduation he became a skilled sign-writer in his father’s business before branching out on his own. One of his first commissions was to design uniforms for staff at Rox, in Glasgow’s Queen Street. He created industrial style boiler-suits and insisted that staff used clipboards to take orders.

His eye for, and painstaking attention to, detail was exemplified in a casual exchange; after an extended silence he was asked what he was thinking and replied: “I am thinking about the style of pocket I want to use for my next suit.”

During the 1980s he had a business partnership running several large factories in Falkirk and Cumbernauld, employing machinists and fulfilling volume orders for retail stores such as Marks and Spencer, alongside one-off samples for such designers as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood.

This, however, did not satisfy his passion for creating bespoke pieces and he subsequently moved back to Glasgow and established his tailoring business, initially working in Cook Street, before opening in Dowanhill Street, moving to Chancellor Street in 2003 and finally The Hive, in Finnieston.

He loved reggae and black music and was a regular at the Apollo and Cinders at their height. He was ahead of the curve in buying imported LPs by new and obscure artists and purchased many artworks by his fellow students, which were always to be seen on display in his homes.

He shopped at the city’s antique shops and the Barras, making friends with dealers and creating an eclectic collection of decorators’ pieces, including early Robin Day work; chairs were a particular passion. His shop front was deliberately subtle with just a discreet business card and a display of curiosities in the window.

Steven also treasured traditional Scottish textiles, whether to work with or to wear, including Harris tweed, cashmere, Fair Isle hand knits and fine wool suiting. Mill reps would often bring him sample lengths of rare and unusual fabrics as they knew the material would be appreciated and turned into something special.

Through both living and working in the West End (and having more than a few romantic relationships over his lifetime), Steven became a recognised face in the restaurants and wine bars in and around Byres Road. He was a great cook and host, inspired by his trips to France, Italy and Spain.

In 1998 he met his wife, Caroline, and the following year their daughter, Christina, was born. Steven enjoyed making clothes for the whole family, including some amazing fancy dress outfits for Christina when she was small – a werewolf, complete with head, was a stand-out. His passion for art and design and keen eye for detail has also been a source of inspiration for her.

Alongside his business, he continued collaborations on creative projects. He was instrumental in establishing Atelier EB, contributing to ‘The Inventors Of Tradition’ exhibition in 2011.

After analysing the construction of historical garments, he created new versions that were shown in Glasgow, London, New York and Berlin. Costume designers commissioned him for television and film projects, as well as work for opera, ballet and theatre. His work was frequently part of Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, Citizens Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland productions.

Following a fall, Steven closed his business in 2019, but continued to work part-time with Slanj.

He was a one-off, a complex and extraordinary man who danced to his own rhythm and never fully realised how extraordinary he was.

CAROLINE THOMPSON