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    Christopher Gibbs, avatar of ‘Swinging London,’ dies at 80

    NEW YORK — Christopher Gibbs, an erudite London antiques dealer and dandy who introduced the raffish “distressed bohemian” style to interior design and helped start the Peacock Revolution in menswear, died July 29 at his home in Tangier, Morocco. Only minutes earlier, at midnight, he had turned 80.

    Cosimo Sesti, an architect and Mr. Gibbs’s godson, said in a telephone interview from Tangier the cause was respiratory and cardiac failure.

    Said to be a descendant of Margaret Pole, the executed 16th-century Plantagenet heiress to the English throne, Mr. Gibbs was an aristocratic lodestone for rock stars like Mick Jagger (“I’m here to learn how to be a gentleman,” Jagger was quoted as saying after visiting Mr. Gibbs at his home), John Paul Getty Jr. (whom Mr. Gibbs persuaded to donate $40 million to the National Gallery in London), the Beat Generation novelist William S. Burroughs, and Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein of Bavaria, a banker who became the Rolling Stones’ business manager. They were all clients of his or guests at his salons.


    Mr. Gibbs had a reliable formula for surviving as a society style-maker in the 1960s. As he confided to Paul Gorman in his book “The Look: Adventures in Pop & Rock Fashion” (2001), “you had to be monumentally narcissistic and have time on your hands, and just about enough money to do it.”

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    But Mr. Gibbs had more going for him than that. Unlike many of his decadent mates, Mr. Gibbs was wise, worldly, and endowed with both a work ethic and a refined if finicky taste that was undiminished by his extensive experimentation with drugs or his predilection for exotica, like a stuffed, two-headed lamb and a collection of whips.

    “He is also a leading proponent of that elusive brand of anti-decoration, high-bohemian taste favored by self-confident Englishmen, a look based on well-worn grandeur, disarming charm and unexpected contrasts,” Christopher Mason wrote in The New York Times in 2000.

    “The magic,” he added, “is in the mix of masterpieces and oddities — like an assemblage of refined and wild-card house guests who mysteriously combine to create the ideal convivial country-house weekend. The allergy here is to the banal, not to dust.”

    As Mr. Gibbs himself put it: “I like things in their natural state — people especially.’’


    In 1960s Swinging London, the people who aspired to the hedonistic set were habitually trying to be like him.

    As a clothes horse himself and also while editing the shopping guide of the quarterly Men in Vogue magazine from 1965 to 1970, Mr. Gibbs was credited with popularizing flared trousers, caftans, and print shirts.

    His eclectic taste in objects leaned toward elegant mahogany and marbled tables, shabby sofas, faded damasks, and a sock cabinet that belonged to the first Earl of Iveagh (smelly socks included). Taste, he once suggested, could not be taught.

    “It’s something you catch,” he said, “like measles or religion.”