When Amy Winehouse stepped out from what was unknowingly to be her last ever concert performance, she was dressed in a figure-hugging, bamboo-print frock, lovingly designed and made by one of her closest friends.

The lime green and black halterneck outfit was, says Naomi Parry, Amy’s stylist for six years, supposed to represent something of a new start for the 27-year-old singer.

After years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, she was fresh out of rehab and excited about the future. She was in a new relationship, with film director Reg Traviss, who was seen as a positive presence in her life following her disastrous two-year marriage to heroin addict Blake Fielder-Civil. The dress, Naomi says, symbolised new beginnings.

Sadly, it was not to be. The gig, in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 18, 2011, descended into farce as Amy drunkenly stumbled around, taking off her shoes and falling over. She had to leave it to a backing dancer to sing her hit, Valerie, and couldn’t remember her band members’ names.

Five weeks later, on July 23, her lifeless body was discovered in her London home, surrounded by empty vodka bottles. A coroner later recorded she’d died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

It was a sorry ending for the prodigiously talented, Enfield-born Jewish girl, who began her career signing for pop entrepreneur Simon Fuller’s 19 Management in 2002, aged just 19.

Global success came with the release of her Back To Black album in 2006 which featured hit songs such as Rehab, Tears Dry On Their Own and Love Is A Losing Game, and sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.

Amy at her final concert, in the dress that triggered the bitter dispute

Amy at her final concert, in the dress that triggered the bitter dispute

She went on to win six Grammys in the US, plus three Ivor Novello awards and a Brit in the UK. Before long however, she was to become as well known for her self-destructive lifestyle as she was for her music, with every gruesome detail played out in the full glare of publicity.

Now that dress, which will be forever associated with tragedy, is at the centre of more controversy as Naomi and another of Amy’s closest friends, Catriona Gourley, have become embroiled in a bitter court battle with Amy’s father, Mitch, 73, over its sale. He has hired lawyers and lodged papers in the High Court to try to recover the money the women made when the dress sold in Beverly Hills for an eye-watering £192,000 three years ago – 13 times the auctioneer’s estimate.

The two women were Amy’s former flatmates in London and supported her as she battled her demons, as detailed in the 2021 documentary Reclaiming Amy. They were once so much a part of the singer’s inner circle that they are both named – alongside Mitch – on Amy’s headstone.

Even Mitch acknowledged their close bond, telling the BBC: ‘Catriona and Amy, they were sisters. They were more than best friends.’

Catriona claims to have been in an intimate relationship with Amy and said: ‘She used to write notes while I was sleeping, saying things like, “You are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” and, “How can you look as beautiful asleep as you do awake?”

‘Our relationship was so unique. Undefined. We just loved each other very much.’

The tight-knit trio shared everything – and Naomi and Catriona insist that they were ‘generously gifted’ various items by their friend over her lifetime – including that famous bamboo dress. So now they say they are surprised – not to mention furious – that the garment has landed them in such a stressful situation, which could financially ruin them.

The tragic singer with Naomi Parry, her stylist for six years

The tragic singer with Naomi Parry, her stylist for six years 

Catriona Gourley and Amy 'were sisters', said her father Mitch Winehouse. 'They were more than best friends’

Catriona Gourley and Amy ‘were sisters’, said her father Mitch Winehouse. ‘They were more than best friends’

The dress is one of the items the women used to honour their friend’s legacy in a decade-long project. Devastated by grief following Amy’s death, Naomi masterminded a book, Beyond Black, that explored the singer’s life through photos and memorabilia, and they both staged an exhibition of the same name which started at the Grammy Museum in LA and ended at the Design Museum in London.

Naomi and Catriona – who made countless contributions to TV shows, radio programmes and newspaper articles to keep Amy’s memory alive – say Mitch cooperated with all of it.

In 2021, the women decided their endeavours were complete and decided to part ways with some items in their collection.

And so, in two auctions, one in 2021 and one this year, they began to sell off some of the dresses, handbags, clothes, underwear and make-up, as well as notes and sketches, that Amy had given them over the years.

Among the items sold was a heart-shaped Moschino purse Amy wore at the 2007 Brit Awards, which sold for £160,000, a Dolce & Gabbana dress which sold for £20,000 – and, of course, the bamboo print dress.

The sales prompted former taxi driver Mitch to bring the case in his role as administrator of his daughter’s estate.

He claims that Naomi and Catriona made £3.3 million from selling off 156 of Amy’s items, although the girls say Mitch’s figures are exaggerated.

He is now, however, petitioning to claim back £730,000 of their profits for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which supports young people struggling with addictions. The pair have vowed to fight Mitch for what they believe is theirs – and have turned to crowdfunding to cover their legal fees. Already more than £65,000, the pair fear the total could top £250,000 after they hired London firm Lee & Thompson to fight their corner. They say that the auction proceeds have been drained by the bills.

Their plea is being supported by the likes of singers Kelly Osbourne and Lisa Moorish, Amy’s goddaughter Dionne Bromfield and the Hawley Arms – the pub in Camden, North London, where Amy spent many nights partying in her 20s.

After urging the High Court to dismiss the case against them, the women released a statement, which said Mitch should not use the money from Amy’s estate to pursue them in the courts.

They said: ‘Despite the anticipated future costs of going to trial being in the hundreds of thousands, we are resolute in proving that these allegations are false.

‘We firmly believe that wealth should not be used as a means of intimidation and we are now consolidating all our resources to support and fight to clear our names.

‘We want to thank those who have shown kindness and support already, both publicly and privately. Your belief in our innocence is profoundly reassuring.’

The ordeal has seen a long and heartbreaking process for Naomi and Catriona, whose relations with their friend’s father have become so toxic that the outcome is now in the hands of a judge. Surely too, it has tinged their memories of Amy with yet more sadness.

Amy's weeping mother and father Mitch, right, look at tributes left by fans outside her London home

Amy’s weeping mother and father Mitch, right, look at tributes left by fans outside her London home 

Mitch claims that Naomi and Catriona made £3.3 million from selling off 156 of Amy’s items, although the girls say his figures are exaggerated

Mitch claims that Naomi and Catriona made £3.3 million from selling off 156 of Amy’s items, although the girls say his figures are exaggerated

A source told the Mail on Sunday: ‘It is just so tragic. Mitch is using the many millions he got from Amy’s estate against her friends. She would be absolutely horrified.

‘She loved everyone and just wanted to see them get on. They [Naomi and Catriona] were her day-to-day people, they loved her and they tried so hard to look after her. It is so terribly devastating that it has all come to this.’

‘Mitch always knew the girls had Amy’s stuff and that they were going to auction off some items. The main issue was when that dress sold for such a huge sum. No one realised it would go for so much and Mitch decided he wanted some of the money.

‘When they first got Mitch’s legal letter, the pair were blindsided. Mitch knew they had the belongings all along and they had shown them at exhibitions. It didn’t in a million years occur to them that one day Mitch would want something from it all.

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‘It seemed like a totally unfair demand. It has now got to the unfortunate stage that all communication is being done via lawyers.’ Admittedly, the girls’ relationship with Amy’s father has been fraught over the years.

But after years of disagreement, perhaps over his parenting of his increasingly troubled daughter, the women put differences aside to work alongside Mitch on the Beyond Black exhibition.

One friend said: ‘Mitch was not exactly welcoming to Amy’s friends when she was alive. It was like there were two separate factions in her life – her dad on one side and her mates on the other.

‘So when Beyond Black started, it was quite something to see them collaborate. Relations had often been strained.’

For Naomi and Catriona, that all seems a very long time ago now, as Mitch doggedly pursues his legal case.

His friends say he refuses to hear any criticism of his decision to sue his daughter’s friends.

One said: ‘Mitch has got it into his mind that he has to win the case. When it was mentioned to him that perhaps he should ease off and just let the girls get on with their lives, he didn’t like it all.

‘He has taken the girls’ decision to make money from these things very badly. It’s like he believes any possessions of Amy’s are now his.’

The dress Amy wore for her final stage performance in Belgrade goes up for auction in 2021

The dress Amy wore for her final stage performance in Belgrade goes up for auction in 2021

A spokesman for Mitch said: ‘In 2021, Amy’s estate auctioned items from her life and career with 30 per cent of the proceeds going to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Two individuals sold a number of items at that auction and have retained the proceeds. The items were all Amy-related.

‘This year they have put more Amy-related items up for auction and together the two auctions have generated six-figure sums for each of them.

‘The estate has questioned how these items came into their possession and has not had satisfactory answers. The estate has therefore launched a legal process to clarify the situation.

‘The Amy Winehouse Foundation will directly benefit if monies are recovered from either of the defendants.’

For Naomi, 13 years after Amy’s death, she finds herself grieving for her friend all over again, through the symbolic dress that she made.

Speaking before the auction in 2021, she said: ‘I feel an immense amount of sadness when I look at that dress. It was supposed to be the start of something new and moving forward.

‘She had been doing so well. The dress went from symbolising something new and exciting to absolute devastation.’

Little did she know at the time that the devastation would still be felt today.


This post first appeared on Daily mail

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