LONDON, ENGLAND. The 1980’s saw an explosion of colour and creativity. Fashion designers were looking towards specialised club nights to change the way clothes were worn and the way in which people thought about vogue. Underground club culture suddenly became the main influence on British fashion and then worldwide. British designers became the most sought after, many of whom are still prominent in the fashion world today.
The 1980’s saw people push boundaries within these clubs with developments in textile technology: fashion allowed you to make a statement. For example, designer Katherine Hamnett during the early 80’s based her designs on boiler suits and army uniforms, t-shirts embellished with slogans that allowed her to use fashion as a platform for her green politics. Barriers were pushed and challenged. On the catwalk fashion designers also took note of current affairs and moved away from the old infrastructure of British fashion.
Later in the 80’s the outfits were skimpier and tighter, they moved away from the looser silhouette of the earlier 1980’s. Rave clubs became popular, as did the fashion with bright colours and young people ‘dressing to sweat’; the clothes had to allow for movement.
Music, media and fashion came together in the 80’s with new music being played in the clubs and the fashion responding to it. Musicians such as Boy George and David Bowie modelled the new designs and were featured in magazines such as The Face and Blitz. A whole industry developed around it with accessories such as Filofax and Mulberry becoming must have items.
Throughout the 1980’s music changed and London clubs worked to combine these changes with a safe environment in which like-minded people could dance the night away together. However, there was no set trend in the 1980’s and the London Victoria and Albert ( V&A) Museum’s latest exhibition, Club to Catwalk, demonstrates this beautifully with cases of glamorous John Galliano gowns inspired by the French revolution, to knitwear, over to Goth and sometimes the slightly crazier outfits such as a Michiko Koshino piece made from inflatable plastic fabric.
The exhibit delves into the ways in which club nights influenced the likes of Vivienne Westwood to John Galliano to create a new wave of fashion that helped put Britain on the map. Fashion became a way in which you could express yourself not only by wearing clothes, but also by designing, making and accessorising them.
Based on two levels, the exhibition demonstrates the parallels between the club and the catwalk. The ‘club’ in the V&A is bright with 80’s music pumping throughout and with a range of the genres seen in London clubs; it’s like actually stepping on the dance floor.
The exhibition shows a display of Blitz denim jackets, demonstrating the way creative and current designers worked in London. Popular 1980’s magazine Blitz commissioned 22 London based designers in 1986 to customise Levi Strauss & Co jackets in a way in which they felt represented the period. The exhibition pulls all of these strands –music, movement and la mode– together and gives a colourful portrayal of a vibrant decade.
Club to Catwalk is currently on view at the London Victoria and Albert Museum, until the 16th of February 2014.
Admission £5. Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL. For more information on the V&A exhibit, Club to Catwalk, click here.