Shaping the 1980s
We met on the first day of college - which was in 1979 - Middlesex University (as it’s called now) and we were introduced by a mutual friend who said “look after each other” and we have been looking after each other ever since.
London at the time was kind of thirsty for something to happen in the fashion world - buyers weren’t coming, the press weren’t coming. We actually went to New York to do this show called ‘New London in New York’ with Susanne Bartsch.
A very famous club owner Susanne Bartsch, at that time, had her own shop and had become almost like an agent for English individual designers and she took everyone over there and put together a show. It actually took all of the London designers going over to New York for the British fashion press to wake up and realise what they had on their own doorstep. And then everyone came back here, because it had been in the Daily News Record, Women’s Wear Daily, all the fashion bibles at the time then and so then of course there was this huge explosion of interest in to the British youth, street-fashion, culture, etc.
So, from there we kind of just went off big time. Stars over night almost, weren’t we?
We’d do our own in-house campaigns with photographers that were just starting out at the time who actually later became very famous – Mario Testino, David LaChapelle. And then we’d have the runway shows, the catwalk shows. Our first solo show we called ‘Cat in the hat takes a rumble with the techno fish’ - so we were inspired by ‘Dr. Seuss’, ‘Cat in the Hat’; the black and white stripes, the funny gloves and then we were also inspired at the same time by a Francis Ford Coppola film ‘Rumble Fish’ that was mostly just black and white except for the fighting fish and the primary colours – so we inserted that in to the show. And then the techno side of it was our mesh print that we did.
Helen Terry started the show by singing a cappella. She made up a song about BodyMap and the techno fish and then it starts and the models just took their own lead and did the whole dance thing up and down the runway, it just led itself really.
Later on, Michael Clark – who we had collaboration with – would choreograph our shows and also be in them. I guess the most outlandish show was ‘Isa Comet [a Star a Moon a Sun aura Racoon]’ where we had lasers, Boy George, people singing. Michael choreographed a piece based on ‘Rite of Spring’ for which we had David’s little niece tumble over people. Girls fell down on to the catwalk and then she tumbled over them right to the end of the catwalk - sacrificial maiden!
I’d say it was probably unusual for the generation above us, but in our generation there were more people trying to do things off their own back and pulling on resources. Everyone was very creative and very resourceful.
Lots of different types of people ended up wearing BodyMap and saying they loved BodyMap.
Not always young either and not just thin, skinny models. Tiny children, it was for everybody really; it sort of mapped the whole look of everything and everyone.
Amidst the colourful extravagance of 1980s fashion, one label in particular stood out thanks to their pioneering approach to making and showing their creations: BodyMap. V&A Channel looks back at the DIY origins of the label with its two founders, Stevie Stewart and David Holah, and learns of collaborations with a young Mario Testino, Michael Clark and David LaChapelle, among others.
V&A Channel looks back at the DIY origins of BodyMap with its two founders, Stevie Stewart and David Holah...