Club to Catwalk: About the Exhibition

10 July 2013 - 16 February 2014

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s explored the creative explosion of London fashion in the 1980s. Through more than 85 outfits, the exhibition showcased the bold and exciting new looks by the most experimental young designers of the decade, including Betty Jackson, Katharine Hamnett, Wendy Dagworthy and John Galliano.

The exhibition traced the emerging theatricality in British fashion as the capital’s vibrant and eclectic club scene influenced a new generation of designers. Also celebrating iconic styles such as New Romantic and High Camp, and featuring outfits worn by Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery, the exhibition explored how the creative relationship between catwalk and club wear helped reinvent fashion, as reflected in magazines such as i-D and Blitz and venues including Heaven and Taboo.


Club

The ’80s saw the explosion of the London club scene. Specialist club ‘nights’ offered opportunities for dressing up in the company of a like-minded crowd. Stevie Stewart of BodyMap explained that ‘each group of people, whether they were fashion designers, musicians or dancers, filmmakers, living together and going out together had a passion for creating something new that was almost infectious’.

Early clubs such as Billy’s, Blitz and the Club for Heroes were small and attracted a selective crowd. As the decade progressed, venues such as the Camden Palace and one-off warehouse parties began to attract much larger audiences. Although less intimate, they perpetuated the creative link between music, club and catwalk. This symbiotic relationship remained the defining characteristic of 1980s style.

Catwalk

In the early ’80s, London fashion began to create a stir internationally. Fashion shows took place in New York and Japan. One breakthrough event, titled ‘London Goes to Tokyo’, included many of the designers featured here and in the upstairs gallery.

The inventiveness of London design owed much to the excellence of the city’s arts education. Colleges such as St Martin’s, the Royal College of Art and Hornsey College of Art offered advanced training in the fundamentals of fashion design, while also encouraging individuality.

At night, young designers’ imaginations were sparked by a vibrant London club scene. John Galliano recalled, ‘Thursday and Friday at St Martin’s, the college was almost deserted. Everybody was at home working on their costumes for the weekend’. Designer Georgina Godley remembers, 'Young London was all about taking risks and creating something out of nothing through passion and ambition'.

Bodymap: Shaping the 1980s

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. The V&A 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.

View transcript of video


BLITZ: A History, and the Tale of 22 Jackets

In July 1986, era-defining style magazine BLITZ published an issue featuring images of 22 Levi’s denim jackets that had been customised by some of the world’s most lauded designers – Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Katherine Hamnett among them. The jackets went on to be worn during a special evening of performance, and were displayed at the V&A.

BLITZ founder and publisher Carey Labovitch and the magazine’s fashion editor, Iain R. Webb speak about the thrills of setting the magazine up, its unique editorial approach and give us the full story behind the designer denim jacket project.

View transcript of video

With thanks to Toni and Guy hair meets wardrobe

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