April 12, 2013

It’s been 27 years since the V&A last displayed the BLITZ designer collection of Levis denim jackets. These unique jackets were commissioned by the 80s style magazine in 1986 and customised by a host of top designers, including John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Bernstock Speirs and Paul Smith. A quirky twist on the classic Levis denim number, the 21 jackets, of which the V&A owns 9, push the boundaries of the term ‘customisation’. Leigh Bowery’s contribution was to completely cover his jacket in gold hair grips. The result: a formidable jacket that weighs 8.5kg! While designers such as Jacques Azagury, known for his elegant eveningwear, took a more demure approach and incorporated lace and sequins, Stephen Linard experimented by attaching a leather backpack and cutlery to his.

Denim jacket 'BLITZ' by Levi Strauss & Co., and customised by Leigh Bowery

It is hardly surprising that The BLITZ designer collection of Levis denim jackets have an interesting history. Their first outing was at a celebrity fashion gala in June 1986, where they were modelled by a host of 80s stars and icons from Boy George to Daniel Day-Lewis before being auctioned off for the Prince’s Trust charity. From June to September they were exhibited at the V&A in a bid to attract a younger and more street-wise audience into the museum. Afterwards they travelled to the Musée des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre, Paris. And of course they also appeared in a fashion feature in the magazine (July 1986). The jackets proved so popular and generated so much interest  that they also inspired similar collections in Sydney and New York.

Sketch on paper, Stephen Linard

Seven of the nine jackets in the V&A’s collection will be on display in Club to Catwalk, in addition to a loan of Zandra Rhodes’s jacket, which has been recently reunited with the group, and a Stephen Jones hat that was customised as part of the same project. The jackets will be displayed alongside many of their original sketches and a video wall which will show footage of the 1986 fashion gala. The BLITZ designer collection of Levis denim jackets celebrates some of the most talented and creative designers working out of London in 1986. Be sure not to miss them at Club to Catwalk this summer!

An early ‘mock up’ of the BLITZ case in the Fashion Gallery

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