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Exhibition

Jul 10 - Feb 16

2013
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, , SW7 2RL, UK
  • Denim jacket by Levi Strauss & Co, customised by Leigh Bowery for Blitz magazine, 1986. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Suit by John Galliano. ‘Fallen Angel’ spring/summer 1986. Wool, 1985, Given by Bouke de Vries © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • ‘Peacock eye’ dress by Modern Classics (Willy Brown). Cotton with hand painting, 1980. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Gallery

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Club to Catwalk exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s is the title of the ongoing exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum that offers an extensive look at the close relationship between the London club scene and the fashion explosion of the 80´s. It features more than 85 outfits, showcasing bold and exciting looks by the most experimental young designers of the decade, including Betty Jackson, Katharine Hamnett, Willie Brown, Rachel Auburn, Wendy Dagworthy and John Galliano. Celebrating iconic styles such as New Romantic, Bodycon, Glam Fetish or High Camp, and featuring outfits worn by Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery, the exhibition explores how the creative relationship between catwalk and club wear helped to reinvent fashion, as it was reflected in magazines such as i-D or Blitz and venues like Heaven and Taboo.

There has always been a symbiotic relationship of mutual inspiration between music and fashion. Back in the 80´s, a new club culture was born in London and a group of club kids was challenging tradition, experimenting with almost everything, from their outfits to their identity. Some even say that London became a night clubbing paradise, with small but influential clubs like Billy’s, Blitz and the Club for Heroes and larger venues such as the Camden Palace and one-off warehouse parties invading the capital. These places became the ultimate meeting point, where creative people, including a lot of Central Saint Martin’s or Royal College of Art fashion students of the time, would hang around, show off their extravagant outfits and influence each other. As Stevie Stewart of Bodymap explains “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”. John Galliano also recalls, “Thursday and Friday at St Martin’s, the college was almost deserted. Everybody was at home working on their costumes for the weekend”.

The exhibition also traces the emerging theatricality in British fashion and the birth of London fashion week since the capital’s vibrant and eclectic scene influenced a new generation of creative minds. Fashion designer Georgina Godley remembers, “Young London was all about taking risks and creating something out of nothing through passion and ambition”. Claire Wilcox, V&A’s Head of Fashion and curator of Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s, recently said in Grazia magazine: “The creativity of the London fashion scene in the ‘80s was characterized by the individualism and ingenuity of young and upcoming designers such as Stephen Jones and John Galliano. Designers and clubbers challenged conventional fashion by wanting to stand out from the crowd, rather than fit in – and this preoccupation has resonance for fashion today. Customization was a very important part of club wear in particular, mixing vintage and contemporary fashion, top labels and homemade garments.” Victoria & Albert’s exhibition offers a unique opportunity to discover the inspiring relationship between music and fashion and at the same time allows us to become witnesses of the beginning of a whole new era in British culture.