This year’s summer exhibition at the V&A explores club culture in the 1980’s and it’s collision with mainstream fashion. Club To Catwalk: London Fashion in The 1980s charters the designers, club kids and musicians that inspired a generation to ‘Choose Life’.
The young, influential designers that found themselves on the world stage for creating exciting, bold looks are celebrated on the ground floor of the exhibition. They include: Bodymap, founded in 1982 by Stevie Stewart and David Holah, whose form fitting knits, eclectic prints and bricolage techniques had made them a hit on the club scene. Katharine Hamnett who gained prominence with her casual, utilitarian style and famous, politically arousing slogan T-shirts, and John Galliano, then a young graduate of Central Saint Martins, still honing his signature historically based, more-is-more style.
Above on the mezzanine the focus shifts to the tribes of the era – the New Romantics, Rave, Goth, Fetish and High Camp. Of course, no exhibition on the ’80s club scene would be complete without the provocateur and the Taboo Club’s ringmaster, Leigh Bowery, whose extreme outfits feature throughout the exhibition.
All in all, the exhibition documents a unique time of self-expression, an outrageous and colourful underground, which took place in the dark economic shadows of Thatcherite Britain. At the end of a decade the club scene had morphed into rave, and just as colourfully as it had exploded, London’s ‘anything goes’ club culture gave way to a more relaxed uniform of dungarees and smiley face T-shirts.