Celebrating London’s influence in the eighties fashion scene at the V&A

By | Art & Design
Installation image of From Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s. Courtesy of The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

This summer, the Victoria and Albert Museum transports London back in time to the 80s. The decade that knew no bounds and ran wild, exploring individualistic styles and identities, pushing the envelope repeatedly, will be on display to the public from July 10, 2013 to February 16, 2014. The V&A aims to focus on the influence of London’s booming club scene on the fashion industry and how that industry and street style merged together.

The showcase features over 90 designs from the creative talent that emerged during this

Katherine Hamnett's slogan t-shirts. Courtesy of the V&A.

Katherine Hamnett’s slogan t-shirts. Courtesy of the V&A.

time period. From Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren‘s punk rock vibe, to John Galliano’s flamboyant and over-the-top designs, to the eccentric fashions of Leigh Bowery – these are just a few of the designers featured in the presentation.

“The 80s were an important decade for London fashion because this is when the industry became professionalized,” says Claire Wilcox, curator of the exhibition. “The industry received increased government funding and backing with receptions at Downing Street and support from Margaret Thatcher.”

The exhibition is held in the fashion gallery and is split across two stories. The ground floor is comprised of catwalk designs from Japanese designer Michiko Koshino, Chrissie Walsh, Katherine Hamnett and many others. Geometric shapes, neon hues, oversized clothing and eccentric styling are all to be expected, as well as Hamnett’s iconic ‘message’ t-shirts which she used as a means to project her Green politics.

The ground floor will also hold a display of Levi Strauss denim jackets that were reinvented

Leigh Bowery's fringed Levi Strauss jean jacket. Courtesy of V&A.

Leigh Bowery’s fringed Levi Strauss jean jacket. Courtesy of V&A.

by 22 London designers. Commissioned by Blitz magazine in 1986, the jackets were originally displayed at the V&A on July 10, 1986. Among those on display is Leigh Bowery’s fringed jacket composed of golden hair pins weighing 8.5 kilograms.

Video clips of selected fashion shows in the 1980s are also featured, engaging the viewer in the theatrical and lively shows. The video captures the attitude of the 80s, raising the bar at every turn. The catwalk took shape as a performance with musicians playing along and storytelling being enacted by the models.

The mezzanine level focuses on the club scene and the inventive designs that manifested from the inspiration of hit night spots such as Blitz and Taboo. The scene is broken down into sub groups showcasing the Goths, Rave, and Glam looks. Styles of the New Romantic, Hard Times and Body Conscious are also on display.

In addition, the exhibition furthers the 80s experience with the ‘club’ room. Produced by Jeffrey Hinton – a popular DJ during the 80s club scene – film footage and club soundtracks transports the viewer to the flamboyant and lively dance floor of the decade.


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