Fashion & Music: From the Club to the Catwalk at The V&A


Oh the 80s, the era that kept neon light manufacturers in business, rhinestone cameo brooches sparkling against our spiked glasses of Sodastream and Italian dance diva Spagna’s spiky mane burning tiny holes in our eyes – aww, I remember it well.
Actually that’s kind of a lie, because for the most part of it I was under the age of 10, but hey, I still swapped neon rubber friendship bracelets for spokey dokey’s on my bike wheels and listened to “Modern Girl” by Sheena Easton on my pink Sony walkman (attached to my jeans pocket, yup, I was THAT cool).

You don’t really need to remember what anyone was wearing circa 1980-whatever, because most of the era’s trends have been re-hashed in the 90s and beyond – just watch any Ke$ha video and you’ll see what I mean.
But if you do fancy re-living those days (and not just when your Mum gets the photo album out and everyone laughs), then the V&A is the place to be this summer as a showcase of London’s 80s club scene brings original Goth, Fetish and New Romantic attire back to life. Think the Batcave (considered the birthplace of London’s goth subculture), fetish-fuelled Submission and the Torture Garden (where PVC and latex were always on the guest-list) and the iconic Blitz Club, which spawned from the Bowie nights thrown by Visage frontman Steve Strange and Rich Kids drummer Rusty Egan at Billy’s club in Soho. The Blitz Club in Covent Garden became the epicentre of the new romantic movement and was frequented by the likes of Ultravox, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, ABC and Boy George – the “Blitz Kids” – all of whom slapped on the technicolor make-up and opened the door to avant-garde and often outrageous androgyny.


Denim jacket, Blitz x Levi Strauss & Co., customised by Vivienne Westwood 1986

Tracing the link between club and catwalk and how the styles of the 80s club scene had a revolutionary impact on fashion the world over, the V&A exhibition is set to present a mix of over 85 pieces of archived clubwear by designers including Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano.
The decades’ fashion manifesto magazines such as i-D, The Face and The Blitz are also presented in the exhibition, with highlights including nine denim jackets on display which were commissioned by the Blitz club magazine in 1981. 22 London-based designers including Paul Smith and 80s slogan tee icon, Katharine Hamnett, added their own spin on the original Levi’s denim jacket – the complete set of designs were first seen at the V&A in 1986 and auctioned off in aid of the Prince’s Trust.

Marking the importance of the relationship between fashion and music, the exhibition also explores the genres of ‘Rave’ (think Smiley Faces and Acieeed!) and ‘High Camp’ which basically begins with anyone who channelled Alexis Carrington in a gold lamé cocktail dress and ends with a Babycham in a cocktail glass. You could also add the amount of hairspray used in the 80s into that high camp mix too – watch Spagna’s Bonnie-Tyler-meets-an-electronic-shock hair tragedy HERE.
Oh heck, I’m just going to admit it, I loved Spagna! And “Call Me” is still the kind of song you have on your iPod as a guilty pleasure – the one you forget about during ‘random playlist’ and it comes on just at the moment the tube stops in between stations and you suddenly realise EVERYONE is listening to Spagna with you.

Moving on….

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s will open at the V&A on July 10th 2013 and run until February 16th 2014. Tickets are priced £5 and will go on sale from June this year.
For more info, head HERE.


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