Friday, August 2, 2013

Club To Catwalk

A brief description on British style: experimental, eclectic, edgy. The royals stake their claim on posh and pretty but hand it to the youngsters of the city and they absolutely use fashion to serve their jolting creativity. Victoria and Albert Museum's new fashion exhibition, Club To Catwalk, explains where English Eccentricity finds its roots.

The 1980's. A decade that defined the fashion trend currently being resuscitated in the fashion shows. A decade that "launched the careers of many". The first floor of the low-level lighted exhibition - totally capturing that club atmosphere, are you? - showcases the designers who sprung to the pages of magazines due to their innovativeness, albeit considerably subversive and shocking to many as well.

Michiko Koshino was one. This Japanese fashion designer was known for her layered, oversized styles and stretch fabrics which had dynamic movement. She took her inspiration from the streets and the bikers. Referring to the outfit below, the sportswear influence is apparent, allowing for the fusion of ease and style.

Katharine Hamnett was another. She was a case of using fashion to serve her. Opposing the stationing of nuclear missiles in the UK in 1984, the designer wore an opinionated t-shirt when she met  the late Margaret Thatcher. See photo below for reference. How cheeky. How brave. How fashionable. Thatcher looks pleased. Paul Smith, whose designs are also featured in the exhibition, said, "In order to sell a plain white shirt, it had to have a point of view." Apparently, the British designers had a consensus on using plain white shirts as their platform.

Of course, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood were part of the repertoire. What's a list of British fashion without those two? Galliano was inspired by the club scene, which is not difficult to believe considering his designs were theatrical, flamboyant, and outrageous. Westwood, following a similar train of thought, made punk fashionable, subversion creative. This decade also saw the rising fame of leather jackets and velvet clothing, of pairing blazers with jeans and of allowing the fabric to follow your body lines. It was just all about difference.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the showcase of the Blitz Denim jackets. Blitz, a popular magazine during that decade, commissioned 22 designers to customise Levi's denim jackets. This project allowed the aesthetics of the designers to shine through. Interestingly, in spite of slight aesthetic differences, punk fashion was the common thread between all the customised denim jackets.

Vivienne Westwood's Levi's jacket 

John Galliano's inspiration for his jacket 
I thought the first floor was intense... till I went up the second. I felt like I was transported to an 80's party scene. It was an explosion of fashion during that period... wild pants, huge shoulder pads, day-glo colors, metallic tones, goth, lace, leather, black, body-conscious silhouettes, glitter, studs. Absolutely Leigh Bowery's closet. Definitely not mine. If during the Belle Eopque period, the theater was the place to be fashionable, during the 1980's, it was the club (thus the title of the exhibit). It was what you dressed up for, it was where you had to be seen. Although it borders on eccentric and strange sometimes, you can't deny the creativity and imagination that was unleashed. It was personalisation at its finest. And considering the modern times where lack of that is evident, reviving punk is quite liberating. That's why we're seeing it in considerable volume in the upcoming season.

Chanel executing punk in its own tweed way
But the authenticity of this trend was only found in the 80's. It can never be done the same way again. Can you imagine getting dressed up the same way they did and then commuting via tube to SoHo or Shoreditch? At this day and age, it would be more absurd than fashionable. Fortunately, Club To Catwalk allows those who missed out on the theatrics of that day to see it in all its shining (literally) glory. Check it out. Your mind will be blown.

Photography isn't allowed so I grabbed some photos from London Evening Standard (Koshino, Westwood, Galliano), Dazed Digital (Hamnett), and (Chanel).  Thanks, guys.

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