Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s
exhibition at the V&A

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An exhibition of garments and outfits influenced by London's clubbing scene in the 1980s opens this week at the V&A museum.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Scarlett Cannon in Bodymap, A/W 1984, by Monica Curtin, 1985

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s at the V&A in London will showcase of over 85 outfits by designers including Betty Jackson and John Galliano, tracing the infiltration of club wear into runway shows through the decade.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V and A
'BLITZ' denim jacket by Levi Strauss & Co. customised by Leigh Bowery, 1986. Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The exhibition will look back at the creative influence on fashion from the music and culture of London's nightlife, from small venues like Blitz and the Club for Heroes to larger establishments including the Camden Palace, now known as KOKO.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
'BLITZ' denim jacket by Levi Strauss & Co. customised by Vivienne Westwood, 1986. Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Many young designers visiting these clubs studied at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art, which offered comprehensive technical training and championed individual expression.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Front cover from The Face by Eamonn Mccabe, 1986

Eighties clothing became heavily personalised, embellished with fringe and frills or printed with bold patterns and blunt slogans.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Photo by Derek Ridgers

During this era, London designers began showing their collections in cities such as New York and Tokyo. Garments from these international shows will be presented across the two floors of the exhibition.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Joseph jumper, 1985. Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London

New Romantic and High Camp outfits worn by icons of the decade such as performers Adam Ant and Leigh Bowery will also be on display.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Trojan and Mark at Taboo by Derek Ridgers, 1986

In addition, the exhibition will explore how magazines like i-D and Blitz focussed on these bold and experimental designs.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Joseph Tricot ensemble in Elle, November 1985, by Giles Tapie

A series of talks and workshops are scheduled to coincide with the exhibition, which opens on 10 July 2013 and runs until 16 February 2014.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Jonathan Batcave by Derek Ridgers, 1983

Other fashion exhibitions open over the summer include a retrospective of work by Iris van Herpen in Calais and exhibition charting punk's influence on high fashion in New York.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Silk T-shirt designed by Katherine Hamnett, 1984. Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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Discover the creative explosion of London fashion in the 1980s in a major exhibition at the V&A. Through more than 85 outfits, Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s showcases the bold and exciting new looks by the most experimental young designers of the decade, including Betty Jackson, Katharine Hamnett, Wendy Dagworthy and John Galliano.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
At Subway by Derek Ridgers, 1986

The exhibition traces the emerging theatricality in British fashion as the capital’s vibrant and eclectic club scene influenced a new generation of designers. Also celebrating iconic styles such as New Romantic and 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 reinvent fashion, as reflected in magazines such as i-D and Blitz and venues including Heaven and Taboo.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Sketch for Levi Strauss & Co. denim jacket, 'BLITZ', by John Galliano, 1986

Club

The 80s saw the explosion of the London club scene. Specialist club 'nights' offered opportunities for dressing up in the company of a like-minded crowd. Stevie Stewart of BodyMap explained that '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'.

Early clubs such as Billy's, Blitz and the Club for Heroes were small and attracted a selective crowd. As the decade progressed, venues such as the Camden Palace and one-off warehouse parties began to attract much larger audiences. Although less intimate, they perpetuated the creative link between music, club and catwalk. This symbiotic relationship remained the defining characteristic of 1980s style.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
Leigh Bowery and Gerlinde Costiff at Taboo, London, by Michael Costiff, 1985

Catwalk

In the early 80s, London fashion began to create a stir internationally. Fashion shows took place in New York and Japan. One breakthrough event, titled 'London Goes to Tokyo', included many of the designers featured here and in the upstairs gallery.

The inventiveness of London design owed much to the excellence of the city's arts education. Colleges such as St Martin's, the Royal College of Art and Hornsey College of Art offered advanced training in the fundamentals of fashion design, while also encouraging individuality.

Club to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A
The Cloth, Summer Summit by Anita Corbin, 1985

At night, young designers' imaginations were sparked by a vibrant London club scene. John Galliano recalled, 'Thursday and Friday at St Martin's, the college was almost deserted. Everybody was at home working on their costumes for the weekend'. Designer Georgina Godley remembers, 'Young London was all about taking risks and creating something out of nothing through passion and ambition'.

  • http://www.smarteralec.net/ Smarter Alec

    This thrills me. Having spent my junior year in London, most of my time seemed to be spent getting dressed for The Mud Club. Oh, that doorman was brutal.

    Wish I could see this show.

  • Jarrod

    For some reason I love the old punk rock style of 1980s Europe. You can definitely identify tones used in the US culture, but it’s more of a unique flared style.