Get to know all the designers, places and faces that populate the V&A Club To Catwalk exhibition, opening today.
The V&A have really been knocking it out of the park – first the David Bowie exhibition, now Club To Catwalk, the gargantuan show dedicated to the fashions and faces of the 80s. The usual suspects like Princess Julia and Boy George all make an appearance, but so do lesser-known designers and faces, all of whom played a part in making London one of the world’s most exciting and radically subversive scenes for clubbing and fashion during the 80s. We’ve lined up all the relevant movers and shakers below.
The London brand was the one crossover label between club and catwalk, famed for its outrageous fashion shows, its wildly creative approach to print and structure, and its silly (and inspired) collection names: Querelle Meets Olive Oil, anyone? Unfortunately, it folded eight years after it launched, but its influence lives on.
The quintessential 80s frontman. George Alan O’Dowd, better known as Boy George, exploded onto the scene after he left Bow Wow Wow to front Culture Club (so named because all the members came from different ethnic backgrounds). Their debut single ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ topped charts everywhere.
While it didn’t technically exist for most of the 80s (it shut down in ’81), Blitz became instrumental in forming the clubland friendships and allegiances that went on to define the decade. Which leads us on to…
CLUB FOR HEROES
Set up by Steve Strange and DJs Rusty Egan and Richard Law after the closure of Blitz, it becomes a watering hole for models, musicians and designers. Everyone from Grace Jones to Debbie Harry passed through the doors of this club night.
Launched by ex-NME editor Nick Logan, The Face went on to revolutionise youth culture, and gave the stuffy world of British journalism an injection of streetwise cool.
HOUSE OF BEAUTY AND CULTURE
This Dalston-based creative collective consisted of designer and artist Christopher Nemeth, jewellery designer and stylist Judy Blame, shoemaker John Moore, designer and music producer Richard Torry, photography Mark Lebon and furniture designers Frick and Frack. Designers in the 80s often ripped it up to start again – literally – and this House emphasized the importance of craftsmanship and exhibited at the Crafts Council in 1987.
The Saint Martins student was pretty much thrown into the clubland furnace and came out a designer, much like Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg. According to him, Saint Martins was deserted on Thursday and Friday, because students like him would be busy making their outfits fort he weekend.
The legendary performance artist, club promoter, drag star and everything in between. The V&A exhibition features several of his designs – watch out for his Pakis From Outer Space collection (above).
Back then, Kensington Market was the place to snap up independent designers and outrageous clothes. Cheap rents meant that any self-styled designer or art student could flog their wares, and attracted people like Rachel Auburn and Judy Litman to set up stall there.
Thatcher’s reign during the 80s politicized many a young designer, Hamnett included. Her first t-shirt, ‘Choose Life’ came out in 1983, followed by ‘Save the Sea’ and ‘58% Don’t Want Pershing’ (a reference to public opposition against the storing of Pershing missiles in Britain). She wore the latter to meet Thatcher in 1984.
The OG 80s multi-hyphenate – model, DJ, musician and club queen – and still going strong now. She’s been immortalized as the video star in Visage’s Fade to Grey. If you’re ever having a bad night out, pray to Princess Julia.
London’s Studio 54 – except a thousand times wilder and more subversive because, in the words of founder Leigh Bowery, “there’s nothing you can’t do there”. True to his word, Bowery’s Taboo performances would often involve acts like live enemas.