London’s V&A has long been curating exhibitions which showcase otherwise overlooked elements of British history, and their latest offering is no exception, placing the huge outburst of creative energy which took place in London’s club scene in the 1980s at the very centre of the museum’s focus. Showing 85 outfits, from Katharine Hamnett’s slogan tees to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s era-defining Pirate collection, the show looks at the way 1980s club culture, from New Romantic to High Camp and Goth styles all moved out of underground culture to infiltrate mainstream fashion, with London at its core.
The reinvention of the fashion industry which followed – led by London’s fantastic fine arts education system – is a real treasure to behold; from huge, oversized knits, mannish tailored suits with heavy shoulder pads and tiny Y-fronts with cropped jacket ensembles, the richness of trends which followed is truly mind-boggling.
The exhibition is dotted with insights into the fashion and club culture crossover, which was reaching its crescendo in the mid 1980s. Katharine Hamnett’s iconic pieces, for example, are displayed next to the now famous tale of how she arrived at a fashion reception for Margaret Thatcher wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “58% don’t want Pershing”, in response to the Prime Minister’s controversial talks over US missiles. From start to finish, politics, art, music, fashion and change are all interwoven in this incredibly comprehensive look at one of the most wildly visionary decades British youth culture has ever seen.
Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s will be at London’s V&A Museum until February 16 next year and our friends at Crane.tv have created the ace film based around the show you can see below.