Sunday, 28 July 2013

Exhibition review: V&A From Club to Catwalk

I have been excited to visit the V&A ‘From Club to Catwalk’ exhibition ever since I heard it was on just because I have a mini obsession with Leigh Bowery so I wanted to gain a more thorough understanding of the period in which he flourished: 1980s club scene in London.

The exhibition was split into two sections the ground floor focused on catwalk trends and the first floor was dedicated to club fashion. Walking around the ground floor I saw designers who I hadn’t previously heard of such as Chrissie Walsh and Willy Brown which has made me want to research them more as I particularly loved Willy brown’s peacock eye dress, it was a structured concave dress hand painted with peacock eyes it has similar traits to Issey Miyake pleats please collection in terms of 3D structure and shape. Also in a period when most club revellers were strutting around as preened peacocks aiming to out dazzle and shine other clubbers it was a dress that oozed uniqueness and creativity.

Another stand out section from the ground floor was a display dedicated to Levis denim jackets various designers customised them this highlighted the strong DIY ethos and cut and paste aesthetic of the 80s. The stand out creations for me was the Leigh Bowery creation in which he covered whole jacket with gold hair grips it turned a functional denim jacket into its polar opposite a heavy, embellished kitsch show stopper.
Other sections from the ground floor that I was drawn towards was a Vivienne Westwood Toga dress (1982-3) it was turtle neck with Campbell soup iconography printed at the bottom it was a dress that I thought was relevant today pop art has been seen printed on many a garment lately. Also the Katharine Hamnett display with her original slogan tees wouldn’t look out of place at a festival this year as there has been a resurgence in popularity of slogan tees this summer and her display highlighted the original ethos of the slogan tee as a vehicle to react against the establishment with a message to inspire.
I enjoyed taking a minute and sitting on a bench to watch a video showing different designer’s catwalk presentation from the 80s what struck me was the difference with the catwalk collections today, then they seemed more relaxed and fun with models role playing, rolling down the catwalk, dancing along and all in all rarely a straight walk down the catwalk compared to what we see happen a lot today. It emphasised that it was a period in which designers were first starting to become internationally recognised and established as LFW only started in 80s so it was a time for experiment and creativity which can be seen in the catwalk presentations.
Going up the stairs to the ‘Club Fashion’ section of the exhibition there was a mirror reflecting image of yourself with message saying ‘Would you let you in?’ this was comical reference to the London underground clubs such as Taboo and Blitz where you had to be dressed in a provocative, daring extreme manner otherwise you would be refused entry on the basis of boredom.
Mannequins were displayed on raised platforms in clusters of different sub cultures such as Goth, High Camp, New Romantics, Fetish and Rave. Some of my favourite garments displayed were a Georgina Godley 1986 dress made out of lycra with boned hoop at the hem it was at the same time provocative in that it clings to body shape and restrictive as covered whole body.
A Leigh Bowery stretch satin body suit with a suggestive tube of fabric hanging from groin it provoked wonder in me that anybody would be daring enough to wear that in public which he did, it only served to emphasize his unabashed dedication to his art which he expressed in clothing and how clothing can be used to manipulate a body and people around you into expressing different reactions and personas. A three tongued platform trainer by Westwood was another item that was one of my favourites I would wear it today, it shows how her designs are still unique and relevant in an over saturated market of today.
Overall the expression I had when leaving the exhibition was one of inspired creativity it made me want to get out my sewing kit and DIY some of my own unique creations. The exhibition was played homage to freaks, show offs and club weirdo’s of the 80s that made London what it is today a beacon and haven for expressive fashion and the arts.
Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s is at the V&A until 16 February.

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