For a chance to win a copy of this book ‘80s Fashion: From Club to Catwalk’ simply re-tweet @modeconnect message about it between Thursday the 19th and Sunday the 29th of September 2013.
‘80s Fashion: From Club to Catwalk’ was published to coincide with the ‘Club to Catwalk’ exhibition at the V&A. This richly illustrated book explores the many faces of 80s fashion and styles in Britain. Its three chapters in turn, revisit the London 80s club scene, investigate the birth and rise of London fashion week and review the dynamic magazine culture of the time. The book also includes designer statements by Wendy Dagworthy and Sir Paul Smith and short presentations of some of the most iconic brands created in the decade such as Mulberry and Filofax.
A hybrid between a period magazine and a fashion history essay, the book includes many classic 80s graphics and visuals. Its layout evokes that of a magazine. Although rich in information, the three chapters make light reading and can be explored in any order.
In her introduction Sonnet Stanfill sets the scene underlying the perception foreign observers had of London early 80s fashion industry often seen different and idiosyncratic. Many Londoners were not satisfied with this image; UK designers and fashion industry organisations including the recently formed British Fashion Council, decided to aim for an international spot. The travelling show ‘London Goes to Tokyo’ which took 20 UK designers to Japan, saw a breakthrough boosting the international reputation of London fashion. This experience also led some designers such as Paul Smith to heavily invest in the country then irresistible economy.
The Japanese public of the time though, thought London designers were presenting street-fashion, a label disliked by designers such as Betty Jackson, John Richmond and Milliner Stephen Jones who recalls: “We considered ourselves to be real fashion designers, as opposed to this funny thing that came off the street. We were very much individuals. Everybody on that list was showing different things.’’ Certainly London fashion carried on confusing observers such as Suzy Menkes who asked: “are they (the London fashion designers) forever destined to divide between the wild and the tame – one lot making news and the other dressing Princess Diana?”
This introduction and Wendy Dagworthy’s designer statement are followed by three essays of 20 odd pages each. In Part 01: New Styles new Sounds, fashion historian Shaun Cole gives an insider view of the complex, raw and sophisticated London Club Scene explaining how “London nightclubs, like their clientele, established their own identities through styles of music and presentation that were uniquely integral to each.”
With ‘Part 02: London Calling’, Sonnet Stanfill explores the era through the shifts occurring in its approach to fashion, design and structures.
In ‘Part 03: Irony and Mythology’, Abraham Thomas, also a curator at the V&A, focus on the rise of two incredibly dynamic and innovative magazines: I-D and The Face. The early 80s saw social unrest and minors strikes; press such as Vogue seemed out of touch with reality. New magazines were launched to fill the gap in the market for edgy, directional music lead magazines.
Inspiring editors told it ‘their way’ breaking all the rules with graphics, using for example torn edges and masking tape. This story-board graphics style is still being used by design students to this day! Through their unique approach to publishing and design, I-D, The Face and their many collaborators have significantly contributed to the modern fashion press.
The final accolade, though, is quite rightly an acknowledgement of the business acumen of Paul Smith. His service to the fashion industry in the 80s and beyond comes down to his hard working ethics and being an all-round nice guy. His wife Pauline also played a significant role, adding formal training to his self-taught fashion skills. Paul Smith concludes recalling his first fashion show: “… in a friend’s apartment with about 35 people in the audience, the 12 models were friends, no charge. The champagne was something fizzy from a supermarket … The music was provided by a hi-fi system we brought from home… The perception … is that you get some money, you put on a fashion show, you get a press office and you market … but my advice would be get a foundation first, and then do things gently. If you have a foundation, you can build on that.”
In the 80s, British fashion design rose to international status and this book captures this wonderful revolution as it unfolded.
Edited by Sonnet Stanfill