The ground floor gallery will focus on the young fashion designers who found themselves on the world stage for creating bold, exciting looks. The mezzanine gallery will concentrate on club wear, grouping garments by tribes such as Fetish, Goth, Rave, High Camp and New Romantics. This includes clothes of the type worn by Boy George and Adam Ant, as well as more extreme designs worn by Leigh Bowery.
To provide a snapshot of the most fashionable and creative designers working in London in the 1980s, the exhibition shows a display of Blitz denim jackets. In 1986, Blitz magazine commissioned a group of 22 London-based designers to customize denim jackets provided by Levi Strauss & Co. The jackets were exhibited at the V&A and auctioned in aid of the Prince’s Trust on 10 July 1986.
Further cases will display garments by influential 1980s designers, with a substantial amount of menswear designs by Jasper Conran, Paul Smith, Workers for Freedom and Willy Brown who dressed Duran Duran. Textile design played an important part of 1980s fashion, with designers such as Betty Jackson working with design collectives like The Cloth, helping to create the archetypal early 80s silhouette of loose shirts and bold prints. Wendy Dagworthy utilized Liberty prints while English Eccentrics and Timney Fowler made print fashionable. There will also be sections dedicated to the energetic, bright clothes of Chrissie Walsh, Georgina Godley, Bodymap and John Galliano.
In the early 1980s Katherine Hamnett pioneered the vogue for stylish, casual clothing made in oversize crumpled cottons and silks. Her designs were often based on utilitarian boiler suits and army fatigues. She conceived a series ofT-shirts emblazoned with slogans, using fashion as the platform for her Green politics. Hamnett caused a sensation by wearing her T-shirt with the slogan '58% Don't Want Pershing' to meet the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
Bodymap, founded in 1982 by Stevie Stewart and David Holah, produced an exhilarating blend of form-fitting knits, layered stretch Lycra jersey and rhythmic print. As one fashion editorial noted, their inspiration had ‘sprung from the streets, sharpened in the clubs’. The designers gained further momentum through their collaborations with choreographer Michael Clark. Mixing and matching, or ‘bricolage’, was reflected in the titles and themes of Bodymap collections, such as Cat in the Hat takes a Rumble with a Techno Fish, which pulled together elements of Dr Seuss’s surreal cartoon comedy, black-and-white graphics, bright colours and 1980s American ‘bratpack’ films.
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