80s club host Scarlett Cannon wears Hermes on the cover of Iain R Webb’s new book: “One of the things I love most about this photograph is that David just drew around Scarlett and darkened the background with a pencil to make her stand out more.” (Photograph by David Hiscock. Make-up, William Faulkner)
❚ FINALLY A BOOK ABOUT THE 80s without George O’Dowd’s face on the cover! Here comes the other version of the Swinging London of 30 years ago, created by the fashionistas, rather than the music entrepreneurs, and the face of Cha-Cha club host Scarlett on the cover defines another version of events exactly. It comes just in time to chime with the V&A’s second landmark exhibition this year. From July 10, following the Bowie extravaganza, comes Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s, which includes a display of denim jackets commissioned in 1986 by Blitz magazine from key London-based designers. Who better to sort the Who’s from the Who Nots than one of the seminal clubland Blitz Kids, Iain R Webb.
During those fertile years in the re-energising of the capital’s youth culture through nightlife, when he shared a flat with fellow St Martin’s design students Fiona Dealey and Stephen Jones, Webb says his peers were “cultured clubbers – our aim was to push the parameters and explore the ideals of glamour, imagery, sexuality and taste. We were determined to challenge the status quo and maybe even change the world, even if ‘just for one day’.”
Webb: from Blitz Club to The Times
Having studied fashion at St Martin’s, Webb says he “fell into writing” and went on to become fashion editor of Blitz magazine, the Evening Standard, Harpers & Queen, The Times and Elle.
This week his new book, As Seen In Blitz: Fashioning 80s Style, went off to the printers, to be published in April by ACC (272 pages, £27.30 pre-order price). With previously-unseen archive content and much oral history from key designers, it chronicles the fashion pages Webb created for Blitz magazine 1982–87, after the New Romantics fad had died the death. Webb’s subversive images gave free rein to the imagination and involved a global cast of designers including Comme Des Garcons, Jasper Conran, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett, Hermes, Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs.
Blitz December 1986: Dead Trendy fashion special. Martine Houghton photographed by Gill Campbell. Make-up, Gregory Davis. Hair, Rick Haylor
Webb says: “The book has over 100 contributors – designers and photographers from the Bodymappers to Nick Knight, and loads of models, make-up and hair peoploids in between.”
At its launch in 1980, Blitz magazine posed little threat to the fondly remembered Face magazine, which majored on music and style. Blitz wandered a disparate social world of its own well to the west of the Soho trendsetters – but eventually, under the influence of Webb, photographer Knight and other cool arbiters of taste, it gradually clicked into the Swinging London groove that saw the UK capital become a crucial stopover for the world’s media and buyers during the biannual round of international fashion shows.
Webb himself went on to win the Fashion Journalist of The Year Award in 1995 and 1996. Today he consults for the Fashion Museum in Bath and is a visiting professor at Central Saint Martins, LCF and the RCA.