Tag Archives: As Seen In Blitz

1980 ➤ Club to Catwalk: when fashion became an arena for all the arts

V&A ,fashion,Club to Catwalk , BodyMap, Scarlett Cannon, Monica Curtin,

Monica Curtin’s 1985 pic of Scarlett Cannon as “key identity” for the V&A Club to Catwalk show… Outfit by BodyMap’s AW 1984 collection, Cat in the hat takes a rumble with a techno fish. Stylist John Derry-Bunce. Background painting Simon Josebury. Hair and makeup Jalle Bakke

◼ “FASHION???” SCOFFED THE FASHION EDITOR of a leading women’s magazine who shared my flat in 1980, after meeting one of the more ornamental Blitz Kids over our breakfast table. “Those aren’t even clothes!” Yet within five years she was as keen as every other editor to be featuring BodyMap, Galliano, Jones, Auburn, Hogg, Hamnett, Bernstock Speirs et al. Scroll forward 30 years and London’s world-beating decorative arts museum, the V&A, weighs in with a necessary exhibition reappraising the UK’s style revolution of the 80s. What’s coming under scrutiny in its dedicated fashion galleries are the unique silhouettes of that extravagant shape-shifting decade and the clubland forces that moulded them. Only two weeks to go before Club to Catwalk, London Fashion in the 1980s, and there’s one crucial tipping point at its heart: the moment fashion became style.

Let’s hand over to fashion guru Iain R Webb, one of the central figures who defined his generation and whose impressive book As Seen in Blitz was published last month. Here’s a taste of the mighty personal essay he has written for the summer issue of the V&A Magazine…

V&A Magazine summer issue: the 80s deconstructed by Iain R Webb

V&A Magazine summer issue: the 80s deconstructed by Iain R Webb

Webb writes: “ The 1980s were all about being photographed. We dressed as if every day were a photo shoot and every night a party (it usually was). But there was another revolution happening.

The advent of the stylist who approached fashion as an artistic construct was something new. Alongside the contributors to BLITZ, The Face and i-D (Ray Petri, Judy Blame, Caroline Baker, Helen Roberts, Beth Summers, Simon Foxton, Mitzi Lorenz, Maxine Siwan and Caryn Franklin among them) were two thought-provoking arbiters whose importance is often overlooked. Michael Roberts at Tatler and Amanda Grieve at Harper’s and Queen added a subversive edge to their respective glossy titles. Roberts poking fun at old-school mores while Grieve (later Harlech) befriended St Martin’s graduate John Galliano and helped create the romantic whirlwind that shaped fashion for decades to follow.

Club to Catwalk, exhibition, London, Fashion,1980s, V&AThe images produced by all these stylists merged fashion and art, questioned the accepted ideals of beauty and social status and enjoyed a sense of experimentation. Their vanguard imagery often highlighted specific issues such as the superficiality of fashion and consumerism with humour.

“At that time there was a group of stylists who were as creative as the designers, if not more so,” remembers PR Lynne Franks, who represented BodyMap, Katharine Hamnett and Wendy Dagworthy. “It prompted the question: What came first, the styling or the clothes? It was very spontaneous, like playing dress-up.”

Stefano Tonchi, editor of W magazine, then editor of Westuff, an alternative style periodical published in Florence, says: “Fashion was no longer fashionable. Style was used to describe many areas of the creative arts that came together. It made for a new category. Music dictated a lot of the emerging trends and there was experimentation in both photography and graphic design, but fashion was where these exciting changes were most evident. Think of the BodyMap fashion shows, they weren’t just about the clothes but involved music, graphic design and theatre… ”


➢ Revolt into Style Revisited: continued at Webb’s blog

V&A ,fashion,Club to Catwalk , BodyMap, Scarlett Cannon, Monica Curtin,

Showing in Club to Catwalk: Cotton dress by Willy Brown, 1980… Fallen Angel suit
 by John Galliano,
1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s: Eight for ’84 –
BodyMap flavour of the season topping the labels international buyers tip for success

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➤ Webb lays bare the subversive story of British fashion in the 80s

Scarlett Cannon ,Iain R Webb, books,As Seen In Blitz, Fashion, 1980s,Style,Blitz Kids

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’.”

Iain R Webb,Blitz Kid, fashion, journalism

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 magazine,fashion,style,1980s, London, pop music

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.

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