Tag Archives: Bodymap

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

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➤ Crack open the Bolly: Ab Fab puts Bodymap back on the map

Absolutely Fabulous, Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders , Bodymap, TV series

Tonight’s Absolutely Fabulous special: Patsy slips into her Chanel jacket for the office while Edina sports vintage 80s Bodymap from top to toe. (Videograb © BBC)

❚ PRODUCT PLACEMENT DOESN’T COME better than this! On Christmas Day we saw the first of three new episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, the award-winning cult comedy series which ran from 1992 to 2003. It depicted the fashion-addicted lives of PR Edina, played by 80s Comic Stripper Jennifer Saunders, and her best friend, Patsy, the chain-smoking sex-mad magazine editor played by 70s Avengers star, Joanna Lumley. Today, New Year’s Day, we saw a second episode and look whose brand name was being lavishly displayed as Eddie swanned around in those distinctive head-to-foot knits from the Swinging 80s — the hottest label of its day, Bodymap.

Coincidence or design? Only last July David Holah put a load of classic Bodymap outfits into the Cavalcade of the 80s catwalk show at the Vintage Festival organised by Wayne Hemingway at London’s Festival Hall — and they didn’t seem to have aged one jot. One month later, the BBC began filming the Christmas specials. It pays, as they say, to advertise.

Vintage Festival,South Bank, Wayne Hemingway, Bodymap, fashion, Swinging 80s

Cavalcade of the 80s at London’s Vintage Festival in July: a striking presence on the runway is the very same Bodymap ensemble worn later in Ab Fab on New Year’s Day. Picture courtesy David Holah

Bodymap was the game-changing fashion label launched in 1982 when ex-Blitz Kids David Holah and Stevie Stewart graduated from the trendy fashion course at Middlesex Polytechnic to have their collection instantly bought by Browns, the prescient South Molton Street shop. The pair immediately injected excitement into the fashion scene with daring designs as bizarre as their controversial catwalk shows, given titles such as Querelle Meets Olive Oil, and The Cat in the Hat Takes a Rumble with the Techno Fish. In 1983 they won the Martini award for the most innovative designers of the year and rocketed to international success as the British fashion scene became international news.

Knits, prints and stretch fabrics were restructured in men’s and women’s collections to map every part of the body, itself revealed by holes in unexpected places. Film-maker John Maybury supervised their outrageous videos (here the 1986 Half World collection). Michael Clark’s dance company can also take credit for promoting Bodymap’s overtly sexual appeal. By 1989 Holah & Stewart had opened their own retail outlet but the early 90s credit squeeze forced the company out of the competitive fashion business.

Since then David Holah has continued to design as a freelance and diversify as a printmaker. Stevie Stewart works with leading names in fashion, music, film and advertising as a fashion, costume, set and production designer. Popstar clients who have commissioned her costumes for world tours include Kylie, Britney, Girls Aloud, Westlife, Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole and Leona Lewis.

Last week Jennifer Saunders, who writes the Ab Fab TV scripts, revealed that the forthcoming big-screen movie will be set on the French Riviera where Eddie and Patsy go to a party aboard on an oligarch’s yacht. She told New York magazine: “I’m aiming to shoot this in a beautiful part of the Riviera. I fancy the south of France in the spring.”

Blitz Kids, David Holah, Stevie Stewart , Bodymap ,fashion, Swinging 80s,London,

Stevie Stewart and David Holah: a TV interview during London Fashion Week at the height of Bodymap’s success in 1984. Photographed by Shapersofthe80s

➢ View the Ab Fab 2012 New Year special on iPlayer until Jan 12

➢ Why Absolutely Fabulous now looks absolutely prescient — Paul Flynn in the Guardian on the rise of the 90s media elite

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