From Club to Catwalk: 80’s fashion talk at the V&A

Friday the 8 November 2013 will be memorable for any number of people for the chaos on the tube. For me, it was the eve of my birthday and I had booked to attend a talk at the Victoria & Albert Museum that was part of their  Club to Catwalk exhibition. The line up was Caryn Franklin, Toyah Willcox and Karen Binns. They complimented each other perfectly, bringing their thoughts, ideas and experiences to a discussion on women who developed, fused and influenced fashion and music in 1980s London.

Caryn Franklin, Toyah Willcox and Karen Binns. Photo by Debby Wale
Caryn Franklin, Toyah Willcox and Karen Binns. Photo by Debby Wale

Caryn Franklin MBE is former Fashion Editor and Co-Editor of i-D Magazine. I immediately remembered her from The Clothes Show. In the Evening Standard Lifestyle Magazine (Print edition: 5 July 2013 ) Caryn writes:

‘There was never any talk of celebrity or success, only credibility and who had it. The style magazines i-D, The Face and Blitz were a triumvirate of street and music fanzines aimed at those with aspirations, attitudes and pretensions to creative grandeur. i-D is still headed by Terry Jones, who gave me my very first job. He put Madonna on the cover before anyone knew who she was. Channel 4’s Swank and Network 7, both programmes I worked on, were appetisers to the BBC’s The Clothes Show. I joined in 1986 with Jeff Banks and Selina Scott, and we covered everything from street style to John Galliano’s earliest work. The Clothes Show reached 157 million homes worldwide for 12 years. And with only four TV channels in the UK, at 5pm on Sunday it was rugby or us.’

Caryn Franklin. Photo by Debby Wale
Caryn Franklin. Photo by Debby Wale

 ‘In a career spanning thirty years Toyah has had thirteen top 40 singles, recorded twenty albums, written two books, appeared in over forty stage plays, made ten feature films and presented such diverse television programmes as The Good Sex Guide Late, Watchdog and Songs Of Praise. Toyah’s influences for her costumes were the Masai, Kabuki and the Mexican day of the dead amongst others. Clothing was like an armour, protective.’ (quote from www.toyahwillcox.com).

Toyah Wilcox with one of her head dresses in the background. Photo by Debby Wale
Toyah Wilcox with one of her head dresses in the background. Photo by Debby Wale
The costumes either end of the display were designed for Toyah by Melissa Caplan. Photo by Debby Wale
The costumes either end of the display were designed for Toyah by Melissa Caplan. Photo by Debby Wale

Karen is from Brooklyn and has worked as a fashion stylist in the pop and fashion industry. She has styled Tori Amos for 20 years. She is also editor and publisher at WHAT MAGAZINE. Karen described how things were in the 80s:

 ‘There was no internet or social media. The clubs were the place to see and be seen. You would use clothes to read each other. There were no courses for stylists. Fashion courses were aimed at those wishing to be designers. You proved your worth using your own personal style and your ability to get attention for the right reason at the right time.There was no copying, individuality ruled – if you saw it on someone else, you got rid of it fast.’

Karens Binns. Photo by Debby Wale
Karens Binns. Photo by Debby Wale

As soon as I got into work on the following Monday, I started my research. Chelsea Reference Library has the V&A book that accompanies the exhibition, From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion by Sonnet Standfill, V&A Publishing 2013.

From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion
From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion

This encapsulates the period with plenty of images – including a cover of i-D magazine:

ID cover, reproduced in From Club to Catwalk
ID cover, reproduced in From Club to Catwalk

From Club to Catwalk has a number of picture credits citing articles in Vogue and Harpers and Queen magazine.

What you see below are two pictures taken from a whole spread that appeared in the magazine. The costume collection at Chelsea Reference Library has Harpers and Queen and Vogue, so you can compare colour plates reproduced in the book with complete article as it appeared in the magazine, giving an added dimension to any research project! Below is a page from Club to Catwalk which helpfully gives the magazine title, month and year. In this case:

From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion, page 56
From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion, page 56

You can see here the full page spread that the book doesn’t give you – plus a chance to read the whole piece.

Harpers and Queen, December 1984
Harpers and Queen, December 1984

The trend for street style was reflected in Vogue’s Peacock Parade, featuring pictures of London’s punks and clubbers:

Streetstyle, Vogue Sept 1983
Streetstyle, Vogue Sept 1983
The Peacock Parade: punks, Vogue Sept 1983
The Peacock Parade: punks, Vogue Sept 1983

From Vogue September 1983:

‘Street fashion in London is in fine exhibitionist form. No capital in the world harbours such strange, eclectic, individual diversity of appearance. Apparel and appurtenance. Within this kerbside court. Fantasy selves pose and posture, defiance is by design and disguise is a mode of recognition.’

So if you want to refine your own personal aesthetic, why not give Chelsea Reference Library a try?

Magazines

  • Vogue from 1923 – current issue
  • Queen from 1949 – 1970
  • Harpers & Queen 1971 – current issue

Books

  • From Club to Catwalk: 80s Fashion by Sonnet Standfill, V&A Publishing 2013
  • We Can Be Heroes: punks, poseurs, peacocks and people of a particular persuasion. London Clubland 1976-1984 by Graham smith and Chris Sullivan
  • When We Were Young – Derek Ridgers: Club and Street Portraits 1978-1987 by Val Williams
  • Fashion Now – i-D selects the Worlds 150 most important designers by Terry Jones

Join the library to gain access to Berg Fashion online.

Debby Wale
Debby Wale

by Debby Wale, Tri-borough Reference Librarian

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s