Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s – An AMAZE New Exhibition At The V&A

02 July 2013 by

If you enjoyed the V&A’s most recent block-busting exhibition, David Bowie Is, then there’s a strong chance you’ll like the next thing to pop up at the revered West London museum – a brilliant show about how underground clubbing in the Eighties became a driving force in the fashion world, not least because the young clubbers in wild clothes grew up to take over some of the most powerful positions in the world of fashion.

As described on page 77 of this week's Grazia - out now peeps! In the exhibition, which opens on July 10th, will feature more than 85 outfits from the 1980s, showcasing bold and crazy looks by the most experimental young designers of the decade, including Betty Jackson, Katharine Hamnett, Wendy Dagworthy and John Galliano.

Basically, during that decade, London became an arty night clubbing paradise, with numerous cool nights from small ones like Billy’s, Blitz and the Club for Heroes to larger venues such as the Camden Palace and one-off warehouse parties, plus – now legendary venues like Heaven and Taboo, where young, creative people including a lot of Central Saint Martin's fashion students of the time - went to dance around under the disco ball, wearing theatrical outfits they had often designed and made for themselves.

At night, young designers’ imaginations were sparked by a vibrant London club scene. John Galliano recalled, ‘Thursday and Friday at St Martin’s, the college was almost deserted. Everybody was at home working on their costumes for the weekend’. Designer Georgina Godley remembers, 'Young London was all about taking risks and creating something out of nothing through passion and ambition'.

Grazia caught up with Claire Wilcox, V&A's Head of Fashion and curator of Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s to find out more . . .

Grazia Daily: Why was this exhibition created now?

Claire Wilcox: The V&A programmes a varied schedule of exhibitions that explore different aspects of fashion. We have been thinking about an exhibition on 80s London fashion for some time, as we were aware that there is a renewed interest in the 80s at the moment, not just in terms of fashion but also music and photography. We have been working with Professor Wendy Dagworthy from the Royal College of Art who, along with other designers such as Betty Jackson, Paul Smith and Katharine Hamnett, was extremely successful in the 1980s. Professor Dagworthy has shared her considerable expertise on the subject with us and helped in the selection of outfits from the V&A’s outstanding fashion collection.

Grazia Daily: What elements of this scene do you think are most relevant fortoday's fashions?

Claire Wilcox: The creativity of the London fashion scene in the ‘80s was characterised by the individualism and ingenuity of young and upcoming designers such as Stephen Jones and John Galliano. Designers and clubbers challenged conventional fashion by wanting to stand out from the crowd, rather than fit in - and this preoccupation has resonance for fashion today. Customisation was a very important part of club wear in particular, mixing vintage and contemporary fashion, top labels and home made garments. We are seeing an increasing move towards customisation and street wear today, as young people reject the homogeneity of mass produced fashion.

Grazia Daily: Do you think clubbing and the catwalk are still related?

Claire Wilcox: I think the club and music scene will always provide a creative platform for new design. Although the early 1980s club scene was small, it had an enormous influence on fashion. London became the creative fashion capital of the world. I would argue it still is!

If you think this sounds like your cup of tea then why not get involved? Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s will 10 July 2013 - 16 February 2014. And you can find out more about it on


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