A dress designed by Willy Brown in 1980, part of the upcoming Club to Catwalk exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

The show will focus on club-kid fashion, including works from young designers who found their voices in the milieu--like John Galliano, who designed this Fallen Angel suit in 1985.

A khaki suit designed by Katharine Hamnett, who became famous in the 1980s for her political slogan shirts.

In 1986, a group of London designers were invited to personalize classic Levi’s jean jackets, the results of which were auctioned off. The exhibit will bring together the full collection for the first time. Here, Vivienne Westwood’s contribution.

One of the jackets, seen here, by the legendarily provocative Leigh Bowery.

A concept sketch for one of the jackets by Stephen Linnard.

John Galliano’s sketches for the project. Since only one of each jacket exists, the V&A is still attempting to locate all of the contributions.

Even Stephen Jones, who is now one of London’s most sought-after milliners, took part in the project.

A sketch by Enrico Coveri. Though the jean jackets seemed like a fun, simple exercise at the time, the designs came to represent the culture of the 1980s club scene.

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Coming Soon: An Exhibition On ’80s Club-Kid Wear

Club to Catwalk will pay homage to the London club scene that launched the careers of designers like John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood.

Club-kid culture of the 1980s has long been the stuff of legend—now, it’s getting its own retrospective. Curators at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum have announced an upcoming exhibit, Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s, citing the scene as a bellwether for the fashion world at large.

London in the ’80s was a time of sharp contrasts. On the one hand, you had the emergence of "Mrs. Thatcher’s Children," the yuppies Malcolm Bradbury described in 1988 with the phrase "a satellite dish on the Elizabethan roof, a Rolls Royce and two Porsches on the gravelled drive, a helicopter pad in the old rose garden." On the other hand, you had roiling post-industrial class tension and a burgeoning underground arts scene.

For young people in London, clubs became hubs of creative culture. Or as Body Map’s Stevie Stewart puts it: "Each group of people, whether they were fashion designers, musicians or dancers, filmmakers or whatever, living together, going out together and at the same clubs had a passion then for creating something new … that was almost infectious." The confluence of people and creativity produced an incredible culture of avant-garde fashion. The V&A will examine it by breaking it up into several discrete parts. They plan to devote one gallery to young designers who "found themselves" in the scene, like John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. Another gallery on the mezzanine will focus on the many sub-genres (Fetish, Goth, Rave, High Camp, and New Romantics) that sprang up within just a few years, codified by special theme nights at clubs.

While the show will include plenty of works by well-known designers, the curators are also including garments that were worn as one-off costumes by the scene’s leaders, like Leigh Bowery. The bricolage of high and low, established and underground, is illustrative of how this relatively small community of artists and designers quickly became a vanguard for high fashion. Credit for that goes largely to magazines like The Face and i-D, which broadcast street fashion to the world at large.

Of course, limiting the exhibition to London seems like kind of a snub for Manchester, which produced much of the music and design that eventually migrated south to London. Let’s just hope a second retrospective is in the works for 2014. Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s will open in July.

[H/t Vogue]

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