Fashion culture: Wear a silk shirt to a nightclub

With the Ibiza season upon us, I am republishing an article I wrote for Faith Fanzine last summer. It seems that the heady hedonistic era of 80s rave and club culture is never far from fashion designers’ mood boards. As photographer and former Time Out magazine club editor Dave Swindells celebrates the fourth printing of his photo book IBIZA 89 (above), we reflect on what the scene symbolizes and why it’s a timeless fashion inspiration.

Flamboyant daylight tops, long-sleeved t-shirts in psychedelic prints, hand-woven fabrics resembling G-Force on whirling dancers, bobs in oversized silk shirts and baggy pants. No, this isn’t what you might have looked like at Spectrum circa 1988, but rather a sample of the menswear collection after it was discontinued two years ago. From Loewe to Dries van Noten, a number of big-name designers have come to a sort of tacit consensus that they share a yearning for the club’s intimate contact sport, joyous hedonism and unfettered spiritual gatherings.

Nostalgia intensified earlier this year, with haute couture and menswear designers prostrating themselves at the altar of House, Ballroom and 80s club culture. Most notable is Valentino’s mash-up of ’80s vintage fashion with the decadent nightlife of Soho. As Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli put it: “Stripes, polka dots, peplum glamour – the most classic hallmarks of haute couture – reinterpret a different balance in a different way. Leigh Bowery meets Mr Valentino.”

In a few weeks, Martine Rose arrives in Florence as a guest designer for Pitti Uomo, where she will interpret the eternal coexistence of fashion and the dance floor in another way. Her Autumn/Winter 23 show presented the intimate aspects of club life in an original, personal way, with Italian-London street casting and Italian acoustic music (Tullio De Piscopo’s Stop Bajon was a highlight).

Featuring different “real People” as models, the collection reflects her own history of observing in clubs and crowds – from Rage to Plastic People. London’s distinctive dress-ups, in particular – fringe tracksuits, satin shirts, MA1 bomb-tops and hobo jeans – are summed up by Rose as “some cheeky, some sexy, some fun”.

It made me wonder…… Why are fashion designers so enamored of club culture – especially the 80s and 90s scene? And now why? Dave Swindells, one of the UK’s foremost nightlife photographers, believes that clothes are not so much a source of inspiration as they represent a spirit. “Taboo was the pinnacle of the 80s because it was run by a fashion designer [Leigh-Bowrey] and his fellow fashion designers. Jean-Paul Gaultier went there every week, and John Galliano frequently. Michael Clark was there modeling for BodyMap. “DJ Rachel Auburn is also a designer,” he says. “There are a lot of other people who are part of this scene. It’s not just one designer, it’s an entire network. Two decades later, he sees history repeating itself at Nag Nag and Kashpoint, where a new generation of designers, stylists and generalists gather to create together as part of the club ecosystem.

In the 2020s, we don’t see much of this kind of creative bumping into each other in domestic clubs anymore. But the idea of this creative melting pot is just as seductive to club youngsters today as it was then. Swindles got this impression from the response to his photo book IBIZA 89 (recently reissued for the fourth time). “It’s not so much the clothes as the feeling of ‘Oh, I wish I was born in that time, that’s what I really want.'” ‘” It’s not so much the clothes as the culture.

There is a clear difference between designers who refer to the broad concept of “club culture” and those who come out of the trenches. Some, such as Martine Rose, Raf Simons and Kim Jones, are themselves nightclub enthusiasts who like to mine more specific, niche fashion details based on their nightclub penchant. This also explains why fans of these designers are so enamored of their designs, because they appreciate the designers’ genuine interest in the subculture. At the same time, it illustrates something that fashion and clubs have in common – the contradiction between inclusivity and exclusivity. People want to be part of a certain scene, but it’s not possible if everyone’s name is on the list.

Raf Simons is a designer, and clubs and music are an integral part of his world. Last November, for his final collection, he swapped the usual guest list of fashionistas for fashion students and young fans for a raucous show at Printer Workshop. This coincided with his early practice of scouting models in Belgian clubs and sending them from Antwerp to the Paris shows.

Martina Rose has said that her biggest inspiration came from her time working in London bars and clubs, where she studied regulars and other people as characters in her costumes. “All these people I’ve met – I can’t even tell you how they’ve influenced my design work. These characters that I recall, and these moments and nights, somehow got mixed up in my head and vomited out and formed this series, “she told System magazine. “Actually, I miss working in a bar. For me, it’s not just a part-time job. Perhaps it also reminded her of her younger self, watching her sister in her Jean-Paul Gaultier and Pam Hogg outfits and longing for her turn. “I can’t wait to get into that sleepless world, and clothes are a part of it.”

In this story, dreaming of another world of nightlife from afar seems to be a universal ritual. Branding consultant Mandi Lennard is another who feels a call to the club outside her bedroom wall. “i lay in bed dreaming that I was in the world of Judy Blame in I-D magazine, a fascinating dreamland of imagination, a collision of ideas and creators,” she recalls. While today’s young Mandy or Martina may never even set foot in a club, Cosplay can be a means to an agency experience through the medium of clothing. “Some people might try to get this [experience] without really tasting the ‘scene,'” said Leonard, who hosted quite a few Velvet Ropes during her time as a fashion publicist. “But immersing yourself in the intersection of people, assertive people, the background music of the time, new ideas, challenging ideas, tastes, rules, anarchic disregard – that’s the percolator that breeds a movement or culture, grounded in authenticity.”

If we look at the context, it is not difficult to understand the recent emphasis on the subcultural obsession of binge drinking. Not only is it easy to replicate – bucket hats, long-sleeved T-shirts, and hobo bags are all effortlessly crafted – but it also symbolizes the freedom and tactile connection we crave in 2020 and 2021.

Dries van Noten’s baggy shorts and shirts, emblazoned with collages of Belgian night scenes and strobe clubs, perhaps best exemplify this. “[It’s] clothes to go have fun. Enjoy life. Go clubbing in silk shirts, “van Noten said at his spring/summer 22 show. The series is set to Primal Scream’s Loaded soundtrack, set to Peter Fonda’s sampling (” We want freedom…… ” ), evoking decades of hedonic mood on the dance floor; Intimacy, pheromones, anticipation, sex, drugs, cigarettes, and sweat.

Post-pandemic euphoria aside, there’s another reason why rave culture continues to resonate beyond the club. In an age of technology-induced utopia and social fragmentation, people are nostalgic for a culture that no longer exists today. With the purest protest outlawed, rave represents escapism and a metaphorical refuge where all of humanity is welcome.

DJ and producer Honey Dijon (who is so committed to the cause that she even has her own eponymous fashion label, Honey Fucking Dijon) traces the history of early clubs as inclusive Spaces for the LGBQT minority. In the spring 2021 issue of Faith, she stresses the importance of dressing up, not just to show off, but to show off. “These are safe places to be gay, to dance with each other, to celebrate music, language and dress,” she said. “For her, pre-internet clubs were not just a social pleasure, they were a necessity,” she says. “You have to go out and meet your mates. You have to go out and experience music. You have to go out and learn how to be an artist, how to work with people. You have to be part of the culture to participate in it.”

For Mandi Lennard, there is no doubt that dressing up for a club is a radical act, even in our so-called progressive society. “Dressing up as you really are may not get you on a sidewalk during the day to an exciting club destination after nightfall.” But once you get there, you can bloom, breathe, and be almost your perfect self.”

Fashion has always been a part of culture. Today’s designers borrow from rave and club culture, revisiting historical moments and retelling stories through costumes and performances while telling us something about where we are now.

One important change on today’s dance floor is the absence of regular club photographers, especially unofficial gatekeepers like Swindell. In his work, he chooses not only whose antics to document, but also which images to put on the page. He was club editor of Time Out for 23 years and his work has influenced generations of people who want to go clubbing.

“It’s amazing to be able to take pictures of people attending Blitz or Kinky Gerlinky because they put so much effort into dressing up and it’s almost like payback time when the photographer comes to them and documents everything they do.” “It’s a real treat,” Swindles said. Now, of course, everyone’s phone is their own personal photographer, and social media is their own personal magazine. We can control our image, though it can also be a tool of distraction. “Without mobile phones (before the Internet), nightlife would inevitably have been a radically different experience because you had to participate or get bored, or leave!” Swindles points out. Swindle points out. “One of the interesting things about Ibiza was seeing pictures of two girls on the dance floor,” Swindle noted. They didn’t check out YouTube and all that crap like they do now.

Audience participation is perhaps the fundamental difference between nightclubs and other cultural pastimes. Art, theatre and film can be lonely pursuits, but nightclubs are nothing without the active participation of the audience. That’s why dressing up is part of the nightclub experience. Whether you’re wearing the latest Loewe fashions or understatement in Japanese streetwear, communicating non-verbal style cues is an important part of the love language of club patrons.

“Nightlife is about expression and freedom. This freedom is also something that fashion designers celebrate, “concludes Swindells. “In addition, nightclubs are also one of the places where people show off their purchases. Because clubs are places of expression and performance, they are always associated with fashion and style.

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