Review: Club to Catwalk @ The V&A

The exhibition. Photo: Light Tape UK on Flickr
The exhibition. Photo: Light Tape UK on Flickr

If fashion is confusing in the modern day, 80’s fashion was a veritable minefield. Not one to resist a challenge however, the V&A have decided to tackle everything outrageous in their new ‘Club to Catwalk’ exhibition. An homage to pioneers such as John Galliano, Catherine Hamnett and Jasper Conran; the exhibition blends together the decade’s infamous nightlife and experimental haute couture.

Split in to two halves, the bottom segment of the exhibition hall covers the ‘Catwalk’ aspect of the show. A patchwork quilt of tailoring, the floor showcases some of the best, and most varied, works of the decade. Vivienne Westwood’s floaty gowns and baggy trousers sit comfortably next to highly structured evening wear; emblematic of how wide ranging 80’s fashion was. In fact, it is a testament to the V&A’s unique curatorial skills that they are able to display such a plethora of names, techniques and clothing side by side. Sportswear fits snugly next to high fashion and knitted prints compliment heavy, studded leather.

However, it is the ‘Club’ section of the exhibition where the V&A truly triumphs as one of London’s quirkiest and most dynamic galleries. Showcasing the different trends which sprang up in and around London’s nightlife, the exhibition highlights everything from Boy George and the New Romantics’ androgynous fashion to the body art, piercings and aggressive sexuality of Lee Bowery’s High Camp style.

Where the lower floor is a magpie’s nest of different styles, the exhibition’s upstairs is a loud, garish whirlwind of fashion. Expertly put together, the collection draws comparisons between prominent clubland figures such as Steve Strange and the designers who were inspired by them. Following on from their David Bowie Is… success, the floor also features spectacular audio visual features, with a replica of the infamous Blitz club nestled to one side of the show. No image captures the theme of the show better than Jean Paul Gaultier’s face beaming onto the screen, in the midst of hundreds of other party goers, all heady from ecstasy and alcohol.

Where other museums would have failed, the V&A has managed to pull off an extremely difficult exhibition. Curated wonderfully and put together in a way that is both accessible and fun, the galleries latest offering is a must see.

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 80s is open until 16th February 2014. To find out more, please click here

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