Saturday, 23 September 2017

night time, my time

How we look back at the fashions of an era is principally defined by its nightlife. From the tassled flapper dresses of the ‘20s to the sportswear of ‘90s ravers, what we wear after dark shapes the way we are perceived. It tracks the social change of the 20th century, where, in the 1920s, nightlife was democratised by shorter hemlines and the little black dress. Low lit jazz bars were filled with flappers clasping onto cigarette holders and embracing the freedoms of first wave feminism. The 1960s saw the invention of nightlife as we know it today. The sexual revolution caused hemlines to rise even higher and psychedelic prints ruled as hallucinogenic substances bled into the mainstream. As we move forward to the end of the century, rave culture reigned supreme and it was saturated with sports jackets and rainbow colours. From the ‘60s onwards, nightlife has become more diverse and vital than ever, but with more than half of London’s clubs closing in the past five years where does this place the cultural landmark that is Britain’s clubbing scene? One that is critically important to the nation’s fashion history.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s subcultures gained definition as London saw a rise of eccentric dress codes in now iconic, but largely closed down, venues. Nightclubs like Madame Jojo’s and club nights like Kinky Gerlinky combined daring fashion with music, and provided a haven for kooky outsiders. Madame Jojo’s hosted gigs from Lorde and The xx, whilst Kinky Gerlinky was a favourite haunt of young Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the ‘90s. Both have since closed, leaving a gaping hole in London’s nightlife.

Molly Goddard’s Spring 2017 show took place just weeks after the announcement of the closure of Fabric. Against this context, the upbeat collection took on an added poignancy. Goddard is leading the charge celebrating British youth culture and this collection was an ode to the disenfranchised youth of London, following the summer of Brexit. The show was set to the backdrop of a rave, with disco music, spotlights and a bright abundance of neon. Though Fabric has since reopened, its reopening is not representative of the current attitude towards nightlife in the UK. Many of the capital’s most diverse and creative venues have been redeveloped, meaning that it might not be long before runways are the only places we see avant garde style paired with partying.

High fashion and nightlife trends do not always go hand in hand. Runway designs are more suited to the red carpet than sweaty warehouse raves, but the trickle-down effect from the runways is increasingly interchangeable as more and more designers take inspiration from street style. Partywear electrified the runway yet again in the Fall 2017 collections. Adam Selman sent glittering lurex pieces perfect for a disco shimmying down the runway. Anthony Vacarello followed suit with his second collection for Saint Laurent which injected sex appeal into clothes worth dancing ‘til dawn in. Other designers took on a similar approach: Carmen March, Lanvin, Alexandre Vaulthier and Area used velvet, leather and glitter to represent the sensuality of night time.

Today, subcultures have diffused and most people are willing to dip their toes into a myriad of club nights. However, they are still at their most defined after hours and we continue to define them by their dress code. We navigate the bathrooms and smoking areas of clubs, either feeling at home or horrifically out of place. Nightlife is not immune to fashion’s obsession with reworked vintage. Today, young clubbers are clinging onto the back of ‘90s rave culture with a resurgence of sports jackets, trainers and serotonin. You can still spot smaller subcultures sporting mohawks and capes, dressed head to toe in black. Whereas pop princesses head into the night looking as though they have bathed in glitter. The night allows you to be a chameleon, flitting from one persona to the next.

Gentrification has a lot to answer for for the demise of London clubs. Rising prices are making some venues seem more and more elite. Nightlife should create an inclusive space for the kooks and the creatives. The right nightclub makes everyone feel like an insider. This is why the LGBT clubbing scene is so vital. The night is a time to celebrate youth and individuality, and to drunkenly compliment strangers’ outfits. It offers a level of sartorial freedom that the day is devoid of; allowing a creativity that fashion thrives off. Each era and subculture has its own uniform, but generally the rules are that there are no rules. We should not be treating clubs as disposable. Today, the UK is still clinging onto a diverse and active nightlife, but for this to continue it is essential that we do not take nightlife for granted.

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