Honestly, I’m still baffled by the ubiquity of street style blogs. I understand the fascination with the bloggers and their personalities and I understand that these blogs provide key tips on how to translate pieces and trends from the runway and incorporate them into your daily wardrobe. I get all that, really, I do - I’ve watched enough Gok Wan to realise that there’s a market for them. Personally, I prefer my fashion with an extra dash of fantasy - think frothy, grandiose couture gowns, extreme over-the-top embellishment and runway show pieces that would probably fall apart the minute you put them on. As much as I enjoy seeing that new-season Céline coat teamed with cigarette trousers and loafers on the corner of Oxford Street, I will always be a sucker for fashion that would attract the filthiest of stares on the 9.14 to London Euston. Fashion is at its best, its most creative when it’s not bound by the codes of conventional daywear. Which brings me back to street style blogs - the majority of them feature women who are probably on their way to a 'sensible' job which forces them to rely on statement coats and killer accessories to remain office-appropriate.
|Club kid icon Amanda Lepore - "challenge homogeneity"|
The reality is that most of us don’t look our best, our most inventive, our most flamboyant during the day. Think about it - when is the one time that dressing up becomes a ritual? The kind of ritual that requires Lambrini and a face mask? I am, of course, referring to the painstaking process of preparing for a night out - a night out with no rules whatsoever, a night where your sartorial creativity can run free from the constraints of workwear. It is no secret that some of the most influential individuals in the fashion industry have been heavily inspired by club culture.Think Bianca Jagger on her white horse at Studio 54, David LaChappelle’s iconic portraits of club kid Amanda Lepore or Leigh Bowery’s outrageous bedazzled costumes (which were said to be one of the main influences on McQueen’s early work). The Victoria & Albert museum even recently paid homage to the club kids and their influence on fashion with an exhibition entitled ‘Club to Catwalk’ which focussed specifically on London club culture in the 1980s.
|Grace Jones at Studio 54|
However, this is part of the problem. Too often dialogue surrounding nightlife and fashion is steeped in nostalgia, looking back to the 1970s and 1980s as the ‘heyday’ of club culture. This opinion stems from some truth - several legendary venues have closed in the last few years, including Camden’s Black Cap which was closed last year to huge controversy and protest. Gentrification has played a part in whitewashing any originality to be found in London nightlife, focussing instead on chain pubs and bars which operate for profit as opposed to pleasure. However, a series of new venues are seeking to give platforms to the community of drag artists and performers that were affected. Savage Disco, Sink the Pink, The Glory, Yeast London Cabaret - it only takes a quick Google search to see that London nightlife is experiencing a revival and re-establishing real credibility within the fashion industry. More importantly, these venues are supported by legends that were around to experience club culture at its best - Princess Julia, for example, remains as vital now as she was in the 1980s, using her platform on i-D magazine to promote a new generation of artists.
Perhaps artist is too loose a term to describe some of the performers at these venues. Over the last month I’ve seen Tete Bang simulate fornication with a cream-filled squeezy dildo to Aqua’s Barbie Girl, I’ve seen Baby Lame smear Nutella over his arsehole and feed it to audience members and I’ve seen Crystal Lubrikunt switch her lipsync performance swiftly from Whitney Houston to Nicki Minaj. Not to mention the outfits - you’re as likely to see an embellished jockstrap as you are to see a full organza look that could have quite easily graced the runway for Meadham Kirchhoff. It’s not just London either - the #Manchesterqueens have gained huge momentum in the last few years for their looks which range from femme realness to tranimal, and the Birmingham drag scene is also growing rapidly thanks to an influx of young talent that fuse drag, fashion and club kid influences to reintroduce charisma to a nightlife scene still under threat.
|An example of creativity in the Birmingham nightlife scene|
Essentially, what we don’t really need is another website showing photos of pretty girls in nice dresses. Fashion is an industry and an industry needs to be somewhat commercial, that much is obvious. However, Reba Maybury hit the nail on the head on a live panel dissecting Hedi Slimane’s latest showing for Saint Laurent - “there are no politics behind these clothes… the world doesn't need it”. This same quote is applicable to most mainstream fashion media - sure they might be pretty, but they’re not vital. They're not doing their part to diversify fashion and they're not doing their part to provoke meaningful discussion. They have a place and, on a commercial level at least they are essential - much like the legions of street style blogs which seem to repeat the same outfits and the chain bars which dominate most high streets. We need to remember that, alongside Hedi Slimane, there is Hussein Chalayan. Alongside Walkabout, there is the Glory. We need to stop looking back to Studio 54 and see how we can create that mood, that atmosphere in today’s world. More importantly, we need to be optimistic and support local communities and local artists that promote diversity. It's good to be shocked, it's good to be outraged and it's good to be inspired - and if we can continue to support burgeoning venues, we can ensure that club culture and high fashion are as intrinsic to one another as they once were.