Clubwear, the precursor of Streetwear
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The end of the 80s brought with it a new movement that reflected a world of techno, LSD and magical limitless nightlife, and established music and fashion as basic necessities. This artistic movement was clubwear and came to life in the infamous raves connecting streetwear, skater culture and even workwear.

Everything out there has its origins in the past.

Today, we embark on a journey to the early 90’s club scene, starting from the street and the new era runway, travelling beyond streetwear to finally land on the heart of the clubbing culture and its real potential energy to update an industry that needs rapid change.

The end of the 80s brought with it a new movement that reflected a world of techno, LSD and magical limitless nightlife, and established music and fashion as basic necessities. This artistic movement was clubwear and came to life in the infamous raves connecting streetwear, skater culture and even workwear. Alfred Steffen’s ‘Portrait of a Generations’ photography gives us an insight into how that artistic convergence really was.

Unlike nowadays when fashion has a marketing dependency that takes advantage of streetwear and has to lead sneakerheads movements and urban-style junkies, the late 80’s fashion got to join the new generation freely, as a continued communication tool.

That fictional clubber scene that gave fashion the natural flow it used to have, is today’s designers’ motto to look for past references. Some great examples are the fresh Woolrich and Jeff Griffin’s collection, inspired in camo prints with clubbing influence, and the techno-inspired Prada’s sporty SS19 collection.

Even if sneakers were the main drug, we will focus on the late ’80s and early 90’s club accessories, where we can find an infinity of colours and dyes, breathing masks, shiny leather trousers, chunky platforms and even reflective vests for a garbage-man-like look that is also present in the reflective jackets from the Calvin Klein FW18 campaign with Raf Simons and in the Abloh and Luis Vuitton’s hardware gloves.

Clubwear references

In times when going out to party was as essential as gel nails in 2019, clubwear was filled with wild choices as camo cargo trousers, radioactive signs, explosives prints, military boots and gas masks. Carhartt and Blundstone used inexpensive materials and merged military aesthetics with the punk underground movement.

Postmodernity

Ironic expressions like the Hysteric Glamour tees stamped with the 70’s Blaxploitation movie posters, the DJ Hell fans t-shirts with the Shell oil company’s logo without the S and the Converse platform sneakers that were famous from Tokyo all the way to Berlin, the world’s Techno capital, are something that we can see reflected in today’s fashion with many references to pop culture made by streetwear brands, and some unlikely collaborations like the Balenciaga crocs, the Ikea bags and the Heron Preston Putin’s tees.

Do it yourself

The 80s and 90s fashion fused clothes from every possible price range on the same outfit, going from the cheapest to the most expensive, old, new, irreverent and customised clothes without a clear pattern, as fashion was self-assessed, accessible, and most of the time, built by each individual.

That is why, it’s impossible to talk about one style in the nightclub scene, and two designers made the most of this. They are Xuly Bët, which used an almost surreal technique, making collages with different fabrics, and the Berliner Frank Schüte and his Navy-Blue nylon uniforms.

But in London’s 80’s nightclubs, fashion became a strong political gesture with personalities like the famous drag queen Leigh Bowery, that by wearing some super-tight clothes, showed the world that you could do whatever you wanted to do and all by yourself.

Lust

Clubbers considered that nudity was stylish, and this was displayed in events such as the Berlin “Love Parade”.

Being sexy meant wearing minimal clothes, showing a lot of skin and being sexualised was almost idyllic. That’s why short skirts were fashionable, along with tiny see-through t-shirts, tight trousers and chunky shoes like the German Buffalo sneakers, that are once again coming strong straight from the past.

Gender fluidity, body modifications, piercings and toning at the gym became part of the movement too, and that’s when the Village People became a reflection of how men liberated themselves through the concept of gay culture and debunked gender stereotypes, allowing them to wear tight clothes and exhibit their bodies.

 

Sci-Fi

The EDM and club scene was obsessed with computers and futuristic prints. The designer Walter van Beirendonck used bright colours and comic designs to take the club culture to the high street in his collection Wild and Lethal Trash, famous for the slogan “Kiss the Future”. But going deeper into the trash movement, we can find Michael Dannroth’s Sabotage.

A brand inspired in industrial aesthetics that worked with deconstructed clothes and experimented with fabrics, ultimately breaking boundaries and going far beyond the standard. He produced technological clothes like the sweatshirt that contains ceramic fibres to help ravers stay cool, and the “Destroyed washed sweatshirt” that inspired many technological brands like Maria Ke Fisherman in her collection SS19.

Resulting as a way to express a generation in a world of chaos, clubwear became the focus of attention once again in the year 2019 and got its throne back in today’s runway shows.

WORDS: Manuela Palma

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