V&A Club to Catwalk: Design Denim Jackets From the 1980s

Last weekend, the Stylesight Denim team attended the exciting new Club to Catwalk exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. A large part of the show is dedicated to Blitz magazine’s stunning custom trucker collection from their 1986 project with 22 British designers and Levi’s Strauss & Co. Here we take a look at these rarely seen before pieces.


The V&A’s latest show, Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s, has caught the London fashion scene by storm since it opened back in July. The exhibition explores the creative explosion of London fashion in the 1980s, looking at how the capital’s vibrant and eclectic club scene influenced a new generation of designers and reinvented fashion worldwide.

“The ’80s saw the explosion of the London club scene. Specialist club ‘nights’ offered opportunities for dressing up in the company of a like-minded crowd. Stevie Stewart of BodyMap explained that ‘each group of people, whether they were fashion designers, musicians or dancers, filmmakers, living together and going out together had a passion for creating something new that was almost infectious’.

Early clubs such as Billy’s, Blitz and the Club for Heroes were small and attracted a selective crowd. As the decade progressed, venues such as the Camden Palace and one-off warehouse parties began to attract much larger audiences. Although less intimate, they perpetuated the creative link between music, club and catwalk. This symbiotic relationship remained the defining characteristic of 1980s style.” – From The V&A Club to Catwalk – About the Exhibition

More than 85 outfits by the decade’s most experimental designers such as John Galliano, punk queen Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett are on display, presenting a mesmerising mix of iconic styles such as New Romantic, High Camp, Goth, Glam and reinvented-classics.

One section of the exhibition that we were especially excited to see was a series of customised Levi’s truckers. In 1986, Blitz magazine commissioned a group of 22 British designers to customise denim jackets, provided by Levi Strauss & Co, as a way to raise money for the Prince’s Trust, a youth charity. The collection provides a unique snap shot of the most fashionable and creative designers working in London that year like John Galliano, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Paul SmithBodymap, and Leigh Bowery. Embellishments on the jackets reflect the D.I.Y. attitude of the era with details like LED lights, hip flasks, encrusted gold hairpins, chains and cutlery.  The collection is truly extraordinary, representing fearless design and the exuberance of the time.

A note from The V&A: “The V&A now has nine of these jackets in its collection. The Museum is keen to reunite the complete set of jackets for its new summer 2013 exhibition Club to Catwalk: London fashion in the 1980s and wants to hear from anyone who bought one of the other 13 jackets and has them tucked away in a wardrobe, or who knows of their current whereabouts.”

Take a look at this short video below so see some of the highlights from the Blitz Designer Collection fashion show at the Albery Theatre in London in June 1986 that features some if these customised Levis’ denim jackets.

For more information on the show, head on over to the V&A website where you can read more about the clothing on display as well as public programs and guided tours.

Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s (July 10, 2013 – February 16, 2014) Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Exhibition Ticket:  £5.70. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5:45pm with extended hours on Fridays from 10am to 10pm


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