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Posts tagged as 'Subculture'

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D.C. Subcultures of the 1980s

Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art has recently opened a new exhibition, looking at the visual culture created by local subcultural groups during the 1980s. Aside from its obvious significance as America’s capital city, D.C. has a vibrant musical history, acting as the birthplace for the ‘Go-Go’ funk movement pioneered by the likes of Chuck Brown, as well as a world-renowned punk and hardcore scene.

Various Hardcore 7" records, 1980s. Photo by Aaron Farley. Collection of Roger Gastman.

Various Hardcore 7" records, 1980s. Photo by Aaron Farley. Collection of Roger Gastman.

Pump Me Up features photos, flyers, posters, records, stage clothes, instruments and video footage all made between 1980 and 1992, effectively bringing the era back to life within the gallery space. Alongside D.C's emerging music scenes came the birth of a stripped-down street art movement. The exhibition features sections devoted to some of the area’s most iconic graffiti art, as well as concert posters made by the Baltimore-based Globe printing press.

Go-go graffiti by GO-GO SHORTY, c. 1985. Photo by EON.

Go-go graffiti by GO-GO SHORTY, c. 1985. Photo by EON.

In addition to the exhibition comes the release of a 320-page book of the same name, complete with foreword by Sarah Newman, curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran. A special 90 minute documentary will also be released, looking at the life of local graffiti legend Cool ‘Disco’ Dan. Narrated by former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, the film includes interviews with Chuck brown, civil rights advocate Walter Fauntroy and several prolific graffiti artists.

Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s will be held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from February 23rd – April 7th, 2013.

Don Letts - Culture Clash, Chapter 5

Hip Teens 'n Blue Jeans

I left home at sixteen and rented a flat in Wandsworth with a bunch of mates from school. It was an arrangement that didn’t last long, as we continually had arguments about who should do the washing up (same thing that screwed the hippies). So I moved in with my brother Desmond, who was living in a big house in the Whitehorse, Brixton, where I had the attic room for a few years. It was the start of the seventies and despite all the “Keep Britain White” shit, in that area people of different races basically got on. At the dole office there wasn’t a white queue or a black queue—we we were all in the same queue. Like many others I found myself wandering the streets looking for work in 1972 after leaving school. My world at that time revolved around Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly and Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul.

Don Chapter 5 4

Now anyone who wanted the hippest clothes in town would go straight to the King’s Road in Chelsea. It was Mary Quant's  opening of Bazaar in 1955 that put Chelsea, and the King’s Road in particular, on the fashion map. Fashion has always been a big part of working class lifestyle because it was the only way they could empower themselves. It was all about trying to find an identity and asserting your sexuality . For young people fashion and music went hand in hand. In the sixties Granny Takes A Trip dressed the stars. The Beatles could be seen wearing Granny’s shirts on back of the Revolver sleeve and check the Rolling Stones on the sleeve of Between the Buttons. A few doors down from Granny’s, at 430 King’s Road, was Hung On You which later became Mr Freedom. Tommy Roberts’ and Trevor Miles’ Mr Freedom was like being in a giant play area for kids, with a stuffed blue gorilla, a revolving silver globe hanging from the ceiling and jars of sweets behind the counter. The clothes were influenced by over-the-top fifties fashion and Hollywood. The shop was full of pop-art items like Mickey Mouse T-shirts, Superman jackets and fake leopard-skin everywhere.

Amongst Mr Freedom’s customers were Peter Sellers and Mick Jagger. Malcolm Edwards, later known as Malcolm McLaren, could also be seen browsing. When Tommy Roberts split to set up another shop, Miles rechristened Mr Freedom as Paradise Garage, opting for a different look that could be defined as ‘Pacific Exotic’. There was an Americana feel to Paradise Garage, as he had imported Hawaiian shirts and used jeans from New York. Miles soon found that he was facing serious competition from established places like Granny Takes A Trip, as well as newer upstarts like Alkasura that sold crushed velvet clothing to rock stars like Marc Bolan. When Trevor Miles went off on his honeymoon he was oblivious to the fact that the manager he left in charge had rented out some of Paradise Garage’s shop space to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood who promptly set up Let It Rock. They started by selling fifties records and clothes and soon they had taken over the whole shop. At that time not only the retro-looking Teddy Boys were interested in fifties clothing, the fashion elite were as well. The whole look was epitomised by Bryan Ferry and the early Roxy Music albums. Let It Rock was the only place that sold brothel creepers, as well as hound’s-tooth drapes with velvet collars and mohair jumpers. On a typical day there was an assortment of drag queens, Teddy Boys and people like sculptor Andrew Logan buying the clothes. What Let It Rock did was give fifties  fashion an authentic street edge.

Don Chapter 5 3

I'd always recognised the limitations of fashion so instead of spending time developing  a fashion sense, I spent  just as much time developing  common sense. I realised that having one without the other just made you a clothes horse. Besides style came naturally as  it had  always been an element of  Jamaican culture. Just look at the pictures of the Windrush generation coming off the ship, those brothers weren’t  wearing loin cloths we’re talking  tailored suits with Trilby hats and the women looked pretty smart in their coats and dresses too. I spent a lot of time browsing in the King’s Road, and was immediately attracted to the lifestyle of the people working there, so it was only a matter of time before I got a job briefly at Oggi E Domani, a high fashion Italian L’Uomo Vogue style boutique. Unfortunately my relationship with my parents was not great around this time. Having sent me to grammar school, I was now working in a clothes shop on the King’s Road Chelsea and they saw me as a failure.

Don Chapter 5 2

After a few years at Oggi E Domani  I moved on to Bilbos who were the sole importers of Gul & Bla jeans back then. Man that got the girls in and after a bit of flattering sales patter it was a cinch getting their phone numbers. Good times. Not long after I jumped ship and started working at the Jean Machine.  Hard to believe now, but for a  period of time the Jean Machine on the Kings Road Chelsea was the hippest place to work in London. It was all the sex, drugs and rock n’roll. Its staff  and  customers all  wannabe Warhol stars—characters like Andrew Logan and Piggy, Luciana and Michael and Golinda, who'd all emerged from the Biba/ glam rock/ Bowie scene. They were all freaks in their own right. I was the young whippersnapper, as I had come up from South London, whereas all the other staff came from Chelsea and Kensington. The management hired only what they considered to be ‘the beautiful people’—not just in looks but also in attitude. Loud queens, obvious dykes, part-time trannies, and me black and confident. Or maybe it was just that they wanted someone with an Afro to complete the cast.

The gay crowd were very much a part of Jean Machine scene. That's how I got into a club that I used to go to called Sombreros on High Street Kensington; Bowie used to pop in along with Eva Cherry and the tailor Freddy Berretti.  It was totally hedonistic and devoid of politics—in an odd sort of way a politic in itself. These were truly great times and the perfect place to further my education. Arguably better than the sixties, since it was less naive, there was none of that ‘make love not war’ slogan shit, we came to party, and in between partying we sold jeans.

To read all posts by Don Letts, click HERE

5 Questions With...

Laura Rhodes, Womenswear Designer at Fred Perry

Having dreamt of being a designer since she first realised the job existed; Fred Perry's Laura Rhodes studied Fashion at Central St Martins, London, before joining us as Womenswear Designer. Laura talks us through her thoughts and inspirations behind the SS11 Women's Authentic Collection, and tells us why she was drawn to a brand like Fred Perry.

What attracted me to Fred Perry was the history of the brand, and its association with music and subculture throughout the years. It was during the Britpop scene of the 1990s that I first really became aware of the brand - so many bands I liked were wearing Fred Perry. When designing the womenswear range each season I find there is such a diverse wealth of inspiration - from the original Fred Perry tennis wear of the 50s (which was very smart and formal) to the contrasting looks of the many subcultures that have made Fred Perry their own.

For Spring/Summer '11 I wanted to introduce a pared-back, contemporary feel to the range. It's a range that mixes tomboy shapes with traditional Fred Perry styles; and uses feminine fabrics and washes to give a softer feel. I wanted it to be a very British collection - the season's inspiration came from looking back to the 1950s, where the majority of people spent their summer holidays by the seaside in Britain. For this collection I chose a Liberty 'Jack Ramble' print in two colours which reflects this seaside theme with images of waves and ships. The colours all have a slight grey tinge to them to reflect the British weather!

Liberty Shirt

Liberty Print Shirt from the SS11 Women's Authentic Collection

I don't think I can pinpoint a specific person who represents 'The Fred Perry Woman' - it has to be someone unique and individual, and the 'Tell Us Your Story' campaign on our website is perfect for inspiration. She's a girl who is very opinionated and British in her dress sense; who mixes things up in a very modern way. She's has her own style and knows what suits her, and isn't a slave to constantly changing fashion trends. The Fred Perry woman is a bit of a tomboy and wants to have fun: she goes to gigs and festivals - music from the past and present is a big part of her life, and this is reflected in her dress sense.

A favourite piece from the SS11 collection? I Have quite a few! Two favourites would have to be the gingham seersucker pinafore dress - perfect worn alone on a hot day or layered over one of our oversized t-shirts - and the fishtail parka. Made in England with shower-proof British Millerain waxed cotton, it's perfect to take to a festival this summer.

One piece of summer clothing I couldn't go without is a good oversized t-shirt. My current favourite is our oversized stripe t-shirt in a cotton/modal mix which is really soft and looks great on.

Browse the SS11 Fred Perry Women's Authentic collection HERE