Are “club kids” fash­ion’s lat­est muses?

De­sign­ers are bring­ing back the club kid.

ELLE (Canada) - - Cover Stories - By Heather O’Neill

when I used to dress up on Satur­day nights and step out of my apart­ment, I felt as if I were step­ping out of a five-star ho­tel and into a sea of pa­parazzi, their flashes go­ing off all around me. It was the 1990s, and I was very young and very happy.

I would march along Mon­treal’s busy streets, my arms linked with those of my friends. I al­ways struck up friend­ships with the most cre­ative and charis­matic peo­ple I could find—the ones who treated con­ver­sa­tions at a 24- hour diner like they were Tru­man Capote on a late-night talk show. It felt as if we’d end up in the tabloids the next day, our quips in quo­ta­tions un­der our fab­u­lously chic pho­tos. And why shouldn’t we feel fa­mous and pow­er­ful? We were part of a brand-new gen­er­a­tion, re­defin­ing the way the world was go­ing to look.

I went danc­ing at all of the clubs: the one that used to be a post of­fice, the one that used to be a fa­mous the­atre in the 1920s, the il­le­gal one above a gro­cery store. I put wild out­fits to­gether so that I’d stand out in a crowd of club­go­ers who were also do­ing their best to stand out. I threw my clothes to­gether with a care­fully crafted ec­cen­tric­ity that can only be pulled off by a 20-year-old with fear­less style and an over-the-top sense of self.

For a while, I rocked the young Glo­ria Steinem look, wear­ing pieces I’d found in a h

box of my mother’s clothes from the 1970s. On one oc­ca­sion, I went to a club wear­ing a Zorro mask with my hair sprayed sil­ver. I ap­pro­pri­ated my ap­pear­ance from just about ev­ery­where: his­tory, pa­per­back clas­sics, comic books, pho­to­graphs of David Bowie and fash­ion mag­a­zines.

Look­ing at the run­way col­lec­tions this sea­son, I was once again re­minded of those elec­tric, snazzy nights of blue boots and long hair. There was a happy and brave col­lage of looks, which de­sign­ers as­sem­bled tak­ing cues from the night­club scenes of dif­fer­ent dec­ades. Their bor­row­ing, how­ever, was not merely an ex­er­cise in sen­ti­men­tal­ity; it was more of a reimag­i­na­tion of the “club kid’s” trans­gres­sive sense of style.

Calvin Klein’s show was set to the tune of “Venus in Furs” by the Vel­vet Un­der­ground. And, true to the late-’60s sound­track, the mod­els came out dressed in miniskirts and maxidresses, swingy cu­lottes and jump­suits and knee-high boots and Mary Janes. They looked as if they might be headed to Max’s Kansas City—the fa­mous gath­er­ing spot for A-list mu­si­cians, poets, artists and politi­cians who wanted to party—to cram into a booth with Andy Warhol.

The mod­els at Karen Walker strut­ted out in wild flared pants, wide but­ter­fly col­lars, dark-denim jumpers, shear­ling coats and big sun­glasses, look­ing like they’d just stepped out of Stu­dio 54 in the 1970s after hav­ing had a tiff with Mick Jag­ger. “We’ve been in­spired by ev­ery­thing from ’70s af­ter­noon TV to ec­cen­tric English gar­den­ers, su­per­heroes, ’70s dance sub­cul­tures and suf­fragettes,” ex­plains Walker. “My style, as a young woman, was a com­bi­na­tion of my mother’s glam­orous ’70s wardrobe, vin­tage and things I made my­self. The whole rea­son I got into fash­ion was be­cause I couldn’t find things I wanted to buy. I never placed any lim­its on my ex­per­i­men­ta­tion h

with clothes, es­pe­cially as a much younger per­son when a night started at 1 a.m.”

Vivi­enne West­wood tapped into the ’80s, bring­ing back that decade’s iconic over­sized blaz­ers, para­chute pants, enor­mous shoul­der pads and out­ra­geous colour pat­terns. At Mar­ques’ Almeida, the frayed and mis­matched metallics and asym­met­ri­cal pieces had ’90s flair with a new rave edge, giv­ing mod­els the look of hav­ing par­tied too hard. “It’s like the girls have been out danc­ing all night, sweated lots, put a hat on, fallen asleep on the bus home and then taken the hat off,” ex­plains Duffy, the lead hair­styl­ist.

The mood on the cat­walk was fear­less, which is pre­cisely what de­fined night­club cul­ture, es­pe­cially in the ’90s: The rules of dress­ing dis­solved, leav­ing the dance floor open to any­one and ev­ery­one with an imag­i­na­tion and a glue gun. Tiga, a DJ and leg­endary club pro­moter who has been at­tend­ing dance par­ties since he was five years old in Goa, In­dia, and later as a teenager in Mon­treal, re­calls a dis­tinct DIY style of cloth­ing that flooded his Mon­treal club, Sona, in the ’90s. He re­mem­bers a man danc­ing with a bot­tle fixed to his head and a man who was dressed only in tight briefs. “There was a mix-up of styles be­cause peo­ple were try­ing to fig­ure it out live, in real time,” he says.

Once, in an homage to Wim Wen­ders’ Wings of De­sire, I put on a white silk slip with tat­tered lace trim and a pair of large feath­ered wings. I felt like I wasn’t be­ing told what to wear, that I was cel­e­brat­ing be­ing alive in that time and in that place. I, too, was in­vent­ing the era with a sta­ple gun and five-dol­lar wings from the cos­tume store. We were all fash­ion de­sign­ers, with our pe­cu­liar in­flu­ences and philoso­phies, build­ing our own iden­ti­ties one out­fit at a time. The club-scene re­vival that ap­peared on run­ways is not a mere dress­ing game; it’s a retro re­vival that’s re­ally a call to ac­tion. “Take more chances!” it screams. “Let loose!” it booms. “Peo­ple’s thresh­old for orig­i­nal­ity has plum­meted,” says Tiga, blam­ing so­cial me­dia and the hy­per-avail­abil­ity of any and all sources of in­spi­ra­tion for the pre­dictable uni­form that to­day’s nightlife fauna has adopted. “In the ’80s, I wanted to look like Du­ran Du­ran,” he ex­plains. “If you were 11 [and lived] in Mon­treal, you had a tiny lit­tle photo on the back of an al­bum, a page in a magazine and a mu­sic video to amal­ga­mate a fac­sim­ile of what they looked like. Now, with In­sta­gram and the In­ter­net, you can find what­ever you want.” The ac­ci­den­tal orig­i­nal­ity that re­sulted from lim­ited re­sources and un­lim­ited imag­i­na­tion is dwin­dling, he says. But there’s hope: “There’s still al­ways a mi­nor­ity who are find­ing orig­i­nal ways to dress,” he says. The proof is on the cat­walk.

It’s that very idea of fash­ion in­ge­nu­ity that de­sign­ers are bring­ing back as they recre­ate a cen­tury’s worth of par­ties, invit­ing the wildest par­tic­i­pants from each decade to march down the run­way again. In an in­ter­view with The Huff­in­g­ton Post, Wil­liam Noguchi, New York nightlife per­son­al­ity and vis­ual man­ager at Pa­tri­cia Field, de­clared, “I like to think that who­ever had the first party in New York in­vited all the peo­ple that were the pure raw forms of these dif­fer­ent styles of peo­ple and ev­ery­one has been try­ing to recre­ate that fab­u­lous party since then.” With the un­abashed and idio­syn­cratic use of cos­tume, de­sign­ers have set the stage for the re­turn of the club kid—the un­wit­ting fash­ion icon who will stop at noth­ing to get no­ticed for not dress­ing the part. n

Purple’s the word.

The orig­i­nal “club kids”: Known for

their ex­trav­a­gant cos­tumes and drug-fu­elled par­ties, Michael Alig,

for­mer club pro­moter (be­low, far left), and his crew were fix­tures on the New York night­club scene in

the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Amer­i­can pop artist Andy Warhol (far right) with his as­so­ciate Ger­ard Malanga and mem­bers of the band Vel­vet Un­der­ground in New York City, circa 1966; party-ready mod­els at Calvin Klein’s fall 2015 run­way show (be­low)

Karen Walker re­vived ’70s swag­ger with the finest psy­che­delic ensembles.

Vivi­enne West­wood fired up the ’80s with an­drog­y­nous sil­hou­ettes, over-thetop pat­terns and an “any­thing goes” at­ti­tude fit for a fash­ion party (con­fetti in­cluded).

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