LET’S GO OUT OUT
It started as a quiet drink in a pub but you still got dressed up because, well, you never know. Thank God you did – by 1am you’ve been to three parties and are heading to a club where you’ll dance until sunrise. Nellie Eden reports on the rise of hedonis
Put on your dancing shoes, book an Uber and head into the night. And no, we don’t care that it’s a Tuesday
It’s 4am and I can’t remember how I got to the dancefloor. I’m wearing a see-through red lace dressing gown by Eric Schlösberg with red knickers and nothing else in a palazzo in Milan. I’ve just ripped the hem, but I’m six negronis down and I don’t care.
I’ve been flown to Italy for a Gucci party, along with 15 of London’s biggest new-wave party kids: among them artist Margot Bowman, photographer Lea Colombo and party influencer (yes, it’s a thing) Cora Delaney. To my left, Kendall Jenner is grinding with A$AP Rocky. To my right, Jared Leto, in obligatory Gucci florals, is being barged out of the way so people can dance to the Seventies funk that’s now making the walls and chandeliers in the ballroom reverberate. I have thrown my Gucci mules down the other end of the room so I can dance freely. I’ve no idea where or when this night will end.
I’m not always this carefree. I definitely don’t spend every weekend partying with A$AP Rocky; mostly, I worry about my rent money and whether I’ll be able to afford my weekly shop. So why, and also how, do I find myself out, more and more, long into the wee hours? And I know I’m not the only one asking this question. Despite last year’s reports indicating that millennials had made a collective decision to get into the recovery position, download Deliveroo, subscribe to Netflix and close our rented front doors firmly behind us, the proliferation of the term ‘going out out’ (on social media, in the press, in the pub) would indicate otherwise. For me, ‘going out’ usually means showing face at a friend’s birthday before a back-door-exit around 11pm. But ‘going out out’ is popping out for one, because it’s Wednesday, only to find myself, four parties deep, at a basement members’ club, shoes in hand, at 4am. ‘Going out out’ is spontaneity, it’s an open mind, it’s getting glammed up for no reason and it’s a massive Uber receipt the next day.
While weekends have always been for escaping the monotony of the nine-to-five, when people are faced with a worrying socio-political climate, there is even more of a need to let go. According to psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Beider, ‘when the political or economic environment is anxiety-provoking, we find ourselves seeking out greater social connection to combat stress.’ He cites dancing as particularly ‘rejuvenating’.
Indeed, youth culture has always managed to shake off the blues on the dance floor in times of crisis, from the Prohibition to David Hasselhoff’s 1989 Berlin Wall gig and the acid-house movement that smiled in the face of Thatcher’s cuts. Manhattan’s Studio 54 opened in the aftermath of Watergate and the Vietnam War to become a hedonistic epicentre. Closer to home, Eighties London saw the ‘Blitz Kids’ – named after the Blitz Club in Covent Garden where they all went – birth the New Romantic movement as the country swore in another Conservative government. And now, more than ever, people are going out in search of those dance floors, where we can stomp out our worries and feel connected in an ever-fragmenting society.
It’s why I find myself at Celestial Dance Party, a club night at the recently opened Five Miles in London’s Seven Sisters (and named after its distance from the city centre). Owned by 32-year-old Deano Jo, who co-runs Real Gold, the company responsible for opening Dalston’s cult venue The Alibi in 2010 (think New York dive bar meets your living room), Five Miles was intended as ‘a club that avoided any stereotypes (too dark, too expensive)… a place where you know you can bump into friends and hear interesting music.’ As soon as I get in, I’m taken aback by Five Miles’ understated opulence: a sweeping, polished concrete bar, an adjoining cloistered dancefloor framed by discreet neon-pink lighting and a sound system to rival any of London’s super-clubs. Stylish girls in a mixture of metallic heels, flares and mini skirts puff on cigarettes outside, while boys in trainers clog up the bar area. The dancefloor is sweaty with revellers getting to know each other and letting loose to dancehall music.
Five Miles is now considered one of the capital’s most thriving clubs, alongside east London’s Oval Space, which is known for day raves such as those put on by Secretsundaze, Shoreditch’s XOYO, feted for its bigtime DJ summer residencies, and Phonox in Brixton, where fan-boys congregate to see their favourite house and techno acts. These spaces are filling a void, particularly with more than half of London’s clubs closing down in the past eight years (this came to a head last year as iconic venue Fabric was shut down; it subsequently reopened after public outcry). Less formalised parties, including outdoor raves on Hackney Marshes, are becoming more popular, promoted via word-of-text or Facebook groups. ‘Safe space’ nights, run by PoC (people of colour), non-binary and feminist groupings, such as Bbz (a DJ duo), gal-dem (a PoC platform) and Pxssy Palace (a collective), have also joined the ‘going out out’ circuit. According to Jo, these alt-nights are happening now because ‘people are dictating the cultures, rather than venues, artists or press, which is refreshing. It’s also nice that what’s happening in the crowd is becoming of equal importance to what’s happening on the stage – does it feel nice in there? Is it a mixed crowd?
Do people dance and let go?’
On the fashion circuit, where ‘going out out’ has been embraced, the biggest parties now happen on a Wednesday or Thursday night (weekends are actually seen as downtime for Generation Y) and ELLE’s accessories editor Donna Wallace would know. ‘I don’t make dinner plans on a Thursday night because I know there’ll be something on,’ she says. Wallace is invited to more events than she can attend and brings a change of clothes to the office every day. ‘By the end of the week there’s a bag under my desk with all the best pieces from my wardrobe!’ Wallace says she goes ‘out out’ much more often now: ‘I don’t blink an eye if I’m home past 3am on a Tuesday. For me “going out out” is about not organising anything. It’s dressing up even if you’re meeting friends at a dingy pub, because who knows where you’ll end up? It’s about an evening snowballing.’
I ask if, as a style editor, she recognises consistent late-night fashion trends. ‘Nope. I think as Brits we love to dress down when we shouldn’t, and vice versa.’ Marc Bremner MacDonald, who works as a PR for Dazed Media, which organises some of the biggest fashion parties, agrees about the death of the dress code. ‘These days, people come dressed in what they feel comfortable wearing – whether that’s Alaïa or a sack. Glamour is people taking pride in their identity.’
Wallace is adamant that fashion parties are no longer for stiff networking, either. ‘Oh my gosh, no!’ she says. ‘Take the recent Tiffany & Co. party where TLC performed. The venue was tiny. The stage was basically in the crowd. Everyone was there to dance and relax,’ she says. Another London-based editor noted this change of attitude up close at the Gatsby-esque opening of London’s The Ned. ‘It was bacchanalian, debauched and opulent. I haven’t been to a party like that since the early Noughties. There was champagne flowing and people dancing on tables. There was no roped-off VIP area, so you could enjoy the glow of celebrity and the celebrities could feel at ease knowing they were mingling in a trusted crowd.’
Last year’s ELLE Style Awards embodied this key change, too. London drag collective Sink The Pink got the after-party started, French designer Jacquemus danced on the podium for most of the night with editor-in-chief Anne-Marie Curtis, and Beth Ditto had to, reluctantly, shut the party down. And where the fashion pack is involved, nightspots become subject to changing trends. While Soho’s La Bodega Negra and The Box were must-do’s five years ago, by 2015, Chiltern Firehouse and Sexy Fish were the only places to be seen.
Like the collections, every season we wait to hear which new venue has been christened worthy. Right now, it’s Isabel in Mayfair, which opened in March this year on Albemarle Street and is the newest ‘going out out’ destination, where decadence comes as standard. Isabel’s decor is fittingly sumptuous: a mirrored, black bar caterpillars through the main room and is book-ended by real trees, while brass lamps give the illusion of golden light. The poster-boy proprietor, Juan Santa Cruz, a financier-turned-restaurateur from Chile via Buenos Aires, doesn’t really give a damn about any formalities that might go into a ‘good time’, recently explaining: ‘I’m Latin. As far as I am concerned, the more the merrier. I love it when a table for three becomes a table for nine.’ While the majority of the menu is carb-, lactose-, sugar- and glutenfree, with dishes such as ‘half a dozen quail eggs with spice salt’ on offer, the famous lock-ins sound contrastingly carefree. Sienna Miller and Cara Delevingne have ushered in the early hours there alongside Santa Cruz and his extended guest list of friends.
Like Santa Cruz, 48-year-old Alex Proud, who founded the Proud group in 1998, a business made up of two galleries, a nightclub in Camden and multiple cabaret venues, has a party-boy reputation that precedes him. Proud, who begins our conversation by telling me about a Babyshambles gig in the early Noughties where he had to drag Pete Doherty, Carl Barât and one of the Gallaghers off-stage, assures me that he’s calmed down (‘I’m old now’) but that ‘the entertainment industry has never been in ruder health’. Last year, Proud considered ‘closing Proud Camden down’, but is relieved he didn’t. ‘Like Chanel No.5 or LBDs at Christmas, partying has never gone out of fashion. There’s never been a better, safer, more creative time to party in London. We host hip-hop brunches all weekend at Proud for 270 people and they get dressed up like they’re “going out out”.’
Another key player on London’s party circuit, feted for her ability to draw the best crowds, is Mandi Lennard, who has earned the moniker ‘East London’s Party Godmother’. She’s as energised by this renewed lust for proper partying as she is by the freshest personalities defining the moment. She cites HMLTD, an avant-garde six-piece band, as the hottest name on the scene right now: ‘There seems to be a new sophistication, in that clubbing is a platform for their creative portrayal of themselves.’ These post-art-school disruptors are the band that event organisers are desperate to get on their guest lists for their outrageous looks but, more critically, for their ability to cause a stir wherever they go.
Now, the type of glamour the next generation is seeking can’t always be paid for. ‘Going out out’ is about celebrating life, individualism, freedom and experimentation. As Lennard says: ‘Everyone works so hard, so when you go out, you give yourself the platform to be the newest version of you. I think that’s the best gift London gives you and that you can give to yourself.’ Amy Lamé, who was appointed night czar by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan and tasked with the job of turning London into a 24-hour city, agrees. ‘Night clubs are places where lifelong relationships are formed and hearts are broken, where you find your family and discover your true self. So much of London’s life can be found on the dancefloor.’ Now, are you seriously thinking of staying in tonight?
‘Everyone works so hard, so when you go out out, you give yourself the platform to be the newest version of you’