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

ELLE (UK) - - Contents -

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’

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