POP! DESIGN • CULTURE • FASHION is the latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. It’s a display spanning several decades, which documents the influence of popular culture on fashion and design. Everything from 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll to 70s post-mod and punk is expressed through a variety of mediums; record sleeves, fashion ensembles, underground posters and memorabilia provide an informative yet visually stimulating exhibition. Sleek spoke to Geoffrey Rayner, guest curator and co-author of ‘POP! Design, Culture. Fashion. 1955-1976’, to find out more.
Sleek: When you were researching for your book which time period interested you most?
Rayner: Well years I can give you…1958 and 1965 because I had a very good time in those years. (Laughs). In 56, I was fourteen and Bill Haley and Elvis suddenly zoomed onto the charts out of nowhere and life suddenly changed. It was like a curtain went up. Everything was a different colour, it was bright, everybody at school was singing ‘See You Later Alligator’. It was the year when the war was finally over and from then on it was brilliant. Through the early 60s it was more subdued, it was an elegant period this modernist period but then suddenly with the Beatles in 64-6 it was wondrous again. This energy in London, it was wonderful just to go into the streets, you could breathe it in as you walked out.
What was the biggest challenge when you were compiling the book?
To find a way to define the early 70s. It was so diffused with glam-rock with the hangover from rock music and the emergence of Punk and people such as Bowie and Bryan Ferry who weren’t really glam-rock. Then we discovered ‘Them’, the group surrounding Zandra Rhodes, and suddenly there was a very important group of people at the cutting edge and the forerunners of the new romantic style of the late 1970s.
The exhibition is based around the impact of music, art and celebrity on fashion. Which do you feel has had the greatest impact and why?
One doesn’t impact the other, they are simultaneous because when you’re a teenager, how you look is as important as how you dance, the music you listen to and the environment you move in. They are all so intermingled it’s very hard to extract them. You think of Punk and the music, the clothes and the style is inextricable from one another.
Where do you think today’s fashion takes its major influence from?
It’s very celebrity led. I mean cutting edge fashion probably not because that’s a creative process but popular fashion is very influenced but celebrity. You only have to open the newspaper and most of the page is ‘What is she wearing’? Celebrities are celebrities now for being celebrities. Back then they were people that did something, they weren’t just known because they dressed like that and hung out with somebody.
Rayner’s book, in collaboration with Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton, accompanies the exhibition. With little text and lots of images, it nicely demonstrates the extent to which Pop culture affected everyday lives. No doubt the museum’s latest endeavour will lead to moments of memorable nostalgia.
‘POP! Design, Culture, Fashion’
Until October 27