Exploring the enduring appeal of 90s rave culture in fashion

Fix up, look sharp.

[A]ny true 90s kid will undoubtedly look at the spring / summer 2018 runway offerings with a knowing “Ah yes! Those ol’ things…” Meanwhile, today’s Insta-savvy youth – born in the 2000s – are enjoying fashion’s retro renaissance: think cargo denim, cycling shorts (questionable taste we’ll admit), Burberry’s iconic check caps, monogrammed bags and more. Oh, how you will berate yourself for ever thinking those Buffalo trainers and colour-block rain coats were bad taste.

An upcoming exhibition Super Sharp, curated by Tory Turk and Saul Milton of Chase & Status, explores the appropriation of luxury Italian designer brands in the underground music scenes of Jungle and UK Garage in the 90s (Milton’s 1500 piece vintage Moschino Collection on display is enough reason to go alone). During this time period the music scenes and shift in club culture inspired a new raving style – fusing combat urban gear and “flashy designer labels”.

Ahead of the gallery’s opening Hunger caught up with Tory and Saul to talk nostalgia, black culture and Britain’s social unrest (again) in 2018…

 

Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.

Hi Tory and Saul – talk me through the concept behind the Super Sharp exhibition at the Fashion Space Gallery?

SM: ‘Super sharp’ is a satellite exhibition housing 16 doubles, it gives us an insight into what the clothes ‘meant’ and how important it was to look good when you went out, from the explosion of ‘Off Key Mosch’ to how specific footwear was so important.

TT: This introductory exhibition presents a collective nostalgia for the UK Jungle and Garage scenes. As Saul mentions, a selection of Moschino garments from his archive will be displayed alongside testimonials from the people who lived and breathed the scenes. The exhibits are further brought to life by jungle and garage tracks, selected by Saul, which all combined, attempt to transport the visitor back in time.

"In the 90s, clothes that were made for the catwalks of Milan and Italian high society was appropriated by the streets of London. It became the uniform, the code."

Club night ‘One Nation’, September 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.

Why did you call the exhibition ‘Super Sharp’? 

 SM: Not only is Dj Zinc’s seminal tune ‘Super Sharp Shooter’ from the exact era we are talking about but the connotation of dressing to look super sharp couples perfectly with the vibe and the story we’re telling here.

TT: Exactly…Super Sharp is a music and style exhibition and so it made sense to reference a music track. DJ Zinc’s classic jungle track Super Sharp Shooter is the perfect fit, it was played both in jungle and garage raves. By removing ‘Shooter’ from the title the term ‘Super Sharp’ embodies the look that many jungle and garage ravers were striving for. The bass-line of the track is heavy, if you listen to the track and imagine jungle ravers head-to-toe in expensive loud clothes you get somewhere closer to understanding the unique energy of a jungle rave.

What were the major style trends to come out of London’s underground rave scenes in the early 90s?

TT: In the early 1990s the acid house scene had been widely associated with outdoor raving that produced a relaxed and open-minded attitude to style – there was a bit of a hippy-style revival and people wore baggy clothes but in general people would pretty much wear anything they felt comfortable in. As rave music expanded many electronic dance music variants developed, all feeding off one another. Jungle music was mainly cultivated inside licensed indoor raves and so the club venue surroundings inspired a new raving style. It embraced the colourful look of acid house but also integrated urban combat gear. The wearing of camo could have been a reflection of the economic struggles of the time but this was contrasted by the trend of wearing aspirational designer labels, a look that was also popular in American Hip Hop. Later on in the decade the obsession with designer labels became more and more apparent and it is this style trend that the exhibition is celebrating.

Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.

What are your personal favourite looks and designers from that time era?

SM: Well, considering I’ll be showing a special selection of my 1500 piece vintage Moschino collection in Super Sharp – Moschino has to be number 1 on my list! TBH all my favourite designers from then I still wear today. Versace, Gucci, D&G, Iceberg, Reebok etc. I love the all over print pattern 2/3 pieces and I also like to pair and plain pair of jeans with a loud shirt and vice versa.

The concept of cultural appropriation is a huge topic in fashion now – with the likes of Dapper Dan and Gucci last year for example – what’s your thoughts on this? Is it negative or celebrating  a multi-cultural nation?

TT: In the mid-90s British Jungle ravers appropriated Italian designer garments from high fashion and introduced them to the sweaty club environment….

SM: Yes…Fundamentally that is what this is all about and the main premise behind our Super Sharp exhibition. In the 90s, clothes that were made for the catwalks of Milan and Italian high society was appropriated by the streets of London. It became the uniform, the code. We tailored, we coupled with specific footwear and eyewear, we took what was theirs and made our own style out of it. In regards to Dapper Dan & Gucci today – I love it, Dapper Dan has been doing it for decades – the original bootlegger and Gucci are also celebrating old bootleg prints of theirs by releasing them too. It’s like making music, sampling from different places to make something original.

Photograph by Mark Alesky, taken at club night ‘Thunder & Joy’ held at RAW, December 1994.

"As rave music expanded many electronic dance music variants developed, all feeding off one another. Jungle music was mainly cultivated inside licensed indoor raves and so the club venue surroundings inspired a new raving style."

Is the anarchy of rave culture back in fashion now?

SM: I think we’re in a very similar climate to the 90’s. Uncertainty, distrust in Government, social unrest & a definite feeling that a change is in the air. People always turn to fashion and music in these times and that’s usually when the most groundbreaking and forward thinking music is made. This is exactly what the kids are feeling today and they look back at the 90’s and want to experience that themselves and they put their own flip on it; coupling vintage pieces with modern twists – they see the style and they make it their own – that’s exactly what we did then.  It’s all come around full circle.

Thanks both!

‘Super Sharp’ is the first instalment in the RTRN II JUNGLE exhibition series which runs from 1 February 2018 – 21 April 2018, for more information head to fashionspacegallery.com.