Clothing made for the runways of Italy and Paris have all too often become the style of London’s clubs. In the 90s, quintessentially British scenes like garage adopted the vibrant prints of Versace, Moschino and Iceberg, to match the genres’ velvety sounding skips and swings. As much as the runway has directed the style of British ravers, modern couture is, in debt to the sweaty settings of our nightlife.
The earlier collections of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen were influenced by London’s underground gay clubs, where the proteges would congregate with friends and dance until the early hours of the morning. Being part of different scenes, and having a mutual jealousy towards each other’s work, meant they never crossed paths, but their clothing embodied the fetishisms of gay club attire. McQueen’s first collection was famously scrapped by bin men at the back of his favourite club - Man Stink. Having not been able to afford the cloakroom, he hid his ‘Taxi Driver’ collection in black bin liners, only for them to be hauled away in the morning for the tip.
In an interview with Dana Thomas, Galliano explained: ‘Sometimes I’m sketching until five o’clock in the morning, sometimes I’m dancing until five in the morning. It’s all a part of what I do.’ If it wasn’t for the late, drug fuelled benders Central St.Martins students were experiencing in the 90s, couture may still be solely associated with elegance and dignity. Galliano and McQueen’s more nihilistic clothing empowered models in a different way - their visceral cuts and partiality to showing skin shocked the fashion world.
Whilst McQueen and Galliano raved away in the gay clubs of London, Britain’s youth were finding new places to party amidst the political optimism of New Labour. Tony Blair was building new foundations for our country, and DJs were crafting a new sound from U.S house and U.K. jungle records. Garage, with its intrinsic breaks and bouncy drums, was born in the upstairs of London’s elephant castle pub. Selectas like Matt Lamont looked for a quicker tempo to keep ravers dancing into Sunday’s afternoon, and as the genre surged in popularity - tastemakers subconsciously developed a uniform that would become unique to the genre.
Garage, like many music scenes birthed from Britannia, is linked inextricably to fashion; what people wore was as important as the music that was played. Versace shirts, Moschino two-pieces and Iceberg jeans eventually informed the identity of UKG fans across the country. The dress to impress, champagne flexing mentality accredited ravers in a way that British nightlife had never seen before - this was youth culture in its purest form.
Versace collections from 94’ and 95’, only two years before the designer's death, transpired as essential gear for garage-obsessed Britons. In an interview with Tshepo Mokoena, for Vice, Saul (or Chase from Chase and Status) listed all the clubs that were essential advocates for the Garage movement: "the End, Terminals, Hanover Grand, Roast, Vauxhall Coliseum for the garage raves, back when Fabric was born… I could go on for a long time”. In Vauxhall, notably, the likes of David Beckham and Jay Z have been spotted jiving away to the shuffling rhythms of UKG, amidst the Versace obsessed crowd.
As the scene became more commercial, through hits from So Solid Crew, Ms. Dynamite and Kele Le Roc, ravers began to resent their subculture. Even today people reminisce about the good ol’ days of UKG, with countless exhibitions showing off vintage 90s Moschino silk shirts and Gucci loafers. Morgan De Toi, which used to be down Tottenham Court Road, and Zone7Style are two shops that are lauded countlessly in articles for their services to providing Junglists and Garage girls with designer pieces. Whilst Djs were avidly flicking through records, digging through crates and fighting for dub plates, punters were racing to these stores in search of the rarest Italian luxury wear.
Before Garage, old school jungle provided ravers with a brand culture. Combining tracksuits, cargos and designer lines, they crafted a uniform that could sweat out hours of visceral breaks, whilst looking impressively presentable. Garage and Jungle are two of the most authentic underground sounds Britain has produced; they are intricately linked but the style element became more fruitful in UKG. Fundamentally, more girls were going to garage raves, and with 90s lad culture at its highest, people found the transition easy to make. Who wouldn’t want to be head to toe in Moschino anyway?
British club-style hasn’t always been defined by Italian luxury. In the late 80s, before our nation started to fully accommodate the youth in legitimate venues, teens were flocking to suburbia in search of fields, acid house and ecstasy. Benzley’s yellow smiley face acted as a badge of honour for everyone encompassing the genre, who favoured baggy dungarees, jeans and bucket hats to the more tailored club fits.
Acid House was born in London’s clubs before 1989’s summer of love, but the style, music and sense of togetherness peaked that year. The scene’s hedonistic nature attracted many unique characters, and so the look took influence from different walks of life. A commonality in everyone’s attire, was the baggy cuts. Watch any 80s illegal rave footage, and you will notice the ridiculously oversized, fluorescent clothing, as well as wondering jaws and rolling eyes.
Looking for comfort, rather than flattering jeans and shirts, the ravers embraced a hippy aesthetic that since has become inescapable at festivals. Bucket hats, bandanas and wavey shades are particularly unavoidable, and you often question someone’s raving capabilities if they don’t own one.
These garments are so ingrained in British and world fashion, that brands, from Prada to Supreme and Dior to Palace, frequently feature them in their collections. Any monogram, luxury print now seems as fitting in a festival scenario as it does on the runway. We have marketplaces like Depop to thank for bridging the gap between these completely contrasting environments, as well as shops: Wavey Garms, Duke’s Cupboard and Nordic Poetry.
Palace, as a British brand, particularly take inspiration from the U.K. rave scene. Their recent Evisu collaboration nodded to Jungle with a cameo appearance from Skibbadee, and they have frequently released Avirex jackets, Moschino inspired two-pieces and premium loafers. They even reinterpreted the Versace logo for a T-Shirt, which you’d find hard to buy for any less than £100.00.
Street fashion in general has the U.K's various rave subcultures to thank for. Their distinctive, tribal attitude towards life is what Streetwear has achieved in the modern era, constructing a sense of community that cannot be said for many creative scenes. More than ever, the looks adopted by Britain's 'live for the weekend youths' have been normalised into everyday wear. You no longer feel in awe of a stranger in a Versace strapped top, or someone sporting a fluorescent bucket hat, as you know they are now so easily attainable. The modern era has harvested these flamboyant looks and made them so intrinsic to the style of our country's younger generations, which is a credit to our fondness of the past.