New Club Kids

Text JF. Pierets    Photos Oggy Yordanov

 

The Noughties saw the rise of a new generation of Club Kids following in the footsteps of their predecessors – the original Club Kids of New York City, who, in turn, had followed London’s Blitz generation. In the early 1980’s, the Blitz Club in London’s Covent Garden became the focal point for an alternative club scene–frequented by Adam Ant, Boy George, Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Strange–which spawned even more radical clubs such as Leigh Bowery’s infamous Taboo club in London’s Leicester Square. Bowery famously enjoined, ‘Dress as though your life depends on it or don’t bother’, a mantra the new Club Kids have adopted as their own. They dress outrageously, with a penchant for kitsch and anti-fashion. Often with a mixture of their own self-made outfits and carefully selected labels (predominantly Vivienne Westwood), oversized accessories, excessive amounts of make-up and frequently highly androgynous looks, these flamboyant clubbers have created a vibrant New Club Kids’ scene in London’s bohemian nightlife underground. Fabulous or trashy, beautiful or scary, glamorous or freaky. 

 

Bulgarian-born photographer Oggy Yordanov has lived in London’s Soho district since 2001. As a party kid himself he was so inspired by the exuberance and avant-garde fashion of the London club underground, that he decided to make a unique time document: “While selecting the photographs for this book, I reviewed thousands of images shot over the past decade. The incredible memories flooded back, all those parties and amazing people that made my years in the great city of London so phenomenal. I wanted to share those memories.” At the time I moved to London, in early 2001, the party scene was still dominated by the super-clubs – places like Fabric, Ministry of Sound, Fridge, Heaven and Turnmills – providing a vibrant playground for the young clubber. These were huge capacity venues with great DJ line-ups that pulled in massive crowds of energetic party-goers, but one breed of party animal was missing – the club kid. It was the time of “less is more” and dressing down was the ongoing trend. For a while I believed that the avant-garde fashion of the real underground London had disappeared, somehow vanished with the modern transformation of clubland. Thankfully, things were starting to change.

In 2002, the musical “Taboo” opened in Leicester Square, Boy George’s tribute to a bygone era – the New Romantics – London’s original “dressers”. The New Romantics were a group of creative and very ambitious individuals, bored with the Punk that had ruled the London scene since the mid 70’s – these kids were looking for something new and different. What started as “Bowie Night”, a small gathering at Billy’s in Soho, quickly progressed into a new wave of party style. In 1979 it moved to the now legendary Blitz Club in Covent Garden. Started by Steve Strange of Visage, Blitz became a hotspot for new talent and attracted a great deal of attention from both media and the music world. With their outrageous dress-sense, black lipstick, heavy eyeliner and asymmetric hairdos, the Blitz Kids started a nightclub revolution. They drew inspiration from the unlikeliest of places and would go to extraordinary lengths to look different, anything to stay ahead of the pack. The musical “Taboo” did much more than revive the New Romantics. It centred around one of the most eminent figures of 80’s nightlife, the very heart and soul of London’s alternative fashion scene – Leigh Bowery. As a true innovator – performance artist, club promoter, model, fashion designer – Leigh started the now infamous polysexual club, Taboo, in 1985. It quickly established itself as the wildest, most fashionable night in town. With his body-morphing costumes, a taste for the bizarre and a deep desire to shock, Bowery radically challenged the boundaries between figure, gender, fashion, beauty and art.

With his premature death in the early 90’s, London lost its brightest, most extraordinary star and arguably the single-most influential figure for the New Club Kid generation. A year after “Taboo – the musical”, a movie about the New York Club Kids hit the big screens worldwide. “Party Monster” brought to life the most outrageous and daring party characters from across the Atlantic, in all their glory and hedonistic debauchery. Partly influenced and often joined by Leigh, these kids took the scene to new heights. They partied harder, dressed wilder, became the underground superstars to a generation worldwide and coined the term Club Kids. At this point London had already witnessed the first signs of a new wave of underground “art-clubbing”. Nag Nag Nag, a mid-week mash-up at the small Soho backstreet club, “The Ghetto”, and the more challenging Kashpoint, were both gaining popularity. Kashpoint, with its very strict door policy,  encouraged extreme dress-up and reignited London’s alternative clubbing. Suddenly the New London Club Kids generation had arrived. Kashpoint attracted some of the original founders of the New Romantics scene, along with fresh new artists, fashion students and up-and-coming musicians – the usual bunch.

Not surprisingly, its most memorable night was a Leigh Bowery tribute – imagine a club packed with hundreds of Boweries. The scene was thriving and an array of new clubs were popping up on a weekly basis. Kashpoint and Nag Nag Nag championed a low-fi, electoclash sound which soon became synonymous with the scene. Johny Slut told The Guardian in 2005 “One reason I started Nag Nag Nag was that music was becoming more interesting again. Anyone who thinks club culture is dead should come and see the queue on Wednesday night. Another breakthrough club that started around the same time was Act Art, which focused on live performances merging art, fashion, pop and club culture. It established itself as the ultimate underground event to challenge creativity and make people feel like they belonged.

 

 

It’s a platform for some of the most radical, experimental and risqué performances imaginable.’

It is, to this day, a platform for emerging artists showcasing some of the most radical, experimental and risqué performances imaginable. The mid-noughties were the new 80’s. Music and fashion were reviving the styles of the decade in its entirety and inevitably, it reflected on the club-scene. There were the Neo-Romantics, the New Punks and the Voguers but perhaps the most original of all revivals was the Nu Rave, advocating DIY style over fashion. Though short-lived, it made its mark on the scene. Labels were being ripped off in favour of personally customized outfits. Plastic neon toys became the ultra-chic, must-have accessory, matched with brightly coloured jeans and gold trainers. Throughout 2006-2008 London was overtaken by the Voguing revival. Though started as an underground dance movement in 80’s New York, it was brought to the mainstream with Madonna’s 1990 hit single ‘Vogue’. Almost completely wiped out by the AIDS epidemic in the 90’s, Voguing was brought back to life on this side of the Atlantic through the advanced popularity of YouTube and the documentary “Paris Is Burning”.

Voguing “Houses” were formed and for a couple of years many Voguing Ball’s and dance-off’s took place around London. Embracing this amalgam of styles – old and new, was the club Boombox, based in the new fashion hot-spot of Hoxton in the East End. It was the brainchild of Richard Mortimer and just like its predecessor ‘Family’, it was never advertised but always spoken about. Boombox attracted a cult following and became the hottest ticket in town. It was particularly favoured by the youth ‘bible’ – ID magazine – and regularly featured in their pages. With its eclectic style and iconic status Boombox became the symbol of the contemporary London look. Favoured for spotting new talent, it was the place to be seen and soon magazines from all over the world were referencing the scene. Editorials in V magazine, WAD and POP magazine followed, but by far the most serious recognition of their fashion came when Italian Vogue “borrowed” Molaroid’s signature disco ball accessory for their cover.

The Club Kids were getting serious attention from the media, a lot were casted in music videos and commercials, others kick-started their careers as fashion designers, stylists, make-up artists, musicians or DJs. Some started their own club-nights, most famously Jodie Harsh, who emerged in 2006 with Circus, and Daniel Lismore, whose latest venture Shabba Dabba Daa has just made ID Magazine’s “Hottest Night in Town” list. Fashion has always walked hand in hand with music and London has a rich history for dressing-up. Club Kids or “dressers”, as some would prefer, encapsulate the creative London as I know it. Fabulous, yet trashy, beautiful and scary, glamorous or freaky – meet the New London Club Kids.”

 

New Club Kids: London Party Fashion in the Noughties
By Oggy Yordanov
Publication date: April 2011, £16.99, Paperback
304 pages with 300 colour illustrations
13 x 19 cm
ISBN 978-3-7913-4554-3
www.prestel.com

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