Bold graphic lines. Wear-if-you-dare color. Haute couture mixed with high street mixed with, the street. Many of the most visually exciting looks stomping down the catwalk and the sidewalk in S/S 2014 can be traced back to three movements that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s, and their envelope-pushing style has been a major inspiration to me this season. Keith Haring, Steven Sprouse and Leigh Bowery each developed their own visual styles of communicating that redefined the way I think of music, fashion and really all facets of culture.
The nexus of these movements was Club 57, an underground mecca for creative types who marched to their own beat while others devoted their energy trying to get past the velvet rope at Studio 54. Housed in a church basement on St. Mark's Place, the club was the antithesis of the high-shine, exclusive atmosphere other nightspots of the era worked so hard to create. Club 57 offered an ever-changing menu of performances that allowed artists like Keith Haring to explore their talents in a fun house atmosphere. Reflecting on this anything-goes environment got me to looking at music and other outlets for creativity from a very real place.
Club 57 was the start of things going global. Now that art of all kinds can be shared around the world in a matter of seconds I've been thinking about international cities like New York and London and how they influence all facets of culture. While the melding of so many different personalities and styles is what makes a place like Club 57 magic, the work of Keith Haring, Steven Sprouse and Leigh Bowery made a lasting impression on me, and their work seems more relevant than ever today.
Keith Haring always believed that his art should be accessible to all. Around the same time he was reading poems in Morse code at Club 57, he started to create drawings in the subway using white chalk on the matte black paper awaiting the latest ad campaign. Haring became known throughout the underground and beyond. His message began to spread around the world with impossible-to-ignore murals and installations in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. Now remembered for his bold, vibrant style, Haring tempered serious social messages with vibrant primary colors and uncomplicated lines to create work that was eye catching and accessible. He credited graffiti as a key source of inspiration, and his work will always be remembered for elevating the language and visual style of the street to the exclusive world of fine art, and to the masses.
The mixing of "high" and "low" pieces has become standard practice for the fashion set, and Steven Sprouse deserves a great deal of credit for bringing a sense of realness to designer fashion by fusing uptown glamour and downtown grit. After working under Halston for two years, and soaking in a lifestyle that fully embraced the glitz and glamour of the disco era, Sprouse immersed himself in the downtown scene, spending nights at the Mudd Club and rooming with rock goddess, Debbie Harry. He embraced Jackie O and Barbra Streisand as style icons, but felt an inherent need to accent his impeccable designs with graffiti, motorcycle jackets and other adornments favored by the downtown set. This fresh approach led to almost instant stardom and a whole new approach to designer fashion that's become a way of life for stylish men and women around the globe.
A fellow native of Australia, Leigh Bowery became famous throughout the fashion industry and the club scene in London and New York for his otherworldly approach to clothing and makeup. His imagination created an endless parade of unforgettable looks that have been referenced by Boy George, Alexander McQueen and Lady Gaga, to name just a few. Bowery grew up feeling alienated, but he discovered the London club scene through fashion magazines, and he found solace in a world where standing out from the crowd made him an icon instead of a misfit. While his life was sadly cut short, Bowery's approach to finding beauty and excitement in style statements that were not traditionally attractive continue to make a lasting impression on all kinds of artists.