Spike Island style

Speaking to the Stone Roses-road movie's costume designer about dressing Madchester

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The Stone Roses were the poster boys for a generation. The first band of Britpop, they soaked up the sounds of the 80s Manchester scene, from acid house to Byrds-style psych rock with an inimitable, unmistakably northern swagger. This – of course – translated into the clothes: an artful mix of bullish prints, abstract drips and clothes loose enough to dance in. As they exploded around Britain in May of 1990, the band held a concert on the reclaimed toxic waste site Spike Island, an estuary landmark in Chesire's river Mersey. The turnout was a Woodstock for the second summer of love: 27,000 fans in their baggiest garb under the dayglo colours of the chemical cooling towers.

Now, 20 years on, this landmark moment in youth culture is being revived. Alongside Craig Green's unashamedly baggy-referencing collection last week and Shane Meadows's Stone Roses documentary, the film Spike Island, a retelling of the iconic concert, is out this week. Dazed caught up with Liza Bracey – the costume designer who put together the film's loose-fitting garb – to deconstruct this moment in British youth style.

Dazed Digital: How did you try to recreate the feeling of the Spike Island concert in the costume?

Liza Bracey: Pictures of real people were my main inspiration. My biggest fear was that it’s so iconic – people would remember what they were doing then, so I wanted to get it right. It's easy to do a caricature rather than to make it look like it really was. Looking at pictures of real people is really important rather than looking through The Face and things like that: though style magazines give an idea of it, it's the difference between high fashion and real kids. 

DD: What stood out as the stereotypical image representative of the concert and the overall aesthetic?

Liza Bracey: Photos of boys who were at the concert at Spike Island. There was a picture of this guy dancing about in a big t-shirt. I can’t remember what was on the t-shirt now, but he had a bowl cut and he was just dancing and it was flowing, this big baggy t-shirt. An iconic image.

DD: What would you consider iconic 'Madchester' items?

Liza Bracey: Baggy cuff jeans, baggy t-shirts to gives the boys that kind of swagger – that Madchester swagger that they had. But also, the crucial thing is not pitching it American baggy, but that specifically north of England baggy. I can’t even tell you what the difference is but you just know it when you see it.

DD: Did you pull these looks together or was it something you created beforehand?

Liza Bracey: You create them on the actor. Some things you think, "Oh, that’s a brilliant t-shirt. It’s just like what I saw in the photo," and then you put it on the actor and it just doesn’t look right at all and you put it on the next one and it looks great. So you use them as your mood board. Also, they have to feel like they're that character in the clothes – I could never impose a costume on them. They have to feel that they can be that character in that costume. It’s probably one of the most important things. You’ve got to help their performance.

DD: Did bands that came before and after The Stone Roses – The Charlatans, Purple Hearts – did those bands style affect what you were going for?

Liza Bracey: Not really, because it was so Stone Roses based and they were such ardent fans. It was taking what The Stone Roses wore and making it relevant to teenage boys at that time. The Stone Roses were older and making a lot of money and these were teenage boys in school emulating them, so they can’t quite do it: they do their version of it.

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