For AW14, Martine Rose experimented with a mash-up of cultural uniforms inspired by her own teenage years immersed in the early 90srave scene, surrounded by everyone from “teenage crusties” to the more polished drum & bass boys rocking canary-yellow Armani. “There was an amazing mix of characters,” she says. “You had the old Rastas, the rude girls, the skinny boys, gay guys, straight guys – everyone was united through the music.” Her latest menswear collection unfolds like a disparate blend of club style codes: oversized acid house camo, tight disco sheen pants and roughed-up fur jackets that look like they’ve just survived a heavy all-nighter.
This season Rose also collaborated with Wild Life Archive, a collection of youth-culture-related artefacts owned by friend and fellow raver Steve Terry. “I really had to hustle hard for it,” he says of the archive, which includes flyers and other items from the days of psychedelia, New York disco, Chicago house and Ibiza as well as such UK club scenes as soul, new romantic, warehouse and rare groove, all the way through to the club culture of today. Together, they mapped out Rose’s personal club journey, selecting flyers from the raves and nights she attended in the late 80s and early 90s, along with ones she watched her boyfriend and cousins go to. “During the process we realised that we had probably crossed paths in a couple of places,” Rose laughs. These designs were then screen printed on to patches and sewn on to her garments. We brought Rose and Terry together to look back at the joyful hedonism that surrounded such an influential time for music, style and youth culture.
It’s interesting to see how these flyers – which at the time were essentially cheap forms of communication – have now been elevated into an artform.
Steve Terry: They are ephemeral in their very nature, you know what I mean? They weren’t made to last, but they were adverts. It’s a horrible thing to call them, but that’s why I started picking them up. Aside from pirate radio, it’s how you heard about nights. I really kept everything; it was like a history of where you had been.
Martine Rose: I remember all the boys had them plastered on their walls like wallpaper. My boyfriend at the time had his whole ceiling, walls and floor covered! It was noisy going into his room, it was crazy! It was a real boy thing.
Steve Terry: Blu-Tack must have been killing it at the time, man!
Martine Rose: Yes! Part of the reason I screen-printed them in the collection is because I wanted to preserve this analogue form of communication. It’s like showing your colours. I really wanted to keep it quite personal. It’s such a big part of my experience of growing up in London.
Martine Rose: I was quite shockingly young. I actually think I spent my 15th birthday at Rage! Can you believe that? (laughs) Even before that, I remember sitting at the end of my bed, watching my older siblings and cousins getting ready to go out. I remember this feeling of there being another world that I couldn’t get into yet because I was too young – but I was itching! There was something in the air at that time.
Steve Terry: I’m from a little town in Essex. I remember being 14 or 15 and going to some roughneck warehouse in east London packed with all of these b-boys and Rastas and thinking, ‘Whoa, what is this?!’
Martine Rose: Exactly! What the fuck is this?! (laughs) Everyone just connected on this frequency. It was so across the board, especially at the beginning.
Steve Terry: Totally. It felt like a shared experience. I’m not talking about a big epiphany where everyone’s seen the light at the same time, but everyone just clicked.
“My association always came through this idea that there was a function to fashion at that time. People didn’t just dress to show off, but so they could dance for 12 hours straight!” - Martine Rose
Martine Rose: It’s difficult to explain without sounding really fucking cheesy, but it was like what people must feel when they go to church. Do you know what I mean?I got turned on to fashion through music. It didn’t come the other way around. My association always came through this idea that there was a function to fashion at that time. People didn’t just dress to show off, but so they could dance for 12 hours straight! I remember my cousin would just wear a huge t-shirt and baggy trousers and trainers. He knew he could go all night in those. My sister would wear Jean Paul Gaultier but she was going to reggae dances in Hackney, so it was sort of different, do you know what I mean?
Steve Terry: That’s another thing. Everyone danced. I mean, people were properly dancing and letting go. I don’t know if you get that in quite the same way any more.
Martine Rose: Yeah, going for it for literally 12 hours. Was it the drugs, though? Maybe the drugs are different now. It was all uppers.
Steve Terry: Yeah, it was uppers. I also think there were a lot of weird subliminal things in there too. It was sensory overload on so many levels. There were the light shows, the lasers, the smoke machines and even funfairs. All of those things were there to enhance the experience…
Martine Rose: To get you completely focused.
Steve Terry: To stimulate. There were lots of stimulants. It was a national movement and got a lot of headline press.
“Getting picked up in the car, popping in a new mixtape into the stereo, meeting people in the queue. The windows of the club would be rattling and you’d be covered in goosebumps just thinking, ‘Fuck man, what is going on in there?’” - Steve Terry
Martine Rose: Yes, but I think the press contributed to the feeling of unity. It’s like we all had a common enemy. I remember my mum would try and stop me from wearing my smiley t-shirt – which funnily enough, I’m wearing today! There was a massive thing surrounding the reference to acid. At the time it felt like we were being marginalised.
Steve Terry: It was such an influential scene – it informed what we wore, who we hung out with and the places we would go to listen to music. It’s funny because other people were having a completely different journey though London at the same time. I didn’t get into guitar-based music till much later in life, but that was someone’s everything at that time, too.
What music were you drawn to most at the time?
Steve Terry: There were so many different styles out there at the time. I initially got into house and techno music from labels like Transmat and Trax, but also listened to rougher sounds with breakbeats as that started to come in. At the same time, there were Belgian new beat records and more eclectic sounds being introduced from people coming back from Ibiza and other places abroad.
Martine Rose: For me, it was jungle first, and then it was drum & bass and garage. I went through a stage of hardcore too – like, really hard house. We used to go to this place called Strawberry Sundae and that was pretty mad. I mean I was really into any form of dance music and whatever that developed into.
Steve Terry: Yes. It really was about the whole thing, the full experience. Getting picked up in the car, popping in a new mixtape into the stereo, meeting people in the queue. The windows of the club would be rattling and you’d be covered in goosebumps just thinking, ‘Fuck man, what is going on in there?’ Afterwards you’d end up in Southend on the beach to watch the sunrise with a load of people down there. You know, it was everything.
Martine Rose: Exactly!
Steve Terry: Then you would get home and your mum and dad would already be up. Fucking hell! You’d get woken up two hours later to have a roast dinner for breakfast! (laughs) You’d be like, ‘Oh, leave it out!’
All clothes Martine Rose AW14; model Sholah Von Reynolds; styling assistant Katy Fox. Flyers courtesy of Steve Terry at Wild Life Press