Broken bottle rings & rope belt by Judy Blame.
Image courtesy of Judy Blame.
In 2011 I was doing an MA in the History of Design at the V&A Museum and the Royal College of Art in London. For my final thesis I decided to look into a little-known craft collective called The House of Beauty and Culture, who I'd heard had run a shop in East London during the 1980s that had been elusive, inscrutable and legendary among the artistic inhabitants of London at the time.
I spent a few months interviewing the surviving members of the HOBAC collective, namely Judy Blame, Alan Macdonald, Richard Torry and Mark Lebon, plus other people who had been associated with London's creative subculture back then such as Caryn Franklin and Stephen Philips. I also looked through a lot of magazines (The Face, i-D, Blitz) from that decade and read quite a few relevant books, obviously.
In my resulting 35,000 words about the group, I consider their clothing, jewellery, shoes, furniture and attitudes in the context of postmodernism, adhocism, outsiderdom and Thatcherist London. I cast their shop-cum-studio as a vehicle for expression and an agent of innovation in the city's fashion and club network during the late 1980s, and as the forefather of today's fashion heartland in Dalston.
Two years later the V&A and ICA both have exhibitions relating to the group and their milieu. In connection with the V&A show Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s I recently wrote this guest post about HOBAC for the museum's blog. This week I will be writing another for the ICA in relation to its current Off-Site project with the Old Selfridges Hotel, A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now, which starts its curatorial narrative with The House of Beauty and Culture.