Style and strobes: the influence of raves on fashion

03 April 2019 | Posted by Zackary

Emerging from a much too short night, during which I drank more alcohol than I should have (again), I have trouble remembering my name this morning. After making sure I have not sent any suspicious texts under the effect of the chardonnay, I jump in the shower, taking care not to see the light of day. I put on the first clothes that fall into my hands, then go down to the mini-market at the bottom of my residence for a Redbull mission. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Why didn’t you come home at 10:00 as planned?”, do I not stop repeating myself as I fight against the attacks of my natural enemy: the sun. I stroll through the shelves in search of the blue can, narrowly avoid a shopping cart, then face the cashier’s judgmental gaze. I hate him, with his flawless haircut and his perfect pretty son-in-law face. One has to be suspicious to look so happy at work…. Anyway, I’m sure he bought his Lacoste polo shirt on Wish.

At the exit, I pass by a bus stop full of high school students. In the middle of this walking advertisement for contraception, two teenagers catch my eye. The first wears a Stabilo yellow dress; the second, a fluorescent orange jacket. I then realize that spring has arrived — and that the heat under my fur coat is not just due to the ethanol evaporating from my body.

We have already mentioned the trend developing around this palette, without however tracing its origins. In the wake of its return to the 90s, the fashion lens focuses on another subculture: that of raves, which has a greater influence on our wardrobe than one might think. It’s much more than a story about a t-shirt flocked with a smiley…

(Raf Simons FW18 — © Raf Simons)

A culture at the crossroads of styles

Raves as we know them today — except for one or two drugs — appeared at the end of the 1980s. The world discovers Chicago’s acid house, listening to it for whole nights in a hangar or on a vacant lot. Comfort is the first priority, without necessarily worrying about the coherence of one’s outfit. From oversized t-shirts to denim overalls and baggy, freedom of movement is the key word. As for the patterns, cartoons take the lion’s share: we dress up in the effigy of the ecstasy pills we swallow like candy. The colours are bright and even fluorescent, matching the light beams illuminating the dance floor. Forget about necklaces, long live the whistle used to “applaud”.

Codes that are actually close to the streetwear of the time, which obviously does not go unnoticed by the brands. The fanny pack moves from the dealer to the dancer. Very quickly, Stüssy sweaters and T-shirts become part of the raver’s typical range, while Adidas supplies him with tracksuits. The three-band label is also popular for its sneakers, whose soles can sometimes exceed ten centimetres.

At the same time, a unique phenomenon is developing in the English garage scene. While the United Kingdom is undergoing economic austerity, Margaret Thatcher bans raves and forces clubs to close their doors at two in the morning. The answer from the party people? Moschino and Versace. The most flamboyant of Italian labels invite themselves into the clandestine free parties; logomania, baroque prints and color blocks become the reference. It is not a question of establishing a cult of money or appearance, but of escaping a difficult reality through dance as much as fashion. Often stolen or borrowed, Milanese shirts are a symbol of belonging and recognition in a society that is at odds with youth. There is a reappropriation of luxury by a fringe of the population that is normally deprived of it, which couples it to Reebok sneakers. John Galliano then makes psychedelic couture trips, which he will take up in his first collections. Several designers will follow this path in turn…

(© Tristan O’Neill)

Dance your life away

For his final fashion show at Burberry last year, Christopher Bailey pays tribute to the culture in which he was immersed. “It’s me, at 15,” says the designer after the presentation of a collection based on multicoloured windbreakers, oversized sweaters and a DIY spirit. A little before, Marc Jacobs gets inspired by the cyberpunk vein and styles his models with pink and purple dreadlocks, which complement their sequined outfits and the vertiginous platforms of their shoes. According to BalmainRaf Simons and Prada, this winter was supposed to be a fluo one, whether it emphasizes the contours of a dress or twists a little too wise silk blouse.

In another repertoire, the rave aesthetics is an important part of Eastern European streetwear codes, with the new Tbilisi guard at the forefrontSituationist, one of our favorite labels on this scene, organizes his SS19 show at The Bassiani — an abandoned swimming pool transformed into a club, which have been raided by the police a few months earlier. For the occasion, he adorns his t-shirts with the message “We dance together, we fight together”.

This notion of unity, at the heart of Rave culture and its sacrosanct PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect, editor’s note) is undoubtedly one of the reasons for its appearance on the catwalks. Beyond the simple framework of the 90s trend, it also carries a form of optimism. In an era of political instability, between terrorist attacks and far-right presidents, Gilets Jaunes and Brexit, the liberating power of dance takes on its full meaning. As a call for more lightness and cohesion, fashion thus offers an escape from the morose daily life, inspired by the dressing room of those who do it best… •

Hugh Hefner's and Donatella Versace's love child, I am the visible half of the duo behind ZACKARIUM. Addicted to fashion and to Lucky Strike, my mission is to guide you smoothly through the jungle of brands and catwalks.

Discover more articles

Fashion, with a bit of wit...

Passionate, bold, and probably a little bit vulgar. Welcome to ZACKARIUM.

Your weekly dose of style, directly in your mailbox.