Iain R. Webb’s "As Seen in Blitz – Fashioning ’80s Style" reviewed

by Katie on May 2, 2013

Iain R. Webb’s latest release, “As Seen in BLITZ – Fashioning ’80s Style” is like stepping through a vortex to the joy, excitement and pure creativity that working in the fashion industry in the 1980s brought. The verve, the pace, the style. London was the epi-centre of street-style fashion and music. And the world was watching.

As a junior PR starting out at Lynne Franks PR, each day I’d have meetings with mega fashion luminaries like Iain R. Webb, Judy Blame, Kim Bowen, Hamish Bowles, Alex White, Isabella Blow, Lucinda Chambers and the cream of the very hippest, very out-there stylists who’d bring another facet and understanding to the designers’ collections you’d lend. 

Designers like John Galliano, Katharine Hamnett and Jean Paul Gaultier were keen to keep their aesthetic but always, always eager for their work to be photographed and styled by visionaries. Resultantly, the pages of magazines in the ’80s from Vogue and Harpers & Queen to Blitz, The Face and i-D magazine team with creativity and capture a snapshot of the people, the energy and the mood of originality at the time. 

Ultra individuality by young iconoclasts creating their own brand and identity, driven in part by a hedonistic club scene and the music, style evolved from the street up. Creatives constructed their own look, wanting to stand out as well as stand up and be counted. An originality purely of its time that now doesn’t exist. A travesty there was no digital immediacy when there was actually something worth capturing. In 2013, we are faced with a homogenised high street,  mostly of designer collaborations and dress-like-a-celebrity media obsessions where the aim is to fit in rather than stand-out. Street style is dead. Clones abound.

Thirty years later, we have a number of ’80s books and retrospectives being launched from “Michael & Gerline’s World. Pages from a Diary” to the V&A’s prospective ‘Club to Catwalk – London Fashion in the 1980s’ exhibition (starts 10th July) and now, Iain R Webb has captured the spirit and influence of BLITZ magazine in a book.

As BLITZ magazine’s fashion editor from 1982-87, Iain R. Webb was at the centre of ’80s innovation. His images manipulated fashion to explore ideas of transformation, beauty, glamour and sex. The magazine’s arresting, subversive fashion pages, and its profiles of disparate designers and creative types, let the imagination run free.

Lavishly presented, there are over 100 BLITZ fashion stories, with unseen archive content, original images and tear-sheets. A separate section features original BLITZ interviews with the key designers, and a vast amount of completely new material. Webb has gathered the memories of those involved into a gripping oral history of an under-documented time.

The cast of characters and contributors include Leigh Bowery, Amanda Cazalet, Boy George, Princess Julia, Nick Knight, David LaChapelle, Paul Morley and Anna Piaggi. Featured designers include Bodymap, Judy Blame, Dean Bright, Comme Des Garçons, Jasper Conran, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katharine Hamnett, Hermès, Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs, Stephen Jones, Calvin Klein, Andrew Logan, Issey Miyake, Franco Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, Antony Price and Vivienne Westwood.

“BLITZ provided a beautiful flamboyance in the ’80s… When you and I met up it was an eye-opening moment for me. You showed me a life that was different to how I had perceived it.” Nick Knight  

“Like the lightening in its name, it struck us in 1980 and kept us spellbound the whole decade. ‘Too fast to live, too young to die’, that is BLITZ for me. Every month we would run to the news stand to be BLITZed with irreverent, glamourous, chic and iconic images. BLITZ was Iain R. Webb’s brainchild that corresponded perfectly to the era.”  Jean Paul Gaultier

How fitting and apt as a comparison between 2013, is Gaultier’s quote. One of the vanguard’s of ’80s style, the original ‘enfant terrible’ has just had to close his flagship store in London’s, Draycott Avenue. ’80s innovation and originality is dead. Thank God it’s captured by people who lived it like Iain R. Webb.

‘As seen in BLITZ – Fashioning ’80s Style’ will be available to buy from all major bookstores, Amazon and www.accpublishinggroup.com priced £35.

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