Saul Milton and Tory Turk talk us through their new exhibition exploring 90s style.
Photograph by Mark Alesky, taken at club night ‘Thunder & Joy’ held at RAW, December 1994.
The encapsulation of 90s urban nostalgia via a London-based music-meets-fashion exhibition, usually takes form in the list of things we’d only dream of. But thanks to the creators of Super Sharp, a new exhibition at London’s Fashion Space Gallery (and follow up events series) traversing the style, sound and rave culture of the 90s, it seems we’ll be experiencing more enticement than we could ever have we wished for this February.
Exploring the appropriation of luxury Italian designer brands in the underground music scenes of jungle and UK garage, the show’s line-up will feature, heavily no doubt, 90s era Moschino pieces, the bulk from an extensive archive amassed by co-curator Saul Milton (you know, of Chase & Status fame, one of the most successful British duos of the past decade selling over 3.5 million records and handling production duties for artists like Snoop Dogg and Riri).
Given the chance to interview the man himself, co-curator and head archivist of The World’s Largest Magazine Collection, Tory Turk too, we were able to delve deeper into the essence of their ethos. Check it out below.
(LEFT) Club night ‘Innovation’ held at Camden Palace, 1996, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.
(RIGHT) Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.
What was it about these Italian designers – Moschino in particular – do you think that spoke to people involved in the jungle and UK garage scenes?
Saul Milton: I think it was multi-layered TBH. The practice of “peacocking” is as old as time and I guess what else shows stature better than wearing a £500 shirt on a Saturday night out at Bagleys? Designer labels certainly weren’t the norm for the youth to wear so having D&G or Versace plastered all over your back was a big statement. The loud, brash colours and patterns of the designers were also very much in sync with the music, the vibe of it, the originality of it all. The designer labels became our uniform, if you wore said designers then there was a large chance that you’d be at the rave with the other people who stood out wearing the same brands.
Tory Turk:The 90s designer label trend was all about wearing your wealth, showing other people how much money you had. In times of economic insecurity, the wearing of flashy designer labels is a rebellious statement.
Nostalgia is a principal theme running throughout the exhibition, why do you think there has been a revival in people’s interest of the music, style and culture of that time?
TT:Nostalgia is such an interesting construct now. There is a generation of young people who have never lived in a time without social media and such quick access to the imagery and sounds of the past. Young people love time travelling and exploring the past using the internet and social media as a historical reference tool. The generations that do remember a time before iPhones hold this pre-internet time dear to them, and it is this idea of a collective nostalgia for the UK jungle and garage scenes that Super Sharp explores.
SM: I think Nostalgia is something that everyone feels all the time. We’re forever reminiscing about the past or trying to recreate a feeling or a memory we once had – forever chasing that original sensation. Personally, I feel the music from then never went anywhere (my entire career is made on making the same music that inspired me then and still does today) and things do go full circle. We’re in a very similar social climate to the early 90s. Financial downturn, social unrest, little belief in the government and their failings, and a general feeling of uncertainty. In these times people always turn to music and fashion and great music is always made in these times. We’re there again right now and that 90s vibe and feel and ethos is alive and well and the kids today – they see the style and that’s what they want to experience. They want tape packs and whistles and not just MP3’s and smart phones.
Why is it so crucial to hold on to these elements of culture going forward?
TT: As Saul mentions some of the most powerful music is made in times of adversity. Young people’s identities are being formed in such a different technological environment than they were in the 90s, so there is a great inter-generational conversation going on in today’s celebration of 90s music, style and culture.
There’s something about fashion and music which have being constantly intertwined throughout the development of culture. As these subcultures are born out of club scenes themselves, in what ways did these environments shape them?
SM: Music and fashion have always gone hand in hand and always will. In one regard people see music as a free commodity (not just with how it’s consumed these days) as in you can turn the radio on, or you can sing and enjoy music without breaking your bank balance. Music is the ultimate escape, where you can catch a vibe and hopefully forget all your problems and enjoy the music for what it is. Fashion also, you can become a different you dependant on what you’re wearing, clothes can be your identity and coupled with music, it speaks volumes.
TT: Both jungle and garage styles were formed inside nightclub environments. As we both mentioned earlier the wearing of flashy designer labels was all about “peacocking” and sticking a finger up at the politics of the time. There are also other sartorial details that the club environment encouraged, for example the door policies became stricter at some garage raves so people would have to wear shoes rather than trainers, further increasing sales of Patrick Cox Wannabes and Gucci loafers.
Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill.
In 2018, having come full circle since their emergence, can you tell us more about the influence of the internet in affecting the perceptions of these subcultures for instance?
SM: The internet has given everyone an opinion and a very loud voice. I’m not one to be bothered by people’s opinions on things that I’ve loved for so long, but one incredible positive to come from the internet is the emergence of groups such as Wavey Garms and that whole movement. There are lots of young stylists and vintage stores popping up all over and they’ve really become a community, sharing, selling and reinvigorating the culture.
What’s interesting to see is how the kids are styling it today – the 90s flex with a very modern twist and pairings. They do research and learn about the brands and it looks like they love it like we did then. It’s amazing to see and it wouldn’t be possible without the internet. The scene is spreading far and wide with huge vintage scenes in Japan, Australia, USA and many more places. Whatever perceptions people had in the 90s of these subcultures being negative has been fully eroded – in that regard it’s come a long way.
TT: Totally, it is amazing how the internet has created neo-jungalists and neo-garage-heads. It makes access to the imagery of the subcultures possible, the style can then be revived and made current and as Saul says, it has enabled a second hand designer vintage movement to thrive, which is a really great organic movement as it grew from “the streets” rather than the fashion industry.
How did your personal experiences of growing up at the height of this scene inspire the creation of this exhibition?
SM: My personal experiences have been solely responsible for me wanting to create the exhibition and even carry on collecting vintage Moschino in the first place. Wanting to feel inspired and excited about making music again is what had me looking at my past and getting back into the headspace I once had when I was most driven and all I wanted was to make jungle and play at Bagleys and The End.
What core messages do you wish to convey through the exhibition and what do you want people to take away from it?
SM: Street, style and culture have always gone hand in hand. Super Sharp touches on some nuances of the scene, giving an insight into what the clothes meant and how being dressed to impress was important. From tailoring to shoe choice, everything was important and fast forward to 2018; it still is.
TT: I like the way the Super Sharp experience is inaccessible online. Seeing Saul’s clothes in the flesh, paired with the curated soundtrack and anecdotes that have been sourced especially for the exhibition, makes it a fresh experience for the visitor.
This is the first instalment from a series of such exhibitions specifically — can you give us a hint about any upcoming events or new shows to look forward to in the future?
SM: 2018 marks 15 years of Chase & Status and we have some exciting projects planned for it under the RTRN II JUNGLE banner. We start here with Super Sharp and follow with DJ tours, RTRN II JUNGLE LP and much more. The next exhibition will be titled RTRN II JUNGLE – it’ll house my entire 1500-piece vintage Moschino Collection and will delve much deeper into the story we began with Super Sharp.
TT: Exactly Super Sharp is just a taster for an exciting year of activity.
Super Sharp opens at Fashion Space Gallery 1 February – 21 April; full info here.