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If you thought Ugly Betty had style dyslexia, get this: The latest cutting-edge trend out of London is an over-the-top-eclectic day-glo mashup.
The rave, that Technicolor counterculture music and nightclub movement of the early 1990s, is back and reborn for the millennium as the “neu rave,” even though there’s barely been enough time for the original ravers to come down from their ecstasy highs.
The fashion industry, right down to your local mall chain, has enthusiastically embraced neu rave’s techno-bright look. Check the racks at H&M this spring and they’re aglow with acid bright accessories and giddy geometric prints.
On the runways, splashy graphics surfaced at Comme des Garcons and Versace featured acid-bright computer prints. But it is the Parisian designer Jean Charles de Castlebajac, or JCDC as fans refer to him, whose colourful cartoony looks have become a favourite with these new cool kids on the block. At his fall collection last month in Paris, the front row was lined with a crew of neu ravers who EuroStarred their way in from London for his show.
The poster child for this neon movement is model-of-the-moment, Agyness Deyn, a tomboyish British beauty with a blonde pixie cut. Deyn can be counted on to turn up at neu rave parties with her childhood friend, designer Henry Holland, whose T-shirt line, House of Holland, is all the rage right now, popular for their pop bright colours and emblazoned with huge lettering featuring kicky word plays on designer names like “Give Me Pain Hedi Slimane.”
Ahead-of-the-curve style glossy POP out of London dedicated its most recent issue to the new rave movement with Deyn featured on the cover.
Not lagging too far behind, British Vogue was seen doing a street shoot in London this past February for an upcoming issue. Posing for the story were a group of effervescent club kids in all their kaleidoscopic glory paired up for even more dramatic effect, with such old school style arbiters as fashion critic Suzy Menkes, The
Times fashion editor Lisa Armstrong, and footwear designer Manolo Blahnik.
Not surprisingly, it is London that is ground zero for this exploding movement, and its nerve centre can be tracked to a single source: Sunday nights at Hoxton Square Bar.
This weekly night — called Boombox — is a spectacular dress-to-be-seen-and-compete atmosphere not seen since the days of renown club kid celebutant Leigh Bowery.
With some of London’s hottest young designers acting as DJs, trendsetting students from Central Saint Martins, drag queens, models and assorted fashion personalities converge at this hotspot to celebrate the nightlife.
But if the look of last decade’s raver was child like and naïve — with pacifiers, glow sticks, furry pants and Teletubby toys hanging off backpacks —this millennium’s raver, while no less Crayola bright, embraces creative customization, best described as cartoon couture.
Just like the music, a mashup of electro, thrash and Balitimore beats, the fashions are a mashup of several references from hip hop to prepster.
Once your eyes adjust to the fluorescent prints, you’ll notice recurring trends: Large colourful plastic eyeglasses but without the lenses, huge chunky gold chains with neck breaking-sized pendants, candy-coloured wigs, 1940s style hats with face netting, colour-blocked track suits, fluorescent patterned hoodies, and bow ties of every size from tuxedo style to clown proportioned pussy bows. Even preppy classic Lacoste gets mixed in the frenzy.
Face makeup takes on epic theatrical dramatics with globs of colour that looks like it was applied with finger paint.
Ford, 45, talks vaguely about future stores in London, Milan and Dubai, but he wouldn’t reveal any plans during his preview this week.