Reviewing fashion pattern and print from the 1980s, with Marnie Fogg’s design book…
The eighties were my decade as a child and young teen. Naturally, my youthful fashion experimentations have evolved over the years into many cringe-worthy moments, as my adult self now looks back over old photos.
Thank goodness there were no digital cameras or social media, or the embarrassment could have been a whole lot worse! My only consolation being that everyone else’s eighties photos look just the same...!
So you can imagine how much enthusiasm I would be likely to muster for the eighties-inspired design and fashion prints in this Marnie Fogg design book.
I was curious enough to buy it though – as I love all kinds of colour and pattern – and realising how much recent trends in fabric and surface pattern design have been influenced by a colourful look back at the eighties.
On looking through the book, my fears of eighties fashion faux-pas were, of course, eased - a combination of my own (clearly poor) fashion choices as a teen, and Marnie Fogg showcasing the crème-de-la-crème of eighties fashion prints.
In the introduction, Fogg describes how eighties fashions were loud – bright, bold and ostentatious – looking to new ideas and creativity to create the patterns that the public lapped up.
In Britain, London started to be seen as the centre of the ‘designer decade’ with eccentric and avant-garde ideas, combined with smaller-scale ‘craft’ print studios.
Italy produced the ‘Memphis’ design movement, which had a huge influence on the decade. Surface pattern design broke rules on colour and ‘good taste’ with bold, vibrant colours, and energetic, dissonant pattern and layout.
Fogg describes how the eighties was the decade for ‘celebration of excess’ and ‘unparalleled creativity’.
Browse a preview of the book below (supplied by Google Books):
This section showcases a collection of bold, colourful and abstract prints, with texture given equal importance to colour and form.
Designers experimented with mark-making, and creative printing, and interdisciplinary design techniques.
Innovative design labels:
• Stephen Sprouse – influenced by graffiti
• Vivienne Westwood – inspired by other cultures, “searching for the primitive”
• ‘The Cloth’ design group – focusing on the drawn or painted line
• ‘Tio Gruppen’ (Ten Swedish Designers) – innovative colour and energy
Other designers followed suit - with deliberately naïve, colourful, textural, and hectic designs overtaking this style.
My favourites in this style are the simple, textural, and hand-painted Liberty geometrics, with a more muted colour palette.
The eighties woman was powerful and glamorous. Her clothes were bold, colourful and ostentatious, with trompe l’oeil printed cords, tassels, and trims being very popular. Animal prints also helped to display a feminine power.
Aspirational occasion-wear was created with lavish, large-size pattern and embellishment, by design houses such as Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Adolfo, James Galanos, Karl Lagerfield, Gucci, Coco Chanel.
To be honest, this isn’t my favourite look, but I’m quite fond of the colourful, large-scale, patterned florals of Furphy Simpson, shown in the book.
Catch the Wave
Active wear became a business in itself in the 80s, as the public concentrated on creating the ‘body-beautiful’ and ‘feeling the burn’. The new popularity of the fabric Elastene or Spandex (such as Lycra) gave new opportunities to fashion print designers.
Surf, skateboard, and rave cultures influenced the popularity of bright and neon colours, tie-dye, and the ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ icon.
Tropical motifs were popular, often combined with the new trend for hand-drawn and hand-painted textures.
I love the richly patterned designs of the ‘Cote d’Azure’ furnishing fabric by Collier Campbell (shown in the book) which I feel has rather a beautiful, retro-inspired, 50s feel – and definitely a cool Riviera style.
Fogg writes that the fashionable eighties alternative to power-dressing was an elegant, avant-garde Italian label, ‘Etro’. Paisley patterns were their recognised look.
Other cultures and folklore began to be the inspiration for a growing alternative style, with eclectic tropical florals, animals and birds, in bold, simplified, and stylised juxtaposition.
I really love some of these designs, particularly those by designer Natalie Gibson, with fun and colourful, tropical motifs against dramatic backgrounds.
As the decade went on, the wild colours of the earlier years developed into simpler, two-colour prints, such as in the work of design partnership, Furphy Simpson.
Fogg writes that classical Greek and Roman art were given a new look by eighties designers, such as Sue Timney, Grahame Fowler, and English Eccentrics. Neo-classical statues, maps, and architectures featured in the designs.
Colours tended to be more subdued than the wilder Urban Jungle, Glamazon and Neon Blitz styles.
Designers such as English Eccentrics also began looking back for historical inspiration, at medieval heraldic designs, architecture, and stained glass.
The very popular appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986 inspired a new interest in the night sky, which was reflected in fashion prints at the time.
Georgina Von Etzdorf created artistic designs with rich colours, textures, and a baroque style in abstract form, concentrating, as many designers do these days, on the craft process of the design.
The designs illustrating the book, by Georgina Von Etzdorf, are some of my very favourite designs of the decade, for the beautiful movement and energy in the swirling, colourful shapes, with surprising detail and texture in the complex designs.
As the eighties isn’t my favourite decade, I wasn’t expecting to be very impressed by the designs in this book – but I was wrong – and I very much enjoyed it, in spite of myself!
It’s true, there were designs I wasn’t so keen on, (but aren’t there in any decade?) but there were also plenty, too, that I really loved.
Reading more about the influences of the decade gave me a better appreciation of the design developments and inspirations of that period.
I really enjoyed seeing how innovations from eighties design have a bearing, still, on our design techniques of today: the growing interest in the craft of design, the experimentation in the design process itself, and a new focus away from pure digital design - into including hand-drawn or hand-painted elements, and textures created from ‘real world’ multi-media techniques.
Of course, many eighties-style motifs and design styles are also popular at the moment, with abstract, textural prints, bold colours, and tropical prints all being very popular now, as well as a renewed interest in the patterns and influences of different cultures which, these days, are seen in juxtaposition with each other, rather than purely as separate trends.
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