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IN THEIR OWN IMAGE

THE BRAVE NEW SOUNDS BRANDISHED A BOLD AND ECLECTIC SPECTRUM OF STYLES TO MATCH. CLUB KIDS WERE KEY IN CREATING THEIR OWN EXTRAORDINARY AND INFLUENTIAL IMAGERY, AND BEFORE LONG SO-CALLED NEW ROMANTIC LOOKS WOULD FLOURISH FROM CLUB TO THE HIGH STREET…

If the New Romantic scene represented anything, it was empowerment. Its dynamic, DIY approach to dressing wasn’t about high end-fashion and having a stylist (they didn’t exist then). It meant rampant self-expression, an escape from the mundane; a respite from the grey, depressing, minersstriking, Thatcherite Britain outside, a post-punk, sartorial two-finger salute to the commonplace and the conservative. What mattered to this creative coterie was having fun and maximum fabulousness. There were no rules. Individuality ruled at Billy’s and Blitz and, later, others they spawned beyond the capital. These were the places to see and be seen.

Pre-internet, invite by word-of-mouth happened where the like-minded hung out: at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Seditionaries and World’s End; key stalls at Kensington Market and Hyper Hyper; Johnson & Johnsons in the King’s Road, Modern Classics in Shoreditch, Acme Attractions in the Antiquarius market, then later Covent Garden’s PX. Commercially, PX came first in selling prototype New Romantic threads: they offered the first padded shoulders and Russian Cossack outfits. Steve Strange and others adopted the brand’s pioneering Byronesque-to-Buccaneers imagery long before Vivienne Westwood’s own acclaimed Romantic take at World’s End. Here, her swashbuckling pirate look as seen on Bow Wow Wow and McLaren-mentored ex-punk Adam Ant would become world-famous.

At the time of the birth of Bowie nights at the Blitz, Steve Strange worked as a shop assistant at PX. As one devotee recalled, “Prior to this, disco clubs had been violent ‘You looking at my girlfriend?’- type places. This was our safe space where we could be ourselves, look how we wanted.” But to get inside, you had to interest head honcho Strange enough to gain entry. The ever-changing Strange – jodhpurs and Gestapo greatcoat one week, bellhop outfit the next – ran the door on a Tuesday, ever ready to curate his clientele. As urban myth had it, sometimes he held a mirror up to a punter to ask: “Would you let yourself in?” Celebrity and success didn’t come into it. Only credibility, and who had it, counted.

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About Classic Pop Presents

In our latest Classic Pop Presents special, we immerse ourselves in the flamboyant world of the New Romantics. From the scene's origins as an underground movement born out of the Blitz Club in Soho through to the worldwide surge of popularity that led to mainstream success for some of the major players who made their musical mark, such as Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Visage and Duran Duran. Inside we tell the story of the Godfather of the scene, Steve Strange, and explore his pioneering band Visage with the help of Blitz DJ and band member Rusty Egan and fellow band-mate Midge Ure, who moved on to front Ultravox. We chat to Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman, who guides us through the making of their game-changing debut album Journeys To Glory, plus we head up to the Midlands to the Rum Runner club, which gave rise to another of the scene's major success stories, Duran Duran. This issue has plenty more to be enjoyed, including an exploration of David Bowie's influence on the movement plus eye-opening interviews with some of the scene's faces to get their side of this fascinating era, including Toyah, Princess Julia and Mark Shaw. Raconteur, author, DJ – and Soho's Wag Club founder – Chris Sullivan shares his hilarious memories of the times, and we strut the cat-walk with Blitz Kids, fashion designer Judith Franklin and photographer Graham Smith for our New Romantic fashion feature. Also inside, there's our Top 40 Essential New Romantic playlist, the design styles and artwork of the scene's many fine releases, and all with stunning photos throughout!