Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci: Studio 54 and the Art of Curious Fashion

 

I was getting all excited about the Studio 54: Night Magic exhibition, which will hopefully open in the not too distant future. Sadly, New York's Brooklyn Museum is now closed until further notice - but the legend lives on... 

The arrival of Studio 54 in 1977 marked the beginning of the age of celebrity and unbridled, 'out there' exhibitionism.  Famous visitors to the legendary club included Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.  Inside the club there was a real sense of escapism, but potential guests had to first meet the criteria of doormen who acted as fashion police with self-fabricated rules such as “no polyester shirts”, which it was said would “melt under the lights”. This was the time of Halston, Gucci and Fiorucci, immortalized in Sister Sledge’s She’s the Greatest Dancer. 

Roy Halston Frowick had previously been in charge of millinery at Bergdorf Goodman and designed the pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband’s 1961 presidential inauguration. He was known for his shirt-dresses, columnnar jersey gowns and floaty kaftan designs, as well as his liberal use of a new fabric called Ultrasuede. He developed a celebrity following that included Elizabeth Taylor and Angelica Huston. According to Patricia Morrisroe, in a 2004 New York magazine article, fellow designer, Stephen Sprouse, constantly pestered Halston to make his dresses shorter, before picking up a pair of shears and cutting off the bottoms of his dresses. The style became known as ‘the Skimp.’ Following his death in 1990, his label has continued to trade under the Halston Heritage brand, under numerous different owners. 

In the late 1970s, Gucci was a brand associated with tradition, upper-middle class ladies’ scarves and preppy suede loafters. The decade did bring added colour and panache in the form of kipper ties and floral prints. Later, Halston’s slick seventies style was revisited by Tom Ford, whose A/W 1996/97 collection for Gucci paired the slinky sexiness of futuristic white jersey dresses featuring cut out panels and futuristic gold with impeccably cut androgynous tailoring and platform shoes inspired by the fashions of his youth. Anna Wintour described the show as “the fashion equivalent of a one-night stand at Studio 54.” Alessandro Michele has since revisited the ‘70s disco vibe both in style and in choice of show venues. 


In 1976, before Studio 54 existed, Firoucci’s store in East 59thStreet became like a daytime disco, with performance artists like Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi as sales assistants. Elio Fiorucci repackaged jeans mythology, with his ‘Safety Jeans’ featuring one label based on a box of matches and another showing illustrations of cowboys, appropriated from Levi’s. According to Mara Wolynski in Look Magazine, by the late 1970s, people were travelling to Fiorucci’s New York store from as far away as Brazil and Paris to pay $48 for a pair of jeans, with around 350 being sold each week in the store. Babitz (1980) found it fitting that an Italian should come up with such a great redesign that he could sell American style jeans back to America.  It is not widely known that Fiorucci worked with Antonio Lopez on the launch of Studio 54, which subsequently became the place to be seen wearing his eponymous jeans brand - known to be the “tightest, sexiest jeans in the world.” 

Studio 54: Night Magic at the Brooklyn Museum is postponed until the museum reopens on or after March 28th. Meantime, see the Halston, Gucci and Fiorucci inspired Studio 54 Collection at ShopCurious. Will you?