The Second Summer of Love
It was a time of deeper baselines, 4/4 beats, of sounds made by machine, it was a time of warehouse parties and illegal raves, from fields to clubs and rural enclaves.
Four British DJs had returned from Ibiza. They had found a miracle formula. The atmosphere of Ibiza-super-clubs, a radical new music, and ecstasy sparked a movement on a scale not seen since the Sixties: San Francisco’s ‘67 ‘Summer of Love’, the convergence of ‘hippies’, music, and drugs. Within months, Britain was gripped with ‘acid house’, tripping on Es, and dancing ‘til dawn. Against the backdrop of a fracturing politics, riots, and Thatcher, Britain’s youth were freeing their minds. It was July 1988: The Second Summer of Love.
Now, fashion is marking the 30th anniversary of the movement. Last May, Gucci announced their collaboration with magazine and events company Frieze. The project, titled ‘Second Summer of Love’, involves four artists producing four films, each exploring acid house and its social and political influences. The films will be screened exclusively in New York later this year. Its influence can be seen in recent collections. The Adidas Spezial Spring/Summer 2018 collection, the fourth collaboration with sportswear giant Gary Aspden, takes inspiration from that summer: ‘delving into the archives, Aspden has […] pull[ed] out integral pieces worn at illegal parties and raves of the time’, writes END. The campaign was shot in Ibiza. Gosha Rubchinskiy’s showcased his Spring/Summer 2018 collection last June, telling viewers that the collection was inspired for his passion for rave music and nightlife culture.
Against the backdrop of a fracturing politics, riots, and Thatcher, Britain’s youth were freeing their minds. It was July 1988: The Second Summer of Love.
The classic style of ‘acid house’ was functionality, not form. Clothes were baggy, characterised by a loose silhouette. ‘It was very hot in the clubs,’ explains Cartledge, ‘so the clothing was loose.’ Acid clubs were packed and small. ‘Schoom’ was a basement gym. It became so hot that dance floors were filled with dry ice to keep ravers cool. And it wasn’t just dancing and the number of ravers: ecstasy boils you. A T-shirt was the norm for both sexes. Vivienne Westwood designed her ‘Care-Bear’ Tees, plain white with a cartoon print, blue or pink. They would become symbolic of the summer. Baggy trousers were also worn, and dungarees. The Nike ACG Spring/Summer 2018 collection, as well Rubchinskiy’s, featured wide, sagging shorts and trousers that puddle at the ankle. Footwear was confined to trainers or flat boots, for the comfort to rave through the night. It’s a look found at the Versace Spring 2019 collection in Milan. Sarah Mower, reporting for Vogue, wrote that ‘Girls’ are ‘just as likely to want to go dancing in trainers’, describing model Bella Hadid as ‘all legs and sneakers’.
Religion was a popular motif in designs. ‘The atmosphere was so intense’, explains Cartledge, that ‘it did feel religious, like a gospel gathering.’ One raver wrote in The Guardian: ‘as the lasers cut in and a sea of hands reached into the air towards the DJ booth, I experienced something like a religious conversion. “This,” I thought, “is what I was born for.”’ Designers like Cartledge produced jackets imprinted with the image of Jesus, the Last Supper, and Martin Luther King. Tops were printed with the Crucifix. Ravers wore beads. The style can be seen in parts of Dolce & Gabbana’s Autumn 2018 Collection titled ‘Fashion Devotion’. A bodysuit of black, sheer mesh is worn with a necklace and earrings of large diamonds in the shape of a cross. A small T-shirt and an over-sized, baggy jersey, both worn with a pendant, are printed with ‘SANTA MODA ORA PRO NOBIS’: the Latin for ‘SAINT FASHION PRAY FOR US’. The collection, like Cartledge's, uses striking religious imagery. Jumpers and coats are filled with a colour-image of cherubs and are emblazoned with crosses.
Yet the most identifiable feature of acid house fashion is colour. The designer Nick Coleman, co-founder of the underground Sunday House Music club ‘Solaris’, describes being taken to ‘Shoom’ in July ’88: ‘I completely changed the look of my fashion brand overnight’, he told The Guardian. ‘My colour palette went from monochrome […] to bright colours […] and eclectic prints.’ Acid house fashion used acid colours. Neon was a mainstay, as was tie-dye and technicolour. Westwood produced her acid-print T-shirts. The vibrancy of clothing reflected the experience of ecstasy: colours are seen more intensely. Nike’s collection displays the same use of bright, clashing colours. Windbreakers and shorts are marked with neon highlights of blues, pinks and yellows on the zips and cuffs, clashing with the more neutral body. The ‘ACG’ logo is made of clashing jolts of colour. Similarly, Versace’s collection displayed coats and dresses of neon purple, turquoise and yellow, as well as eclectic, tie-dye prints on a variety of outfits. Like the functionality and religious iconography, the stunning colours serves to celebrate acid house as an art form. The collections show fashion’s power to transcend the mundanity and lose ourselves in ecstasy - drugged or not.