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’.
Designers experimented with mark-making, and creative printing, and interdisciplinary design techniques.
- Stephen Sprouse - Influenced by graffiti
- Vivienne Westwood - Inspired by other cultures, “searching for the primitive”
- "The Cloth" design group - Focussing on the drawn or painted line
- Tio Gruppen (Ten Swedish Designers) - Innovative color and energy
My favourites in this style are the simple, textural, and hand-painted Liberty geometrics, with a more muted colour palette.
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 favorite look, but I’m quite fond of the colorful, large-scale, patterned florals of Furphy Simpson, shown in the book.
Catch the Wave
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.