Style: Marx comes to the aid of the party: Philip Sallon, impresario of style, explains fashion's material base to fellow-clubber John Windsor
Saturday 25 June 1994
The Nineties look like becoming the decade of the nightclub, which, for the past two decades, has been the unacknowledged inspiration for both the look and sound of alternative culture.
Punk culture was partly inspired by Seventies performance art at freaky London alternative clubs such as Louise's, Billy's and Blitz. Westwood's original inspiration was proto-punk. Today's young trend-setters, instead of trawling pop music or commercial fashion for emerging styles, are increasingly consulting their source: the club.
Philip Sallon is impresario of London's biggest, the Mud Club, a seething hothouse at Bagley's Film Studios in King's Cross goods depot where trends incubate in a culture of perspiration. The packed-out Saturday 10pm- 6am parties, with lavish theatrical theme sets, are now staged weekly instead of monthly.
Sallon's rewards for continuing to trend-spot accurately will be an even bigger box office and mesmerisation by wads waved by fashion designers and manufacturers. If he loses his touch, he will at least merit a footnote in history as the raving freak who used to roller-skate round Louise's in a wedding dress, was the first to wear men's skirts, bin liners, plastic bags and crowns (though seldom at the same time), and who inspired a pop star called Boy George.
Apart from Saturday nights, Sallon's lifestyle shows no obvious signs of freakiness. He is Jewish, 42, lives in a small flat in St John's Wood, has a drawer full of vitamin tablets and is into psychoanalysis. Like Vivienne Westwood, whose catwalk shows he staged in the Eighties, he is an intellectual and a didact.
'Culture is a reflection of what is going on at the material base of society,' he said. 'Do you understand?' I nodded. 'I wasn't the first to say that. Karl Marx was.
'I don't believe any particular person ever really invents anything. It is all a product of the mood of the time. Maybe Gutenberg did invent moveable type in the 1440s. But did his invention alone make printing widespread? The point is that the Renaissance was happening at that time, scholarship was becoming fashionable, so there was a material basis for the revolution in printing. It was 'invented' only because there was a need for it.'
I had joined the throng the previous Saturday at his 'Slumber Party', inspired by this summer's popularity of the colour pink and by young women he had spotted wearing baby-doll negligees. My name on his guest list gave me protection from the club's notorious bouncers, trained to deny entry to anyone showing vestiges of normality. That includes men with suits and ties; Eighties bimbos with ra-ra skirts, Sharon hair-dos, stilettos; and, particularly loathed, women with padded shoulders - it's the Hippodrome for them.
Only once, in January, was the anti-naff rule suspended. That was for the Good Riddance Diana Eighties Ball, to mark the Princess of Wales's retirement from public life. The set was a 30ft-high Chanel handbag with a dozen Essex girls dancing round it.
The Slumber Party set consisted of a couple of Fragonard- style garden swings with damsels in 18th-century rococo dresses and powdered wigs kicking up their petticoats. Not the easiest image to relate to popular culture, I thought.
At least Sallon's music theory was more accessible. 'When would you say the recession really deepened?' he asked me.' Eighty nine, ninety?' I ventured. 'Right, that's just when the garage music you heard on Saturday started to creep in. It's got human voices in it, which makes it quite different from the un-human, electronic sound of the early Eighties, or the acid house that began in 1987 - all computers and beeps. They belong to the boom.
'In boom times the mood swings away from humans towards machines - more readily appreciated as the basis of material survival, as films like Metropolis in the roaring Twenties show.
'Also, garage music is slower, not so manic. I'd call it the John Major of the music world. Margaret Thatcher was like a machine person. In the Eighties it felt as if she and Robocop were standing shoulder to shoulder. As the recession eases, the music should get more mechanical again. Not because someone like me or Vivienne Westwood decrees it. There's a reason for everything.'
Heavy, over-large design - modern baroque - is very fashionable, he said. 'Look at Vivienne, she's doing everything oversized - giant leopardskin prints, giant polka dots and checks.' But the first expression of modern baroque was his - a Christmas Baroq'n'roll Ball at the Empire Ballroom, Leicester Square, in 1987, weeks after the Black Monday stock market crash.
'Baroque is heavy. We have so many dark things hanging over us: recession, Aids, nuclear war. It's like the darkness of the 16th and 17th centuries after the lightness of the Renaissance. Where is the laughter of the Sixties and Seventies?
'There is a language without words in which we think unconsciously. We think of things that are making us secure or insecure economically and transpose them into everything around us. That's how fashion and culture arise. Every scrap of clothing, every bit of a building means something. I'm trying to unravel that language. That's my life's work, not the clubs themselves.'
The Mud Club opened in 1983 festooned with hammer-and-sickles and images of Stalin and Lenin - a trivial but genuine coup by Sallon, who had judged it time for young rebels to stop sporting swastikas and Confederate flags and adopt a fresh set of 'anti' emblems. The place was packed. Months later, manufacturers weighed in with Commie T-shirts and badges.
'Anti' images of the future? He is toying with Iraq and the IRA. The Mud Club held a 'Saddam Hussein's Barmitzvah' in September with a giant oil well spouting oil. 'The IRA is still a bit too close. When it becomes less menacing, perhaps.
'Of course, wearing Nazi, IRA or Iraqi emblems doesn't mean you support the Nazis or terrorism, or even that you want to annoy straight society. It just means you are anti the system. I can imagine people isolated from the rest of society in a commune in Wales wearing such things, just for the sake of identity.'
Talking of Wales, his St David's Day Pagan Rites in March featured Welsh cottages and a dozen old people in Welsh costume at spinning wheels. Not the sexiest of images, I told him. I was wrong. According to Sallon, old people are freaky now. And that means fashionable.
'I actually think we're living in a period when brains are back in fashion and that wisdom partly goes with age. When we had 20- year-old girls at the spinning wheels they looked like nothing at all. But it felt right using old people. The older the better. Old fat people. Old fat women. Fat old bags with real character in their faces. Thank god there are loads of them on my friend's council estate. They're brilliant.'
Similarly with the worlds the old inhabit - Blackpool, for instance. As 'British ethnic', Blackpool is as trendy as Wales. Expect to see Mud Club invitations on Blackpool rock next month. 'Cheap and tacky: there's beauty in vulgarity. We'll have a replica of Blackpool Tower, the shitty English version of the Eiffel Tower, all lit up. And old landladies, donkey rides. Really naff.'
Scottish ethnic (the Mud Club regularly celebrates hogmanay) is particularly trendy because Scotsmen wear men's dresses. Why are men's dresses 'in'? 'That's my business. But it's not in order to look like a woman. It's not drag. If a man starts putting fake tits on, that's drag. But wearing skirts or extra-long T-shirts isn't - because it doesn't make a man's shape look like a woman's. The real drag queens of the Eighties were the women with padded shoulders.
'Aids has had a huge influence. Casual sex is no longer something beautiful that you can play around with. It's associated with death. Girls don't show their bare legs and stuff any more, they put on dark or coloured tights. Bare legs are very pre-'85. That's because of Aids.'
He will give neo-Cubism a whirl, and then there is post-modernism to be grappled with. Not to mention post-feminism. I noticed that females, though in the minority, outshone the males at the Mud Club. Towards 6am, when the garage music reached a climax, the most brilliantly costumed of them, confident young professionals, dominated the stage, elevating themselves above the less garish, more baroque males - every one a goddess for the night. When is that likely to hit the mainstream?
Before it does, being of a retiring disposition, I intend to become a trend-setter the easy way. If you see men at the Mud Club wearing fluorescent figure-hugging knee-length T-shirts with a protruding cod-piece, remember I thought of it first.
28 May 2015 12:10 AM
The PPI scandal has already cost Britain’s banks around £24 billion
15 May 2015 08:30 PM
08 May 2015 10:30 PM
13 May 2015 07:34 AM
The Tories have appointed campaigner Ros Altmann to the post
30 April 2015 07:30 PM
06 May 2015 09:39 AM
One reader’s monthly direct debit charge has been increased by 62 per cent
05 May 2015 02:09 PM
Many Londoners who live in social housing estates are not allowed to switch because their landlord has ‘locked’ them in to buying from one supplier
24 April 2015 07:30 PM
01 May 2015 12:00 AM
More than £60m was paid out to more than 2 million prizewinners this month
28 April 2015 05:20 PM
Why can’t we just have open and honest charges, without all the cross-subsiding?
28 April 2015 03:50 PM
With the pound at a high against the euro, it pays to buy now before uncertainty post-election
17 April 2015 06:00 PM
23 April 2015 12:00 AM
Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year
22 April 2015 07:29 AM
Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks
21 April 2015 09:54 AM
The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014
Tips on tipping: How and when should you give extra money for good service?
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Is it really that bad in the bond market?
The 10 Best money-saving sites
Pawn again: The rebirth of the high-street credit merchants
- 1 10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
- 2 Fifa corruption arrests: Nike reported to be 'multinational sportswear company' at centre of bribery claims over Brazil shirt deal
- 3 Facebook Messenger sends 'creepily' precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension
- 4 Photo of wedding guest proposing to girlfriend in front of bride and groom goes viral
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: it's just gravity — not a Mexican demon being summoned
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool