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POP! Design. Culture. Fashion 1956-1976: Review

July 10, 2012

ArtsFashion | by Danny & Josh


A grand 25 years in the making, this all-in cumbersome exhibition, POP! Design. Culture. Fashion. for more reasons than one demands your visit this summer.

Celebrating the years between 1956-1976, organisers Richard Chamberlain and Geoff Rayner pay homage to the years that gave us Rock ‘n’ Roll, Pop culture, James Dean, mini-skirts, Barbarella, Woodstock, and The Sex Pistols. Organised and hosted by London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, the exhibition puts into clear perspective the chronological order of cultural events on which so much of today’s culture is based. As the museum’s curator, Dennis Nothdruft states- “The exhibition provides new insight into twenty years of popular culture from one of the most comprehensive private collection of design and fashion.”


 A mish-mash of blues, swinging beats, and classic rock ‘n’ roll pulsate the gallery rooms. Wall plaques explain the outstanding birth and explosion of youth culture in the late 1950s, which essentially created a whole new age group between childhood and adulthood.  This ‘youthquake’ completely redefined leisure activities of this group now known as teenagers. Seen as rebellious, sexual, wild, and ignorant, the boom was accompanied by a surge of media from icons such as Elvis Presley, Andy Warhol, Martin Luther King, London Mods, and Vivienne Westwood. No longer wanting to be silenced, political upheaval and instability- such as the Civil Rights movement, The Cold War, The Vietnam War, and the UK debt crisis, angered and stimulated many of the youth movements during this time.

Thankfully enough if a 1980s or later birth means you missed the boat on this fabulous era, POP! will surely get you up to speed, intoxicate you, and have you going home to watch Blackboard Jungle, and buy a pair of Go Go boots. Not skipping a beat that pulsed, both Rayner and Chamberlain have managed to include a vast amount of visual and audible material to make the experience all the more exciting. From Twiggy Tights, John Lewis originals, media posters, patent vinyl raincoats, Carnaby Street collectives, and a studded Punk leather biker jacket, the only thing missing are the icons themselves.

Running in conjunction with the exhibition itself is the release of Rayner, Chamberlain, and Annamarie Stapleton’s co-authored book- POP!- an impressive coffee table book explaining the impact of music, art, and fashion design of the times. For Chamberlain, the 60s and 70s was “A time when fashion loosened up” and experimentation was made. However, sadly now places such as Carnaby Street, once social and cultural hubs of creativity, “Have had the sap sucked out of them”, laments Chamberlain, forever rendering the events of the 60s and 70s as nostalgic history.


POP! is running from 6th July 2012- 27th October 2012 at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum.

Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm; last admission 5:15pm

Ticket prices: £7 adults; £5 students and concessions, free entry for under 12s.


By Stephanie Kukulka