Super Sharp at the Fashion Space Gallery

  • Photography  Courtesy of Super Sharp
  • Words  Abi Buller
Super Sharp is the first in a series of exhibitions and events that explore the styles, sounds and cultures associated with the nineties rave scene. Executed by independent curator Tory Turk and Chase & Status’s Saul Milton, documents the era and elicits a collective sense of nostalgia. An appreciation of cultures and an eclectic mix of Italian luxury designers became synonymous with this decade’s preference for Jungle and UK garage. Initially emerging in South London, with roots in 1980s New York, the musical scene imbued an air of rebellion and a style of dance that became iconic of the clubbing attitude of the time. The culture of this scene created an image of UK subcultures which has seen a recent re-emergence in popularity, offering the opportunity to present the stories from this era to a new generation.
What motivated the decision to curate the exhibition, Super Sharp?

Saul Milton: In 2014 Tory curated an exhibition called ‘A Streetstyle Journey’, where she asked key influencers to style mannequins for particular subcultures. I styled the jungle mannequin in the full ‘Lips’ print Moschino 3 piece.

Tory Turk: It was then that Saul told me about his Moschino collection and that he’d love to discuss an exhibition that explored the jungle style further. I went and saw Saul’s collection, which at the time was over 1,000 pieces, and it blew my mind. It was an absolute treasure trove for a curator. We have been working on the exhibition’s concept ever since.

Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill
Why do you think luxury Italian brands came to be associated with the music scene of the 1990s?

SM: I think it was multi-layered. Peacocking and showing your worth by wearing designer labels on your back went hand in hand with the time. Designer labels certainly weren’t the norm for the youth to wear so having Moschino or Versace for all to see was a big statement. The loud, brash colours and patterns were also very much in sync with the music & the vibe of it all. If you wore certain designers then there was a large chance that you’d be at the rave with the other like-minded people. The labels became our uniform for all to see.

How were you able to communicate the importance of luxury fashion to the music scene in the 1990s throughout this work?

TT: The actual vintage garments take centre stage in the exhibition. At Super Sharp, a special selection of garments from Saul’s archive will be on display. The exhibition gives people the opportunity to experience the physical garments, their cultural importance and impact is then further enhanced by the music tracks and testimonials that accompany the display.

What was involved in the curation process from initial idea to final selection of works? How did you ensure the exhibition included the journey from Jungle and UK Garage music scenes to the shift in culture it initiated?

TT: Super Sharp is the first instalment in the RTRN II JUNGLE exhibition series. This introductory exhibition is a taster for a much wider exploration of jungle culture. It was commissioned by the Fashion Space Gallery situated in the London college of Fashion so the exhibition must also be accessible to an audience that wouldn’t have necessarily experienced the scenes first-hand. Super Sharp explores a style trend that is experiencing a resurgence today; an obsession with designer labels that was made famous by garage music in the late 90s, but was actually instigated by jungle ravers earlier in the decade. In the exhibition, changes in the 90s era are narrated by people who were actually lived through the raving style. The exhibition starts the story in the early 90s.

Photograph by Mark Alesky, taken at club night ‘Thunder & Joy’ held at RAW, December 1994.

Can you describe some of the other projects involved in RTRN II Jungle and how they came about?

SM: 2018 marks 15 years of Chase & Status & this year we return to our roots. The next instalment is the RTRN II JUNGLE exhibition which carries on where Super Sharp left off and will delve deeper into the ties between street, style and culture and will house my entire 1500 piece vintage Moschino collection. We also have DJ tours, documentaries and music being released all under the RTRN II JUNGLE banner.

What does the photography communicate about this era in terms of both fashion and music?

TT: There is a section in the exhibition called ‘Bravado’. This section includes around 50 photographs taken by Tristan O’Neill in the mid to late 90s. The large display of club photos show the energy in the jungle rave – people dancing, posing and peacocking head-to-toe in designer garments. The photos reveal how style and music collided in the jungle raves to create a ‘jungalist’ identity, full of attitude and bravado.

Club night ‘Heat’ held at Hastings Pier, May 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill
Goldie at the ‘VIP Awards’ for Jungle artists, winner of Best Album, 1996

Why do you still continue to collect Moschino pieces and what does the brand mean to you?

SM: I think that the very essence of being a collector is exactly that – why do I still continue? When do you stop as a collector? There’s always that piece to find, that other colour way etc. There are downtimes where I’m not actively searching as much but it’s always there. Aside from that I still collect vintage Moschino because I still love it and it what it meant to me. The era I collect is predominantly the 90’s and clothes that you would have seen at the raves and clubs which is something that will always resonate with me./text]

What is the relevance of communicating this era of music and fashion in 2018?

SM: I think we’re in a very similar climate to the 90s – uncertainty, unrest and a feeling that a change is in the air. In these times people always turn to music and fashion and that’s usually when the most ground breaking and forward thinking music is made. The kids today look back at the 90s and want to experience ‘it’ themselves and they put their own twist on it; they see the style and they make it their own. Everything’s come back around.

Club night ‘One Nation’, September 1997, photograph by Tristan O’Neill
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