Updated: Jun 7
When I first started to speak about this project I was asked “Have you considered Belly or Bollywood dancers?” which is a fair enough question, but my answer was no. Not because I don’t think Bollywood or belly dancing isn’t fun. I know the later is as was once in a Belly Dance troupe - see photo, I'm on the end with the dark hair. But I answered no because the 54 girls, as I call them are all me.
Me in my imagination, I wouldn’t say an ideal me or anything as they are disproportionate with way too long legs and probably very underweight and I don’t endorse any kind of unhealthy body image (I use the fashion template purely to just show off the clothes and to add drama) The 54 girls are a cartoon version of me, who live in my head – or did do until they escaped onto paper. Some of the girls even have names, my red head alter ego is Brenda – she lives up north (England) in a seaside town. Then there is Cherry, the dark haired babe with the big perm. Cherry is a city babe from New York, a total Disco bunny! I suppose I can inflict on them all the things I wish to do or didn’t do as I wasn’t old enough like go to studio 54. I missed that by decades!
Its worth noting whilst discussing the 54 girls that, the clothing I have designed for them may not necessarily be 70’s fashions, they are based on what I see in my head. I’ve had a lot of visual influences since the 70’s and the aim of this project is to view Disco through 2021 eyes but with respect for the original guys and girls who made it all happen. Its my capturing of a perfect moment in my imagination where my passions for music and fashion collide.
But I do remember the late 70’s – I remember being taken to the cinema to see the PG version of Saturday Night Fever, I remember watching Top of the Pops religiously on a Thursday evening with Pans People who I idolized. I even remember the first appearance Debbie Harry made back in 1978 (I think) And whilst she was singing the family had a guessing game as to what the band could be called and mum guessed correctly when she said jokingly ‘blondie’ I remember Mum, and my older sisters roaring with laughter when the DJ said “And that was Blondie”.
I was a baby in the 70’s and although some of the memories are blurred, I remember the songs well. Many of those songs stayed with me all through my life even during my weird teenage years (but who doesn’t have weird teenage years?), and into my indie years where although some of these songs were deemed ‘uncool’ until everyone had a had a vodka redbull or 2 (I don’t recommend it) then these were the songs that got everyone up dancing at a after gig party!
I love Disco, and not just the songs and bands I’m told are good by white critics. I love it all! I feel A lot of Disco gets badly represented, which is why I’ve tried to distinguish from critically acclaimed songs / artists and gone with what I like. I don’t care what the Disco sucks brigade thought or do still think, as I don’t think much of them as I think that whole attitude is pretty racist and homophobic and unfortunately the view from the Disco sucks brigade has stayed with these artists in many a straight white eye.
For example Village People. Forget everything you think you know about them for 5 minutes and look at them through new eyes. A mixed raced, mixed sexuality band. led by a black man dressed as a cop! Think about it. Were they just a camp bunch of disco bunnies or was they an early statement of how life should be with all races and sexualities just getting along. As all we do in 2021 is try and get equalities for all, yet it they showed us a snippet of that back in 1977…..
This is the side of disco that gets my goat – the inequalities the judgements. Infact it gets me across all pop music. As like any art its subjective so having some music journalist tell me this is good and this is bad means diddliy squat to me. I like what I like in all forms of the arts, and whilst I am happy to listen to other points of view, I’m very unlikely to follow the herd. During my adult life, I’ve rarely been drawn to what’s in. During my teens all my friends screamed for Bros, whilst I was looking back to the 70’s again and swooning over Marc Bolan. I didn’t care that he died when I was 3 – I thought he was amazing! Marc was fun, he knew how to play at being a be a popstar.
I’m doing the same thing, I’m playing at being a party girl, dancer even pop star / musician with this 54 project and whilst I’d like my 54 project to be viewed as fun, frivolous and glamorous. I’d also like it to open up a conversations about Disco, its origins, its treatment, its longevity and its artists and how it has transformed over the years. Along with remembering a simpler time before Aids and Covid popped up and we all lived out lives attached to our phones even when at gigs and nightclubs – when we were allowed to.
This project is my fantasy land, that came to me during the first UK Covid lockdown of Spring 2020. My fantasy club became my daily escapism from all the fear and sadness bought about by Covid. I suppose I ventured back to a time where I felt safe, when I could go to a club, gig or museum. I call it the 54 collection as a nod to the legendary New York Disco of that name however in my head it is a mixture of clubs both imaginary and real and not necessarily studio 54 at all. My imaginary club is a mix of 1970’s and today. I don’t remember enough of the 70’s to do an authentic 70’s collection, I can only do a bit of a pastiche. However mixing it up and creating something new is far more exciting than copying or trying to copy what came before. I’m no historian for a start, just a fan girl with a huge imagination, and this 54 collection is the perfect moment in my mind where my passion for music, fashion and dance all meet under a glittering disco ball.
I urge all of you to check out the songs I’ve painted and indulge in some nostalgia, or to be inspired by them or just enjoy them, and I’d love to hear what colours you see – how would you move to the track? What are you wearing? Tell my anything and everything as I’d love to know!