Inspired by... blog

10 posts categorized "Music"

19 November 2014

From Street Goth to Health Goth: why Goth fashion never dies

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Written by our guest blogger Geraldine Wharry, known for her Future Trend consultancy based in London and inspiration sharing platform Trend Atelier, with clients ranging from WGSN to Samsung. We asked her to research the influence of gothic on fashion, to tie in with our current exhibition: Terror and Wonder, the Gothic Imagination. You can see more Gothic articles here and also on the Library's Gothic Pinterest board. This is what Geraldine told us.

The Goth subculture and style permutations associated with it have continuously held their place in fashion since the seventies. Weaving in and out of different influences, it’s a difficult group to pin down to one defined aesthetic but what has remained consistent is the Goth’s love for the undead and all things dark and macabre, with different offshoots ranging from Steam Punk to Japanese street style. It’s a fashion medley embracing Victorian influences just as much as Science Fiction and at times pink hair, making it a very rich subject to follow as a trend forecaster. The most evident glue between High fashion and the Goth subculture is the theatrical drama essential to its backdrop.

Street Goth

More recently, Goth fashion has entered the realm of street wear and hip-hop culture with designers such as Rick Owens, Alexander Wang and Hood By Air leading the way. Paris-based American designer Rick Owens, the most pivotal to this latest interpretation of Goth style, has his own cult following which includes rapper A$ap Rocky. With coveted sneaker namesake designs and signature long line tees, it wasn’t long before the Rick Owens look made a great impact on the entire hip hop world. By early 2013, the term Street Goth made it big on the fashion scene and was adopted by the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Jay-Z.


What is interesting about Rick Owens’s influence on street wear is the paradox. Whilst dark and macabre, his collections have an introspective and monastic quality, a far cry from hip-hop’s usual bling and swagger. Owens is most famous for his cloak shapes inspired by the monk’s “habit” which he reworks into sculptural creations, layered and wrapped silhouettes which can evoke Frankenstein’s bride’s dress. His cultural references are far more complex, but some interesting links are worth highlighting such as the makeup used in his Spring Summer 2015 collection, reminiscent of Japanese Butoh dancers, known as “the dance of darkness”. Rick Owens has been able to combine such references with street culture, making a big statement with American dance crew “Step with Momentum” who modeled his Spring Summer 2014 collection whilst crumping and stomping. The link with music and self-expression is prevalent in Street Goth style with one group standing out - which could also be compared to Frankenstein and his bride– Die Antwoord the South African counterculture rave group often connected with designer Alexander Wang.


More recent fashion labels are emerging out of New York’s scene such as Hood By Air’s, designed by Shayne Oliver who brings an anarchist and warrior quality to his collections inspired by a fallen hero, civil protest and street warfare. In line with HBA and Alexander Wang in New York, Nasir Mazhar in London, street wear labels are replacing dominant logos with messages around death, oblivion and anger - all within a black and white palette.



Ninja Goth

There is a Ninja fighter quality to street Goth style, one we could also link to Samurai armours because of the silhouette. One of the key aspects to the Street Goth “uniform” is multiple layering and skirt length tees, shorts or skirts worn over skinny pants, in line with Rick Owens’s cloak like proportions mentioned earlier. Mixing surfaces, juxtaposing matte and shine with leather, jersey – even sheer fabrications – gives the monochromatic look more textural dimension. Interestingly this trend, originally led by menswear is now being picked up in Womenswear as seen in Yamamoto’s recent Adidas Y3 Spring Summer 2015 collection. Street Goth taps into youth culture, the pull between good and evil and expressing discontent, with underlying themes of urban warfare. We can also link the use of leather and elongated silhouettes with motorcycle clothing as well as cult movie character Blade, a half vampire-half mortal fighting evil.



Health Goth

There has always been an intimate relationship between athletic clothing and street wear, therefore it wasn’t long and somewhat of a natural progression for Street Goth to influence the sports and health industry. In itself this could be seen as ironic as we don’t usually associate Goths with a healthy glow. Could the Health Goth movement be about toning your body in the most emotional, melancholic way possible? This is not the case according to Health Goth Facebook page creators Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott (the latter not to be confused with the fashion designer). Health Goth combines subcultural including Goth and cyber punk with the mainstream world of sport, bringing Goth fashion into a whole new context, tying itself to “Accelerationist aesthetics” a movement which looks at how subcultures can develop in our capitalist society, whilst subverting its visual codes – in this case Nike and Adidas.

One of the attendees at our recent talk “The New Black: from subculture to high culture“ at the British Library pointed out that Health Goth also originated from the need to sustain a lifestyle of clubbing and nocturnal habits. The fact is the media is jumping on the new term “Health Goth”, emboldened by the trend for dark monochromatic athletic gear and irony of comparing macabre aesthetics with Yoga clothing. Only time will tell how this trend will evolve as we see Goth fashion continue to navigate seamlessly from one style category to another.




04 November 2014

Interview with music writer Zoë Howe on The Slits and The Jesus and Mary Chain Story

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Music writer Zoë Howe has used our collections to research many of her books, from Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits to Barbed Wire Kisses - The Jesus and Mary Chain Story. I got in touch with her to find out her story.

Zoe Howe

Image: Ian Treherne 

Hi Zoë. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello! I’m a music biographer and I am in the process of writing my ninth book to date (or tenth, if you count the rock ’n’ roll novel in the drawer). My books include: Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits, ‘How’s Your Dad?' Living In The Shadow Of A Rock Star Parent, Wilko Johnson - Looking Back At Me, Florence + The Machine - An Almighty Sound, Barbed Wire Kisses - The Jesus and Mary Chain Story, Stevie Nicks - Visions, Dreams and Rumours and I co-authored British Beat Explosion- Rock ’n’ Roll Island, a book that celebrates Eel Pie Island’s place in music history.

I also write sleeve notes and biogs for artists on request, very occasionally pen things for magazines and sites including The Quietus and Play the drums.

The book I’m working on right now is about much-missed Dr Feelgood frontman Lee Brilleaux.

Zoe Howe 2

Image: Ian Treherne 

Can you tell us how you did your research for your book ‘Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus and Mary Chain Story’ at the Library? Did you find anything surprising in the archive?

I actually started to use the British Library when I was working on my first book about The Slits, but that time would set the blueprint for how I would continue to work on non-fiction - I love to work from home, but I knew I could lay my hand on anything I needed at the library in terms of research materials. Going online for information is never enough, but at that time, hard as it is to believe now, there really was quite a limited amount of information online about The Slits anyway, comparatively speaking. I also prefer pages to screens wherever possible. So I really valued being able to dive into the archives of music papers (I’m obsessed with old music papers anyway) and get a sense of historical context as well as adding to the information I’d garnered from interviews.

I used the collection in pretty much the same way subsequently, for ‘Barbed Wire Kisses - The Jesus and Mary Chain Story’. There was more information about the Mary Chain out there than there was about The Slits, but as I say, with research, you can always go further. Time is often an issue, of course, so sometimes you can only do so much, but any time spent at the BL in this way is well spent; it’s such an incredible resource that it’s like opening a casket of treasure, all of that information, all of those articles, even tiny news stories, some of which might not have been read since they were published! Those are the jewels that I’m looking for; there might just be one scrap of information that sheds some light on something you’ve been puzzling over, clarifies a date that no one can quite remember, or displays a perspective that, thanks to hindsight, has either been forgotten or morphed into something completely different over time. It’s painstaking but worth it.

What is strange about working this way is that it’s so intense, and I spend so many hours reading music paper after music paper from the time that I’m writing about that, if those are the only papers you’re actually reading every day, you have to keep reminding yourself that this isn’t actually 1978, 1985 or whatever. I’d find myself flicking through the pages and after a while the bondage trousers advertised in the back of the NME would start to look increasingly appealing, or I’d suddenly get excited: “Ooh, Echo and the Bunnymen have got a show coming up at the…. ok, hang on…” Weird bubble to live inside, but also strangely enjoyable. Basically, thanks to your collection, considering the theory that perception is reality, I was living through the 1980s again, immersed in the pop world, but also safe in the knowledge that Thatcher wasn’t actually in charge any more.

Zoe Howe 3.jpg

Do you have any tips for writers who want to use the British Library’s archive?

YES. Eat something substantial before you go in to start your research, because, obviously, you can’t take food in, but you can’t exactly nip out and grab something if you’ve set up your laptop and chargers and the papers you’ve finally found. Some of the blood sugar lows I have suffered in there have been monumental. I still associate using the library with feeling light-headed and weird, although that might just be me.

Last question. What are you working on next?

Thank you for asking, I am in the midst of working on a new book about the phenomenal singer and all round rock ’n’ roll gentleman Lee Brilleaux, which I’m very excited about. I get very excited about all of the books I work on, it wouldn’t be too good to basically spend about two years (if you’re lucky) with these characters living in your head (and sometimes keeping you up at night) if you weren’t passionate about them, of course, but the Lee project is particularly close to my heart.

You can find out more about Zoë on her website


21 October 2014

Top picks from the British Library’s Gothic season

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Alongside our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition, we’re running a packed programme of spooky talks, workshops and a fabulous Halloween LATE. Here are some of my favourites.

Terror and Wonder: Curator-led Tours
Tue 7 Oct 2014 – Thu 15 Jan 2015
Meet our curators and have a personal tour around the exhibition.

Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat: Midnight Book Launch
Wed 29 Oct 2014, 22:00
The Queen of the Undead is back, with her first Vampire Chronicle in over a decade – marking the return of one of the most popular vampires of all time. This is a very rare event: you’ll get to explore our Gothic exhibition after dark, meet author Anne Rice and as the clock strikes midnight, receive your copy of her new book, Prince Lestat.


Late at the Library: The Sorting
Fri 31 Oct 2014, 19:30
A funeral-inspired experience with macabre performances, music, DJs, bar and a late night opening of the exhibition. You are invited to be the guest of honour at an extraordinary funeral: your own! You’ll have an appointment at the funeral parlour with our local undertaker. Run in partnership with award-wining theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles.

The art of the 'Gothic' album sleeve
Sun 9 Nov 2014, 11:45
Hear from two of the world's most talented and prolific graphic artists, Dave McKean and Vaughan Oliver, sharing a platform for the first time to discuss their work on album covers. Dave also created our exhibition artwork. Read his interview here.


The New Black: from subculture to high culture
Sun 9 Nov 2014, 13:45
Fashion historian, DJ and writer Amber Jane Butchart chairs a panel of innovative designers who are inspired by everything gothic, including Nange Magro, an Italian-Japanese fashion designer and founder of DeadLotusCouture, who has a passion for electronic fashion (and latex).

07 October 2013

Inspired by... vinyl records

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Did you know that the British Library has over 240,000 LPs? I doubt you even know that we have vinyl records. Our collection is an absolute treasure trove for vinyl junkies, music lovers and creatives. BBC Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft said "If ever there's a nuclear war I'm coming here [to the British Library] with a portable record deck." Lauren Laverne, I bet you’ve never broadcast your show from a library – can we be the first?

Despite the advent of digital recording, vinyl records and their covers retain the power to inspire those in the creative industries, from artists to film makers, musicians and graphic designers. So we’re hosting another Inspired by… show and tell event for creatives to find out more about our enormous collections (in the past we’ve featured maps, zines, artists books and prints and drawings).

Andy Linehan, the Library’s Curator of Popular Music, looks at the history of the album and digs into our archive to bring out a selection of rare and iconic LPs. Click here for more information and to book – it’s FREE!  

One guy who knows our vinyl collection well is Darrel Sheinman, founder of Kings Cross-based Gearbox Records. He regularly uses the Library’s music collection to research the history of musical outputs, whether it has been released before, and the ability to licence. He uses our Listening Service to play records. (As a Reader, you can hear any item from our archive of published and unpublished music recordings using this service.)

Darrel has been able to source interesting pieces of music and compile sleeve notes, recording dates and places. This has helped to develop the label, bringing many hidden treasures in jazz and blues to the attention of the public.

He could not have done this research without the Library’s collection and help from staff, Darrel says, “The support is very personal and the knowledge is deep as to where all the references are. For such a big library, this is impressive.”

The titles below were released by Gearbox Records using British Library resources.




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28 August 2013

Interview with Blonde + Ginger - Womenswear fashion brand

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Every time I meet fashion designers I always ask where they get their inspiration. It isn't often that a library is listed but after I tell them about all the amazing collections at the British Library - vintage knitting patterns, silk embroidered book covers, Japanese woodblock prints, British Vogue magazines from 1916 to today, plus free business advice - they're always surprised and interested in visiting. Here Elizabeth Carrick, fashion designer and founder of womenswear brand Blonde + Ginger, tells us about her inspirations and business challenges.


Where do you find inspiration for your designs?   

Colours that you see around you in nature, paintings, photography, street signs - something can just jump out at you as being a great colour combination, shape or form. Sometimes a beautiful piece of fabric or a colour can be the inspiration for your whole collection.

Digital content can be good too as it will spark your imagination visually but touching and feeling fabrics, seeing how they hang, fit and drape helps to understand what you can create.

Listening to music often gets me thinking about a mood or a feeling I want to create with my designs. 

We’ve got a great music collection at the Library like skiffle recordings from the 1950s that inspired bands like Led Zeppelin, The Hollies and The Beatles. Have you used the Library’s collection for inspiration? 

I have used many libraries for sources of material but I was not aware of the wealth of inspiration that there is at the British Library!

Now you know! So, your limited edition products are Made in Britain – what does that mean to you? How important is it to work with local businesses?

In my previous job I had the privilege to work with manufacturers all over the world.  Many of them are very clever, talented teams of people, creating lovely garments. Different countries offer different skills. India make the most beautiful hand embroideries, Turkey is great for tailoring and denim however I felt frustrated at the lack of companies and brands in the UK not using our own talented manufacturers.

It is normally due to the higher prices and lack of being able to produce big volumes, that make companies go further afield to produce. However by making in Britain I am able to oversee more easily my production and the fit and finish of the garments is second to none.  I feel proud at the high quality our country can produce.  I am not a fan of mass produced fashion as it feels less special to wear.


What has been your biggest challenge as a small business?

Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business and I feel natural in doing this but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best. Marketing for me is my biggest challenge so I listen to others for ideas and advice and make sure I do bits everyday.

Lastly, you took part in PopUp Piccadilly, what kind of feedback did you get?

It is great getting feedback from customers and seeing their reaction to your clothes, especially as I sell my label on-line. I have also had the chance to meet with buyers from boutiques and the press so it is a great way of getting your label out there.

Speaking with other designers in the same position as yourself can be really motivating and encouraging too. You are able to share experiences and tips and you realise you are not alone in some of your struggles.

The British Library Business & IP Centre offers tons of support for creative businesses:
Fashion forecasting workshop
Marketing masterclass
Webinar - Social media for businesses 


Images courtesy of Blonde + Ginger

26 July 2013

Tom Ravenscroft - A short film about vinyl

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"If ever there's a nuclear war I'm coming here with a portable record deck." Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft visits the British Library basement and talks about our huge vinyl collection in this video with Noisey Music by VICE.  Also featured is DJ Thristian Richards of the popular online music project Boiler Room.


DJs who've made noise at the Library:

DJs Alexis, Al and Felix (Hot Chip)
DJ Princess Julia
DJ Ritu
Mr Scruff

Who would you want to hear DJ an event at the Library? Let me know @BL_Creative

18 March 2013

LATE at the Library: Fashion Flashback

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The highlight of the year for us in the creative industries here at the Library has just finished. Our Spring Festival was a massive success, seeing over 1,400 creatives excitedly running through the Library to our crazy (for us at least!) events.

Fashion show 2


Our biggest and boldest event was LATE at the Library: Fashion Flashback. For months we’ve been organising this with some very talented Central Saint Martins students on the Fashion History and Theory BA course. The event was unlike anything the Library has ever done or seen before and involved many-a famous fashion industry experts, such as Dylan Jones, the editor of GQ, Giles Deacon, fashion designer and Julie Verhoeven, fashion illustrator.


If you missed it, you will have missed the chance to have a make over by Chantecaille make up brand for women, hair styling for men by Pall Mall Barbers, having your portrait drawn by talented fashion illustrators from Central Saint Martins, being able to record your memorable night in our photo booth and many more really fun activities. Fashion print students from Central Saint Martins also created a fantastic paper fashion show inspired by the Library’s collections, including the Russian and Japanese ones. The striking models were played in and out by DJs Princess Julia and Jeffrey Hinton.

Fashion show


We wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone from Central Saint Martins and the Library who made it all possible and we’re already looking forward to seeing what new ideas we can come up with for next year!


Take a look at and feel free to share our video and pictures of the night and check out our blog on how the Library can help fashion designers and researchers.

13 March 2013

A new entertainment industry resource at the British Library

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New Image

Good news! A new database is being added to our free resources here at the Library and it’s one that I know I’ll be making particular use of.

The Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive 1880-2000 is an exclusive database containing trade, press and fan magazines, which cover film, music, theatre, television and radio. This means that the titles don’t just discuss what’s happening in the different industries in terms of business and economics but also reviews, interviews with major artists, photographs and illustrations, all in their original context and format.

Some particularly famous titles that can be accessed are The Stage, from 1880 – 2000, Melody Maker, from 1926 – 2000 and Picturegoer (1911 – 1960). You can access a full list of the publications and their dates on the database website, which can be accessed on site at the Library.

It’s not just for research from an academic or professional point of view; I found it really interesting to see what the entertainment industry was like in previous years and how it’s changed. You can see how something in the industry was received at the time rather than how we think of it now. I might even swap my new weekly copy of NME for one of the originals!

Anyone who has a Reader Pass can see the database in our Reading Rooms at St Pancras. Find out how to get a Pass.