Meet anyone who grew up raving and you'll know about it. Instantly. They'll tell you about always getting their bloody Wallabees covered in peat, traipsing through endless fields to reach a free party. Or that time they didn't go to sleep for 57 hours and went temporarily blind. Or the time their post-rave convoy got stopped by the police and they all got out and danced and it was super chill, until they all got arrested for possession and had to come down in a cell.
But what have the majority of these people taken from their experiences, besides a few blurry memories and decades of brain zaps?
Becky Dodman, a knitwear designer and lecturer in BA (Hons) Fashion at Plymouth College of Art, has harnessed the memories of teenage years – spent raving along the south coast of England – into a new collection of psychedelic knitwear.
The collection, titled "Metamorphosis", explores themes of transformation, inspired by Franz Kafka's book of the same name. Becky was eager to look back at her transformative experiences during the 90s rave scene, remembering the fluidity of colour, music and energy that transported her and other ravers to another universe.
I had a chat with her about it all.
VICE: Was just actively remembering all your old experiences a big part of the research process?
Becky Dodman: Yeah, definitely. It's quite a personal journey. The 90s rave scene was about dressing up and being really out there with what we were wearing. We were music focused – huge crowds of people getting together and being very energetic, and there was a huge amount of freedom in that.
Where were you going out?
I was still in Plymouth and we used to go to this club called Dance Academy or another called Oz. It was hard house music and there were always hundreds of people queuing to get in. We used to get some really good DJs coming down – Carl Cox used to play a lot. There used to be loads of raves on the moors you could go to; we were partying inside the clubs and outside of them, and we used to drive up to Yeovil for the underground scene up there.
What did your clubbing outfits look like?
We used to wear silver mini-skirts and big fluffy boots. It was fairly minimal dress and wearing dummies round the neck. It was a really creative clothing process – I would be creating things to wear, usually neckpieces, fairly simply at that point. It had always been about the bright colours and big pieces.
Was getting ready a big part of your going out ritual?
Yeah, all fashion is related to identity, and your identity changed from going to work Monday to Friday to being suited and booted on the weekend. There was quite a close-knit group of girls and we would all meet at someone's house and be somebody different for the weekend. It was great.
Do you find knitting and psychedelic inspirations work well together?
Absolutely. I've absolutely been motivated by colour – the choice you have as a knitter is huge, in terms of the types of yarn that you can use and the colours that you use, and I'm really interested in combining and exploring how you can combine colours together. Ultimately you have complete freedom; you're knitting with a single strand of yarn, so how you then translate that into knitwear is really exciting and I just enjoy that process. I love working with colour – I find it really therapeutic and meditative.
The collection is called Metamorphosis. Would you say going to a rave is a metamorphic process?
Yeah, definitely, transforming through music, you're dancing and you're acting differently. The music scene was full on back then, so it did kind of transform you. It's tribal dancing, if you like. I'm really interested in that idea of people being in a tribe and tribal-ness en masse – it was really exciting.
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I know you've explored pagan and tribal rituals in your work; would you say there are obvious parallels between them and raving?
I think it's about how people gather together. In the 90s it was that movement of people gathering en masse to dance, so it was quite a powerful time for me as a teenager. When you start looking into Charles Fréger's work with photography – he's a big influence in terms of the aesthetics I've used – he's done some great work travelling across Europe. capturing interesting costumes where people transform through ritualistic dances and practices. This summer I went to Stonehenge and saw the summer solstice in, and it wasn't obviously a huge dance thing, but it was that tribal idea of people gathering en masse. Elements of all those things made me think about what I was doing with my own tribal practices all those years ago.
Do you ever speak to your students about rave culture now?
No, I don't; I focus on design processes. We have a lot of discussion about starting points and inspiration. I've been very frank and honest about aspects of my inspiration with my students, from the photography side to literature to the rave scene when I was younger. But we definitely listen to music, a mix between what the students enjoy and the electronic music I listen to. They seem to appreciate the processes I have. It's a very positive working environment.
For my next collection I'm focusing on technology a lot more. A friend of mine has just hacked a knit machine, so I can take a picture of your face and then we can translate that into pixel art, so we can knit your face. For me that's really exciting!
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