Words by: Christine Pasqueralle
Sid Vicious, Debbie Harry, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, these names are synonymous with the creation of punk rock music and its distinctive fashion aesthetic. From the early, gritty days in 1970s New York and London to its evolution into a worldwide high-fashion trend, punk has transcended both place and time. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts new exhibit PUNK: Chaos to Couture, which opens May 9, tracks this evolution while highlighting many of the key events and players in the world of punk music and fashion.
The show will delve into the differences between New York and London punk; New York punk being remembered as an artistic and intellectual movement, while in London, punk was a political and economic rebellion. In the midst of all of this counterculture stood 430 Kings Road, where Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood owned a shop that would define punk as we know it today. Their artistic vision has continued to inspire decades of designers, from Jean Paul Gaultier to Alexander McQueen, looking to instill the spirit of punk in their creations.
Thinking back, so many designers have co-opted many iconic trends from this look over the years. Safety pins and studs, rips and tears and graffiti all have that do-it-yourself aesthetic in common, one that also lends itself to the idea of haute couture.
Curator Andrew Bolton states, I think whats interesting about the relationship between punk and high fashion or couture is the fact that both really rely on hand-crafted skills for the aesthetic. So in a way punk clothing is haute couture usually only one person in the world would be wearing a jacket that was self-customized by the individual. Even though the aesthetic is often widely different between haute couture and punk, the ethos behind it is very similar. The exhibit will focus on the relationship between punks DIY attitude and coutures made-to-measure concept.
One of the most famous examples of this is Gianni Versaces safety-pin dress, worn by Liz Hurley at a 1994 movie premiere, which will be featured in the exhibit. The world is still talking about this dress, and Lady Gaga even recently resurrected it. Many original pieces from the 1970s will also be displayed, juxtaposed with more recent examples from directional fashion designers. This juxtaposition helps illustrate the relationship between punk in its heyday and high fashions appropriation of its visual symbols today. The exhibit will be divided into seven galleries featuring period music videos and audio, creating a multisensory experience. Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Rodarte, Prada, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Stephen Sprouse, Zandra Rhodes, Junya Watanabe, Miguel Adrover and many more fashion icons will be featured.
PUNK: Chaos to Couture invites you to step inside the worlds of punk legends such as Johnny Rotten and his rip-it-to-shreds spirit, and Sid Vicious, whose wearing of items such as spikes, safety pins and razor blades has become iconic in its own right. As Burton says, Once you walk through the exhibition, hopefully youll realize how punk has had such an explosive effect, both on the music styles and fashion today, but also an approach to culture in general. Couldnt have said it better myself.