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How fashion got Punk'd

The inspiration behind the Met’s new punk exhibit

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”Punk has had more of an impact on fashion than any other subcultural movement,” says Andrew Bolton, curator of PUNK: Chaos to Couture, the Costume Institute’s new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Aug. 14; metmuseum.org). From New York City’s underground clubs to the streets of London and the runways of Paris, here’s a look at how the ’70s punk movement caused a sartorial revolution.

CLOTHES FOR HEROES

Production designer Gideon Ponte re-created Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop at 430 King’s Road — known in the late ’70s as Seditionaries — for the Met exhibit. ”The store was half empty, but it’s the people who start these radical things,” says Ponte. ”It was a scene.”

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN OF PUNK

”The seeds of the look were planted in New York, but Malcolm McLaren took it back to London and gave it a British spin,” says curator Andrew Bolton. Upon his return to Cool Britannia, McLaren launched the Sex Pistols and inspired partner Vivienne Westwood to begin designing clothes that were both theatrical and politically subversive.

ART AND COMMERCE

Perhaps unwittingly, the Sex Pistols created a market for manifesto T-shirts and bondage pants. ”I think they were aware that it was all about self-presentation,” Bolton says of the unlikely style icons. ”Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten were extraordinary in terms of their individuality, but punk really was a commercial movement.”

DIY GOES HAUTE

From Gianni Versace’s safety-pin dress — which put a then-unknown Elizabeth Hurley on the fashion map in 1994 — to garbage-bag gowns from Gareth Pugh’s fall 2013 collection, contemporary items in the exhibit are meant to show how the fashion industry has co-opted the do-it-yourself sensibilities of punk-era street style.

PUNK: CHAOS TO COUTURE

With essays by Richard Hell, John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), and Jon Savage, the PUNK: Chaos to Couture exhibit catalog illustrates how creative forces like the Ramones, Gary Wilson, and Jayne County have influenced such avant-garde designers as Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Thom Browne, and Junya Watanabe. ”High fashion largely happens as conspicuous consumption among the arrogant, smug wealthy,” Hell writes. ”On the other hand, clothes are interesting…couture often beautiful.”

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