NEW YORK, United States — With their black leather, studded jackets, ripped jeans, bondage trousers and messages of rebellion and anarchy, punks from the 1970s probably never envisioned that a major museum would be celebrating their influence on fashion 40 years later.
But the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing just that with a new exhibition, “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” that opens on May 9 and runs through August 14.
It includes 100 punk styles and ranges from the mid-70s at Vivienne Westwood’s and Malcolm McLaren’s London boutique and images of The Sex Pistols to examples of punk’s impact on haute couture and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Helmut Lang, Miuccia Prada and John Galliano.
Films and music from the era and a re-creation of the graffiti-covered toilet at New York’s CBGB punk rock club, where Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads played, add to the gritty authenticity of the exhibit.
“Punk was all about celebrating the individual, celebrating creativity and not being afraid – to be brave in your self-presentation and to be brave in your fashion statement,” Andrew Bolton, the curator of the exhibit, said in an interview.
“Punk was all about challenging the status quo,” he added. “I think all those elements very much impacted fashion.”
ORIGINALITY AND INDIVIDUALITY
Thomas P. Campbell, the director and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, described punk as “a tale of two cities, New York and London.”
The exhibit, arranged over seven themed galleries, focuses on punk’s concept of do-it-yourself and its impact on high fashion and ready-to-wear.
No other cultural movement has had a similar impact on fashion, according to Bolton, who added that designers engage with punk on different level.
Shirts emblazoned with “God Save the Queen,” “Anarchy in the UK” and “Anarchist Punk Gang – The 1% ers” from Westwood’s 1970s Seditionaries boutique are testament to punk’s political message and desire to shock and provoke.
Torn clothing and garments incorporating chicken bones, tin studs, metal chains, bottle tops, horsehair, safety pins and other types of hardware show punk’s do-it-yourself ethos and its themes of deconstruction and destruction.
“I think it is rather stunning. There are a lot of collector’s items,” British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, who was nicknamed the “princess of punk,” said about the show.
“The most amazing thing that you spot from this exhibition is, in fact, that you have the street-edge stuff. You have it edited into couture … But then you have the amazing Japanese seeing it with another eye … turning it into a totally new art form,” she added.
Punk’s influence on Italian designer Gianni Versace is shown in his gowns with silver and gold safety pins and a black knit and leather dress embroidered with gold metal studs.
Other examples include Alexander McQueen’s coatdress made of black synthetic material, imitating trash bags, and a coat of bubble wrap, Helmut Lang’s jacket of silver and blue patent leather with aluminum foil and metal bottle caps and Rei Kawakubo’s blouse and skirt of black polyester and silk satin and taffeta.
“Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness,” Bolton said.
Editing by Jim Loney