London has been the epicentre of so many youthquakes over the years that it’s a wonder the city still stands. Punk’s durability supports the notion that it was the most powerful.
Decades after its ground zero—12 months which straddled the years 1976 and 1977—its aftershocks continue to be felt everywhere, from dive bars to opera stages, from street to salon. Some kind of museum show was always inevitable, so we’re probably lucky that it’s taking place at New York’s Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute, where curator Andrew Bolton has a natural instinct for pop cultural watersheds.
“PUNK: Chaos to Couture” takes the broadest transatlantic view of punk’s history, but if the substance of the saga owes a substantial debt to New York pioneers such as Richard Hell and the Ramones, the exhibition also makes it quite clear that the style of punk in its finest early flowering was all about London, particularly with the clothes fashioned by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood as a gleeful assault on any kind of convention you care to name.
“Clothes for Heroes” read the label at Seditionaries, McLaren and Westwood’s store on the King’s Road, and more than three decades on, those clothes have well and truly transcended the banal ripped’n’torn, safety-pinned clichés of punk to attain a kind of heroic paganism. And, inevitably, other designers haven’t been shy about tapping into it to add a vital frisson to their own work. Given the high profile of the show at the Met, expect to see a hard-edged seam of punk running through the collections in 2013: a hint of fetish sex here, a splash of lurid mohair there, and, everywhere, accessories that aggressively re-purpose hardware in the spirit of punk’s original DIY ethos. Fancy a necklace of nails?
Tim Blanks has been covering fashion around the world since 1985. He was formerly host of the CBC’s globally syndicated television show Fashion File. Since 2006, he has been editor-at-large for Style.com, reviewing and filming collections – womenswear, menswear and haute couture – in the world’s fashion capitals. In addition, Blanks writes regularly on fashion and entertainment for a number of international magazines and newspapers. He was one of the guest curators on ‘Sample’, Phaidon’s global overview of new fashion. He also contributed to Steidl’s monograph on Michael Roberts; the tome celebrating 20 years of Dolce&Gabbana’s menswear; the catalogue for Alexander McQueen’s exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum; monographs on Walter Van Beirendonck and Bottega Veneta; and Prestel’s ‘New Fashion Photography’. New Zealand-born, Blanks has lived in London since 1990, with a supporting cast of Jack Russells.
Get the look: check out yoox.com’s exclusive capsule collection of jewelry with acclaimed Italian designer Osanna Visconti di Modrone. Her Chiodo collection consists of hand-crafted bronze necklaces, bracelets, and earrings inspired by the iconic form of the nail. The collection is available on yoox.com starting May 10.
Sid Vicious, 1977 image by Dennis Morris
Chanel, 2011 image by David Sims