Punk Meets High Fashion in Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition PUNK: Chaos to Couture

What­ev­er else British punk rock gave pop cul­ture, it was always a rev­o­lu­tion in fash­ion, engi­neered by Sex Pis­tols sven­gali Mal­colm McLaren and his part­ner, design­er Vivi­enne West­wood. The two pio­neered punk’s S&M‑inspired look from their Chelsea bou­tique, SEX, a one­time record shop that mor­phed into the epi­cen­ter of Lon­don street fash­ion. McLaren passed away in 2010, but his for­mer part­ner West­wood is still designing—only now her work is haute cou­ture nos­tal­gia, its shock­ing sneer at uptight British cul­ture a muse­um piece. Her lat­est col­lec­tion, Chaos, revis­its many of the icon­ic designs of the mid-sev­en­ties made famous by the Sex Pis­tols, such as the “tits square” and “cow­boy square” t‑shirts and the ubiq­ui­tous safe­ty pin.

The name of Westwood’s retro lat­est work is reflect­ed in a cur­rent exhi­bi­tion at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art called PUNK: Chaos to Cou­ture, which began May 9th and runs until August 14th. In the video above, cura­tor Andrew Bolton dis­cuss­es the exhibition’s stag­ing of low and high cul­ture crossover. In the press mate­ri­als, Bolton is frank about the con­tra­dic­to­ry aims of punk and high fash­ion:

Since its ori­gins, punk has had an incen­di­ary influ­ence on fash­ion… 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.

This is not the first time Bolton has appro­pri­at­ed punk fash­ion for high art or worked with Vivi­enne West­wood. In 2006, Bolton curat­ed a Met exhib­it called Anglo­Ma­nia (cat­a­log here), which drew its name and inspi­ra­tion from anoth­er of Westwood’s col­lec­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sex Pis­tols Front­man John­ny Rot­ten Weighs In On Lady Gaga, Paul McCart­ney, Madon­na & Katy Per­ry

Mal­colm McLaren: The Quest for Authen­tic Cre­ativ­i­ty

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Batel Mondal says:

    Most fans con­sid­er Twins of Evil the crown­ing achieve­ment of the series, and though, alas, it lacks The Vam­pire Lovers‘ fanged diva, Ingrid Pitt, it com­pen­sates with the The Twin Drac­u­la of the Collinson Twins, Mary and Madeleine, Mal­tese beau­ties who caught the eye of the pro­duc­ers some­where between their Play­boy spread and their Tonight Show appear­ance.

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