Though it happens only in New York, fashion adherents worldwide eagerly await the annual spring fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. And now, following 2011’s blockbuster Alexander McQueen show and last year’s on designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, expectations are running high for “PUNK: Chaos to Couture,” which opens tomorrow, May 9, and runs through August 14.
In advance of the show’s opening, 1stdibs fashion director Clair Watson spoke with its organizer, Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, about punk’s revolutionary influence on the evolution of fashion, culture and couture. Why punk and why now?
Punk upended long-held ideas about age, gender, sexuality and even race. It was an extraordinarily brave movement, heroic in a way. Kids were creating garments that went beyond couture because one person in the world had this particular customized jacket, or that T-shirt. Punk was provocative and confrontational and it epitomized individuality and originality. “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” looks back to a time when fashion was driven by youth and by the street. It is a reminder of a time when innovation was prized above all.
To what forces does punk owe its origin?
Punk reflected a time of recession. In the mid-’70s urban kids felt disaffected, alienated, nihilistic. Innovation was their anthem for a future they could not see. In England, punk was fueled by sociopolitical realities and anger, whereas in America punk had artistic or literary underpinnings. Punk’s legacy is the idea of “Do It Yourself,” upending notions of a sole creative source such as a designer or an artist. It was very empowering. Those kids owned their own creativity, their own cultural persona.
How did punk influence couture?
Apart from its raw visual language, what high fashion found so compelling was punk’s honesty, authenticity and integrity. But designers like Rei Kawakubo, for example, evolved punk intellectually by co-opting the paradigm. She extended the language of punk by making something ugly beautiful. Designers like Rei, John Galliano and Miuccia Prada all consistently create fashion that dramatically changes perceptions of beauty.
Mark Hadawy, co-owner of the vintage fashion store Resurrection, has pointed out that the ’70s were the first time subversive graphics were worn, promoting punk’s ideas to a mass audience.
Punk’s graphics were artistic statements transmitted by a humdrum T-shirt. Jamie Reid was an art school anarchist responsible for most of the iconic graphics one associates with the movement. I have dedicated a room in the exhibit to T-shirts, and those graphics are just as shocking now as they were then. Maybe even more so because of today’s political correctness.
Why does punk stand the test of time?
Nothing has come along that has been as radical, shocking or has so dramatically changed our ideas of beauty. Fashion today is concerned with gradual changes, evolution. But we all love revolutionaries. Punks were the last fashion heroes.
On the following pages, we’ve selected photographs from “PUNK” (all courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) to illustrate the movement’s far-reaching tentacles, as exemplified by select items in the 1stdibs inventory. Click here to shop these and more.
David Sims shot this Punk jacket — by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and available on 1stdibs — for the March 2011 issue of Vogue
1. Ron Paul Ripped, Atlanta, 2007, by Chip Simone, offered by Jackson Fine Art 2. Stephen Sprouse sterling-silver Graffiti cuff, 21st century, offered by Rare Vintage 3. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel Punk jacket, 2011, offered by Katy Kane 4. Lanvin pearl-and-chain necklace, 21st century, offered by A Second Chance Couture 5. Alexander McQueen silk tie top, 20th century, offered by Jennifer Kobrin 6. Gillows armchair, ca. 1820, offered by James Graham-Stewart 7. Nu Descendant un Escalier (Nude Descending a Staircase), 1915, by Marcel Duchamp, offered by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
For July 2008’s Vogue, David Sims photographed a dress by the sisters behind Rodarte.
1. Man Up — Body Mask, 2011, by Michael Combs, offered by Salomon Contemporary 2. Black polystyrene bench, by Max Lamb, 2010, offered by Johnson Trading Gallery 3. Angel, 2006, by Ed Ruscha, offered by Leslie Sacks Fine Art 4. Rubber-cord necklace on gathered chain, 1980s, offered by The Way We Wore 5. Thierry Mugler rubber purse, 21st century, offered by Treasures and Pleasures 6. Balmain rhinestone-and-zipper dress, 21st century, offered by The Way We Wore 7. Love Rat, 2005, by Banksy, offered by Peanut Underground
Sid Vicious posed for photographer Dennis Morris in 1977
1. John Sex, ca. 1986, by Andy Warhol, offered by Hedges Projects 2. Graphic androgynous sculpture, 1980s, artist unknown, offered by Deco Dreams 3. Rare ceramic tribal mask, 1960s, by Roger Capron, offered by Donzella 4. Untitled, 1989, by Keith Haring and Herb Ritts, offered by Fahey/Klein Gallery 5. Seditionaries Punk Hell shirt, ca. 1976-79, offered by Resurrection 6. Coral-and-platinum antique skull ring, 1940s, offered by Vintage Luxury 7. Black Heaven (Nite Time), 2012, by Damien Hirst, offered by Peanut Underground 8. Portrait no. 29 (Double Exposure: Full face and Profile) Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, 1953, by Victor Obsatz, offered by Diane Rosenstein
This runway look comes from Maison Martin Margiela’s spring/summer 2011 collection. Photo by Nathalie Sanchez for Maison Martin Margiela
1. Wrapped Lantern, 1964, by Christo, offered by Moeller Fine Art 2. World’s End Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McLaren Picasso Dress, 1980-2000, offered by The Way We Wore 3. Wrapped baluster vase, by George Hoentschel, late 18th century, offered by Jason Jacques Gallery 4. Femme a la Mantille: Carmen, 1949, by Pablo Picasso, offered by Leslie Sacks Fine Art 5. Boy London sheer black organza parachute shirt, ca. 1980s-90s, offered by Resurrection 6. MWLC Cuff PNK, 2012, offered by Vintage Luxury 7. Christian Dior haute couture skirt, 1990s, offered by Vintage Luxury 8. Lost in My Life (tinfoil), 2012, by Rachel Perry Welty, offered by Yancey Richardson Gallery
Peter Lindbergh shot this sweater by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons in 1982.
1. Torn Cine Poster, Tokyo, 1961, by William Klein, offered by Howard Greenberg Gallery Gallery 2. Japanese resist-dyed wool-felt carpet, late 19th/early 20th century, offered by the Lotus Collection 3. Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garçons carpet-art dress, 1980-2000, offered by House of Vintage 4. Japonist kabuki face-mask vase, ca. 1900, by Edmond Lachenal, offered by Jason Jacques Gallery 5. Commes des Garçons handknit black dress, 1980-2000, offered by The Way We Wore 6. Japan Journey, 1976, by Nobuyoshi Araki, offered by the Manhattan Rare Book Company 7. Yohji Yamamoto tailor’s stitch double-front blazer, 21st century, offered by Alan HSU 8. Leslie Weiner, Yohji Yamamoto, London, 1989, by Albert Watson, offered by Hasted Kraeutler
This image by Satoshi Saïkusa of a look from Gianni Versace’s Spring/Summer 1994 collection graced the pages of French Vogue in February of that year.
1. Gianni Versace couture safety pin dress, 1990s, offered by Devorado 2. Koret original Safety Pin Handle suede bag, 1950s, offered by Torso Vintages 3. Van Cleef & Arpels safety pin tie bar, 1960s, offered by Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers 4. Steel masonry nail coffee table, ca. 1970, in the style of Paul Evans, offered by Refined Furnishings 5. Aldo Cipullo for Cartier gold Nail bracelet, 1971, offered by FD 6. Patrick Kelly Nail gloves, 1990s, offered by Rare Vintage 7. Katherine Hamnett Men’s Clean Up or Die leather jacket, 1990, offered by Rare Vintage