Being a girl who adores fashion exhibitions, and being a girl who was just recently in New York City, it must come as no surprise that, whilst in Manhattan, I headed straight off to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to take a look at the current Costume Institute exhibition; Punk: Chaos to Couture. Concieved and curated by the British Andrew Bolton and designed by Sam Gainsburg, this exhibition was a real delight. Having had some critiscm for not representing the gritty, agressive, druggy and anti-establisment culture of punk, Bolton has instead curated an exhibition of fashion through the years which pays tribute to and embraces the ethos of punk and its visual language. He deliberately didn’t want to do a nostalgic retrospective on punk, “I don’t want this to be a trip down memory lane”, I think by making that choice he has provided us with a really fresh take on the genre and its enduring influence on high fashion. The exhibition has done exactly what it set out to do, it is a fashion exhibition and not a look at music, politics or the subculture of punk itself.
This exhibition is a feast for the eyes, no glass boxes, no stuffy layout, all the clothes were in the open and perfectly grouped in each gallery, some gallerys were light and modern with a clean monotone pallette while others were dark and loud and multicoloured. Each gallery was totally different from the last and each was stunning. The exhibition looked at the origins of Punk in the 70’s, covering both London and NYC, with cute mock-ups of seedy club toilets and the Vivienne Westwwood Sex shop. It then covered all aesthetic influences of punk with galleries each dedicated to a theme; DIY Hardware, Bricolage, Graffiti & Agitpop, and Destroy. Some of the clothes were beautiful, some were a little experimental, but stunning in their creations none the less. It was great that there was really recent fashion there as well as some older pieces, original Westwood items from the era alongside a 2010 Punk inspired Moschino dress. The clash between the creaftmanship of couture and the ameturism of real DIY punk clothing was both subtle but deliberate, as Bolton himself said, both stem from spontaniety and individuality, therefore embracing the punk ideal. The styling of the mannequins was great, very strong with matching wigs of exaggerated spiked and coloured hair. The lighting in each space was theatrical perfection. I loved this exhibition, I saw fashions that I adored and I saw styling that was humourous and well thought out, the fact it was in my favourite museum in my favourite city on a balmy hot day made it all the more super. I’d recommend this to people who love fashion, if you were an original punk and looking for a representation of the era and all its anarchy then you won’t find it here, this is about fashion and the influence punk has on it; its a pretty kind of punk. Pretty cool.
- Christopher Bailey for Burberry S/S 2013
- Original Westwood/McLaren Seditionaries T-shirts
- amazing studded skirt from Too fast To Live, Too Young To Die, 1972
- general exhibition view
- black dress on the left by Versace S/S 1994 (famously worn by Liz Hurley)
- black bin bag dress by House of Moschino S/S 1994
- outfit of pearls by Maison Martin Margiela S/S 2006
- plastic bag dress on far right by House of Moschino S/S 1994
- general view including Katherine Hamnett slogan T-shirts
- spray painted Alexander McQueen S/S 1999
- general exhibition view
- dress by Miguel Androver 2000
- the final mannequin gives the finger
Punk: Chaos to Couture is at The Met until 14th August 2013