I can't imagine Anna Wintour was ever a punk with safety pins and bondage trousers, besides she was 28 years old in 1977 so hardly a rebellious teen from the suburbs. However, she has chosen punk as this year's theme for the Metropolitan Museum's annual Costume Institute exhibition. Punk: Chaos to Couture runs from May 9 - August 14, with the inaugural Benefit Gala ball tonight. According to the New York Times this is causing guests and stylists a huge wardrobe dilemma, mainly because rich women are repelled by punk fashion and don't want to look like Poly Styrene, Jordan and Siouxsie Sioux. Actually I'm looking forward to seeing how normally sleekly put together celebrities deal with the rebellious D.I.Y elements of punk fashion - cue shredded t-shirts and bin liners.
The exhibition itself examines punk's impact on high fashion from the movement's birth in the 1970s through to its continuing influence today. Original punk garments will be juxtaposed with recent fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear have borrowed punk's visual symbols; focusing on the relationship between 'do-it-yourself' and the couture concept of 'made-to-measure'. OMG this is a real flash back to a course I did on youth subculture at college - but don't worry I won't bore you to death with talk about hegemony and subcultures. Anyway, back to the exhibition, it's going to be an immersive multisensory experience set to punk music and videos - so expect lots of sneering but hopefully no spitting.
There are seven galleries, each with their own designated punk 'heroes' from legendary New York music club CBGB, represented by The Ramones, Blondie and Patti Smith to Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood and their Seditionaries boutique in London's Kings Road. Another gallery examines the visual language and symbols of punk - embodied by punk icon Jordan. Do-it-yourself, punk's enduring contribution to high fashion, will be explored in the four final galleries: D.I.Y. Hardware, focusing on couture's use of studs, spikes, chains, zippers, padlocks, safety pins, and razor blades, with Sid Vicious as its icon; D.I.Y. Bricolage, highlighting the impact of punk's ethos of customization on high fashion, including the use of recycled materials from rubbish and consumer culture; D.I.Y. Graffiti and Agitprop, exploring punk's tradition of provocation and confrontation through images and text exemplified by The Clash; and D.I.Y. Destroy, examining the effect of punk's rip-it-to-shreds spirit, typified by Johnny Rotten, via torn and shredded garments associated with deconstructionism.
Designers featured in the exhibition include Christopher Bailey (Burberry), Hussein Chalayan, Francisco Costa (Calvin Klein), Christophe Decarnin (Balmain), Ann Demeulemeester, Dior, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (Dolce and Gabbana), John Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga), Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren (Viktor & Rolf), Christopher Kane, Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel), Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Franco Moschino and Rossella Jardini (Moschino), Kate and Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte), Miuccia Prada, Gareth Pugh, and Hedi Slimane (Saint Laurent).
There is also an accompanying book entitled Punk: Chaos to Couture with a preface by John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) containing lots of photographs of original punks and high fashion; but going back to my college days, I do remember reading an influential book called Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige - worth a look if you do want to read about youth subculture, its resistance to hegemony and all that!