11 posts tagged "Punk: Chaos to Couture"
Following this year’s much-talked-about exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, the Met announced today that the next subject in line at the Costume Institute will be twentieth-century couturier Charles James. While it mightn’t exactly pack the pop-culture punch that punk did this year, Charles James: Beyond Fashion will show off the work of a less-remembered designer who is still regarded as a genius by those in the know. Curated by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, the exhibition will give visitors the chance to see the innovations James made within haute couture up close, from wrap-over trousers to spiral-cut dresses. But it’s James’ iconic ball gowns from the thirties through to the fifties that will take center stage. Drawn from an archive acquired in part from the Brooklyn Museum in 2009, and lovingly restored by the Met, these technically astounding dresses might be enough to make Charles James a household name once more. The extensive collection—the most comprehensive of any designer at any museum in the world—will be showcased in a newly renovated Costume Institute making its debut at the annual gala in May 2014. Mark the date in your diaries now. We can’t wait to see how fashion’s celebrities interpret this one.
According to a tweet from The New York Times‘ Eric Wilson, the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture racked up a total of 442,350 visitors before closing on August 14, making it the fifth most popular Costume Institute exhibition in the past twenty-five years (the other four being Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, and Chanel—in that order). Considering several critics gave the show less-than-glowing reviews, it looks like Punk has boisterously proved ’em all wrong, yet again.
Eschewing pins, plaids, and pugnaciousness, a few of last night’s Met Gala attendees opted for a different sort of ornamentation: all things baroque. Curious, you might think, since gilt and whorls don’t exactly fit with punk’s middle-fingers-up grittiness. But with parallel underlying airs of metallurgy and commoditized Gothicism, we’d say these ladies picked up on a bloodline between the zeitgeists.
Beyoncé’s hellfire custom-made Givenchy gown evoked monarchal muscle and flamboyant architectural tones. Katy Perry arrived in head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana—florid gold-leafed crown included. Dolce & Gabbana also dressed Giovanna Battaglia and Tabitha Simmons. The former wore the label’s Alta Moda couture line, and both looks recalled a seaside Palermo church awash in halcyon daylight. Hilary Rhoda also walked the line between rococo and rebellion; her Wes Gordon top featured fine-lined Aurelian patterning on diaphanous black sheer—but her cropped leather pants were 100 percent King’s Road.
By now, you’ve no doubt already heard about—or even seen—the facsimile of CBGB’s bathroom that Andrew Bolton included in the opening gallery of the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition, which opens to the public on Thursday, following tonight’s red-carpet festivities. “CBGB was the heart of punk in New York,” said Bolton at a preview this morning. “Punk was all about shock and provocation, and so to start off an exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a toilet—well, I thought was the ultimate punk statement,” the curator told Style.com.
The exhibition juxtaposes original (and contemporary) punk wares by Vivienne Westwood against luxury and haute couture looks from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana (who are featured in the Graffiti room, above), Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano, and Gianni Versace (yes, the 1994 safety-pin dress is on display). One might be hard-pressed to differentiate between Vivienne Westwood’s destroyed seventies sweaters and Rodarte’s Fall 2008 knit dress, which are on display side by side. The same gallery boasts Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s lewd T-shirts (for instance, her famed “Tits” top hangs against a black PVC curtain). “I love that we start off with T-shirts with very obscene political and sexual slogans,” said Bolton. “They’re still shocking thirty-seven years later—in a way, more shocking, because of our political correctness.” Beyond the T-shirts lies a reproduction of McLaren and Westwood’s infamous—and iconic—shop, Seditionaries, which stood at 430 King’s Road. The remainder of the show was divided into DIY categories, like Hardware, Graffiti and Agitprop, Bricolage, and Destroy—and each room was punctuated by a film by Nick Knight.
“No other subcultural movement has a greater or more enduring influence on how we dress today,” Bolton noted in his opening remarks. Consider, as evidence, the fact that there is a slew of Fall 2013 looks in the show, from such houses as Viktor & Rolf, Saint Laurent, and Gareth Pugh—whose Fall 2013 trash-bag dresses are arranged into a veritable mob in the center of the Bricolage installation.
Bolton made sure to steer away from clichés—for instance, he noted that hairstylist Guido Paulo, who created the spiky Technicolor mops that topped each mannequin’s head, avoided Mohawks, and instead pulled inspiration from Richard Hell’s signature ’do.
“I wanted to present punk in a respectful, and even reverential, manner,” said Bolton. That’s already earning the show some mixed reviews. And of course, there are those who protest discussing punk in a high-fashion context—or, for that matter, paying couture prices for a punk-tinged look. “I think that’s completely punk,” said Bolton in response. “People seem to forget that punk really was a commercial movement. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, in a way, created what we know as the punk look. And they commodified it,” he explained.
As for why consumers and designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Met Ball host Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, are still drawn to the seventies subculture, Bolton offers, “Punk endures today because it reflects our longing for a time when originality and creativity were celebrated, a time when fashion was provocative and confrontational. And, above all, a time when fashion championed the individual and self-expression.”
Punk: Chaos to Couture opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this Thursday, May 9.
Between the Met’s upcoming Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition and the rebellion-infused Fall ’13 runways, it’s no secret that punk is having a major moment. Resurrection New York—the Nolita vintage store known for its highly edited collection of sixties Pucci and seventies Halston—decided to celebrate the revival with What Are You Looking At, an in-store installation featuring pieces from Resurrection’s enviable archive. “The Met has their way—they feature certain things and have a lot of the high-fashion derivatives of punk rock and fashion—but we have our own approach [to punk] that’s really special,” explained Resurrection archivist and manager Maria Ayala. “We thought, This is all happening. Let’s show people where this actually came from.”
The pieces on view range from iconic King’s Road staples (polka-dot mini-crinis, Seditionaries’ Sid Vicious Chaos tees) to rare personal items like a pair of shredded bondage pants that Gaye Advert gave owner Katy Rodriguez in London. A selection of wares are for purchase—a pastel camo Stephen Sprouse blazer, for example—while others, like a Westwood x Keith Haring knit skirt and some original, and very ribald, Boy London T-shirts, are for ogling only. “We actually have a top like that, as well,” commented Ayala in reference to the Haring skirt. “But today, M.I.A. came in and rented it because she’s doing promo pictures for her album. Maybe we’ll see it on her album cover, maybe not. But that’s pretty exciting.”
What Are You Looking At is on view through May 8 at Resurrection New York, 217 Mott Street, New York, NY; (212) 625-1374.