Punk: Chaos to Couture opened up to the public today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
This exhibition was not a history lesson or a debate on the origins of punk, but a fashion exhibit that showcased works that were inspired by this 70s-80s era in music, fashion, and culture…counterculture. Pieces were varied and segmented into various rooms overviewing the British origins of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s works, D.I.Y hardware, Bricolage, DIY Graffiti and Agitprop.
Upon entering, you are greeted with 2 mannequins propped in front of archival Sex Pistols’ footage. The figure on the left, by Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McLaren from their London boutique, Seditionaries (formerly known as Sex, 1976-1980) is giving the vulgar arm gesture, that is not of much use lately in the 21st century, to the figure juxtaposed across it by John Galliano for the House of Dior (Winter 2006-2007).
The discussion of where punk originated is mentioned, but not turned into a debate. Facsimiles of New York City’s CBGB’s bathroom from 1975 and a recreation of Seditionaries Boutique (below) at 430 Kings Road in London are part of the exhibition and located in the front room for a bit of background history.
The first thing you notice when you walk into the first room are the mannequins of Westwood (70s-80s) next to their inspired pieces of the designers in the 2000s. But try not to get distracted, as you’ll want to cover everything. Instead veer to the right and appreciate the Westwood/McLaren printed t-shirts created in cotton knit and cotton muslin.
Once you finish up with those and check out the CBGB’s/Seditionaries interiors, get up close, but not too close to the center portion, or you’ll set the alarm off, which basically goes off every 3 minutes or so.
The center section of the first room assembles sets of two mannequins, side by side with the Westwood MacLaren pieces and their current inspired pieces. My favorite piece was Rodarte’s silk/wool/synthetic knit dress (below) from their Autumn/Winter 2008-2009 collection.
Spend as much time in this room as you can, because that’s pretty much all the history you’ll get. After that’s, its all inspired ‘current’ pieces.
The D.I.Y. Hardware section showcased the use of pins, spikes, chains, etc…to show how ‘lowly items are transformed into grandiose embellishments that offer a dialogue between chaos and couture.’ This also included the Gianni Versace dress Elizabeth Hurley wore to the 1994 premiere of ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.
One of my favorite pieces was Riccardo Tisci for House of Givenchy’s (S/S 2011) pink silk chiffon and zippers, with long sheer skirt. Yes, it’s pink.
When you get to the ‘Bricolage’ section, ingenuity and creativity become really exciting. This Maison Martin Margiela (below) S/S 2006 jacket of multicolor strings of beaded costume jewelry and pink synthetic boning is playful, yet wearable.
Maison Martin Margiela had a lot of fun pieces, even if not wearable, like the white and blue porcelain plate shards bound with silver metal wire vest (below).
And this John Galliano S/S 2001 multi-color printed cotton stretch twill with scotch tape dress (below) was almost brilliant. I just didn’t like the scotch tape, but other than that, it was fun and chic at the same time.
I guess the one piece that took my breath away, was the Alexander McQueen A/W 2009-2010 black silk and synthetic imitating trash bag gown with black silk and synthetic bubble wrap coat (below). Trust me, it sounds weird, but when you see it in person, it’s breathtaking.
Not everything looked amazing. Gareth Pugh’s black plastic trash bag dresses from A/W 2013-2014 were ridiculous. They kind of reminded me of trash bag topiaries.
I guess they could be fun for Halloween.
The final room, DIY graffiti and agitprop section was simple, yet had some wearable pieces. There was an Ann Demeulemeester S/S 2006 white silk printed with paint splatter shirt and trouser set. I’m noticing the matching shirt and trouser sets lately. Oh my tween years would be so happy!
Punk: Chaos to Couture was a decent size exhibit. It had its positives, like the fashion, obviously. Inspiration comes from all sources, whether it’s music, subcultures, the old lady on the street you saw the other day in a retro outfit, whatever. I guess that’s what this exhibit was showcasing. If you’re looking for more vintage pieces, stay in the first room as I mentioned earlier. Don’t expect a history lesson, that’s not what this exhibit is about. If you’re just interested in fashion, you’ll love the exhibit. I’d definitely go back and see it again, if only to be inspired by those Rodarte knits and McQueen gown.