Punk and Fashion Panel Discussion at CBGB Fest, 11 October 2013, NYC


What is punk?  Well, if you ask some of the panelists at today’s discussion at the Punk & Fashion panel during the CBGB festival you’d get varying answers.  But the ideology would be one big cohesive “We don’t give a fuck”.

The panelists included:

Rachel Felder – Moderator

Anya Kurennaya – Parson’s Faculty Member

Jackie Fraser-Swan – Emerson Designer

Alan McGee – Founder of Creation and Poptone Records and currently 359 Music (oh yeah, he also discovered Oasis.)

Anna Sheffield – Jewelry Designer

Mickey Leigh  – Musician/Writer (whose brother is ahem…Joey Ramone.)

Mickey Leigh, Rachel Felder, Anya Kurennaya, Jackie Fraser-Swan, Alan McGee, Anna SheffieldMickey Leigh, Moderator – Rachel Felder, Anya Kurennaya, Jackie Fraser-Swan, Alan McGee, Anna Sheffield

Today’s panel discussed what it means to be a punk and how punk influenced their style and identity, Glam Rock and it’s influence, branding and the manufactured band, and the Met’s Spring/Summer 2013 fashion exhibit on Punk and Fashion.

For designer Fraser-Swan punk just “felt right”.  The Ramone’s positive, fun vibe and non-conformist attitude was a key part of her youth.  For her Spring 2014 Collection known as the punk rock garden party, Emerson imagined what it would be like if The Ramones played in a garden on the Upper East Side.  Describing her work as classic sophistication in its silhouette but brought to life with the sound of punk and it’s varying elements in fashion.

Jewelry designer Anna Sheffield identified it being more socio-economic.  It was “always a class thing”, explaining that one could wear their identity through their clothes from the tears to the safety pins.

Alan McGee hypothesized that punk made people become anything other than what they were told they were supposed to be.  Interestingly as well McGee pointed out “The people that are in control are children of punks.”

Another topic discussed was the era of glam.  A pre-cursor to punk, glam was never taken seriously in the history of rock for its “overt focus on fashion” making it seem inauthentic.  It was in a way the antithesis of punk’s “I don’t give a fuck what I look like” philosophy.  Though not regarded by many, glam’s influence was actually quite palpable as McGee pointed out seeing David Bowie on ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1972 as being a seminal moment in music history as “kids were wearing eye shadow the next day”.

Mickey Leigh, Rachel Felder, Anya Kurennaya, Jackie Fraser-Swan, Alan McGee, Anna SheffieldFor Leigh, the concept of punk was being an “anti-rockstar”.   Glam was also expensive and that’s what had attracted punks to the whole do-it-yourself aesthetic.

Another topic of discussion was the production of  “manufactured bands”.  In the age of ‘American Idol’ and all those other types of shows, the conversation also included One Direction’s use of The Ramone’s logo for the boy band’s own band shirt.  Anya Kurennaya talked about how students at Parson’s loved the design of the 1D shirt, yet not knowing the origin of original logo.

It was around this time that a lady who showed up late to the panel had vehemently stated that kids were wearing CBGB shirts not even knowing what it was.  That lady, it turns out, was Lisa Kristal, daughter of CBGB’s late founder Hilly Kristal.

The manufactured debate continued as McGee stated “Joey Ramone never had a manipulator” to which Leigh interjected that they did in manager Danny Fields, who told them to “not smile”.  In the end, the panel came to the realization that even the most revered bands of punk were in a sense “manufactured”.  The Clash had Barry Rhodes and the Sex Pistols had Malcom McLaren (and Vivienne Westwood).

And lastly, I could not write about this panel without discussing the Met’s Punk : Chaos to Couture exhibit which ran this late Spring to Summer.  When asked about their opinion of the exhibit, Leigh felt it was weird to see something like that “commercialized…sanitized”.

Kurennaya felt that it “didn’t make sense”.  From a business standpoint it did, explaining that museums need to make money and fashion is a huge draw for them, but also communicating the opinions of herself and many others that the exhibit was poorly executed and that “nobody liked it”.  Moderator Felder also pointed out that “real punk clothing” was about “swagger and attitude”.  The idea that one would spend $1600 on a moto jacket was  “disingenuous”.  Which also raised the question, if punk is open and embraced by the masses, was it not genuine anymore?

For myself, I thought the point of the exhibition was to show how punk’s influence could be seen in the individual designer’s works, which were exhibited right after the first room.  I didn’t think it was about price tags or attitude, but then again, I just went into it with the intentions of just looking at fashion.  I wasn’t expecting anything more.  And the Alexander McQueen pieces were amazing.

Today’s panel discussion was informative and inspiring.  Whether it’s about expressing one’s self, or going against the status quo, or a fashion statement, or a ‘fuck fashion’ statement, I think it’s quite safe to state that punk’s influence won’t be waning in the near future.  Punk is essentially about intentionally creating…and creating is constant.

AlanMcGee3_20131011NYC_TTGot my photo with one of my heroes.

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