Punk: Chaos to Couture

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Overview

Since its origins in the 1970s, punk has had an explosive influence on fashion. With its eclectic mixing of stylistic references, punk effectively introduced the postmodern concept of bricolage to the elevated precincts of haute couture and directional ready-to-wear. As a style, punk is about chaos, anarchy, and rebellion. Drawing on provocative sexual and political imagery, punks made fashion overtly hostile and threatening. This aesthetic of violence ? even of cruelty ? was intrinsic to the clothes ...

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Overview

Since its origins in the 1970s, punk has had an explosive influence on fashion. With its eclectic mixing of stylistic references, punk effectively introduced the postmodern concept of bricolage to the elevated precincts of haute couture and directional ready-to-wear. As a style, punk is about chaos, anarchy, and rebellion. Drawing on provocative sexual and political imagery, punks made fashion overtly hostile and threatening. This aesthetic of violence – even of cruelty – was intrinsic to the clothes themselves, which were often customized with rips, tears, and slashes, as well as studs, spikes, zippers, D-Rings, safety pins, and razor blades, among other things.

This extraordinary publication examines the impact of punk’s aesthetic of brutality on high fashion, focusing on its do-it-yourself, rip-it-to-shreds ethos, the antithesis of couture’s made-to-measure exactitude. Indeed, punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy. Yet, as this book reveals, even haute couture has readily appropriated the visual and symbolic language of punk, replacing beads with studs, paillettes with safety pins, and feathers with razor blades in an attempt to capture the style’s rebellious energy. Focusing on high fashion’s embrace of punk’s aesthetic vocabulary, this book reveals how designers have looked to the quintessential anti-establishment style to originate new ideals of beauty and fashionability.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This striking catalogue, published to accompany the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute show of the same name, claims that “no other countercultural movement has had a greater or more enduring influence on high fashion.” Curator Bolton (Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty) defines punk as the “questioning of traditional representations... through its ethos of do-it-yourself.” This ethos is illuminated through four essays and five chapters of photos dedicated to Vivienne Westwood’s and Malcolm Maclaren’s early contributions and four DIY themes: hardware, bricolage, graffiti and agitprop, and destroy. Bolton and punk historian Savage claim that punk was influenced by a bewildering array of movements, including Dadaism, postmodernism, existentialism, Lettrism, and surrealism, as well as groups such as the Situationists and individuals like Rimbaud and Warhol. Grand political gestures are made on punk’s behalf without betraying the immaturity of its participants—Savage claims that they “intuitively understood that Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed everything.” Ironic couture appropriations are central to punk’s relevance and evolution, the book argues, as “safety pins were transformed into majestic gold- and silver-toned metal safety-pin ornaments resplendent with diamantes.” Literal street-to-runway transformation abounds, as in Junya Watanbe’s appropriation of Johnny Rotten’s striped mohair sweater, while examples such as John Galliano’s stunning trash-bag gown prove far more inventive. The enumeration of every influence, icon, and irony of punk makes the book a worthwhile primer, but Bolton’s justification of punk as Met-worthy can feel forced. 219 color and b&w illus. (May)
Women's Wear Daily

“at once enlightening and fascinating.” —Women’s Wear Daily
V&A Magazine - Charlie Porter

“Curator Andrew Bolton shows great calm and patience in the scope of his research into punk’s frenetic effects. His underlying aim is to prove that punk was more than just the cliché of mohicans and bad skin, but was a swirling, chaotic period of great experimentation in style. No linear study, the book offers a wide-ranging overview of the persistence of punk’s influence . . . The big coup of the book is its introductory essay by both Richard Hell and John Lydon, he who previously went by the name of Johnny Rotton."—Charlie Porter, V&A Magazine
Library Journal
With essays by John Lydon (aka Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten), Richard Hell (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp) of Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, writer and filmmaker Jon Savage (Teenage; England's Dreaming), and Bolton (curator, Costume Inst.), this catalog is a profusion of photographs that captures the anarchic spirit of punk more accurately than the accompanying Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute's did, dominated as it was by mannequins wearing spectacular 21st-century couture. Following the exhibition's themes of graffiti, agitprop, hardware, destruction, and bricolage, the book makes a more direct and persuasive visual case for punk's influence on couture by juxtaposing contemporary photographs of 1970s punk fashion against designs by Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe, Martin Margiela, Balmain, Rodarte, and others. By the nature of the objects included, the exhibition emphasized couture over chaos, with less attention to how rebellious ideas declared by Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and early punk bands filtered through street and mainstream fashion. The catalog both expresses and documents the cycle of culture coopting counterculture. VERDICT This loud, intensely illustrated record of a controversial exhibition will pique cultural interest from fields beyond fashion.—Lindsay King, Yale Univ. Libs., New Haven, CT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300191851
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 381,799
  • Product dimensions: 12.70 (w) x 12.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Bolton is Curator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Richard Hell was a founding member of Television in 1974, departing before the band recorded; the Heartbreakers in 1975, ditto; and Richard Hell and the Voidoids (1976-­84). Since abandoning music in 1984, he has published the novels Go Now (1996) and Godlike (2005) and the collection Hot and Cold (2001). His autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, was released in 2013. After fronting the Sex Pistols, John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd in 1978. Outside of PiL he has released several solo records and collaborations. He also brings quality TV to the masses. Jon Savage is a writer, broadcaster, and filmmaker who lives in North Wales. His books include England’s Dreaming and Teenage. His films include the award-winning documentary Joy Division and the forthcoming Teenage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    awesome

    beautiful pictures

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