A Punk, a Fashion Designer, and a Museum Curator...
One of most influential of all the rock-subgenres, Punk's DIY ethics, deconstructed instrumentation, and often maliciously vulgar lyrics sewed the seeds for countless styles of music since mid 70's. Opened this past weekend at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, PUNK: Chaos to Couture showcases a collection of Punk-inspired high fashion from famed design houses such as Versace, Givenchy, and Alexander McQueen.
Museum patrons looking into the exhibit online will most likely find negative reviews. The standard critique seems to be the exhibit's inability to truly infuse the DIY aesthetic, working class roots, and anti-establishment values into such an elitist and unobtainable art form such as high fashion.
I was able to visit the exhibit this weekend and I can truly say that I don't find fault with the concept. I feel that the strangest, most jarring mergers of aesthetics and values can yield some of the most inspired and original work, whether it being music, fashion, or design.
However, walking in with more knowledge of Punk bands than I do of fashion, I was let down with the exhibit's failure to truly portray the history of Punk through its supporting visuals or any kind of music. Even while the opening room was dedicated to showcasing "real" Punk fashion, true historical examples were condemned to dark corners and reproductions of famous locales (most notably CBGB's bathroom) were suspiciously clean. While each subsequent room was dedicated and inspired by a different punk aesthetic, none of them truly captured the filth, vandalism, and general disregard that Punk domains became famous for.
Authenticity aside, I was taken back by how extravagant and well crafted the garments were. Even breastplates made of broken dishes, and gowns constructed of Tyvek shipping wrap were welded, sewn, and fused with the greatest of detail. Dresses made of garbage bags and their contents exploited the textures of found materials. Explosions of color, safety pins, and studs highlighted DIY inspired details.
Overall, I thought the exhibit succeeded as an exercise in fantasy and should be a good introduction to those unfamiliar with Punk. The attire on exhibit was exciting and thought provoking, even if the Punk inspirations were vague and at times, cliché. If you wish to dive a bit deeper into Punk, I would highly recommend a trip downtown to the East Village and stop in the crust infested bars, clothing shops, and record stores. It may have cleaned up since its heyday, but a good eye and some research will reveal a fantastic story. If you can't make the trip, you should check out Beardwood&Co.'s work with CBGB found here: Featured Work
Finally, check out the exhibit here: