With Forever 21 stores almost as commonly frequented in Manhattan as Starbucks, and television’s leading lady dressing like a homeless person, the future of high fashion in New York seems dubitable at best. For those who have difficulty differentiating the “it” fashion item as a counterfeit-inducing status symbol from the venerable couture piece which makes an undeniable statement, PUNK: Chaos to Couture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute makes it quite clear. Curator Andrew Bolton brought together a fashion dream team including photographer Nick Knight, and Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci to create the new exhibition to provocative results.
Dress by Christopher Kane
Speaking of the show’s bricolage use of materials as “self-conscious commentaries on the notion of good taste,” Riccardo references not only the clothing, but also The Met’s visual devices, including polystyrene columns which ensconce masterful works like Nicolas Ghesquiere’s Balenciaga dress. “As people visit the museum, I imagine the columns will become nicked and show gouges,” says Tommy Zimmerman, an employee of The Met who worked on installing the show. Aesthetically, the visuals come across as architecturally classical, as well as intentionally trashic.
By exploring the creation of 70’s subculture and how it influenced fashion, PUNK represents an aspect not lacking in today’s culture; but nonetheless, one which goes unrecognized. Riccardo describes the 70’s as a time “when fashion was provocative and original.” While there may be designers creating work this very minute which provokes, such as New York’s Stella Zotis and Paris-based Rad Hourani, the support system has vanished for sustaining the creation & sale of avant-garde collections in New York. This cultural void can be observed by taking a walk down Elizabeth Street: the once-booming area of Nolita has long been known for its burgeoning cluster of small shops where designers could once grow their businesses. In that area, there now festers one empty storefront after another: a sad reminder of the one percent tightening their collective Hermes belts.
Dress by Nicholas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga
Riccardo defines punk’s DIY Modus Operandi by stating “[they] took culture production into their own hands.” The power of subversion is clear: from a reproduction of Vivienne Westwood’s shop wafts a distinctly intoxicating opiate smell through to the entrance, flanked by grainy black & white video clips of Sid Vicious & co. Midway through the galleries, poetry lamented by legendary punk mistress Patti Smith calls out for her drug of choice: rebellion, on repeat.
Viktor & Rolf pantsuit