Fashion Goes Punk and Slightly Misses the Point

As reported by virtually every fashion related periodical, the Met Gala took place merely a few weeks ago. For those who forgot, the theme was Punk: From Chaos to Couture. Ironic, considering that the fashion industry largely ignored or seldom reported on this burgeoning fashion subculture. There is also another subtle irony: the elements of Punk fashion was mostly DIY—spiked leather jackets featuring band batches from groups such as Black Flag or The Ramones. It is difficult to take the Met Gala’s theme seriously when established high fashion houses appropriates and waters down, almost mocking that underground subculture.

Although many fashion publications may focus on the overused and passé best dressed/worst dressed sartorial binary, I’m more interested in the origins of the theme and its representation at the Met Gala. Were the same fashion industry attendees of this event also lined up at SEX, the now-legendary fashion boutique in London that Vivienne Westwood once owned? Did these attendees in high-end couture also mosh at a Minor Threat show in some esoteric venue? These few examples do not necessarily essentialize the subculture. That is to say, the definition of what is Punk may not be in a vacuum. My point is this: when underground movements are recontextualized as “couture” is when the masses notice. Only the sanitized version of what appears to be “Punk Rawk” at the Met Gala only seems to be fully embraced by attendees of the event.

The theme, fortunately also had its critics. For example, Grace Coddington, the fiery creative director at Vogue gave an interview at the Gala, saying, “I’d like to see some real punks in here, some real street punks. But I doubt they were invited,” reinforcing the exclusionary nature of high-end fashion events. At least Coddington had the candidness to articulate something so apparent at this highly coveted event. It is convenient for the Met Gala to take away the characteristics of this movement that has little, if anything, to do with couture. It is also problematic to exclude and overlook figureheads who were central to the night’s theme, and more importantly, the movement itself.

To quote Richard Hell, the lead Punk Rock singer of his 70’s eponymous band, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, “I live in a blank generation.”

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