If you're interested in fashion, you're probably bored by the word “Punk” right now. It's getting more than its fair share of exposure. It's the subject of Chaos to Couture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute show for 2013. And given the red-carpet circus that's become, punk peppered the creations of a dozen designers back in February and March. Saint Laurent showed shredded lumberjack shirt and fishnets, Fendi stitched-up King's Road multicoloured mohicans into shaggy fur coats, and Versace offered “Vunk” – an anodyne rehash of Seditionaries in deluxe fabrics. Most got a second airing on the Costume Institute Gala's red carpet. Donatella Versace modelled her own. Job done.
Many have bemoaned that this establishment approval is the final nail in punk's coffin – or, at least, that what the Met is showing isn't punk per se, but fashion's cynical co-opting of what was always an anti-fashion movement. There's some truth to that. I don't think you can look at Versace's Vunk – or indeed the label's 1993 safety-pin puckered “Bondage Couture” dress (yes, the Liz Hurley one, let's move on) – and imagine it's really attempting to reflect punk's dissident ideology, born out of Seventies socio-economic woes. Versace's punk is pretty vacant. It's all about the look.
That's fashion's attitude generally – throw some studs on it, make it look “edgy”. Punk has been reduced to a six-month trend and, come next season, there'll be something new. Rare are the Margielas and McQueens, who used punkish means to subvert luxury and question what fashion really means. They've dressed women in plastic bags, in shredded clothes, in slithery, deliberately bad-taste synthetics. And, before the nay-sayers begin, yes those clothes were expensive, despite their “poor” materials.
But so were Punk clothes, ironically: the Seditionaries clothes offered by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood were far beyond the means of most of the Sex Pistols' fan base. The photographer Nick Knight recalls that a Seditionaries mohair jumper cost three weeks wages. The solution? Young punks either stole the clothes, or crafted their own versions at home, something Westwood heartily approved of. You couldn't imagine Versace feeling quite the same way.