Fashion: Punk already?: British, 'orrible and coming back: Marion Hume and Tamsin Blanchard take evidence
Thursday 24 June 1993
'Punk? Yeah, it's coming back this week, just for a week and then you'll want something else. Everything is being consumed so quickly by the media, which is a nightmare for fashion designers. The Seventies revival was about energy, but it has been killed by people stamping a label on it.
For me, it is very hard to re-explore punk's visual symbols, such as safety pins, because they still mean something to me. It is easier for those too young to have been through it before to use the symbols.
One way the punk attitude is coming back is body piercing. It is not something you can commercialise or fake, although I do expect to see jewellery that looks like piercing.
What I'm trying to find is the spirit, the energy of punk, without having to go back. I just hope it's not killed straight away.'
Malcolm McLaren, father of punk and entrepreneur:
'The Eighties' media onslaught of the designer as star has faded now. Designers are not as important as they were, therefore all those other people who make clothes that don't conform, that just do what they find exciting, can be seen.
In the scene I was very responsible for with Vivienne (Westwood), there were symbols I was very conscious of: black leather, unwashed hair, symbols of outlawlessness, Juliette Greco keeping white mice in her pocket. The Eighties was about etiquette, couture rules and star designers who were heralded as philosophers of our age. That's faded. Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix . . . they are no longer as important as they were.
In the Seventies, the last thing I would allow was Vogue to photograph the clothes. I kept us out of the news, only letting out images of our stuff on the Pistols and on kids on the street wearing the stuff in a real way. It was never rubber-stamped by fashion journalists. It's a terrible, terrible thing the media wanting to get inside something before it has really happened. (As for new punk coming back) I think you look first at the travellers, Mad Max coming to your village green. To the brave, noble people who are doing it now, I say, to initiate great ideas is a perfect way to begin a wonderful life.'
Gianni Versace, designer, the first to re-explore punk bondage in haute couture, 1991:
'Punk has not been out of fashion. It has survived through the years. If we talk about fashion, with a bit of mood and humour, we will find punk forever.'
Stephen Sprouse, New York punk designer since the Seventies, who re- launched his name for the umpteenth time with an autumn 1993 collection called Cyber Glitter. The designer who put Axl Rose in a kilt:
'Punk, punk now, yeah, it's been pretty absorbed into urban culture. You guys invented it, then we got New York punk with Patti Smith and Television. With cyber punk, I'm trying to move it in to the future. My clothes can be ripped apart. They are Velcro and stretch, glitter, velvet, so you wake up, pull them on, come home and rip them off. It's modern.'
Vivienne Westwood, designer and mother of punk clothing:
'Destroy] Fuck Up] Put a spanner in the works and give the Queen a safety-pin in her lip. It was very stylish and very heroic. I am still sure that the only possibility of subversion lies in unpopular ideas and I am working on this.
This interest in punk now has something to do with my retrospective show in Bordeaux (November 1992). The current Seventies revival has nothing to do with me. The Seventies were a joke then and an even bigger joke now. Malcolm (McLaren) and I wanted to rebel. It was an examination in confronting the establishment. Now I'm only interested in elegance and culture. I'm not interested in attacking the establishment. I simply ignore it.'
Rei Kawakubo, designer Comme des Garcons:
'Chic punk . . . that was the collection I did two years ago and even now I continue to work in that spirit.'
Fiona Cartledge, manager of Sign of the Times, Kensington High Street:
'I can see punk coming back. Everything had got very safe, very commercial. The cheapness of early punk is already back on the music scene with bands like The Voodoo Queens. New punk provides healthy images of women doing their own thing, wearing scrappy, trashy glamour.
Hearts and flowers don't reflect anger. New punk isn't about escape, it is about facing reality and challenges, not popping a pill and getting away from it.
People now are into what punk achieved. But the new punk won't be commercial, it won't get picked up and spat out like grunge. (Music-wise) it will be a young thing, not a CD thing and (clothes-wise) it isn't going to turn up on the big catwalks. This time, it is being kept underground deliberately. Grunge got too commercial too fast. Punk is about staying small.'
Adrian Webb, who runs a club called Smashing in Piccadilly, London:
'To promote the club, we're doing T-shirt terrorism. We get hold of T- shirts, with Kylie, the World Cup and Morrissey and print the club name over the top. There's an anarchic element to it. But the fascism is diffused this time. It's less violent, the look is more narcissistic, more glamorous.'
Stephen Kinkee, a graduate from the London School of Economics, who describes himself as a politically-conscious glam punk:
'We're in a similar situation to just pre-punk. Everything is retro, stale. Progressive house music is as dull as progressive rock was then. People are playing it really safe, they are used to buying into a whole lifestyle, the drugs, the clothes. It's so passive.
Punk is restarting, in clubs, in bands, especially girl bands and in clothes. Punk clothes were democratic. Early punk was about customising what you had - your school blazer, your white school shirt. That democracy is returning to fashion. All that is needed is one little spark. But it isn't about mohicans, it's about cheap fake fur, confrontational glamour.'
Caroline Baker, stylist:
'Nicky Clarke (the society hairdresser) told me that he's just done a punky haircut on Selina Scott. Certainly, hairstyles are going punk, so fashion will follow.'
Keith Martin, record producer and graphic artist for a band called Instant Life:
'There's a strong punk feeling, acid punk, which is a modern way of thinking against the current bland mentality. We need positive individual expression.'
Jimmy Pursey, singer and songwriter for Sham 69 and creator of punk chant, 'If the kids are united': 'I've watched a culture that belongs to me turned inside out.
The media said punk was dead because they wanted something else to write about and it was too real to categorise. The media tried to commit the Great English Murder, but punk never died. In every village, there is always the loner who was the punk and still is. Now the travellers are a mongrel breed of hippies and punks.
Grunge was bubble gum. It was chewed up and spat out. But the fashion world can't grab hold of punk, now it is split into such a vast array of symbols, especially among the new girl groups. Armani will never get hold of it and kill it.'
Emma Goodman, Central St Martin's fashion graduate:
' Elements of the punk spirit are back, but not the ripped jeans, which spell Bros to me now. There's lots of vintage Westwood appearing again, plus fake old Westwood. Body piercing, which is happening a lot now, comes from punk. You can't undertake it lightheartedly.'
Melanie Ward, stylist of new Calvin Klein campaign, consultant to Helmut Lang:
'It has to be a Nineties version. I dread a retro return to bondage trousers. I'm interested in synthetic fabrics, in silks coated in plastics which have a certain trashy punkiness to them forged with technology. And I'm using heavy, silver chains. I think the rise in body piercing is a modern expression of punk attitude, it is very deep-rooted in the history of visual expression and cannot be trivialised.'
Jessica Ogden, designer:
'Clothes are going to fall apart anyway, so I make them a bit destroyed. I find the cheapest fabrics. I'm not into luxury. There's no need to look tight and together and bunged up.'
Daniel Poole, designer whose T- shirt motifs include Jesus tooled up with an Uzi:
'There's a punk element in what we're doing, the new collection is hardcore techno hippy traveller, and it's anti-fit, anti-chic with politicised messages. And we're doing lots of army pants, better cut than surplus ones because we copied Syrian army pants and they've got great detailing. We've got kilts over trousers. We produce in Italy and up in the hills there are these huge discos where punks are paid to dance. But in Britain, punk is not something you can just do a bit of, the punk mentality is total.
'Of course punk will be back, because different fashion trends are coming back chronologically (after the Seventies we will rediscover the Eighties) and because the coming generation can say more than ever: 'No Future'. And today's violence corresponds to the form of dandyism that one finds in punkitude.'
Jean Paul Gaultier: ' I believe in the punk comeback and it is in my autumn collection. People need something or someone to push against the establishment feelings in Europe where nothing is changing. We need something like the punk of the Seventies now.'
Jordan, Seventies punk commuter, actress and Sex and Seditionaries shop assistant, Nineties veterinary nurse:
'Fashion moves in cycles, but I think punk is an exception. It is its own cycle and it was original, not nostalgic. If it is to come back, it won't be a parody of what went before. Punk was outrageous but it was also about being comfortable with yourself and your image.
The clothes were brillant. Vivienne (Westwood) would go to extraordinary lengths to get the right rubber buttons. I feel proud of punk. If it does come back, then I hope the fashion industry learns something from its attitude.'
Mark Jackson, fashion graduate, St Martin's, whose collection included bondage dresses, trousers, trousers with skirts. safety pins in faces (not really pierced):
'When punk hit London, I was seven years old, and felt I'd missed out. I wanted to relive it my way by basing my collection on it. I think the whole anarchic attitude is coming around again slowly. The styling ideas are going to come back in jewellery and make-up.'
Melanie Wilson, fashion graduate, St Martin's, whose collection had lesbian S&M/punk references, including pierced nipples:
'I don't think you can repeat punk identically. Something is happening though, and it certainly was part of the inspiration for my collection.
My collection was more post-punk. I go to gay and fetish clubs where the music is very hard, techno and industrial - not the Sex Pistols but in the same spirit, bands like Ministry and 9-inch Nails.'
Debby Barry, stylist on the Independent shoot:
'Were Armani's skirts over trousers (for this summer) rooted in punk? I don't think punk has ever really left us.'
Zandra Rhodes, the first mainstream designer to incorporate punk references:
'Punk will always have some sort of influence on me. It was the first truly original movement to enter the fashion scene since flower power.
I think it has such a strong foothold in Britain because our youth are so free-thinking and decorate themselves by whatever means they have available.
The clothes I created with the beaded holes and beaded safety-pins (conceptual chic collection, 1977) I will always believe in. When I get the originals out of their trunks to lend for museums, I know they are pure art. Unfortunately for me, I could not produce them for a low enough price to make the concept sell commercially.'
Ted Polhemus, co-curator of the Streetstyle exhibition opening at the Victoria & Albert Museum in October 1994:
'Since punk, people have felt they can decorate themselves and put together clothes in their own way. The spirit of punk is re-emerging. . I'd say it's about time for the general principles of punk to come back. I don't mean the stereotypical garments, like the safety-pin through the nose, but elements like DIY - decorating your own leather jacket, the delight in juxtaposing garments that don't go together, of scavenging.
For large numbers of people, punk has never left. For example, goths and gothics, fetish fashion - none of that would have been possible without punk. In the Seventies, punk was such an earthquake - you couldn't duplicate it again. Punk conjured up extraordinary, eclectic images and put them on the streets where we now take them for granted. Because we live in the aftermath of that, we can't go back to square one.
As punk became a cliche into the Thatcher years, there was a movement away from it, and it got buried. It is appropriate that in the Nineties it should be rediscovered. Punk started as a very anti-hippy movement and there was great opposition between hippies and punks. Now both travellers and grungers borrow from punks - what I call hipunk.
The idea that someone should combine hippie beads and a caftan with a bright green mohican and DMs would have been unthinkable first time round.'
Bella Freud, designer:
'My experience of punk was with Westwood - hers was incredibly elegant and has metamorphosed into couture. I found punk exhilarating when I was 16 - it was wonderful to leave school and jump into that, to have something to wrap around yourself and have an identity, young and pure and wild.
Politically it's so vacuous at the moment, maybe something like punk could happen as reaction to that. Marketing mania has taken over the world - the Seventies was so easy to market and now, perhaps they're looking for something new to market. Punk could be it. That's what's so boring about revivals. I'd like to think things would go more upmarket - that people would be more antagonistic, provocative and elegant in a modern, hard-looking way.
Miles Landesman, manager, Boy, 1980-88 and now with the band Neurotica:
'I was at Boy before it got taken over and went straight. We were still selling rubber and leather and doing the Seditionaries stuff right through the Eighties - people were still buying it, not so much punks as clubbers.
I sold a lot of my original punk stuff to Japanese tourists who love it.
Vivienne Westwood gave Boy the rights to her Seditionaries stuff - we tried to pretend the stuff was original, but they were just copies.
Yeah, I think punk might catch on again. Grunge is influenced by punk. I'd like punk to come back, so long as it's got lots of energy - positive punk.'
Jamie Reid, graphic artist who created God Save the Queen newspaper cutouts for the Sex Pistols:
'Has punk gone away? Has Dadaism gone away? No, I think punk is very much a continuing story.
Edward Enninful, fashion editor,
'The most important thing is the punk idea of recycling - that same ethos is what's really happening now.
In our April issue, I used clothes by Michiko Koshino's Re-Psyche which re-uses old buttons and fabrics. Neo- punks are not so much 'fuck the government', as 'protect the planet'.'
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