The heart of the punk revolution that forever changed the history of fashion, music, art, and western culture in general is a small shop with the evocative name 'Sex' at 430 Kings Road in London, still a pilgrimage destination for fashionistas from all over the world. It was here that, thanks to the fortunate meeting between Vivienne Westwood, the last living punk icon, and Malcolm McLaren, the future manager of the Sex Pistols, a youth revolution of incalculable scope was born.
The distinctive signs that characterised the punk movement – born at the dawn of the 1970s in the United States but which had its consecration in the second half of the decade on the shores of the English Channel – became universal symbols of a revolt that was not only musical but also social and political. Safety pins, crests, studs, ripped and unravelled, printed and discoloured clothes so dear to Vivienne Westwood, before becoming fashion and custom, were a way of being and seeing the world that was rebellious and non-conformist.
Initially born as a musical phenomenon, thanks to legendary groups such as the Ramones, The Clash and Sex Pistols, it is in fashion that the movement finds its universal consecration. The utopia of the hippies, who dreamed of a freer and fairer world, is now in its twilight years. Punk was the counterpart of economic prosperity, the fruit of an affluent society that bore children in revolt. No illusions and no future, no naivety and no return to nature, in the midst of the British recession of the 1970s, disappointed and angry young punks reflected the sentiment in their words and clothing. Leather, studs, chains, elements even close to the fetish world but worn with more toughness, bondage trousers and corsets, latex, whips, t-shirts with provocative writing, DIY garments that indifferently incorporated pipes, caps, or chains, became the main elements of a street style steeped in social criticism and taboo breaking.
Again, all that imagery, stripped of its disruptive force, is synonymous with rebellion on the catwalks and in the collections of stylists all over the planet. Interesting is, for example, the fortune that the safety pin has had, worn everywhere and in any way, as face jewellery to pierce the faces of young people or worn on T-shirts and trousers, which, while remaining the symbol of the movement, will become a luxury decorative element on the catwalks of the big names in fashion, as in the iconic dress designed in 1994 by Versace and worn by Elizabeth Hurley for the première of the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. The whole punk aesthetic, though weakened by its subversive charge, continues to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for designers of every generation. Just think of what we saw on the Spring/Summer 2023 catwalks.
The homage of Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood is obvious, tracing a line of continuity by making the British designer's motto "Buy less, choose better and make what you buy last longer. Aim for quality, not quantity", re-actualising archive materials and fabric scraps already used to emphasise the issue of safeguarding the Planet and the immoderate use of fast fashion. Green light, then, to the celebration of the brand's history through corsets, garters, short coats and the unfailingly high platforms perfect for both him and her.
It is a decidedly more colourful and almost carnivalesque approach to punk that we saw on Thom Browne's Parisian catwalk for next Spring/Summer. The American designer presented a riot of draped dresses studded with gold embroidery, glittering flounces defining taffeta coats, feathers, corsets, exposed underwear, and head-high crests. Balenciaga, on the other hand, plays on the contrast between apocalyptic vision and funny accessories such as the punk bear bag worn by Bella Hadid on the catwalk.
Leather is the absolute protagonist, but in a super sexy guise and combined with lingerie. Leather that returns in a bursting way at Gucci in the more classic version of the jacket with the oblique zip; in Burberry's double-breasted jacket; in Versace's fringed variant and in Annakiki's studded one. All in a strictly sexy key: with lingerie dresses, micro-skirts or leotards that leave little to the imagination. Provocation, an unequivocal element of punk, remains in the foreground but without taking itself too seriously. Punk's fortunes show no sign of slowing down, as demonstrated by the imminent opening, scheduled for January 2023, of a museum, the Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas, entirely dedicated to the history of the movement. Inside, thousands of objects and memorabilia from the most important punk bands in history will be on display, but it will also aim to involve visitors through interactive experiences, such as the possibility of playing some of the instruments used by the greatest punk musicians.