Punk: Chaos to Couture

Metropolitan Museum of Art, dist. by Yale Univ. 2013. 240p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300191851. $45. FASHION
With essays by John Lydon (aka Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten), Richard Hell (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp) of Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, writer and filmmaker Jon Savage (Teenage; England's Dreaming), and Bolton (curator, Costume Inst.), this catalog is a profusion of photographs that captures the anarchic spirit of punk more accurately than the accompanying Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute's did, dominated as it was by mannequins wearing spectacular 21st-century couture. Following the exhibition's themes of graffiti, agitprop, hardware, destruction, and bricolage, the book makes a more direct and persuasive visual case for punk's influence on couture by juxtaposing contemporary photographs of 1970s punk fashion against designs by Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe, Martin Margiela, Balmain, Rodarte, and others. By the nature of the objects included, the exhibition emphasized couture over chaos, with less attention to how rebellious ideas declared by Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, and early punk bands filtered through street and mainstream fashion. The catalog both expresses and documents the cycle of culture coopting counterculture.
VERDICT This loud, intensely illustrated record of a controversial exhibition will pique cultural interest from fields beyond fashion.
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