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The Intense relationship between music and fashion: PUNK x Fashion 

World creation through fashion plays such a pivotal role in music. From music videos to red carpets, artists use fashion to immerse their fans into an era. But how far does the relationship between fashion and music actually go? An often overlooked role of music in the fashion world is runway soundtracking. The soundtrack to a show is meticulously crafted to fit the designer’s collection. For example, the work of Frederic Sanchez, is synonymous with Margiela’s earlier collections just as Dominick Emrik’s is for Vivienne Westwood’s later ones. They set the mood and environment for guests to absorb the collection. 

Some designers are just irrevocably intertwined with a music genre, Vivienne Westwood being the paradigm. When you think Vivienne you think punk (and of course the KCL graduation gown: her most impactful work). Her partnership with Malcolm McLaren, manager of the ‘Sex Pistols’ was pivotal in formulating her early style. Her store ‘SEX’ was the hotspot for rebels and seditionists. The store was where the band found their lead singer, and where they had many of their formative moments. Her anti-establishment views were only heightened when the Sex Pistols’ single “God Save the Queen” was banned from British radio. She radicalised her designs even further, creating the infamous “Destroy” T-shirt, featuring a swastika and an upside-down crucified Christ as well as graphic tees with the Queen’s portrait with provocative text, safety pins and ripped fabric.  Her clothes also became the primary outfit for the band. 

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Her anti-establishment mindset found its medium in fashion, revolutionising fashion as a tool for political commentary. Punk in the UK emerged in response to the economic crisis causing increased unemployment and frustration with living standards. 

 The collapse of the Sex Pistols and the adoption of this genre as “Punk Rock” by the masses made Vivienne turn her attention elsewhere. The adoption of the aesthetic but not the sentiment behind punk left her disenchanted, resulting in the move to high fashion. Frontman of Sex Pistols, John Lyndon, recalls it differently: “Malcolm and Vivienne were really a pair of shysters: they would sell anything to any trend that they could grab onto”. Vivienne’s shift to the teddy boy/ Anglomania aesthetic leaves room to question the inauthenticity of the fashion world. 

This gap in the punk scene is soon after filled by RAF Simmons, in a much more subtle way, disrupting the status quo/ establishment from within (the high fashion realm). With the same conviction of punk enthusiasts: to question and go against the system, Simmons left his mark on the fashion world as an outsider. Inspired by the trailblazing Margiela show of S/S89, Simmons displays a conviction to take fashion beyond the clothes he designs. 

His first collection, A/W96, takes an unconventional medium. Instead of a runway, he opts for a VHS for art, emulating a music video. It features the models smoking, hanging around and watching TV in pale, white lighting reminiscent of older supernatural films and TV shows. The collection itself is named after the Smashing Pumpkins song “We only come out at night”. The clothes have an overall gothic and punk aesthetic, with the models having pitch black hair and Smokey makeup. The clothes were nothing groundbreaking, but showcased the artistic vision and potential of the brand. 

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Over the next few collections, Simmons hones this aesthetic. The S/S98 collection is much more overt with its punk references. It features multiple graphic t-shirts, one of them with just the “Sex Pistols” written on it, pioneering the “heavy metal graphic style” 

The A/W99 collection titled “Disorder, Incubation and Isolation”, brings back the jet black hair motifs and introduces dark capes and cloaks. This collection is largely influenced by Joy Division, whose art and album covers were largely minimalist and minimalistic. The collection is named after three of their songs, and the cloaks from the collection mirror the imagery on the “Closer” album. It was quite novel and immersive in its actualisation. 

Following his year-long sabbatical, A/W01: “Riot! Riot! Riot!”, became his most venerated and most “punk” collection. The sewing of patches onto clothes is quintessentially punk and referential to Vivienne Westwood. He repurposes military wear and references Kurt Cobain, Patti Smith and other artists with the patches and clothing design. We also witness a departure from his earlier slim silhouettes to a complete embracing of the oversized look. It features parkas, military-style jackets, balaclavas and hooded jackets. The clothing was aggressively dark, industrial and oversized. The show took place in a former industrial plant in Neuilly-sur-Seine, furthering the anti-fashion sentiment. The clothing and styling was like nothing seen before. The layering of different garments and textures was groundbreaking. Many archival fashion enthusiasts reference the show for styling today. 

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My personal favourite take on punk from a designer is Jun Takahashi’s S/S03 collection for Undercover titled “SCAB”. It is inspired by the subculture “crust punk” which takes a more radical anarchist approach, often involving voluntary homelessness and squatting. He was in a Sex Pistols cover band called the ‘Tokyo Sex Pistols’ 

The influence is apparent from the distressing and significant patches on the clothing. The Imagery of clothing conveys a sense of decay and darkness, evoking a feeling of rebellion and anarchy. Sedition’s “Earth Beath” LP was frequently used as a source of inspiration, with the logo of the LP becoming a common design on the accessories. The iconography and mood of the LP are also translated into the collection with tribal elements. The LP discusses indigenous cultures and their marginalisation. 

The most impactful element of the show was the use of colourful burqa-sequel veils, revealing his conviction in the beliefs and sentiment behind punk.

It was a time of self-censorship by artists in an attempt to safeguard their interests in a post-9/11 world. Takahashi did the unimaginable to most designers, he put the political discussion at the forefront instead of tip-going around it. He sticks to the anti-establishment and rebellious ethos of punks, using his collection to voice anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist attitudes. 


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