x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Katie Trotter: Punk power is more attitude, less aesthetics

Why a paint-by-numbers punk look just doesn't work.

Rebranding punk as a new trend is somewhat senseless. For punk, like hippiedom, has less to do with style and taste than it does popular culture or consumerism. The mohawk, the piercings, the torn denim, the slashed leather all stood for (or at least tried to) an ideology, providing a window for radical views - not something that can or should be manufactured. A perfect example of how it doesn't work is when we take a look at the recent pictures from the 2013 Met Ball that was themed on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition Punk: Chaos to Couture.

You see, punk can't be recreated as such - manicured nails and honeyed hair from the movie star set at the Met Ball was replaced by fake tattoos, (nicely) chipped nails and a new-found black dye job. It all simply reeked of trying too hard and was just generally uncool. Let's face it, Malcolm McLaren would have turned in his grave at the sight of Sarah Jessica Parker in a mohawk.

In the exhibition overview, Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Costume Institute, defended the choice. "Since its origins, punk has had an incendiary influence on fashion," he said. "Although punk's democracy stands in opposition to fashion's autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk's aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness."

That's not to say that some wonderful referencing has not been taken from punk in the fashion world since its origins. Take Vivienne Westwood, who believes that clothing should be charged with a physical presence, that it should provoke a reaction, make ourselves and the observer feel uncomfortable. Or the late Alexander McQueen, who consistently asked us to challenge the way we view clothing, especially as a female, with his revolutionary cutting techniques. Of course, John Galliano - and more recently Hedi Slimane - also experimented with cuts that challenge the normal rules of modern dress, such as the particularly short jackets for men with narrow, boxy shoulders, a look that would once have been dismissed previously as overtly feminine. And during his time at Dior Homme, Slimane pioneered skinny jeans for men, a direct reference to punk in the early 1980s that was later adopted by the indie music scene in the UK with bands such as The Libertines.

Of course, all this recent noise has inspired the runway, in that it can almost be classed as a super-trend for the autumn/winter 2013 shows. Versace went all out (as always), with latex skinny trousers, slogan T-shirts and tartan kilts offset with spiked collars, while Moschino and Alberta Ferretti jumped on the wagon with tartan. Saint Laurent gave more of a nod to grunge but still had elements of punk, with tartan shirts and slashed leather trousers.

Shopping-wise, the best place to start is Moda Operandi, which has released an exclusive collection of luxury punk-inspired pieces by designers such as Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Moschino, Prabal Gurung, Rodarte, Vivienne Westwood and Preen. These are really special pieces - Westwood even remastered one of her corsets for the occasion.

My advice: handle all of this with care. You see, punk was a movement at its core, one responsible for a shift of ideals in the 1980s, so its revival should be treated with much-needed caution. Choose pieces rather than looks, elements rather than recreations. Eclectic, androgynous and off-the-rack are all keywords that should steer you in the right direction.

ktrotter@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.