Artist Paul McCarthy's subversive "Balloon Dog" at Frieze art fairBrit fashion critic Suzy Menkes asked in her review, "How could Andrew Bolton, the brilliant and cerebral museum curator, whose blockbuster shows have included the Alexander McQueen retrospective and last year's fusion of Elsa Schiaparelli with Miuccia Prada, have made punk seem so dull?" Ultimately defending the premise of the show (if not the execution), Menkes mused, "The true punks -- those who lived and survived that moment -- should find an exquisite irony in the idea that their no-future kick at a dead-end society should, 40 years on, have moved from a defiant statement from society's impoverished and self-proclaimed social outcasts to a display of clothes for global celebrities and the super-rich having a ball."
The Economist ran a piece last month on the subject, titled simply "An Embarrassment," declaring that "doing punk through the clothes is like trying to do hippiedom with peace symbols. Punk was never about the threads." They also pointed out that to look at punk only through the attire, rather than the beliefs, is to make a cultural error. "How on earth were A-list celebrities ever expected to pull off the 'fuck you' look?... Punk was never going to work at a society bash because the women couldn't bring themselves to make the necessary departures from style....How can a slavish attention to fashion ideals be counter-cultural? How do fabulous jewels and ludicrously expensive accessories express the ideology of the angry and dispossessed?"
Courtney Love stars in Hedi Slimane's punk Saint Laurent campaign
The legacy of punk rock is not torn T-shirts, safety pins, black leather, Mohawks, fishnets, fetish-wear or crazy-colored hair dyes. I hesitate to call anyone 'punk' who is not of that generation. These things are, after all, particular to their era, but on a more general level I think we can see punk attitudes and strategies still today."
Vivienne Westwood pays proper tribute to punk at the Met gala, January Jones does not.
And thank God the kids are continuing the punk legacy. Just last week I was invited to the premiere of a new film made by some friends called Pig Death Machine. As the director Jon Moritsugu (also known in the underground scene for cult classics like Fame Whore and Mod Fuck Explosion) and his wife Amy Davis (a former Paper contributor, who stars in all his films) explained in their press release, the "triumphant" film is about "a brainless bimbo who is transformed into a total genius after eating rotten meat while a misanthropic punk botanist babe gains the power to talk to plants." Pig Death Machine even includes some glittery "bacon animation!"
Still from the underground film Pig Death MachineSomehow I can't picture fashion editors, stylists and hot celebrities getting half as excited about Pig Death Machine as they did about the very un-punk-like fashion exhibit at the Met. But have no fear, because remember what Heidi Klum always says about fashion on Project Runway: "One day you're in and the next day you're out." I'd bet money that all this punk talk is moot by now and that fashion peeps will soon declare punk passé as they steel themselves to hop onto the next big thing. How punk is that?