Punk’s iconoclastic aesthetic was originally rooted in street culture, but its subversive style has had an enduring influence on high fashion. This impact is explored in PUNK: Chaos to Couture, the spring 2013 exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The show juxtaposes original punk garments from the mid-1970s with more recent fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear have borrowed punk's visual symbols, and how designers continue to extend the visual language of punk by merging social realism with artistic expression. Pentagram has designed a catalogue for the exhibition that captures the immediacy of the subject in a format inspired by the 12” LP cover.
PUNK opens with galleries devoted to the origins of the two historic “schools” of punk, the seminal CBGB club in New York and Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s legendary Seditionaries boutique in London. Other sections look at the link between punk’s “do-it-yourself” attitude and haute couture’s “made-to-measure” sensibility, including the customization of garments with embellishments like studs, spikes, chains, zippers, safety pins and razor blades, as well as text, images and graffiti; the use of unexpected materials recycled from trash and consumer culture, like plastic bags and newspaper; and the use of techniques like ripping, shredding and tearing, associated with deconstructionism. Designers featured in the exhibition include Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Malcolm McLaren, Stephen Sprouse, Katharine Hamnett, Ann Demeulemeester, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan, Gareth Pugh, Hedi Slimane, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Miguel Adrover, Helmut Lang, Miuccia Prada, and Kate and Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte), among many others.
Throughout the book, large-format photography recreates the juxtapositions of the exhibition, placing historical photos of the punk movement side by side with their fashion descendants. The designers collaborated with Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton on the development of the catalogue and created a design for the book that conveys the aggressive, confrontational and elemental nature of punk’s D.I.Y. aesthetic. The 12”-square format recreates the size and scale of an LP cover, and the book has been printed on an uncoated paper stock that gives it a raw, tactile quality. Large-scale black-and-white typography is set in New Rail, a revival of the British Rail alphabet that is visually associated with London.
The catalogue opens with essays by the punk musicians Richard Hell and John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols), as well as a cultural history by the music journalist Jon Savage. Throughout the book, large-format photography recreates the juxtapositions of the exhibition, placing historical photos of the punk movement side by side with their fashion descendants. The cover of the book incorporates the exhibition logo created by Peter Saville with the exhibition’s designer, Nick Knight.
Pentagram also designed the catalogues for three other Costume Institute shows: China: Through the Looking Glass, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy and Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.