Mother of Punk Muted at The Met

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: May 27, 2013

At the Met Gala in celebration of the new Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibit, very little actual punk behavior was permitted to go on. Besides the serious lack of punk couture on the red carpet, and the fundamental ideological incompatibility of a prestigious, elite fashion event being “punk,” the affair was highly rigid and orchestrated with no room for the sort of anti-establishment, rebellious behavior that makes the punk movement so appealling.

Proving this point perfectly, when it came time for Vivienne Westwood to take her turn being interviewed on the Vogue.com livestream of the event, she was almost instantly cut off. Despite the fact that the exhibit is packed full of Westwood’s designs and she is arguably the mother of punk, responsible for some of the most iconic punk fashion statements of all time, when attempting to speak out on a political issue of importance to her, she was instantly and unapologetically silenced.

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Westwood began her interview with Vogue.com’s Billy Norwich by making it clear that she was not hugely impressed with the exhibit, saying, “I had a little look and I like some of my stuff so I’ll leave us there.”  Norwich then tried to ask the designer who she was wearing, but Westwood directed him straight to her jewelry, an image of Bradley Manning she had laminated and safety pinned to the front of her pastel robes. For those who don’t know, Manning is the intelligence analyst who currently stands accused of being a traitor to the United States for sending classified document to WikiLeaks. Westwood told Norwich, “I’m here to promote Bradley and he needs public support for what’s going on with secret trials and trying to lock him away and he’s the bravest of the brave and that’s what I really want to say more than anything. Because punk, when I did punk all those years ago my motive was the same: justice and to try to have a better world. It really was about that. I’ve got different methods nowadays." Norwich was visibly uncomfortable and nervous, attempting to wrap up the interview telling her they were out of time as Westwood said, “I want to say one more thing.”  Vogue simply panned their cameras away to co-host Hilary Rhoda’s introduction of a video piece by the exhibit’s curator Andrew Bolton, cutting Westwood off mid-sentence.

Throughout the livestream and the exhibit, Westwood was repeatedly honored, frequently being cited by her fellow designers as a fashion cornerstone of the entire London-based movement. Unfortunately, Vogue isn’t interested in the actual history of punk, its mentality, or its fundamental spirit. Afterall, at its core, punk is the radical, politicized expression of a generation. Vogue, however, is only interested in pilfering the more appealing and palatable aspects from the ideology of punk and neutering all that which makes is too unpredictable or extreme, effectively killing all of its truly inspirational content. When the reality of what punk is slaps Vogue in the face, and it doesn’t fit into the hyper-curated shallow conception they’ve created, it’s easier to look the other way that grapple with the complexities of attempting to commodify an anti-establishment movement.

Other Stories by Emily Kirkpatrick
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