I AM NOT at the Met Ball, celebrating the opening of THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART OF NEW YORK’S Spring 2013 Fashion Blockbuster “PUNK: CHAOS TO COUTURE”
But it has my mind racing back to the days….
PUNK: Nightime-New-York’s-early-1970’s-nails-to-the-board-assault on the arrival of le-c’est-chic-of-the-Parisian-turntable-, and exported, a decade past the “Summer of Love” to a London in the throes of it’s “Winter of Discontent”.
The non-fashion-CBGB-uniform of skinny black jean, dirty concert t, high top sneaker, and unkempt hair gained an English-eccentrics-visual-vibe as it leapt the pond. The kids-on-the-dole-would do it themselves and add/subtract at their own whim: tears-held together-by-safety-pins, bin-bags, and defiantly-non-high-fashion-Doctor-Martens-orthopedic-footwear, elaborate coiffures molded-with-egg and dyed-with-jelly-powder, their faces painted in primal scream.
The original plus its new additions would travel next, from the streets, to the catwalks, with the nimble minds and fingers of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who tossed the look of the street together with some SM fetish gear, a handful of shiny stuff from the local hardware and some fingers-poked-defiantly-at-a-not-so-popular -Queen-and-Country.
What we remember today as the immortal picture of punk was complete and ready for purveyance on those with cash to spend. As my friend Helen-Torontonian-but-did-time-on-the-Kings-Road told it, if you were on the dole you weren’t buying “Seditionaries”, nor would you want to, why would you stoop to designer when you could doff a bin bag for less than quid and be there without someone else’s name on your ass. It was real-versus-wannabee, the street would continue to shape to cloth of the designer.
The music had begun to morph, and fashion, gathered in it’s wake, would follow suit; new wave added geometry, reggae would give it Jamaican colour, rockabilly would pull in the 1950’s roots, and German techno would add the polish the robotic gleam.
By the summer of 1979 punk was everywhere. I was preparing to leave my home-base of Vancouver and move to Toronto, to study fashion at Ryerson. I wandered around and took some shots to take away with me, lots of trees and parks and west coast stuff, some buildings I loved, and a sweep of paint and paper on some scaffolding announcing a summer “concert”
More like a seismic shift in the culture, but who knew then…it was just what was going on…
I had pogoed at the “BLONDIE” concert. I had my disco-shag chopped a-la-Elvis-Costello in-an-above-the-ears-neo-50’s-way, I had been taken-to-the-river-and-washed by the Talking Heads. It had been a good pose, it overlapped my Saturday-Night-Fever and I got on the plane with a copy of Paris, L’Officiel, full of the mega-shouldered-Valkyrie-stalkers of Mugler and Montana, which carried me to Toronto, where I hit the street a little harder.
My first-Ryerson-friend-Michelle-her-best-friend’s-boyfriend was in the Biff’s, a TO “punk” band, showed me Queen-Street-West, still then a hangout for lovers of old books and the unearthed edgy tucked in at the Peter Pan, not the Eaton’s Center Annex of today. She led me on a used-clothes-shopping-tour, I bought a pair-of-old-store-stock-Italianate-60’s-pointy-toed-oh-so-thin-flat-soled-dark-green-shoes, I had never worn anything-not-brand-new before…they were soon joined by an oversized 50’s golf jacket, faded-lime-green which I promptly padded the shoulders and pinned the hem in tight
I went back to Vancouver that Christmas, but it was not the same, cliché-I-know-lol, when I got back to TO, it had become home. The Sunday night before going back to class, another hair chop, always a sign of change for me, and I shaved out a large triangle that ran parallel to the part, and sculpted a couple of triangular layers on the opposite side. I made a new friend, Marnie, when she asked if I got hassled for wearing leather pants to class, (she did) and we took on the night life with her friend Jimmy.
I had quit my job at Eaton’s (do your remember the Yonge and Eglinton store?) to go home for Christmas so upon return had to find a new work gig. Now where would I get a job looking like that? A new boutique had just opened in Yorkville, called “PARACHUTE”, they looked like me, or I them, and after applying for a part time job, and a chance meet up at the Spadina Hotel to watch a band, the deal was sealed.
MECCA, this was my world of fashion, not bring adult stuff on traditional runways..
My boss, ANYA VARDA, famous for being, and a “FILE” MAGAZINE (Art trio GENERAL IDEAS publication) “cover girl”. Anya, not her real name, pseudo Brit accent, not hers either, she was from Scarborough, Ontario, although of this, not a trace. An all-original-self-creation-person-as-art, she had appeared in the recent past in a number of guises from a bleached and over the top femme fatale “Marilyn” to this as-of-late-jet-black-hair-sucked-back-in-a head-numbing-tight-ponytail, with some small-almost-invisible-blue-streaks-that-made-you-look-twice (a product of John Steinberg at the Rainbow Room), She owned actual Mugler, and would sometimes pop a most-beautiful-pink-leather-biker-jacket (by LOUCAS KLEANTHOUS) over her simple ensembles. She was minimal-for-maximum, before we knew what it was…rice-powdered-skin-screaming-red lips-Chanel-of-course-and-some-black-eyeliner, an habitué of the Fiesta Restaurant and friend and confidante of the uptown/downtown glitterati… What’s the selling technique here I asked, “stand over there and look good, don’t bother talking to the customers….just look good”, a lesson in the attitude that was to prevail throughout the 80s.
Montrealer Mitchell Merling was one of the team that had been sent from Montreal to establish the Parachute Manifesto in TO. This was not just a retail store, it was Architect HARRY PARNASS and Clothing Designer NICOLA PELLY’S new-wave-outpost-for-future-fashion. Fashion-flat-on-the-in-store-runway-no-mannequins to give curve to the not-so-subtle-geometry, Mitchell and I overlapped briefly, he produced the first spring fashion event, and then left. He barely spoke, was more-than-tall-and-thin, and walked glued to whatever wall he was near in a militaristic-manic-geometric-sort-of-way. Frightening in his chic, he appeared one day in a classic trench which he had chopped the hem off of in large zig zags., His hair also in the identikit jet black, his demeanour, not really there. Very Kraftwerk, Neo-Nazi-of the-upper-echelon, not the skin-head-working-class.
The shop-girl-with-whom-my-shift-overlapped was MARY JANE LAMOND, also from the Montreal squad, but she stayed on through spring. Again, identikit jet black hair, this time with a tiny pink streak in the front, she was steely in appearance…
Parachute’s clothes, all in basic black, most with studs, and most with shoulder pads, including the undershirts so that you could layer pad upon pad….
My Ryerson year (I did not go back in the fall, to impatient to be doing it myself) ended on a high note, the producer of the first-year-fashion-showcase-of-our-final-product. We had been given the assignment of creating a day dress for business wear, I opted for a lady-welder so I could work in the high-tech way of my Paris and Montréal heroes My instructor said not viable, I said it was, and did-it-my-way!
Canada’s non-establishment (yet) designers made their asymmetrical assault on the public; INCOGNITO in Vancouver, GERALD FRANKLIN, LEIGHTON BARRETT and LOUCAS KLEANTHOUS in Toronto.
ROOTS moved on from their inverted heel, mine, oh so similar to those on Joe Jacksons album cover.
The summer of 1982, The National Gallery of Canada showed off the-amazing-George-Costakis-collection-of “futurist-art:-recently-released-from-behind the Iron-Curtain the-present-met-the-past-to-give-us-the-future. World fashion took a turn to the left.
The fall of 1983 found the Toronto-Avant-Garde-Artists-Collective “CHROMAZONE”, taking over the uptown-and-toni-and-now-vacated-premises of Harridges Department Store, and in an open collaboration with other purveyors-of-the-moment staging “CHROMALIVING”, a-not-formal-salon-of-objects-d’art, but a Mixmaster’s-magic-of-objects-of-all-sorts. From the-bright-white-high-tech-sterility-of-operating-room-as-bedroom to the post-holocaust-desert-sculpted-in-rice-crispies, and a full platoon of artist-created-fashion, the ragged and torn took over, no polish, no veneer, just real and in-your-face for a world that possibly, we might not make it to.
Punk was uptown, downtown, in galleries, on runways, and on the street.
It was made by artists and manufacturers and anyone else that felt like it. it had grown well beyond its original musical roots.
It was the undoing-of-the-past and the doing-it-yourself of the future.
Monday, May 6, 2013