In the period 1972-78 when the body of the partnership’s punk fashions were created, Malcolm McLaren’s art education and development as a largely conceptual visual artist was applied with Vivienne Westwood’s intuitive and sophisticated technical skills.
The resultant potency of the work was achieved by such factors as: balance in the proportions; deft use of juxtaposition; confidence in realisation; jarring harmony in the use of colour; wit in the application of motifs; and astute sense of framing, particularly of text and visual imagery.
Excerpt from introduction to my review of the McLaren/Westwood designs in the Costume Institute collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, summer 2013.
Precision, deftness, balance, harmony, these are terms unjustly omitted from the standard critical lexicon applied to punk’s central design aesthetics as conceived and realised by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and their coterie.
Which is why Punk @ ShowStudio, the elegant exhibition which is now moving into its final week at photographer Nick Knight’s Belgravia gallery, is to be applauded, since it avoids the run-of-the-mill in favour of recognition of the importance of these qualities.
“I was very impressed. It was inspiring to see what I like to call ‘the origins of Punk’ as opposed to the usual well documented ‘greatest hits of Punk’,” the collector/archivist/author Paul Burgess wrote to me recently.