The Contemporary Wardrobe is a resource in the address book of every London stylist who gives a damn about their craft, its proprietor Roger Burton archiving an exhaustive collection of 20th century style and streetwear on packed floor-to-ceiling rails.
Now, as part of vintage clothing website Byronesque, Burton has shared previously unseen footage of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in conversation, the only time they were ever filmed together discussing their legacy, at punk exhibition Burton opened in 1993.
Westwood and McLaren’s contrary contribution to youth culture in the 70s can’t be overstated, their World’s End shop Sex/Seditionaries changing the course of fashion through pieces seen here like the Anarchy shirt and Chicken Bones t-shirt – as relevant a cultural document of their time as anything you’ll find in a glass case at a museum, these clothes are emblems of fashion at its most arrogant and ambitious.
Here, we run an extract from the footage of Westwood talking about punk rock and ideas.
“The real word, I mean apart from the word anarchy, of the punk rocks was this idea of ‘destroy’ and I think it was the most heroic attempt as an exercise to see if rock and roll really could live up to what rock and roll was supposed to be about. Malcolm once said to me ‘rock and roll is the jungle beat that threatens the white civilisation.’ And like I was saying at its sweetest, it’s like ‘see you later daddy and don’t be square and everything.’ But it is supposedly, according to people like Patti Smith who used to go ‘peace and love, rock and roll,’ if you’re getting off on rock and roll, it’s going to change the world in some sort of way.
Now looking back on it, I would say that someone like Sid Vicious was very intelligent, because he was saying ‘I’m brain damaged, I don’t have anything to say or to put in its place but I do want to destroy.’ And what he did was an attack at the older generation to say ‘we don’t accept anything that you have to tell us, we don’t accept any of your advice, we don’t accept any of your taboos and we are going to put Swastikas on; you’ve mismanaged the world horrifically. And alright, maybe we can’t do any better.’
…I don’t have to say it in that way but it was like, you know, ‘you’ve tried to put all your hypocrisy under the carpet but we’re going to wear your hypocrisy on our back.’
…And I do say that the only subversion lies in ideas. Not even in ideas but in unpopular ideas, because popular culture is a contradiction in terms. If you think about it there wouldn’t be any art if you had to go along with popular ideas, it’s only the fact that art was unpopular that it ever was supported by an avant-garde and very few people that constitute something we call civilisation. Something the Greeks discovered really. You know it’s a sceptical point of view, that I mentioned before, ‘establishment’ in inverted commas. What I mean is that the establishment is not a word written in stone. In fact establishment is something that uses the energy of the token rebels and, so it’s something that changes according to how much it wants to soak up. And I myself prefer to ignore it and to sort of concern myself with the cultural crisis that we have. I mean everyone knows we’re in the middle of an ecological disaster and I don’t think that you can disassociate the cultural one from that.
I mean Hitler burnt books, but you don’t need to do that anymore today, most people don’t read them anyway. The only ideas are in books. You can’t have a conversation with someone that hasn’t read something, cause that’s where ideas are.”
ClickHEREto see the film of Westwood and McLaren in its entirety.
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