I made clothes that looked like ruins. I created something new by destroying the old. This wasn’t fashion as a commodity, this was fashion as an idea.
– Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010), British fashion designer (of sorts) and manager of the Sex Pistols.
I read this quote in Vivienne Westwood’s biography, Vivienne Westwood written by Westwood and author Ian Kelly (Picador, 2014).
I’m intrigued by the notion of creating something new by “destroying” the old. Kind of goes against my grain given my appreciation for all things vintage. But I can understand why, in post WWII Britain after years of bleakness and austerity, young people would want not just to break away from standard conventions and fashions but also to erase them. Creating something new from something old for them was active, it was making a statement. I think intent behind fashion choices is always more interesting.
McLaren was Westwood’s partner in life and in business. The two set up shop in the early 70s on King’s Road in London, at first selling revival 50s rock clothing and record albums. As the times changed so did the couple, who became central figures in the Punk Rock scene. My impression from the book is that McLaren influenced and inspired Westwood but she was the real worker and creator. She went on to develop a fashion empire, without McLaren.
I wonder if McLaren’s comment was a stab at Westwood (he was not above doing that). No matter her background in punk, she is a commercial fashion powerhouse now and certainly fashion for her is a commodity – a big one.
More on Westwood and her fashion empire in an upcoming post.