Born from a reactionary attitude against authority, can punk, the most dissident yet influential cultural movement of the last century, make its mark on how we live? Can we embrace discord and a sense of rebelliousness as decorating dictums?
Maybe yes, maybe no.
Entrance to PUNK exhibition at the Met
We have seen the punk trend ebb and flow season after season in fashion with mixed success. The current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, aptly titled ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’ encapsulates the 40 some odd years of subcultural shenanigans in pop culture, music and fashion. In seeing the show I was intrigued – and afterwards I paused to ask myself if it could have any place in the home. To purchase the fashion, and to be edgy and controversial for a season is one thing, but to live with it for any length of time is another matter.
I enjoyed the exhibition and found many of the garments inspirational and open to interpretation as decorative solutions for an interior. But can ripped fabric, graffiti, safety pins and razor blades make a mark and stand proudly alongside other stalwart icons of great design like gilding or silk passementerie?
Perhaps the largest outcropping of punk subculture has been in the field of music. Artists woke up to the realization that they could abandon their love songs and find other things to sing about. In that manner so have a few daring fashion designers discovered that the implementation of punk references and talismans into their creations supported the anarchistic, deviant dark side that has been labelled defiantly alluring.
It’s curious how this punk movement even came about. Punk sprung from the scheming and need for confrontation of just two individuals – Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. “I did not see myself as a fashion designer but as someone who wished to confront the rotten status quo through the way I dressed, eventually this sequence of ideas culminated in punk” says Westwood.
Today the major influences of punk are still continuing in music, art, fashion, and yes, interiors. When I decided to start my research for this article I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have any expectations of finding much to work with, but I have, and was even more excited about writing this post.
This also led me to contact my friend Scooter LaForge, artist extraordinaire, whose work is grounded in pop culture and surely peppered with enough dark and rebellious references to be punk enough for me. His manipulated and painted t-shirts and assorted pieces of apparel are a testament to his contribution to the ‘new’ punk. I own a number of them and have even commissioned him to create special things for me. Perhaps that says something about me.
Painting by Scooter LaForge
When asked if he would ever consider the prospect of collaborating with me on an interiors project he championed the opportunity by saying he would “do very traditional wall paper and then add a really sick and twisted element. The viewer would really have to look to get what is going on. Also, creating very dramatic drapes would be a dream come true.” Yet another creative way to imbue subversion, and thumb one’s nose at propriety.
Though its inherent roots are against the capitalist hierarchy, punk too has succumbed to the lure of profitability. So then why not become a style of design and decoration as well? In some shape or form, I have found examples which can be categorized as soft to boldly defiant forms of punk style.
It’s odd to imagine, but there are a great deal of affluent people who are intrinsically rebellious by nature and may feel more comfortable in a home that is not a shrine to established good taste and acceptability. The notion of being anti-establishment is for some a veritable raison d’être.
Let’s get our kicks now and take a look at some punk inspired interiors. You can judge for yourselves their worth. Be mindful that the actual creators of these interiors may or may not label them as punk – but I feel that they all have some merit to support the discussion if punk is one to consider in the long list of decorative styles.
Early punk roots are evident at Andy Warhol’s Factory
Lenny Kravitz‘s Paris apartment
The Union Jack, an iconic symbol of punk
A lighthearted softer version, interior by Robert Passal
Embellishments of graffiti art in this urban space
Even Madison Avenue retail is stretching its punk wings at Aesop
I say let de-constructivism live. The very ideas of good taste and beauty can be challenged. Will defying the fundamentals, manipulating the materials, and breaking the rules condemn or liberate?
My hunch is the latter.
Written by Carl Lana