Friday September 3rd is Sex Pistols day in Norway, with the exhibition opening and release party for Trygve Mathiesen’s book Banned in the UK: Sex Pistols Exiled to Oslo 1977. I’ve never written much about the band, but here’s a short interview about their role in the commercialization of the relationship between music and fashion.
The interviewee is Andrew Bolton, curator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, used as background for this D2 story about indie rock and fashion.
ØH: In an interview with The New York Times you mentioned Vivienne Westwood’s clothes for Sex Pistols as a Year 0 for the commercialization of the relationship between music and fashion. What designers have been the most important in the relationship between popular music and fashion since then?
AB: From the 1950s onwards, there has been an intimate relationship between music and fashion. Pop stars often patronized particular designers. The Beatles, for instance, wore Dougie Millings and Tommy Nutter. But McLaren and Westwood were among the first designers to create and commercialize a look, wholesale, through a band. The Sex Pistols effectively served as models for McLaren’s and Westwood’s latest creations. Through the band, McLaren and Westwood helped launch a fashion movement as well as a subcultural movement. Since them, I can’t think of any other designer who has had the same impact on the look of a band in terms of branding their image. Bryan Ferry has had a long-term relationship with Anthony Price, and David Bowie has worn Alexander McQueen, but like most musicians his is not an exclusive relationship. Musicians these days are more eclectic in their dress – personal styling (or the reliance on a stylist) is becoming more commonplace.
ØH: In the UK, music and fashion have been bedfellows since the 60’s, from the mods through punk and into britpop and beyond. Do you feel the link between American rock and fashion had been weaker, and has it changed in the last ten years?
AB: What often happens in the UK is that music becomes aestheticized. Punk, for instance, began in America, but England gave punk its unique “look.” But there are many examples of musically-driven subcultural movements in the US that have had long term-effects on fashion – grunge and hip-hop specifically. In both these cases, brands as opposed to specific designers became dominant, although Tommy Hilfiger became the inadvertent designer of hip-hop. That said, there have been individual performers known for their designer affiliations – Liza Minnelli and Halston, Debbie Harry and Stephen Sprouse, David Byrne and Adelle Lutz, Madonna and Jean Paul Gaultier, Grace Jones and Azzedine Alaia. More recently, you’re seeing the phenomenon of musicians developing their own labels – people like Beyoncé, Andre 2000, and Gwen Stefani.