Punk Designers

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood Malcolm McLaren punk 1970s fashion

Dame Vivienne is an English fashion designer perhaps best known for being one of the most influential figures in punk culture/ style and bringing ‘new wave’ fashion to the mainstream in the 70s.
She was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in 1941. She initially studied jewellery and silversmithing but left school believing that a middle-class woman couldn’t possibly make a living in the art world. She became a primary school teacher and sold jewellery at a stall on Portobello road.
She married Derek Westwood in 1962 and made her own wedding dress. However, the marriage didn’t work out and she ended up in a relationship with artist Malcolm McLaren. She continued to teach while also making clothing which Malcolm designed. 
Their first shop was called Let It Rock and sold deadstock 50s clothing and versions of Teddy Boy fashion. Their clothes ended up in the Rocky Horror Show.
Let it Rock turned into ‘Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die’ in 1973. They sold leather jackets, heavily distressed shirts with inflammatory words like ‘PERV’ emblazoned across the chest.
McLaren began managing the New York Dolls and styled them for their concerts, putting them in red soviet-like uniforms. 
They employed Glen Mattlock, future bassist of the Sex Pistols, and changed the shop name to SEX in 1974. It was now geared toward fetish wear. Pamela Rooke “Jordan” became the shop manager and worked in the store, clad in full bondage. She became one of the icon’s of the London punk scene. 
The New York Dolls broke up and McLaren returned to Britain in 1975.
Johnny Rotten started to hang out at the store. The Sex Pistols officially formed in 1975 with McLaren as their manager.  
In 1976, the shop was renamed ‘Seditionaries: Clothes for Heroes’ and ‘God Save the Queen’ was released in 1977. Punk had officially arrived. 
The band members wore Malcolm and Vivienne’s clothing and they soon gained widespread attention as the architects of the official punk look. 
The shop became a hub for the London punk scene. Key looks included bondage trousers that featured a zipper under the crotch, a bum flap and hobble straps. Additionally, the distressed look was born with loose-woven, 'unravelling' mohair jumpers and torn-looking dresses and tops decorated with metal chains and safety pins.
Their clothing was known for challenging graphics screen-printed onto distressed shirts such as swastikas, the queen with a safety pin through her lips, bare breasts and pornographic cowboys.
This was the de-facto uniform for a disenfranchised generation of British youth.
After the Sex Pistols broke up in 1978 and punk was swallowed into the mainstream, Westwood was feeling disillusioned. She began to look for different, more subtle ways of subverting the establishment and started to draw from various historical periods. The shop was again renamed in 1979, to World’s End.
McLaren and Westwood broke up in 1980 but continued to work together. Their first fashion collection to be shown to the media and to potential international buyers was Pirate in 1981. The collection was named for its "plundering of ideas and colours from other places and periods”. The New Romantic look was partly inspired by this collection.
The 1982 Buffalo Girls collection was the first to introduce underwear as outerwear with 1950s-style satin bras worn over dresses. 
They produced collections throughout the early 80s with thematic titles such as Savages, Punkature, Witches and World’s End. Their toxic business partnership dissolved in 1983. Since then, she has forged a rebel aesthetic that is truly her own.

Read about the rest of Westwood's career in our designer spotlight blog post HERE.

BOY London 

BOY London

The iconic British institution that is BOY London was founded by Stephane Raynor in 1976. 
Stephane had been selling 50s vintage clothing to Malcolm MacLaren at his shop Let It Rock before opening his own store Acme Attractions. On any given day, you could find Bob Marley, Billy Idol or Chrissie Hynde just sitting around on the floor of the shop. When Boy opened up in ’76, Billy Idol worked the tills and it became an epicentre of fashion and music, first for the punk subculture and then the New Romantic scene that appeared in its wake. Boy George and the Culture Club were practically styled by Raynor. It quickly became an iconic label that everyone wanted to wear. Their eccentric fashion shows were the wildest events on the fashion calendar.
It drew its name from provocative tabloid headlines like “Boy Stabs PC” and “Boy Electrocuted at 30,000 Volts,” which had been clipped and hung as décor. People couldn’t understand why it was called BOY when they were used to shop names likes Marks & Spencer. Raynor recalls that “every weekend hundreds of punks would gather at the shop. It got crazy on the pavement outside – the police came to move the punks from blocking the street. The window got smashed a few times in punk riots.” Later, the fashion world copied him by adopting names like GAP and NEXT. 
They dressed every great celebrity and pop star there was from Madonna and Elton John to Blondie and Andy Warhol. 
Their nightclub ‘Club Boy’ rose to notoriety as the most scandalous place to party in town. By the time the 90s rolled around, the label was adopted by the acid house movement and later Britpop. At the height of its fame, it buckled under the demands of international buyers. The BOY label was kept alive on the vintage scene until 2007 when Stephane opened a new store called SICK and relaunched the BOY label. SICK became an art hub with a whirlwind of basement parties, installations and design studios. It’s trademark notoriety re-entered the fashion world and generated a whole new legion of fans. Stars like Rihanna propelled the label back into the limelight in the 2010s. 
BOY will forever be intrinsically woven into the fabric of popular music culture.

Stephen Sprouse

The great American designer who never quite made it.

Stephen Sprouse Debbie Harry punk fashion NYC
Stephen Sprouse was born in Ohio in 1953. A passionate artist, he was introduced to Norman Norell and Bill Blass as a teen, which lead to a Summer internship. This started him on his way to fashion.
He started his career as a design assistant for Halston in the early 70s, where he worked for three years. 
He then moved to the Bowery and his downstairs neighbour was Debbie Harry of Blondie. He ended up creating the glam-punk look for her that she became known for; Ripped tights and t-shirts- a New York version of Vivienne and Malcolm’s London punk look. Debbie wore Stephen’s dress in the Heart of Glass music video, which garnered him a lot of attention. 
He rose to fame in the early 80s for his work featuring sixties-inspired graffiti-printed day-glo fashions. He used high-quality, expensive custom-dyed fabrics. 
His 1983 collections were sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodmans and Henri Bendel in New York. 
Sprouse wedded downtown cool with uptown luxury and space-age fabrics. He created $1,500 sequined dresses swarming with graffiti and silk pants photo-printed with Pop Art. Sprouse loved rock and roll, infusing his clothing with its raw, pulsating energy.
Despite this early success, he declared bankruptcy in 1985. 
Later in 1985, he started over with a new showroom on Broadway where Andy Warhol had last had his factory lofts. He referred to his new collection as being more hippie-weird, seventies and punk-rock inspired. 
He worked extensively with Duran Duran in the late 80s, designing clothes for their 1989 Big Thing tour.
He gained financial backing in 1987 and opened a three-level store with Blondie performing at the opening which was attended by all his rock ’n’ roll friends. 
Warhol died in ’87 and was buried in a Sprouse suit. 
Another store opened in Los Angeles in 1988. 
For his Fall 1988 "Signature" collection, he collaborated with artist Keith Haring to create several abstract prints of Jesus with graffiti, and Haring's "squibbles."
Again, the company faced financial setbacks and closed up shop after Christmas 1988. 
In the early 90s, he styled and dressed Billy Idol for his ‘comeback’. 
In 1992, Sprouse designed an exclusive men’s and women’s capsule collection dubbed cyberpunk which incorporated velcro instead of buttons. It cost $500 for a pair of nylon underwear. 
In 1995, he curated the costumes for the Rock ’n’ Roll hall of fame in Cleveland and designed the staff’s uniforms. 
He was given permission to use one of Andy Warhol's "Camouflage" screen-prints to utilize as textile designs in 1996. 
His collections continued to be commercial failures due to their couture level manufacturing, pricing out the youth who were attracted to them.
A collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton in 2001 brought him into the spotlight once again. Due to long waiting lists, Sprouse himself couldn’t get the LV bag he’d designed. Friends bought knock-offs and asked Stephen to paint graffiti on them. 
A large collection for Target in 2002 was rendered in a patriotic graffiti motif.
In 2003, he collaborated with fashion brand Diesel and took over their New York Union Square store. The president explained that the project was "first and foremost a tribute that we wish to pay to one of the most groundbreaking and far-reaching artists of our time, someone who went beyond categorizations, means of expressions, and gender.
He tragically passed away from lung cancer in 2004. In New York, a small funeral service was held where 25 friends gathered. With pens and Magic Markers, they covered his wooden coffin in graffiti, writing messages to him on the inside and outside surfaces of the box. Then, before closing the lid, someone placed a Magic Marker in Sprouse’s hand, so he could write the last words himself.
For both Fall 2006 and 2008, Marc Jacobs utilized Sprouse's 1987 graffiti leopard images for handbags, shoes, and scarves for Louis Vuitton, which sold-out instantly.
Despite lack of commercial success, Sprouse became a cult hit and his collections are still coveted and have fetched high prices in vintage stores and online since the 90s. 
In July 2022, an exhibition titled "Stephen Sprouse: Rock, Art, Fashion" opened at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Zandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes punk priestess 1970s fashion  Zandra Rhodes 1970s punk fashion

"1977 was the year I became the infamous High Priestess of Punk" – Zandra Rhodes
She made her biggest splash in 1977 with her establishment take on punk, which she called the Conceptual Chic collection, inspired by London’s street culture and Elsa Schiaparelli. She created dresses with tears, holes, sink chains and beaded safety pins to form a sort of embroidery, mixed with loosely drawn figures screen-printed on silk jersey in shocking pink, black or red, or on the newly developed Ultra-suede fabric.
She is acknowledged as the first high-end designer to blend elements of punk with glamorous couture, and her designs were featured in a 2013 exhibition 'PUNK: Chaos to Couture' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
She has also notably designed costumes for rock musicians, glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan of T. Rex, and Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen. She designed the iconic white satin pleated cape worn by Freddie Mercury in 1974, which was used in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.
“Any self-respecting real punk would have had nothing to do with me. I just saw it as an art form where you could do sleeves that would pin in or you could attach fabric by pins and not sewing. I’d say it was an artistic experiment. I used the imagery of holes and beaded safety pins. Vivienne Westwood scathingly said I was a part of it at one time. Versace did the dress that was worn by Elizabeth Hurley [at the Four Weddings and a Funeral premiere]: that “punk dress” was done 10 years after mine.”

Read more about Zandra's career in our British women designers blog post HERE. 

Pam Hogg 

Pam Hogg punk fashion

Pam Hogg is a Scottish musician and fashion designer with a cult following.
She studied fine art and textiles at Glasgow School of Art and gained a Master of Arts from the Royal College of Art in London. 
She joined a band called Rubbish in the late seventies and regularly supported the Pogues in their early days. She had a minor hit with another band ‘The Garden of Eden’. 
She launched her first fashion collection in 1981 and first sold her designs in Kensington market. She danced with David Bowie and other stars at New Romantic clubs in London and soon had her mini collections stocked in many department stores including Harrod’s and Bloomingdales. Later, she launched her own boutique in London’s west end, as the city was emersed in the post-punk scene. She has always asserted that she doesn’t want to ‘sell out’ to the mainstream fashion industry. Her designs are provocatively punkish and her fabric choices are influenced by counterculture- PVC, leather, mesh, metallics and lurex. She was a queen of the London fashion scene in the 80s. 
She appeared briefly on stage in Nashville with industrial noise band Pigface, after which she returned to music full time, landing a support act with Debbie Harry in 1993 and The Raincoats the following year. 
Between 1999 and 2001, she created two catwalk collections and a fashion film.
She formed another new band in 2003 Hoggdoll, which built up an underground following across the globe. She designed the costumes for her 2004 world tour. 
In 2006, she exhibited her work alongside the likes of Yoko Ono and Leigh Bowery, for which she produced and directed two promo videos featuring her clothes and music with appearances from musicians Sioxsie Sioux and Alison Mosshart. The videos were viewed by large audiences via YouTube and this generated new interest in Pam’s work and in catsuits in mainstream fashion. 
In 2008, she launched her Hogg Couture collection and her catwalk return was met with a standing ovation. 
She hosted her Opfashart show in Los Angeles in 2013.
In 2014, The V&A museum exhibited the dresses she designed for the musician Lady Mary Charteris of The Big Pink.
Her designs have been worn by a new generation of celebrities including Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kate Moss and Bjork.
Today Pam lives in Hackney, her black and pink front room hung with NME covers from the ’70s and ’80s, shelves crammed with post-punk books and records.

Check out our collection edit inspired by punk style & other subcultures HERE.

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