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430 Kings Road: A Wild, Eccentric Ride

Ripped clothes, green and pink mohawks, ripped up flags and band tees held together with safety pins, studded and sharp jewellery paired with leather jackets and plaid mini-skirts..these crafted the image of traditional 70s British punk. This iconic, bombastic image has held the test of time in history books and music scenes for almost 4 decades. An image, a look so genius and distinct doesn’t happen by mere chance, but deliberate design.

Down King’s Road in central London there sits a quaint boutique at the address 430 called “World’s End.” Today, the shop itself is owned by high fashion designer Vivienne Westwood who got her start in designing fashion out of that very storefront. Just as Vivienne Westwood has become known for her unique iterations of fashion trends, the shop she started had its own iterations that played a significant role in what we describe today as “punk”.

“Vivienne’s clothes turned people into strange sculptures. She played with the human form, binding the legs together, or extending sleeves down to the floor, and pushing the body into new angles.”  

Avery Trufleman, Podcast Producer : Articles of Interest: Punk Fashion

In the 1970s, Vivienne Westwood ran the shop with a business partner, Malcom McLaren. They started the shop selling records and then decided to try their hand at creating their own fashion trends out of the shop. Vivienne’s designs always sold, but nonetheless, she reinvented the shop and its contents regularly with the purpose of shocking people. And shock they did. The shop had iterations that sold ‘dandy rocker clothes’ and another where Vivienne made and sold more leather biker-inspired clothes. One of the most famous iterations of the shop began in 1974: the front of the shop had bright pink puffy letters that spelt SEX. All caps. The boutique had interesting customers but also brought in the everyday person out of sheer curiosity. Then in 1975, after his regular trip to New York, Malcom McLaren fell in love with the blossoming punk music scene and inspired movements in the US. He decided to manage a band of his own out of the shop so they formed a group with the kids who hung around the shop, and called it “The Sex Pistols.”

Movements were happening already in London. In the mid-70s, London society had essentially shut out the youth in near social crisis on economic, political, and financial scales. The national front rose and so did massive unemployment, power cuts, and worker strikes. Suddenly, punk music, beginning somewhere in the US was brought to the heart of England. The music gave those without a voice a place to put their anger and emotion. This new outlandish and subversive music became the heart that soon made its way on everyone’s sleeves with the look Vivienne Westwood fashioned out of her shop. Vivienne knew, like any great designer, that a new movement demanded a new look. So “SEX” became “The Seditionaries.” This iteration of the store was what truly created the final image of Punk. The images of every iteration of 430 King’s Road were superimposed to create the most subversive and unique image of them all. Pieces of rocker, biker, sex worker, and Edwardian dandy combined with seditious and dissident political imagery catalyzed and expanded all across England and back to the US punk scene as well.

70’s British Punk was strange, fascinating art that broke the wall between art and life. Art was fused with daily, mundane existence and created dramatic, absurdist disruptions in everyday life. Art and protest became fashion, and that fashion became life.

“There is this myth, that it’s frivolous or unproductive to care about how you look. Clothing and fashion get trivialized a lot. But think about who, culturally, gets associated with clothing and fashion: young people, women, queers, and people of color. Groups of people who, historically, haven’t been listened to, have expressed themselves on their bodies, through their style, their hair, their tattoos, their piercings, and what they wear.”

— Avery Trufleman, Podcast Producer : Articles of Interest: Punk Fashion

Though Vivienne’s clothes were expensive, individuals could imitate these styles easily and add their own unique flair — making punk the most DIY trend. She had no formal training as a designer or seamstress herself, and started an empire at her kitchen table. At the end of the day, fashion is the realm of the historically powerless.

Though some “punk” trends have reached global markets through fast and high fashion with rising popularity in distressed clothing, the essence of punk remains in those who push the boundaries of what traditionally “looks good.” It lets anyone from all ages and backgrounds be confident in their own skin and re-imagine their standards of beauty.

Our clothes speak for us whether we like it or not, so wear what makes you feel powerful.

“Confidence is the best fashion accessory.”
—  Vivienne Westwood, c.1941

By: Shroothi Ramesh

Photographed by: Jeffrey Sun

Models: Chemareea Biggs, Cruz Rendon

HMUA: Anna Strother, Cameron Kelly

Stylist: Shannon Homan

 

Shroothi Ramesh is a second-year Mechanical Engineering student at UT Austin. Besides writing for Spark Online, she enjoys singing opera, Broadway and sketching.

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