When Malcolm McLaren died in 2010, the world mourned a scion of punk royalty. He led the anti-establishment movement of the 1970s, raising an anarchic fist in the face of fashion as he defined a generation with slogan T-shirts, pop culture motifs, tartan checks and his signature DIY aesthetic. He was one of the first to realise the power of music and fashion, puppeteering his unruly quartet of Sex Pistols in torn denim, leather and the now iconic God Save the Queen T-shirts. Along with then-girlfriend Vivienne Westwood, he sold clothing from his Kings Road shop, Let It Rock, which was also the title for Copenhagen’s International Fashion Fair’s recent exhibition, presented as a tribute to the late designer.
"Too fast to live, too young to die" — Malcolm McLaren
“The outfits are very sexy, very cool and also funny,” explains Kristian Andersen, director of the fair and exhibition. “We really wanted it to feel very personal. Most importantly, we wanted to create a physical event where visitors have the opportunity to look at the all the outfits up close, listen to music, watch the movies and take a moment off from fashion week, either to feel inspired or just to walk down memory lane.”
"My favourite piece is maybe the flyaway collar, black Let It Rock top because I have treasured it since the mid-70s when my brother gave it to me," says Paul Gorman, who curated the exhibition with Young Kim. The pair are now working on presenting the exhibition at Art in Pop at Le Magasin, Grenoble in October. "I love the knit Witches outfit with the Keith Haring jacquard that Kim Jones lent us," tells Kim. "Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the 80s and I remember that look: graphic knits with eye-popping fluorescent jacquards and tube skirts. He met Keith Haring very early on, when Haring was just “a kid” running around New York,” drawing on everything he could". Malcolm had a nose for talent and loved anything new and so he engaged him and other graffiti artists such as Richard Hambleton and Dondi White to create artwork for “Duck Rock” and what became the Witches collection."
Other pieces include buckled pinstripe suiting, illustrated sweatshirts, complete with their ‘ SEX, 430 Kings Road’ labels. Flags hang from the ceiling with the immortal McLaren phrase, "Too fast to live, too young to die." There is also a leather T-shirt which belonged to the late photographer David Parkinson, which sits alongside a pair of leather jeans supplied to Sex by The London Leatherman. “I always said punk was an attitude,” McLaren declared. “It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that.”
Let It Rock will be at Art in Pop at Le Magasin, Grenoble from October 11.
Text by Mhairi Graham