The Shirt That Changed Everything Forever

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Being punk rock is a state of mind, it all comes down to your courage of conviction and whether you are brave enough to stand up for what you believe in. All true artists throughout history have challenged the norm and asked society to question everything they know – in one way or another. Vivienne Westwood is one of those artists and together with former husband, Malcolm McLaren, they pioneered the punk movement in the 1970’s through their wearable art, sold at McLaren’s Chelsea boutique ‘SEX’. Westwood’s shirts now define the visual language of punk and go beyond fashion, more akin to art pieces, produced in limited numbers belonging in frames hanged on living room walls and held in museum collections.

The Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) is preparing for the most anticipated event in the Perth arts calendar, the spectacular PICA Salon Vernissage, an exclusive soiree taking place tomorrow in PICA’s Westend Gallery. This year one of the auction items is none other than the invariably priceless, Vivienne Westwood ‘The Anarchy Shirt’ which will be up for auction thanks to to a donation by Dilettante boutique owner, Diana Paolucci. Dilettante exclusively purchased the only two shirts to ever make it to Australia from her 2010 collection release and tomorrow Art1000 Donors will have the opportunity to bid on this piece with the chance of taking home their very own piece of history.

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The Anarchy Shirt is a free size and can easily be worn by a man or a woman. It has a decent length to it so a woman could get away with it being worn as a dress also. Dilettante will also be styling it with the Vivienne Westwood Jacquard belt – pictured.

The Anarchy Shirt is the visual equivalent of the music made by McLaren’s Sex Pistols; jarring, violently expressive and an act of collage representing an exciting and scrambled manifesto of desires. In the spring of 1976 McLaren began experimenting in this area by stencilling the Situationist slogan “Be Reasonable – Demand The Impossible” in black capitals across the front of a few plain white shirts.

McLaren tells Paul Gorman in his article on Dazed Digital

“I was working towards the idea of the Anarchy Shirt but in the event only made three or four,” McLaren said in 2008. The story goes that around this time Jordan, the shop assistant at McLaren and Westwood’s King’s Road store SEX, arrived for work in a man’s shirt which she had adapted by painting stripes over it’s body and sleeves. Amid the surplus stock held at McLaren and Westwood’s flat in south London were boxes containing 50 or so deadstock shirts bearing the 60s Wemblex brand bought by McLaren from an east London warehouse.

Inspired by Jordan, Westwood experimented with adapting one of these by adding paint stripes and showed it to McLaren, who suggested violent dyes and patches containing inflammatory slogans; after all the Sex Pistols had recently incorporated new song Anarchy In The UK into their set. “The Wemblex were in cheap cotton,” said McLaren. “Most were pinstriped with rounded, pin-through collars with a tiny embroidered hole on each tip, though some were plain with medium-spread collars. Vivienne and I turned the shirts inside out, hand-painted each with dyes, stenciled slogans and attached specific hand-made patches. We also replaced the generic shirt buttons with specific pearl stud buttons of the 60s period. Using my son’s stencil set we adorned them with slogans such as ‘Only Anarchists Are Pretty’ and ‘Dangerously Close To Love’ so that they took on the look of something disorderly and uncared for. Each shirt took four to five days to complete.”

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Above – Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, The Sex Pistols and their boutique at 430 King’s Road in World’s End, Chelsea

“As well as layering the stencils to increase the impact, Vivienne and I came up with Mao-style red armbands declaiming ‘Chaos’ and I attached silk patches of Karl Marx I had discovered in shops in Chinatown which sold Maoist literature. I chose him because his book started the Socialist and workers’ movements in the 19th century. Also, Vivienne and I liked his beard. Marx was a writer/author, a creator of ideas. He represented a great significance and was important to us because he lived in London at one point.”

In line with other creators of manifestos, McLaren was interested in juxtaposition. “Around that time I would stop by the store operated by 60s singer Chris Farlowe in Upper Street, Islington,” he said. “He sold German and Nazi artifacts from the war. I was intrigued by the SS wedding rings and a number of patches and emblems. I purchased a lot and put some of them – such as an upturned Nazi eagle – with the Karl Marx patches on the shirts.” (Dazed Digital, The Anarchy Shirt – Malcolm McLaren’s archivist on the Sex Pistols shirt that changed everything forever.” Paul Gorman, England. May 2013.)

VW The Anarchy Shirt

In 2007 Vivienne Westwood created her own manifesto of Active Resistance to Propaganda, which deals with the pursuit of art in relation to the human predicament and climate change. In her manifesto, she “penetrates to the root of the human predicament and offers the underlying solution. We have the choice to become more cultivated and therefore more human – or by muddling along as usual we shall remain the destructive and self-destroying animal, the victim of our own cleverness.”

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Read more of the manifesto here

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Funnily enough I actually own the t-shirt Westwood is pictured in above and purchased it from Dilettante in a punk rock move I am still proud of today. The image below was taken of me (when I still had bangs) with PFF staff member, Aleksandra Gajda at ‘Beyond Garment’ as part of PFF 2010. The event I bought it for, however was an event I will never forget, a very formal and conservative engagement and to this day I still remember  feeling like a bit of a rebel knowing it was under my blazer. To me the t-shirt sends a message to anyone who isn’t brave enough to challenge the norm, or stand up for what they believe in – to Get A Life – and start making a change. Like Dame Vivienne herself, one must be brave in this life and wearing a piece of Vivienne Westwood (although sounding commercial, the very thing she truly despises) is truly like wearing a piece of history and art in one and considering all that has been said above, not surprisingly, can sometimes give you that extra bit of power you need to stay strong – whatever you may be doing.

To whoever is lucky enough to nab The Anarchy shirt at tomorrow’s PICA Salon Vernissage event, I am sure they will know how that feels come Sunday.

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The PICA Salon Vernissage is the opening night celebration of PICA Salon, an annual exhibition featuring a curated selection of artworks for sale by some of WA’s best local, national and international contemporary artists. The Vernissage this year will transform PICA’s Westend Gallery as never before, with a new surprise design element, further enhanced by sounds from local music wunderkinds Lyndon Blue and Kynan Tan, exquisite cocktails, canapés and of course, company.

Tickets to the PICA Salon Vernisssage are reserved exclusively for PICA’s ART1000 and ART 5000 donors and limited places remain for the 2013 Vernissage.

ART1000 is not just a clever name. A donation of $1000 or more secures art lovers a place in the annual program, invitations to unique events, advance access to Salon artworks as well as the opportunity to purchase the specially commissioned PICA Edition. ART1000 donations in 2013 will allow PICA to support the development of exciting new dance, theatre, visual arts and inter-disciplinary works by some of WA’s most talented and thought-provoking artists. It will give these artists the all too precious but utterly necessary time, space and expertise to take risks, break new ground and forge unique artistic practices.

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(Above – One of the 2010 Perth Fashion Festival Campaign Images featuring a sculpture by one of this year’s PICA artists, Geoffrey Drake-Brockman – this image was styled by me using garments from Dilettante, Photographed by Thom Kerr, Make-up by Rebekah Clark, Modelled by Sarah Pauley and Produced by Lauren Elliott, Fashion Director – Mariella Harvey-Hanrahan.)

Lovers of contemporary art can secure their place in PICA’s Donor Program as well as an invitation to the PICA Salon Vernissage by phoning Jo Malone on (08) 9228 6300 or emailing philanthropy@pica.org.au Tax deductibility applies.

THE 2013 PICA SALON VERNISSAGE WILL INCLUDE ARTWORKS BY

James Angus
, Rebecca Baumann, P
aul Caporn
, Consuelo Cavaniglia, Annabel Dixon,
 Patrick Doherty,
 Geoffrey Drake-Brockman, Eva Fernandez,
 Minna Gilligan, Jeppe Hein, B
en Kovacsy, Joanna Lamb,
 Ross Manning,
 ElizabethMcAlpine, Callum Morton,
 Tony Nathan,
 John Nixon, Trevor Richards,
 Carol Rudyard,
 Helen Smith
, CJ Taylor and Louise Weave.

‘Til next time,

xxx SV xxx

19-07-2013

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