Agent Provocateur


Today is one of those grey days when New York feels much like London – which has me thinking about the interview with Malcolm McLaren I read last night in the new i-D magazine. The British impresario and provocateur looks back on his “career” and the early days of punk, and to my mind, offers great insight on how to make the haphazard appear genius.

Which is not to say that he is not a genius, because I certainly think that he is.

As the driving force (more or less, in most cases more), behind punk rock, the mighty Sex Pistols, Adam & the Ants, and Bow Wow Wow…the owner or co-owner of famed boutiques SEX, Let It Rock, and Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die…co-designer with Vivienne Westwood of the Seditionaries line…and early adopter of hip-hop culture, world music, and voguing – can anyone doubt that this man’s pop cultural radar is the finest ever? As we here at Stylesight endeavor to bring you the very best and latest in worldwide trend analysis, one must pause and pay respect to the man who is the original and greatest trend scout of all time.

McLaren’s influence is in fact so pervasive as to border on the tedious. While the influence of the Pistols and McLaren on the music industry cannot be overstated, his influence on other areas of the arts and design has been – and continues to be – equally strong. Nearly every modern t-shirt and streetwear label (as well as higher-end labels from Galliano to Dior Homme) is full of pieces that are directly inspired by McLaren and Westwood – and the Situationist sloganeering that influenced them. Where would Ksubi, House of Holland, Supreme, and a thousand others be without him? One need look no further in fact than the pages of the current i-D to gauge McLaren’s influence – the fonts, the colors, the editorial content, the advertisements – you can hardly turn a page without stumbling on something that is directly linked to McLaren or a McLaren associate like Jamie Reid. Even the raw, snapshot-style photography of Juergen Teller (who shot the McLaren photos for the issue) owes a huge debt to the DIY punk asthetic.

Ultimately however, I think that McLaren’s greatest lesson comes not in the form of direct inspiration but rather from the more nebulous area known as gut feeling. When I think of punk, I think of following your instincts and trusting your gut – regardless of what outside forces may be telling you. So today if you are designing something, if you are making something, if you are writing something – I challenge you to follow your gut. Follow the example of Malcolm McLaren – if not one of the smartest men who ever lived then certainly one of the most courageous.

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