Avant-Garde Fashion: Fireworks night or the last hoorah?

Prepare for fireworks ahead of Guy Fawkes Night when Christie’s holds it’s sale of extraordinary items from US vintage house Resurrection in London on October 30.

//Stephen Sprouse: Culotte dress (£500-£1,000); day dress (£400-£600); jacket(£500-£800)//

Grouped under the heading Avant-Garde Fashion, this is billed as “the finest collection of 20th Century fashion in private hands” and has been amassed by US vintage specialists Mark Haddawy and Katy Rodriguez, co-owners of the Resurrection stores in NYC and LA.

//World’s End: Bra top (£200-£400), shoes (£300-£400), Mini-Crini (£400-£600)//

The sale is noteworthy on some other counts. First Malcolm McLaren – one of the designers whose work is heavily represented – claims that the list contains counterfeit lots which must be withdrawn. This request, and his urging for the Metropolitan Police to be called in, has been rejected by Christie’s.

//BOY inspector jacket and bondage trousers (£500-£700)+ in original ad £23 and £17.50//

Meanwhile, amid the global financial meltdown and the subsequent belt-tightening among collectors, is this the last hoorah of the vintage boom which companies such as Resurrection have transformed from thrift-store chic into an area of serious investment?

Christie’s textiles director Pat Frost believes not. “The market is definitely evolving from buying vintage to wear to buying vintage fashion as ‘art’, bringing design, architecture and music into relationship with fashion,” she says.”This sale is a step beyond ‘vintage’ towards a more serious assessment of fashion as part of our common contemporary design history.”

//Mr Freedom baseball suit and tees (£800-£1,200) + Olivia Newtown John with Cliff Richard 1971//

Market mainstays are present and correct, with the high reserves tipped towards Cardin, Rabanne and Courrèges and pieces by Zandra Rhodes, Steven Burrows, Ossie Clark, Rudi Gernreich, Westwood & McLaren, Norma Kamali, Azzedine Alaia, Gianni Versace and Issey Miyake.

The list confirms not only the rise in collecting circles over recent years of such labels as Stephen Sprouse and East West Musical Instruments Co but also the growing interest in the output of such quirky outlets as Alkasura, Mr Freedom and BOY, all of which were covered for the first time in-depth anywhere in THE LOOK.

//Alkasura jackets (£500-£600)//

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=pLslLszuue8">http://youtube.com/watch?v=pLslLszuue8</a>
//Todd Rundgren in his Alkasura cherry jacket 1974//

“Katy and Mark have been putting aside pieces which were different in spirit from the kind they would usually sell in the Resurrection stores,” says Pat Frost. “As vintage store owners they were offered and also able to track down a significant body of avant garde fashion. The quality and number of Paco Rabanne dresses is a good example of their putting together a significant group from the work of a relatively scarce designer that would be the envy of major museums.”

//East West parrot jacket (£600-£800) + Sly Stone stagewear (£1,500-£2,500)//

With 250 pieces in the sale and reserves from £300 to £10,000, around a fifth of the lots are clothing produced at 430 King’s Road by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood between 1972 and 1983. Having viewed items when the sale went on show in New York last month, McLaren’s demand for withdrawal is part of his campaign against counterfeit Sex and Seditionaries goods fetching high prices from private collectors, auction houses and museums (sparked by the dispute over the provenance of £85,000-worth of goods supplied to artist Damien Hirst by dealer Simon Easton).

//No Future jacket (£2,000-£4,000)//

The Sex and Seditionaries lots include muslin tops (at £1,000-£1,500), a pair of fringed bondage trousers (£800-£1,200), women’s shoes (£300-£500) and long sleeved t-shirts (£800-£1,200).

//Destroy waistcoat £1,500-£2,500)//

Certainly a number of the pieces are highly unusual and not previously documented, including a pink sleeveless Peter Pan collar shirt, a pair of blue serge/black silk/satin trousers, a gold leather hood, a checkered waistcoat with the Destroy imagery on the back and a jacket adorned with zips and chains. All of these are akin to designs from the shop but with marked variations.

//Leather hood £1,000-£2,000)//

For example, the hood was commonly in black, waistcoats were in synthetic fabrics during the SEX era and did not contain adornment on the backs and there was a short run of Seditionaries’ “Railwayman’s jackets” in grey towelling which are similar in design to the zip/chain jacket.

“There are many items which are wrong,” says McLaren. “The muslins we saw in New York are big enough for giants, which is impossible. One size fits all was always mine and Vivienne’s policy. We, and everyone we admired, were skinny little runts, and few, if any, were made even in medium sizes. The tartan waistcoat and the other with long sleeves I just don’t understand and the gold hood is pure disco, not us at all. Where have these things come from? Not from our shop, I can tell you for sure.”

//SEX stilettos (£300-£500)//

Christie’s is standing it’s ground. “Christie’s are very much aware that there are problems with correctly attributing pieces from this era,” Frost told THE LOOK. “We’ve been rigorous in checking provenance and are convinced that the pieces offered are genuine.”

//SEX shoes (£300-£500)//

Over recent years an “abiding principle” for art fraud – in particular regarding work which is carried out with and by assistants – appears to have been established, as highlighted by Alan Yentob’s recent documentary Andy Warhol Denied.While controversy swirls around some of the decisions made by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, a clear message on authenticity has been set out by specialist art lawyer Ronald Spencer.

//No Future jumper (£2,000-£4,000)//

He said: “If Andy Warhol conceives the idea, says to one of his assistants ‘Here’s how we should do it’, supervises that assistant’s execution, and then approves it, then that’s a Warhol.”

McLaren applies the same principle to dismiss the notion that the items he is disputing could have been made in his absence by Westwood or others working at the shop.

“If Vivienne and I together conceived the idea, supervised its execution and approved it between 1971 when Let It Rock opened and 1980 when Seditionaries closed, then that item is authentic,” he says. “As the person involved in ‘supervising and executing’, these clothes never passed my hands. They never appeared in the shop for sale and, for that reason, I can only say they are fake.”

//Cire SEX t-shirts (£600-£800)//

McLaren asserts that even when he lived in Paris during this period, not one design was produced without his knowledge. “I was there merely a few months in 1979 and constantly returned to London to see Vivienne and discuss the shop,” he adds.

“We agreed it should be turned into a new store selling a completely new collection of clothes which had nothing to do with punk. Vivienne was studying a book of 18th century patterns by Nora Waugh and developing them into what would become, with my help, the Pirate collection.”

//Two Nostalgia Of Mud toga dresses and a Witches ensemble (all £800-£1,200)//

That “new store” was, of course, World’s End, where McLaren and Westwood collaborated on a series of groundbreaking clothing ranges, key pieces of which are present in the Resurrection sale.

McLaren has not, so far, disputed their authenticity.

However, with Christie’s planning a Punk/Rock auction in NYC on November 24, the row doesn’t look like abating anytime soon; McLaren is already questioning the provenance of clothes included there.

Resurrection: Avant-Garde Fashion is at Christie’s South Kensington on October 30.

Fetchampunk said,

October 22, 2008 @ 9:40 am

Provenance of the Seds and SEX pieces must be a minefield! The one small item I have has no label and is believed to be a print which would have been used on an actual item of clothing but was “sold off” on it’s own. I know it’s genuine as I walked though the door, yes the one with the UV strip light above it, and bought it, but I can’t prove that!

rockpopfashion said,

October 22, 2008 @ 10:04 am

Of course you can prove it.
Go to the people who conceived, supervised and executed the designs. They’re still alive and relatively easy to find. Or contact an accredited expert who has no commercial interest.
It is definitely not a minefield – only depicted as such by some for their own ends. There are a set of clear indicators and a heap of first-hand and photographic evidence. This ain’t the Turin Shroud we’re talking about here, but 50-plus designs all created within living memory. For example, there are exact figures for the numbers of each t-shirt run, even where the fabric came from – that info just hasn’t been published yet.
And since these items have entered the field of collectable art over recent years (see Pat Frost’s comment above) the abiding principle as set out by Spencer is a starting point.
What is your piece?

Planet Mondo said,

October 22, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

1 – I’m amazed by the price of the BOY gear

2 – The Sex/Seditionaries gear definitely looks a bit hooky and overstyled.

3 – What no Sue Clowes?

fetchampunk said,

October 22, 2008 @ 2:51 pm


Sorry if I jumped in at the deap end with my earlier comment Paul. Thanks for your response.

I have a Dark Green Nylon Square of Fabric, I’ve always called it a scarf, It has the “Destory” Print on it. It’s about 2ft 6″ square and the Swastika is Gold with the rest of the Print in Black alough the Swastika has no background. It has no SEDS label but does have a small “100% accetate label” it was all I could afford as a 16yr old kid!!

Have you or anyone ever heard of a piece like this?

Interestly I also still have one of the Boy Inspector Jackets in Black with trim although it has an Adam and the Ants design painted on the back done by me :) or :( ?

All the best


Rollergirl said,

October 22, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

Sigh…I’ve always wanted a Mr Freedom tee. And the mini crini with the stars…

richard said,

October 30, 2008 @ 5:55 am

god i forgot how brilliant those alkasura jackets were. the scale of the prints!!

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