Vans and Dame Vivienne Westwood are a match made in hell: Both are staples of punk ideology. The glitterati has heralded both as paradigms of trendiness, and both are (perhaps inadvertently) deconstructing the highbrow/lowbrow binary.
Underground street fashion is rising to avant-garde heights. What once belonged on the dirty sidewalks of New York City and London is now exhibited as high (and highly criticized) art at The Met. Although she wasn’t the sole focus of the museum’s showcasing of punk rock fashion, Westwood is known as a pioneer of intentionally sleazy style.
Westwood has become emblematic of a certain kind of fashion paradox. Her legendary King’s Road boutique called SEX opened in 1974 with help from Malcolm McLaren, selling clothes inspired by biker gangs, gay leather bars and prostitutes—for ultra-posh prices. Their customers included the pioneers of punk rock and goth cultures like the Sex Pistols, Adam Ant and Siouxsie Sioux. SEX lasted for only two years, but the cultural repercussions of the store are apparent in streetwear today.