The Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” rolled into NYC from London this past weekend like a big gypsy caravan streaming silk scarfs, a trail of sequins and a psychedelic haze.
Having spent five months at London’s Saatchi Gallery, this technicolor extravaganza of all-things Stones––from a recreation of the flat they shared during the early years in London’s Chelsea to an artillery of guitars, from initial poster artwork to architectural sketches that formed the basis for their groundbreaking mega-concert sets––has now set up camp in the Industria Superstudio space in the West Village. But while there is undoubtedly something for everyone, one of the show’s most impressive troves is of the archive spanning five decades of the band’s wardrobe.
The New York Times said this week, “The Stones of the 60s and 70s had an impact on men’s style that is inestimable.” And at this moment when menswear design has begun to overtake women’s wear in terms of audacity and creativity, and when a new androgyny has further opened up possibilities, the slinky, romantic, theatrical and highly decorated pieces on display seem both contemporary and iconic at the same time.
Of course, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, in particular, are the two exotic birds of this parade and Jagger’s famous knock-kneed pecking strut captured in some of the video footage might be the only credible way to rock some of his more outrageous ensembles––like the trio of Ossie Clark skintight velvet jumpsuits, for example, one with grommets strategically encircling the crotch, or his Lucifer cape worn at the now-infamous Altamont concert.
In Jagger’s own words, “You always have to go further and go to more to the defense of the ridiculous in fashion. You have to go and take chances, and people are going to laugh, and maybe it’s not going to be a success...But there is no success without risk.”
But the red grenadier guardsman’s military jacket which sold out the morning after Jagger wore it for a TV appearance in 1966 looked amazing photographed on Kate Moss in May’s British Vogue to herald the show’s London opening. With the inclusion of a replica of the white voile bishop-sleeved, bow-fronted poet’s blouse designed by Mr Fish that Mick wore during the Hyde Park concert in honor of Brian Jones death, this is a veritable trip down the memory lanes of Carnaby Street and King’s Road.
“It really pissed off Charlie Watts, with his walk-in cupboards of impeccable Savile Row suits, that I started to become a fashion icon for wearing my old lady’s clothes,” writes Richards in his autobiography, “Life” published in 2010. The guitarist’s troubadour style, scruffy and elegantly undone, mixing animal print with Rastafarian stripes and micro-floral velvet contrasts with Jagger’s shinier, tighter, flauntier dressing up. We read that Richards and former girlfriend, the dazzling Anita Pallenberg, shared much of their clothes because they were the same fit. Richards’ signature style of shirts worn over more shirts all hanging open to accommodate his draped tattered scarves and jewelry, pants sashed at the waist, the look topped up with more scarves tied around his head, embodies an irreverent playfulness that rock stars have endlessly copied ever since.
In his autobiography, he says, “Anita could put anything together and look good. I was beginning to wear her clothes most of the time. I would wake up and put on whatever was lying around...If I sleep with someone, I at least have the right to wear her clothes.”
Stroll by a photo showing Jagger laughing comfortably with Karl Lagerfeld and the concert stage converts into a catwalk. We enter a room featuring a cornucopia of collaborators who represent our greatest contemporary designers: Alexander McQueen having put explosive crimson beading on somber tailoring for Jagger, Hedi Slimane emblazoning Richards with gold starbursts. Alongside a multi-zippered leather coat by Jean Paul Gaultier stands a fiery-red feathered Prada coat that’s perfect for peacocks with a sympathy for the devil. The veiled headwear on all the mannequins was inspired by the cover of Goats Head Soupand created by master milliner Stephen Jones. Perhaps one of the most poignant inclusions is a series of ornate jackets, one whose shoulders are densely a-flutter with azure sequined butterflies, by the late L’Wren Scott for then-boyfriend Jagger. Images of the enigmatic big-eyed waif, and one-time girlfriend of Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, also float across the walls, confirming the influence women have always had on both these men’s sense of style.
The exhibition is curated by Ilene Gallagher formerly of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and runs until March 2017. The diversity of memorabilia on view and the dynamic interaction of visuals and audio, music and art, fashion and costume, past and present, should ensure you won’t have trouble gathering friends to accompany you despite the rather steep 37 dollars entrance price.
By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Photos: Jackie Mallon; final image from Exhibitionism Facebook page