How to Dress Punk Chic // Behind the Fashion of VICIOUS


Heidi Gress. Courtesy of HMG Production.

If you’ve seen the invite or website for UMOCA’s 2015 annual gala, VICIOUS, you might have noticed that the attire says “cocktail or punk chic.” So, what is punk chic? We decided to ask Heidi Gress, a gala committee member and the Creative Director of HMG Production, a film creative service agency that puts on the popular Art Meets Fashion events, which combine art and fashion to raise money for local nonprofit outreach programs.


“Punk chic is taking the elements of couture and adding more of the underground and a bit of badassery,” Gress says. “It incorporates the elements that existed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in London: leather, metal, and so on. We’re not going pure punk, but we’re not going pure couture—any time you meld these two worlds, the fashion takes on a life of its own.”

This year, UMOCA will take the worlds of art, punk, and fashion to The Complex in the form of a fashion show with two segments during the gala, featuring wearable pieces and works that will be up for auction.
From the Lunatic Fringe gallery. Courtesy of Lunatic Fringe.

From the Lunatic Fringe gallery. Courtesy of Lunatic Fringe.

The first segment of the fashion show will feature models doing a traditional show down a runway, showcasing punk-inspired hair and makeup crafted by a team of 12 Lunatic Fringe stylists and local designer Anjel Skull’s bondage-inspired fashions. The punk-inspired styling will include variations on liberty spikes, loud color variations, and intense punk makeup that will be juxtaposed with chic-looking outfits. The aim is to balance the underground with couture while paying testament to the vibrancy of the punk scene.


In the second segment of the fashion show, there will be pedestals featuring punk-inspired installation works—such as a fashion sculpture—created by local architects and independent designers, transforming the models into works of art themselves. Gress and her team at HMG will stage a performance art piece. Throughout the evening, attendees will be invited to interact with a model in full black couture and alter her appearance—for example, by cutting off her hair. Come the end of the night, the model will have been transformed into punk couture, tattoos and shaved head included.

“The model transitions from what people consider couture: beautiful, model-esque, everything we traditionally attribute to fashion,” says Gress. “Our piece brings her to the world of punk and mixes it with interactive performance art.”

Gress continues, “If you’re looking at this from an art perspective, each fashion piece takes on a traditional art form: painting, sculpture, performance art. The idea is to meld it all together with a punk flavor.”
From the 2013 Jugar Fashion Show. Photo courtesy of V. Project, one of the featured VICIOUS designers.

From the 2013 Jugar Fashion Show. Photo courtesy of V. Project, one of the featured VICIOUS designers.

For Gress, getting more involved with VICIOUS is another chance to embrace the collision of art and fashion, to offer UMOCA exposure to new audiences, and to emphasize why the art world and the fashion world are so relevant to one another.

“Fashion is very much contemporary art,” says Gress. “At the gala, we’re showcasing fashion as another form of artistic expression. It’s another way to bring people into the contemporary art experience—different canvas, similar goal.”

So, how does one dress punk chic?

“Punk chic is all about individualism. It’s about being who you are, and classically who you are,” says Gress. “The way to dress punk chic is to embrace that. Punk is all about what you want to showcase. Black is a safe option, but if you want to show off who you are and celebrate who you are, get as wild as you want, be as conservative or chic as you want. Or, just wear chains—that’s great too!”

VICIOUS will take place on Saturday, June 6 at The Complex. Tickets are on sale now.