POPISM: Style Transformation Through Warhol’s Sixties

1967: Pop has peaked, Sgt Pepper style, counterculture, and the Factory demolition

The Paraphernalia storefront became such a sensation that it opened outposts in Chicago and other major cities before the franchise declined in the late 1970s. During its most successful years, designers Betsey Johnson and Paco Rabanne were known for creating masterpieces with unconventional fabrics, like plastic squares linked together with metal rings, or shiny patent leather.

Unconventional fabric that you would spray with windex, rather than dry clean.”

Betsey Johnson, POPISM

Like that advert says: “Then suddenly… everything was SILVER!” it’s true; from the Factory’s 360 degrees coverage of foil to metallic vinyl fabrics.. it truly was a silver decade. That is until psychedelic advertising went mainstream and colorful patterns became ubiquitous from music posters to clothing racks.

Around this time, Warhol’s crew of stars gained modest mainstream attention when his controversial film Chelsea Girls came onto the scene. Acid, amphetamines, and flowers were being passed around in Central Park during an unofficial Easter Sunday gathering.

Amidst the city blocks clubs and lounges were also going through a mega transition towards the end of the 60s. Pop as a fashion statement had peaked when Warhol’s connections opened a discotheque in an old gymnasium and they called it… “Gymnasium” and that was so very pop. Their opening coincided with historical Vietnam war protest marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

According to Up-Tight, The Velvet Underground Story, (London: Omnibus Press, 2002) “In April, the son of the Dom’s Polish owner approached Andy was an idea for a new club in New York. Originally a Czechoslovakian health and social club in the East 70s, it was called the Gymnasium. The idea was to leave all the gym equipment for the guests to play on.

Warholstars.org

Like.. what?! Anything goes at this moment in time. What an absolute cluster f*** NYC was, but also just bounding with creative experimentation. The Velvets were sort of like the house band; Blondie also played a few nights. Ultimately, the club was short-lived closing only after a few months.

Nostalgia as a fashion statement was something huge that happened. And still is today. We see it over and over again in trend forecasting. Since voluptuous women were out of “vogue” at this moment in time, wearing super short skirts and translucent dresses was a little bit normalized through new youthful confidence. They had a “embrace it or leave it” sort of mindset towards society’s sex and gender politics. For most cisgender females, the sought-after style still surrounded the Twiggy, Edie, and now Mia Farrow ethos: the androgynous femme waif look. As a free-thinking place, the Factory also attracted notable transgender Superstars like Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, and Holly Woodlawn (pictured below) Credits: Celebrity Insider, Artspace, and Vulture

The highly anticipated Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album showed up at an iconic time. An explosion of colors hit boutiques: brights, military-inspired silhouettes, 3-D appliques, textured tights, and textiles became readily available. Male youth started wearing high-collar military jackets with epaulets, paired them with stovepipe trousers, and found more ways to tousle their hair to look like Keith Richards.

The building that the Factory called its 5th floor home had a scheduled demolition in 1968 to make room for apartment buildings, so it goes. Warhol moved his artist loft and many of his creative family joined him in the Decker building on 33 Union Square West. He was still producing underground films and collaborating with the Velvets to keep this creative pulse going. Though the end of the decade was full of crime. Preceding the Manson Family, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy left the world crestfallen. Columbia students had a brawl with police during a demonstration and Warhol was shot by radical feminist author Valerie Solanas.

The 60s were all over the place in terms of politics, war, drugs, fashion, media, and art. To try and understand all of it would make your face melt. It sort of reminds me what we’re going through right now… the beginning of 2020 and beyond. Whether you’re a fan of the Warholian period or not, he did do a thing. He made this decade a work of performance art: the good, bad, and the ugly.. and lively spectacle that is entrenched in candy-pop color.

To tie it all together I found a piece in Medium that struck me with a resolution to this tumultous time.

This was a time when people were becoming more liberal and moving away from the repression and the conservatism of the previous eras. He was someone who inspired many artists after him and would be a huge inspiration for the creative minds of his time. We have come a long way since then and one could argue that he was a huge factor in this.

Where is today’s Factory?

No, not China. What if the internet existed in Warhol’s era? It seems as if communities based around creativity have fallen to the rise of freelancing. The great work that came out of The Factory was hugely influenced by it’s community. 

Dillon Raphael | Creators Never Die

If you hung out this long, then pop on over to my Instagram where I have an IGTV series discussing all things under the Wayback Closet umbrella.

What should we talk about next? Should we dive deeper into the individual characters of this decade? I always welcome feedback. For further research check out these resources:

Warholstars Timeline

Revolver Warhol Gallery

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