Just as streetwear was born in Los Angeles, or grunge in Seattle, we tend to consider punk — whose beloved tartan almost reminds of the flag — as purely British. The Sex Pistols and their God Saves The Queen, Vivienne Westwood and her shop SEX, Camden Town festivals, provocative slogans… Everything definitely seems to point towards London.
Yet, it is difficult to know if the movement finds its origins on the banks of the Thames, or rather on the New York side… In Manhattan’s East Village, people regularly gather at the CBGB to attend concerts by the Ramones and Blondie, who unknowingly sing the beginnings of the punk sound. By the way, Malcolm McLaren, future manager of the Pistols, often hangs out in this same bar before returning home… Coincidence?
In any case, it is the English who gave it all its power and codified its style — the scene on the other side of the Atlantic focused above all on music. If France also experienced its No Future years, it did not really bring its own touch, except in the high spheres of fashion.
So when I heard about Esther Bancel,, a young French brand claiming that “punk is the new elegance”, I was curious to know more about it…
There is a certain paradox in wanting to combine rebellion and refinement. An inherent source of contrasts, it is precisely around this duality that the label is articulated, by adopting bold takes on relatively classic pieces. This includes a blazer with a Victorian accent, see-through effects, buckles and patent leather yokes, or a tweed coat with a falsely stripped look.
The designer is keen on Italian or French materials, and chooses manufacturing near Paris, an approach that is both ethical and pragmatic — in addition to ensuring decent working conditions, it also makes it possible to meet rigorous quality standards.
On the other hand, it cannot be said that the look of the pieces presented is necessarily rooted in the punk aesthetic, despite undeniable references. Thus, beyond the style itself, it is above all its philosophy that Esther Bancel is influenced by. More than any other movement, it is imbued with a spirit of freedom, of challenging the norm and of self-expression. Becoming who you really are, doing what you want without having to hide from conventions. Therefore, the completely gender-less character of the collections takes on its full meaning (an idea that is already widely present among our 70s non-conformists), as well as the strong design of each piece.
Still in its early stages, the label also offers an interesting concept: devoting each collection to a different subculture, to pay tribute to several underground environments — like one of its projects, which features a voguing dancer. An unusual but ambitious promise, whose evolution we intend to follow closely… •