Head Out on the Runway

Bikers crash the catwalks as couturiers usher in an era of post-apocalyptic punk.

Felipe Oliveira Baptista

While some claim punk rock to be dead, its defiant and unrefined aesthetic is experiencing a raging revival in fashion. In its newest incarnation, the reigning influence of rebellion is not lost on modern fashion where moto-madness is alive and kicking — clad in leather and spikes, no less. The motif and materials once reserved for rebels on road hogs has now crossed the divide and is influencing creatures of a different variety. The goth-glam aesthetic of the accessories is seemingly sampled from the gutter punk culture prominent in the 1960s, with chains, skulls, safety pins and studs adorning the accessories constructed of leather, rubber and pvc along with natural elements such as oxidized metal, onyx and hematite.

Dominating the movement are helmets that verge on the cutting edge of couture and stretch far beyond their intended use. Les Ateliers Ruby, purveyors of French street culture, have helmed the haute headgear and injected their vintage sensibility into the world of fashion. For his namesake label’s Autumn/Winter 2009 collection, Karl Lagerfeld envisioned futuristic fashionistas who, in his mind’s eye, may someday don the serious headgear from the Parisian helmetiers. A nod to the recent economic crisis, Lagerfeld instructed his vigilantes to hit the road — er, runway — clad in hip (and street legal) carbon fiber, mink and nappa lambskin helmets intended for stylistas on the move who are ditching their Volvos for Vespas.

Miss Sixty

In more macabre fashion, Rochas accessories designer and stage costumer Natalia Brilli tapped into her dark side for her eponymous line’s post-apocalyptic Victorian gothic pieces. The matte monochromatic sculpted leather pieces toe the line between bondage and biker chic, evoking a simultaneously sinister yet delicate sensibility. Brilli’s leather helmet is the standout piece among the skateboard and watchform bracelet, which are, like all of the collection’s pieces, leather-bound.

The sleek leather helmets coming out of Mexican designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s dark and poetic Spring 2009 collection have a ravenesque quality, which somehow complements the aerodynamic and architectural aesthetic of the line. Baptista’s urban warrior uniform adds a fantastical quality to the idealized post-apocalyptic gear. In a more playful execution of the trend, Giles took a cartoonish route with Pac-Man-inspired headpieces resembling deep-sea diving apparatuses. The gaping mouth of the nostalgic character frames the face in an effort to inject graphic pop elements into the mainstream.


Louis Verdad’s comeback collection, Louver, which unveiled at la Fashion Week’s “Evening of 20th Century Glamour,” roars with road credibility with an arsenal of over a dozen all-black pieces studded with spikes and stiff collars. The beauty of the collection is in the brutal bijoux and irony of cloche helmets resembling medieval army headgear which give the sinister aesthetic of the line a soft edge.

In an era of insecurity, fashionable crash helmets and rough-and-tough accessories provide street-cool façades behind which urban undergrounders and sartorial fetishists alike may seek refuge.

— Gareen Darakjian