The real story behind the birth of grunge on the runway

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The story behind the emergence of grunge on the runway begins like this. True fans of grunge—the loud ‘Seattle sound’ born in America’s Pacific Northwest during the late 1980s—and the recalcitrant talents who unwittingly gave the world grunge style, didn’t imagine, or more importantly, want what they represented to end up on the catwalk. But it happened anyways.

The outsider genre that went ‘pop’ in the early 1990s originally rose out of the ashes of punk rock and the chaos of heavy metal in a rainy place that, by the 1980s, touring bands refused to visit (going only as far as San Francisco, some 800 miles south). Long before middle-class teenagers from New York to Tokyo were wearing slouchy Nevermind T-shirts, this yet-to-be-named scene serviced local musicians—and it was feverishly high-jinx. The humour (a mix of arch wit and outright goofiness) and wisdom of grunge originals Mudhoney, Green River, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden would later be misconstrued as nihilism by the mainstream media, meaning that most of the world missed the point—that the music at the centre of the movement had kind of begun as an inside joke between self-satirising Seattle bands who purposefully never used more than three chords in any one song and sang about being sick, as Mudhoney’s Mark Arm deadpans in Doug Pray’s 1996 documentary Hype!

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