Pop-rock stars: how much does apparel make them iconic?

Davide Bowie 2Many reflexions have sparked from David Bowie‘s recent death, about the artist’s strong influence on the international world of music as well as fashion, for his many artistic awards and for being crowned “Best dressed Briton” by the BBC History magazine.

Back in the early 1970’s Bowie stirred up the masses with his character Ziggy Stardust at his Glam rock debut: wearing flashy, tight costumes, high-heel shoes, extravagant hairstyles, make-up covering his face. David Bowie rejected stereotypes, loved to experiment and changed his iconic image multiple times, each time creating a new persona and music style: Halloween Jack was his soul-funk character, eye patch and Victorian shirt collars; his Berlin period of Thin White Duke was markedly elegant and aristocratic; Aladdin Sane took inspiration for his costume from the annagata (male actors who impersonate women in Japanese kabuki theater), with the help of designer Kansai Yamamoto and choreographer Lindsay Kemp; his electronic music experiment of album 1.Outside brought along detective Nathan Adler, the character in a fedora on his head and a loose tie.

Bowie’s expressive freedom, his creativity and costume extravaganza are still to this day an inspiration for designers: from the skinny pants for men, by Hedi Slimane, creative director of Saint Laurent, to the butterly-decorated blazers by Alessandro Michele for Gucci, all the way to J.W. Anderson’s dresses designed to be worn by both women and men. Bowie’s example isn’t the only one the history of rock and pop stars who influenced to some degree the world of fashion. It’s no coincidence that Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Brussels and Venice have recently hosted the Hard Rock Couture – A Music Inspired Fashion Collection exhibit, where some of the most transgressive and spectacular costumes worn by music artists were displayed.

Michael JacksonElvis Presley would take inspiration from other artists from different places and times, yet adapting the styles to his own personality to create a unique look: white clothes and boots, thick chain chains around his neck, extreme and sensual costumes, pompadour haircut, transgressive moves for a total rock and roll explosion. Keith Richards, Rolling Stones guitarist, was taken as an actual model for fashion: supposedly Johnny Depp took inspiration from him for Jack Sparrow’s look. Michael Jackson left his distinctive mark in music, dance and fashion: his obsession for aesthetics, for the clothes, hair, gloves and shoes inspired many musicians as well as many designers; just think about the red leather jacket from the video of “Beat it”, which set the trend in the 1980’s. Eccentric, flashy, even feminine and definitely extravagant: such was the style of Prince, the artist who produced an extraordinary musical crossover. Far from Michael Jackson’s angelic – yet ambiguous – figure, his biggest rival and the artist he was the most associated with, Prince‘s style was always daring and explicit, reflecting in his more earthly looks.

Freddy Mercury 2After emerging from the influence of the 1970’s style, even Freddie Mercury went through the phase of the tight clothes and high shoes, eccentric jackets and king-like cloak, all the way to a minimal look we easily identify him with: jeans and sleeveless white shirt. Some say that behind the international success of stars hide some less known characters, with their original style choices. Madonna is a pop icon and is still the point of reference for her rebellious, free, ironic style. She’s always been ahead of the trends, personalizing them (how can we forget her Jean Paul Gautier corsets?) Recently some of her most iconic outfits have been selected by Madonna to be displayed by Macy’s, in California, during the launch of the new fashion line “Material girl”. Apparently though, many of her outfits were inspired by Tamil rapper Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A.: off-the-wall in her dress style, in her videos and unusual album covers.

Madonna2Lady Gaga, the year 2000 most eccentric artist, chameleon artist to the point of being unrecognizable, paved the way for many other women to gain fame by being excessive at all costs; yet behind her scene costumes you can find a lot of the Jamaican singer, actor and model Grace Jones, who throughout her career worked with many artists and left her mark for her masculine, tough, borderline bdsm style. Some have invested in the fashion industry too.

Robbie Williams 3In the 1990’s Robbie Williams, whose musical talent and skills as an entertainer gained him the name “King of Pop”, didn’t really bring much innovation to style and fashion. His famous video of “Rock Dj” showed clearly how hard it is for an artist to stand out for their style, or getting undressed (as in the video he wound up ripping his skin and flesh off, to draw attention). Looking back at his grandfather Jack Farrell, he launched his own fashion brand a few years ago, that can suit anyone, reaffirming his desire to be as popular as possible. “In England – he explained at the beginning of his endeavor – those who sing and play music don’t do anything else, while in America, where I’ve been living for a while, singers do other jobs too. That’s what I’m doing”. Pullovers, trench coats, shirts, coats, a global look inspired of a classic British look, with some modern, sophisticated touches, and another line military style: Farrell collection, designed by Ben Dickens (former Burberry designer), distributed by British shops like Selfridges and House of Fraser, in Milan, Italy it was introduced by Coin. Farrell had to claim bankruptcy within months, but last year made a partnership with Primark to give it another shot.


by Laura Mancini

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