by Kim Logan ’10
Close your eyes, and you’re in 1965…
Young haute designers Ossie Clark and Andre Courrèges are going head to head with heavyweight Yves St. Laurent to debut the collection that will most epitomize the swinging sixties. You’re sitting front-row at all three runway shows, and you see the birth of the mini-skirt. You see Mondrian and triangle-shift dresses, go-go boots and huge earrings. You see sleek black turtlenecks and bottle-blond bangs, silver lamé and flamboyant furs. It’s so thrilling to have time-warped to experience this psychedelic explosion of fashion culture, but perhaps even more exciting is the fact that all three of these designers have drawn their inspiration for their collections from the deep well of 1960’s musicians and artists. Those black turtlenecks came from the slim bodies of Edie Sedgwick and Nico, and those mini-skirts were alive and well on Marianne Faithfull and the French pop darlings of yé-yé music long before they were sold in stores.
Now open your eyes, and you’re at the 2013 Grammy Awards. You’re on the red carpet, surrounded by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Adele. These three women are all in designs (by Gucci, J. Mendel, and Valentino, respectively) that were created before the artist decided to wear them, a couple of which had already been debuted in one of the designer’s collections. You might end up seeing the same pieces worn by Manhattan socialites at this year’s Metropolitan Costume Ball, or on the back of a less prominent artist at an event six months in the future – and the real kicker will be that none of these “wearers” had any creative effect on the design of the dress. It was something a stylist picked out for them, with no real connection to who they are as musicians.
As the top-selling and most influential female artists in our current mainstream culture, Katy, Taylor, and Adele are dropping the ball when it comes to the powerful connection that can be, and was once made between the musician and the fashion designer. In the 1960s and the 1970s, rock and roll bands, popular singers, and film stars would choose silhouettes. They would choose color schemes. They would be the architects of their own ensembles and designers would then adapt those looks for the runway.
At the height of the hippie movement, Yves St. Laurent lifted the unique and extravagant stage outfits of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix for his runway collections, showcasing kaftans, kimonos, muumuus, fur, bold florals and paisleys, and over-accessorizing his models according to the intense trend spreading across the nation. By the time the Woodstock festival raged its way into the eye of mainstream culture, St. Laurent’s designs, along with those of Diane von Furstenberg and Roy Halston, were in clothing stores everywhere, prèt-à-porter for the average fashionista. Just a few years later, designer Bob Gibb slathered the 1970s with ethnic trends, stemming from the exotic beauty and personal style of actress Pam Grier and her “Blaxploitation” films. We have Pam to thank for pervasive jungle print, shimmery gold, larger-than-life hoop earrings, and the Afro craze.
During the birth of punk music in the streets of London in 1975, Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren ran a boutique of sensationalist “anti-fashion” called Sex. A few hoodlums used to hang around the shop, including future Sex Pistols bassist and vocalist Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. Designers Westwood and McLaren not only united and managed the Sex Pistols as a marketable English punk export, but also drew from the boys’ ripped, pinned, and often offensive clothing choices for pieces in the store. This symbiosis of inspiration initiated a monstrous wave of punk fashion, including the commercialization of screen-printing and distressing/destroying clothing.
In the late 1980s and all through the 1990s, the rise of the “supermodel” further signified the death knoll of the musician as designer’s muse. Now that Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks have hung up their couture and moved on to reality television, the time is nigh for young musicians and actors to re-enter the sphere of influence in the world of high fashion.
There have been a few shining beacons of artist/designer collaboration in the last decade. In 2007, Karl Lagerfeld tapped Amy Winehouse as inspiration for his Spring/Summer ’08 collection for Chanel. He channeled her in his models’ outrageous beehive up-dos, little black dresses, heavily winged eyeliner, and neo-pinup cuts and bodices. Lagerfeld also created a magnificent experience for his Spring/Summer ’12 collection by placing Florence Welch, dressed in his Chanel couture, in an enormous seashell as she performed her ethereal songs to his unconventional, theatrical runway show. The now-ubiquitous Lady Gaga first built her relationship with the fashion industry by serving as muse to the late Alexander McQueen.
Last year, when I was about to celebrate the pressing of my debut album to vinyl with United Record Pressing here in Nashville, I met designer Rachel Hesse at a party — she expressed to me her fondness for my music and her appreciation for my fierceness in fashion. A beautiful relationship was born that night, and over the next few months she produced a 10-piece couture collection for me to wear onstage and in a photoset at United’s upstairs Motown Suite — each piece correlated with one of the songs on my record.
So, my fellow thespians and troubadours… attend your city’s Fashion Week. Make the pilgrimage to Manhattan or Milan if you’ve never been. Switch yourself on in a full-length mirror and decide what best presents you and your art to the visual world. Compel yourself to understand how your musical heroes also became style icons, and follow in their footsteps. Discover what works well for your body shape and coloring, and wear it with no fear in your heart. You might just catch the eye of the next Lagerfeld.
[This piece originally ran as part of the guest series “In Their Own Words” on Nashville’s all-female-run, tastemaking think-tank blog Lockeland Springsteen. Special thanks to Marissa Moss for encouraging Nashville artists like me to pick a passion and extemporize.]
Kim Logan left Berklee campus in 2010 to write and make records in Nashville. She is now finishing her degree via Berklee Online and is probably playing somewhere near you sometime soon, promoting her debut self-titled album and writing for her second. You can find her music on iTunes, Bandcamp, or pressed to vinyl or CD through her official website.
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