Aimée Grant Cumberbatch on the inseparability of fashion and music
David Bowie to the Glamrock movement, new wave to the New Romantics, Jimi Hendrix to the hippies, ‘60s rhythm and blues to the mods, 1950s rock and roll to their scruffier counterpart the rockers, and lately that uber-alternative indie band to the greasy-haired hipster kid. Whatever the decade, whatever the trend, fashion and music have strolled through the centuries hand in hand. However, in our modern image-obsessed society the appearance of our musical icons has assumed even greater importance.
Fashion is an intrinsic part of a musician’s identity; it informs our understanding of their sound, their ethos and even their potential for success. It’s not that music and fashion icons haven’t always been interchangeable, take Grace Jones, David Bowie and Madonna for just a few examples, however these days many artists’ sartorial efforts far eclipse their musical ones (I’m looking at you, Lady Gaga and you, Lana Del Rey). In fact in our auto-tuned version of reality, a sufficiently wacky wardrobe can mean a fast-track to success. Lana Del Rey, having only released two studio albums, has already been the face of a H&M collection, graced the cover of Vogue and attained the fashion equivalent of the holy grail: having a Mulberry handbag named after her. An accolade previously only afforded to everyone’s favourite fashion twiglet Alexa Chung, and Agyness Dean (of peroxide mop fame).
With the slow death of the purchase of physical music, and the rise of illegal downloads, musicians must turn to other means of money-making, means which are increasingly interwoven with fashion. Take touring for example, an incredibly important way for musicians to to gain revenue, however in order to tour one must have fans desirous of live performance and in order to have fans desirous of live performance, one must either be ‘good’ live or have other means of putting on a memorable show. A musician’s stage outfit is an essential part of the performance: Florence Welch (featured image) adhered to Bestival 2012’s wildlife theme by headlining the main stage looking like a cross between a pre-Raphaelite Poison Ivy and a wood nymph, in a flowing green gown and an ivy headdress. Her appearance was almost as memorable as Florence + The Machine’s performance. Katy Perry is renowned for her exuberant costumes and Rihanna more for what she isn’t wearing on stage.
Another, more directly sartorial and increasingly popular, way for a musician to rake in the big ones or even just to expand their empire, is the clothing line. All manner of musicians have them, Jay-Z and his line Rocawear, Gwen Stefani and L.A.M.B, unlikely fashion icon Liam Gallagher and his brand Pretty Green, I could go on. Most musician clothing lines know enormous success although often making little or no illusion of involvement on the part of the musician in the design process. Despite knowing that most of our favourite songsters and songstresses have few design credentials to speak of, it seems that musicality (or lack thereof, you again, Lana) makes money and the fashion world has certainly taken note.