It is hard to know exactly when the worlds of fashion and music began to collide. Perhaps it was in America with the advent of Jazz, which rendered the saxophone synonymous with the image of a sharply-cut suit. Or maybe it was with the explosion of youth culture in the 1950s, when newly-branded teens wore leather jackets and Levi’s and, combing their Elvis quiffs, listened to rock’n’roll. During the 60s, in swinging London, it was the mop-haired Beatles and The Rolling Stones who set the tone, and in the 70s The Sex Pistols, purveyors of punk, regularly congregated in ‘Sex’, Vivienne Westwood’s shop on the King’s Road.
Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Prince: the image of each era is defined less by its catwalks than its musical stars, performing on Top of the Pops and MTV, splashed across magazine editorials, and now armed with Instagram. Indeed, in the 80s, lurid spray tans and shades of neon weren’t sanctioned by high-fashion but by Wham!, floating around on lilos in the video for “Club Tropicana”.
In her new book—the aptly-titled Fashion + Music—Katie Baron explores the synergy between these two, towering cultural pillars. Profiling 19 of the visionary stylists, designers and costumiers who have dressed some of our best-loved musical personas, Baron’s book reminds of the artistry that lies behind the architecture of image. At the height of their power stars, and their style, offer not just entertainment, but a cultural creed, tangibly impacting the way that we perceive the world around us. As Michael Schmidt, stylist to Madonna, Lady GaGa and Rihanna explains: “We all need something to believe in and these stars, with these looks, are essentially rendering themselves immortal.”
Here’s our pick of five seminal stylists featured in Baron’s book.
Judy Blame ran away from home when he was just 17. Arriving in London, it was during the 80s that his career as a designer, stylist and iconoclast began to take shape, born out of the capital’s heady clubbing scene that merged, riotously, the spheres of fashion and music. A regular at Cha Cha, Heaven and Blitz, one night when he was out, he met the rapper Neneh Cherry. They danced together for three hours straight. United by their shared love of subversion, they worked together on her first single “Buffalo Stance”, which she performed on Top of the Pops whilst heavily pregnant—Blame dressed her in a tight BodyMap skirt and Gaultier jacket for the occasion. “The director of Top of the Pops was shocked silly,” he recalls, “but what do they want her to go out there in? A tent? Fuck off. She’s Neneh Cherry.” Working with Iggy Pop, Blame continued to defy expectation. On their first shoot together, the pair dismissed the rails of designer clothes that they had been provided. Instead, Pop was photographed wearing just his own, beaten-up pair of jeans. The duo collaborated again in 1996, this time for Pop’s cover of Time Out. Blame put him in a t-shirt, made entirely out of plasters. According to Blame, such is the power of the bond between fashion and music, that most of the relationships he has developed with musicians remain open-ended. “I don’t know if you could say we’ve ever really finished,” he says. “A lot of us have had pretty bonkers lives, and they don’t constantly cross, but there’s every likelihood, with most of them, that they’ll walk through the door next week and ask for something.”
Who can forget the moment that Miley Cyrus shed the sweet-voiced Disney starlet Hannah Montana and re-emerged, spiky-haired, a bona fide provocateur, sliding onto the stage of her 2013 Bangerz tour by way of a vast, grossly pink recreation of her tongue. The engineer behind her transformation was Es Devlin who, having worked with Kanye West, Adele and U2, is an expert at shaping the way that we visually receive pop culture. Studying art at St. Martins, Devlin went on to work as a stagehand at Le Cirque Invisible, the circus run by Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, where she honed her famously surrealist eye. Today, the prolific set designer works across a multitude of disciplines: opera, dance, theatre, music. She staged the Olympic Closing Ceremony, won an Olivier Award for her work on Lucy Kirkwood’s play Chimerica and, in 2015, masterminded Louis Vuitton’s show at Paris Fashion Week, during which the models walked through three interconnected domes. Devlin sees herself as a storyteller, whose role is to build temporary worlds that create permanent memories. A formative part of her creative technique is the exchange of ideas: she likens working with musicians to the process of osmosis. Ideas flow both ways. “Ultimately I try to find a truth in anything I do, while pushing for originality,” she says. “If what you’re doing isn’t moving it on in some way, then why are you doing it?”
Legendary art director Jean-Paul Goude masterminded the extraordinary visual legacy of Grace Jones. The pair first met in New York when she, an aspiring model, walked into his office at Esquire wearing a hat and arm warmers on her elbows. The pair became lovers and, partying hard, were stalwart fixtures at Studio 54. Beyond their personal dalliance, their artistic relationship was cemented by their now-famed New York magazine shoot, which produced the “impossible arabesque” image that was later to become the album sleeve for “Island Live”. Goude was fascinated by Jones because he saw her as more than just a model or musician—to him, she was a canvas, a way to visually experiment with a series of academic artistic concepts: the Bauhaus movement, expressionism, Russian constructivism. “I told her ‘Your face is like a cubist character, I want to transform you into a minimal shape,’” says Goude. “I tell good stories. I take the truth and I blow it up. I don’t need reality.”
Although Andrea Lieberman was influenced by the grassroots hip-hop scene prevalent in New York during the 80s, it was in the 90s that she found her feet, inspired by a new wave of music that emerged, fronted by bands like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Bringing the worlds of music, high fashion and street-style into close proximity, Lieberman specialises in cultivating visual identities for artists whose personas cross multiple boundaries. It was her work with Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy) that put her on the map. Projecting the rapper into the mainstream, she styled him for Vanity Fair and American Vogue, who shot him alongside Kate Moss and the titans of the fashion world: Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta and John Galliano. Lieberman’s deft ability to connect and compound genres was again exemplified by her alliance with Jennifer Lopez, Combs’s then-girlfriend, who needed to find a way to claim ownership of her hybrid image, split between her Puerto Rican by-way-of-the-Bronx heritage, and her commercialized pop personality. The resulting mix of brassy hoop earrings, crop tops, puffer jackets and stilettos has become an iconic emblem of the 90s. “We now live in a global multicultural world, in cities with multiple ethnicities within any one-mile span,” explains Lieberman, on her approach to style. “That inherently means blurred lines, with people from various pockets of behaviours having a profound influence on one another. It just needs to be done respectfully.”
Jenke Ahmed Tailly
During her 16 years in the spotlight, Beyoncé has evolved from the charismatic front-woman of girl-band Destiny’s Child into an unprecedented cultural phenomenon. Overseeing the carefully crafted expansion of her brand is Jenke Ahmed Tailly, the stylist who, unsurprisingly, also works with Kim Kardashian. He first met Beyoncé in 2011, when they worked together for the cover of French magazine L’Officiel’s historic 90th anniversary issue. A week later, she invited him to become her first in-house creative director, and he embarked on a mission to remove her from the mainstream. For Ahmed Tailly, the figure of the female pop star seemed one-dimensional, and outdated. Instead, he wanted to project Beyoncé as a manifold figure who juggled numerous roles: a mother, wife, businesswoman and entertainer, whose music bristles with literary, philosophical and cinematic references. It was the root of the Beyoncé we know today. Allying her with a series of lesser-know designers and photographers, his intentions became clear at Glastonbury in 2011 when, the first woman ever to headline the festival its 25-year history, she wore a sequinned gold dress by then unknown designer Alexandre Vauthier. “I was lucky to be in [Beyoncé’s] life at a time when she was growing differently as an artist and a person; she was about to become a mother and she wanted to move that girl-power narrative forward. Our relationship was built on trust and passion, enabling me to introduce her to new designers and new horizons.”—Isobel Thompson
Fashion + Music by Katie Baron (Laurence King)
More like this:
Credits: Frans Schellekens/Gijsbert Hanekroot /Courtesy of Es Devlin/ Courtesy of Jean-Paul Goude. Island Records, Universal Music Enterprises, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc./ Ke.Mazur, WireImage/ Dave J Hogan