Last year a starry new league of fashion royalty were in ascendance. In just twelve months music’s monarchs went from filling our ears to filling our wardrobes, not just inspiring the trends we saw on catwalks and sidewalks but defining them. As Kanye gave Phoebe Philo a shout-out live on Radio 1, we imagined M.I.A. super-fan Donatella blasting Y.A.L.A. through her speakers every morning as she sprays on her bodycon and basks in the shimmering light from Daft Punk’s sequined Saint Laurent sassy-ness.
If 2013 was the year they jostled for position, 2014 is the year they take the throne. Where fashion designers once clambered over one another to get their garms on the backs of Hollywood’s elite, now they fight to see them spin across the stages of the world’s biggest stadiums. As pictures of pop personalities fly past our retinas – brand names hash-tagged please – the power of popularity is supreme and there’s no one better to achieve that with than sell-out-touring, talk-show-tormenting, magazine-covering musicians. “The future of fashion is when music becomes fashion and fashion becomes music,” predicts Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director of Balmain. “Fashion today is not made and addressed only to a certain elite - everybody can become part of it. Music has the power to spread fashion around the world, knowing no boundaries, and make it universal.” Here, we lift the lid on some of the folk making a play for the palace in music’s mission to rule fashion.
“The future of fashion is when music becomes fashion and fashion becomes music. Music has the power to spread fashion around the world, knowing no boundaries, and make it universal.” Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director Balmain
HRH King Kanye
Kanye West retains his crown as the undisputed king of fashion’s rat pack. His baby’s booties are custom made by Hermès, he’s BFFs with a fella who raps about rocking Tom Ford, and has Riccardo [Tisci] on speed-dial just in case Kim needs a bouquet or two to accompany her down the Met Ball red carpet. Not afraid to speak out about the injustices of his treatment by the fashion crowd, Kanye is carving his own path; his A.P.C. tie-in did more for stonewash denim than Justin and Britney’s double-dipping on the red carpet in the early noughties, he’s trumped his successful collaboration with Nike with a lucrative partnership with their rivals adidas; and there’s no doubt that we’ll all be carrying trunks emblazoned with monogrammed Ks and Ws before the decade’s out.
As all fashion icons must, he’s had the occasional but mandatory style faux pas (shutter sunglasses) but he’s conquered adversity and earned the respect of many of fashion’s flame-bearers, initiating more trends than Alexa Chung. And of course he’s the only person who could tour the world wearing a jewel-encrusted Margiela mask and come out smiling, if a little sweaty we imagine.
Sitting to Kanye’s left through it all, is his confident, creative advisor and fellow trend trailblazer, Virgil Abloh. The Dean Martin to Kanye’s Sinatra, Virgil has been on Team Yeezy through thick and thin and has helped shape the superstar’s aesthetic whilst simultaneously building his own fashion empire. Describing his foundations in fashion and music, Virgil explains, “growing-up, I listened to an array of music but mostly my taste was rooted in hip-hop and all those 90s relevant versions of rock. My fashion sense though was definitely rooted in skateboard culture. That has pretty much always been my reference point even more so than hip-hop.” With Virgil splitting his time between contributing to Kanye’s creative boundary-pushing and masterminding his own fashion brand ‘OFF-WHITE ℅ VIRGIL ABLOH’, inspiration comes thick and fast. “I am inspired by the times. The pace at which culture spreads and the active role that youth have in affecting the establishment is remarkable to the modern times.” In just the same way that Kanye strives to achieve status as a cultural architect rather than limit himself to musical stardom, Virgil looks beyond the brand. “To me the concept of OFF-WHITE ℅ VIRGIL ABLOH is just as important as the products themselves. My goal is to push current culture.”
With his trusty aide by his side, there’s no doubt the Kanye couturier has only just begun to weave its success story. Whilst the aspiration he revealed on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show to uniform the population of an entire city may be a little ambitious, the popularity of his tour merchandise, the pop-up shops it spawned and the price of an original pair of Nike Air Yeezy’s on eBay are definite signs that Bond Street, Rue Saint-Honoré and Melrose Avenue may soon have to clear a spot for Mr West’s own maisons. After all, in his own wise words, “We culture. We the real rock stars. And I’m the biggest of all of them. I’m the number one rock star on the planet.”
Not far behind Kanye on the list of fashion’s heavy hitters is Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky. In his relatively short time on the scene, A$AP has earned accolades from everyone from Alexander Wang to Jeremy Scott. Clocking in at just 25-years-old and bucking the trend for hip-hop stars sporting loose-fitting tees, Rocky favours a slimmer silhouette, not afraid to hit the stage in skin-tight Rick Owens leatherwear.
In Fashion Killa, the fourth single from his Billboard Chart-topping debut album, Rocky name-checks his favourite designers, demonstrating that rhyming ‘Ann Demeulemeester’ and ‘Oliver Peoples’ is no mean feat (gifts addressed to Prince A$AP, if you will). The video, directed by Virgil Abloh, has drummed-up more than eight million views on YouTube and sees Pretty Flacko run riot through a bunch of New York boutiques alongside queen of it all Rihanna (more on that later), before the two thumb through some of their favourite style mags. Rarely without a fine fashion femme on his arm, A$AP also takes a turn in Lana del Rey’s National Anthem video. Slipping into the role of JFK with aplomb, he gives America’s most-loved and most dapper No.1 a run for his money, in full prepster, Ivy League chic. Swoon.
With unparalleled style, Rocky is one of several male musicians going all in on fashion, influencing his peers and in no small part contributing to the fact that this year, sales of men’s luxury goods are projected to outstrip women’s. He represents a legion of young adult males who are unashamedly spending more time tweaking their pigtails than their female counterparts. And he wants a piece of the profit-making pie too; living up to the A.$.A.P. name (Always Striving And Prospering is what Rocky does) last year his foray into fashion design was guided by Raf Simons who, in case you don’t know, is the man behind much of what Rocky’s usually dressed in. Like many musicians, the rapper knows his powerful cultural influence means his money-making can extend far behind record sales and tour tickets and into snapbacks, sweatshirts and so much more.
And if Kanye is the king of mainstream luxury fashion, Rocky flies the flag for the new kids on the block. Shaun Samson of LA, Astrid Andersen of Copenhagen and Hood by Air of New York have all benefited from A.R’s P.R and all have reciprocated by booming out his tunes on their catwalks. Shayne Oliver, founder of Hood by Air, describes his perception of where music and fashion meet: “I never had a time where the two didn't feel merged; I guess because in my childhood everyone was obsessed with hip-hop and grunge, and a huge part of how people identified with these genres was the look. Before that it would be carnival and church.” His involvement with pioneering collective GHE20 GOTH1K means Shayne is at the epicenter of musical experimentation too. “GHE20 GOTH1K is a party founded by Venus X that soon thereafter became a DJ collective consisting of Venus X, myself, and DJ Physical Therapy.” Transcending club nights and pirate radio broadcasts, through HBA and GG, Shayne is creating a 21st century subculture that exists as much on the Internet as it does in underground New York. And what does the association with Rocky mean to him? “I think it's more important for other people to understand and incorporate the ideas. The concept of the brand will exist before and after the fact, regardless. I appreciate it more so because these men are there with me, getting it, living it, and allowing for a platform.”
Long live Queen Rihanna!
From fashion’s Fresh Prince to its First Lady, Rihanna runs this town every night of the week. 37 million albums and 120 million single sales under her belt, her position as the most successful female artist of the digital generation is secured and so it’s only natural that she should set her sights on conquering the fashion field too.
With Mr Tisci creating her tour costumes, Tom Ford crediting her for inspiring his autumn/winter 13 collection and dreamy Cara Delevingne sharing her banana boat, Rihanna’s long been a darling of the fashion pack. 2013 marked something of a game-changer though, as for two sell-out seasons Riri designed capsule collections for River Island. Inspired by her own flashbulb-friendly fashions, the collection was packed with daisy dukes, gold hoops and figure hugging, floor-length gowns. Though Riri played by the rules hosting a presentation during London Fashion Week and shooting an advertising campaign featuring i-D faves Jourdan Dunn, Charlotte Free and Tati Cotliar, she also had something no other brand could boast – herself. Stepping out onto beaches and hotel balconies sporting pieces from the collaboration, the Rihanna effect meant clothes flew from shelves. Suddenly her thirty-three million Twitter followers could do more than dust on her MAC make-up and sing to her tunes in a karaoke room, they could slip into her shoes too.
And now she’s kicked-off 2014 pretty stylishly too; taking a break from designing, resting her knitting needles for a season she’s stepped in front of Inez and Vinoodh’s lens as the leading lady of Balmain’s spring/summer 14 advertising campaign, lending a little favour to her pal Olivier Rousteing. Fresh off the runway, Rihanna slipped into Rousteing’s creations with just the same style as a high-ranking model, but with rather a lot more gusto. After taking the Balmain helm in 2011 when he was just 25-years-old, Rousteing has done a great deal to modernise the much-loved Parisian fashion house and Rihanna is one of his more controversial moves. With the designer a keen fan of her work and her style, he was undeterred by the possibility of the more conservative Balmain buyers being alienated by her image, very publically dedicating the entire collection to her, snapping her in a graffiti-covered toilet block and even hailing her the future of fashion. “Not only does she have the gift of making songs that people love to listen to, but she also knows how to set new trends - discovering what will be the next best thing and making it hers. For me, that is what makes you a fashion icon”, he told i-D.
Her crown perched atop her perfectly coiffed barnet, Rihanna also added ‘Executive Producer’ to her CV last year. Reality TV show Styled to Rock saw a series of budding fashion designers battling it out to dress the only girl in the world. In the US version, judges Pharell Williams and Erin Wasson were joined by Rihanna’s own styling stalwart and i-D contributor, Mel Ottenberg. Growing up to a soundtrack of The Cure, The Smiths, Sinead and Siouxsie, Mel says that music “always has, always will” influence his work. Cutting his teeth working with photographer Matthias Vriens on The Face in the 90s, in 2001 he found himself mixing music and fashion professionally for the first time. “My first music job was the MTV VMAs when Britney performed Slave 4 U and did her dance with the snake. Her stylists at the time, Kurt & Bart, hired me to do all her backup dancers costumes. My friends and I stayed up all night for a week making looks for that show. It was insane.” Throw forward to the 2014 and Mel’s contribution to major musical fashion moments have amassed; responsible for some of Riri’s most iconic looks, from her pocket peepers and Dr. Martens in We Found Love to latex gloves and not a lot else in Pour It Up. With Rihanna for River Island in mind, does Mel envisage musicians having an increasingly prominent role in fashion design? “Yes! I wanna see more! It’s time for this generation to have a line like L.A.M.B.” Here, here!
The Royal Counsel
All this without mentioning that 2014 has already seen a whole hoard of other well-tuned types storm the palace; Miley’s getting moody for Marc Jacobs, styled by Katie Grand and shot by David Sims (husband of MJ’s new Design Director, Luella Bartley); Erykah Badu pops-up in Riccardo Tisci’s new Givenchy campaign; and Donatella’s gone Gaga with Mert and Marcus for Versace. Meat dresses, white boob tubes and wagging tongues at the ready? Music’s style supremacy is written in the stars. They came. They saw. They conquered.