fashion insiders’ favourite music videos: mandi lennard

In an ongoing series of regular interviews, i-D invites our music-loving fashion friends to select and dissect their ultimate inspirational pop videos.

by James Anderson
04 May 2016, 11:45pm

London-based fashion legend Mandi Lennard heads up the in-demand creative consultancy, Mandi's Basement. Her clients include LOVE Magazine, M.A.C Cosmetics, Absolut, Bistrotheque, and Barbie and her decade-spanning career ensures her ongoing involvement in several prestigious fashion juries, including Fashion East and IFS (International Fashion Showcase), a collaboration between the British Fashion Council and the British Council. Mandi gives regular talks on fashion and marketing at academic institutions such as the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins, and she further shares her expert insight as a regular panelist on SHOWstudio's live show reviews.

Mandi's all-time favourite music video is Janet Jackson's 1997-released Got 'Til It's Gone, directed by Mark Romanek, whose other credits include videos for Madonna, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift and and Nine Inch Nails. This offers a dramatically different mood and feel from Jackson's previous more uptempo hits and power-choreographed videos of the 80s. Instead, Got 'Til It's Gone's sparser trip hop-infused, Q-Tip-rapping, Joni Mitchell-sampling sound, combined with the Grammy-winning video's politically-loaded references to apartheid in South Africa, dictated a new, more pensive direction for the pop icon. Here, Mandi reveals why the video rocked her world at the time of its release and why it still resonates today.

"I wasn't really a fan of Janet's before Got 'Til It's Gone - it was Michael Jackson all the way for me. But this video made me take notice of her. It had a profound effect. I wanted to be in that world. I wanted to be connected to it in some way, however small. Every element felt so authentic.

I was busy setting up my PR agency around then. My friend Gil let me rent a desk in his music A&R office in Haunch of Venison Yard off Brook Street. I was living above a pub on Columbia Road. When friends - such as Keith Flint from The Prodigy - came to pick me up for a night out, they'd meet me in the pub, and I'd come out, Peggy Mitchell-style from behind the bar.

I probably first saw the video on MTV which was huge then, although I went to the launch of the album, The Velvet Rope, which I think was at Clink Street - it was the lead track, and the video played on huge screens. It was a special night as Premier was DJing. A friend from Trace magazine told me I was so drunk I devoured a mango from the fruit display, and on the way home the cab had to stop, so I could throw up over London Bridge!

It was the video that sold it to you as you got the full sensory experience. She looks incredible - her hair, how her skin glows from the heat, her clothes, the cast of characters in it. It was widely known that she was suffering from depression, which may account for it being more sobering than her usual stuff. I always put it down to Mark Romanek who directed it, but of course Q-Tip gave it a crossover hip hop appeal. Ultimately, it's an explosion of downtempo jazz, soul and trip hop.

It feels timely to be discussing it now, with Grace Wales Bonner and her celebration of black male beauty - some of the silhouettes are not dissimilar to elements of her collection too. Also, the majesty that emanates from the work of Kehinde Wiley, and how the background of his paintings reflect as much as the subjects. I love how Alek Wek appears with a Viewfinder for her cameo - even the fact it's beige when we were used to them being red. The apartheid thread running through adds a poignancy - it was only a couple of years since South Africa had ended racial segregation. The attention to detail is astounding, from seeing the copy of [South African magazine] Drum, the guy having his head shaved, the animals, the interiors, choreography, and an overall visual texture that ignites when you add her silky seductive vocals.

Her hair is genius, in the video. Even when you see the shadow of her silhouette, it's stunning. And of course, there's the Basquiat parallel. I guess her style was in tune with the Acid Jazz vibes of the time - you feel the influence of the Brand New Heavies; we all dressed like that - in secondhand clothes from the Electric Ballroom in Camden Market. Amazing how lowkey her look is, while feeling it's a thousand per cent fashion.

It's amazing how I keep going back to it, and it never dates. You felt that every leading creative of the time was involved with this masterpiece. No-one can ever take this song away from her. I'll always be curious about her because of it."


Text James Anderson
Image via YouTube

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