fashion insiders’ favourite music videos: diane pernet

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
16 June 2016, 11:51pm

A distinctive character within the fashion scene, Diane Pernet was initially a designer in New York for over a decade, before relocating to Paris and becoming a respected fashion reporter for titles such as Vogue. She then gained acclaim within the first wave of prominent online fashion commentators, via her blog A Shaded View on Fashion, launched back in 2005. This developed into a A Shaded View on Fashion Film, an international travelling showcase and festival for films exploring the fashion, style and beauty genres. Diane has since been the recipient of many fashion awards - from prestigious institutions all around the world - for her work as a digital pioneer, and in 2013 and 2014 was heralded as one of the Business of Fashion's 500 key figures shaping the global fashion industry.

Diane's all-time favourite music video is a low budget yet atmospheric affair, its director unknown, to accompany the late Klaus Nomi's single, Lightning Strikes, released in 1981. A contemporary of hers in the downtown New York New Wave art-music-fashion-nightclub scenes of the late 70s and early 80s, Nomi - with his dramatic-operatic voice and alien-like appearance - was a remarkable figure who achieved cult success prior to his AIDS-related death in 1983. His talents were appreciated by the likes of David Bowie, who invited him to sing with him on prime time US TV in 1979. Similarly, pop stars such as Morrissey have name since checked him as an inspiration, as have various fashion designers including Gareth Pugh, Boudicca and Jean Paul Gaultier, whom subsequently referenced his otherworldly looks within their collections. Here, Diane recalls the impact Klaus Nomi's music, image and this particular video made upon her.

"The first time I saw Klaus Nomi perform live was at the New Wave Vaudeville Show , MC'd by my artist friend David McDermott, at Irving Plaza in 1978. He was unforgettable. And that voice....

I was living in the West Village on 11th street and Bleeker at the time and I was a fashion designer for my own brand. When I first started designing I was very interested in the Bauhaus and certainly the look of Klaus referenced that, with the cylindrical pure shapes. In fact, I only found out recently that Marc Happel, currently the Director of Costumes at the New York City Ballet, and former sample maker for me when I was a designer, was part of the team that created the amazing triangle that was the silhouette of Klaus. I read somewhere that David Bowie came up with it first, but I had heard it was the other way around.

I later saw Klaus perform live many times at clubs - Danceteria, Mudd Club, Pyramid Bar and, if I'm not mistaken, in the window of the Fiorucci store with Joey Arias. He would perform with other artists backing him up, like Joey Arias or John Sex. John Sex was wild, with a towering blond pompadour. Also, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring performed with Klaus, mostly at the Mudd Club. In 1979, David Bowie asked Klaus and Joey Arias to be his back-up artists for a TV performance on Saturday Night Live.

The first time I saw the video for Lightning Strikes might have been on Manhattan Cable's TV Party show, but I'm not sure. This, of course, was pre-MTV and YouTube. I have no idea who made the video, which has many references - sci-fi, for sure, Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau who directed Nosferatu, vampires... totally '80s. In the video, Klaus looked like no one else - his voice was hypnotic and the whole thing was like an hallucination.

I knew Klaus but not as a close friend. I knew Joey Arias more. Klaus was the first person that I knew who died of AIDS. It was in 1983, when we had no idea what AIDS was, and little did I know that soon my entire neighborhood in the West Village would be devastated by the disease. As I recall it was a horrible death and I believe he was alone in his apartment for days before they found him, or at least that is what I remember hearing at the time. Maybe it is not true.

Klaus was iconic, a real original and of course designers such as Gareth Pugh, Jean Paul Gaultier and Boudicca would appreciate him and want to celebrate him. I'm sure he would have been happy for the recognition and the fact that he has inspired the inspired. He continues to inspire in the same way David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali will continue to inspire generations. Let's face it, there are so few originals one has to cherish the ones that have passed our way and left their traces upon us.

Looking at the video now makes me happy. I'm not one to live in the past and have no desire to re-live the '80s, but must admit it was a fun time to be in NYC. Klaus Nomi was a beautiful piece of that story."


Text James Anderson
Image via YouTube

Klaus Nomi
lightning strikes
Diane Pernet
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