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Designers discuss the synergy between fashion and rock ’n’ roll and share some of their musical memories.
This story first appeared in the August 29, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“When rock stars ask me to dress them, just by listening to the song, I imagine what they should be wearing. Dressing a rock star for a video is extremely stimulating. Music, just like fashion, is in constant evolution and always looking for new boundaries.
“I will never forget my emotion when, about 18 years ago, we dressed Bruce Springsteen for his ‘Born in the USA’ tour, and I watched the concert from the side of the stage. I was mesmerized to see what a reaction this polite and reclusive singer, who was our guest on Lake Como, triggered in an audience of thousands of people.”
— Donatella Versace
“Since the age of music videos, we have seen musical artists focusing on their personal style with almost as much intensity as their music. With so much attention given to what celebrities in all fields are wearing, the connection between the fashion and music worlds has become natural. Clothing allows the artists another avenue to express their creativity.”
— Giorgio Armani
“Music is very important, first and foremost as the expression of the world in which we live in, and it is the product of a young culture, which is filled with ideas and creativity. We often get inspiration from pop stars and their videos. The first real big star we dressed was Madonna, and it was an unforgettable experience from all points of view. With her, the exchange of ideas is constant and incredibly stimulating.”
— Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana
“Music is the form of artistic expression that makes the strongest emotional impact and attracts an enormous, heterogeneous public — music is the rhythm of our time.”
— Tom Ford
“Apart from ready-to-wear, Dior Homme is pretty much organized for a couture activity, which makes it quite natural for us to work on stage clothes, and I suppose consequently for rock stars to approach us. Also, everyone in the team is quite focused on music. Then I personally find stage clothes one of the most interesting exercises in men’s fashion, and an accurate sign of its evolution. The issue is the same as for a fashion show. Pulling back on pursuing a style, knowing the visual impact is a key element.”
— Hedi Slimane
“Young people are first interested in music, and since musicians often wear the latest designer fashions, they also get into fashion. That brings the two together. People are more interested to see what celebrities are wearing than what ‘normal’ people are wearing. They are trendsetters for entire generations.”
— Christian Roth
“Music has a tribal energy — it’s a fusion of ancient tribalism and modern high tech — and musicians recognize those qualities in my jewelry. The jewelry sometimes punctuates the message, their image and the content of their music. Musicians tend to go for big wide collar necklaces, bands of silver around the neck, huge plain cuffs and giant hoop earrings to punctuate their connection to the ancient drum and the beat of the earth.”
— Robert Lee Morris
“Music and fashion go hand-in-hand. They greatly influence each other. Young people are always going to look to their icons to develop their own styles, so I believe it is a relationship that will always be there.”
— Kimora Lee Simmons
“Music and clothing are intimately connected. What young girl doesn’t want to look like Britney Spears these days? Since many girls cannot perform like their idols, they want to do everything else that they do. Clothes can help them to do that. And, the clothes can enhance the star’s performance, so it works both ways.”
— Cynthia Steffe
“Big musicians like David Bowie really became almost chameleon-like in their influence on fashion designers over the years. And they still are; their style is so unique, mixing the traditional old classics with modern mixes. If you take Keith Richards, he was wearing animal prints and black leather before anyone else. And The Kinks took the Edwardian look and made it really very hip and unique.”
— Tommy Hilfiger
“[Musicians] put the clothes on and take them somewhere else; where an everyday customer wouldn’t go. Kelis puts a new spin on the clothes that’s never obvious. [The designer-rock star relationship] works best when it’s not a business transaction, but when you’re friends and you’re socializing and exchanging ideas.”
— Matthew Williamson
“[Music is] the heart and soul of my clothes, my shows, my life. I just don’t move without my music. MTV really changed my business and my life because the music people are a little flashier.
“I’ve always thought Madonna was great, great, great. I like the girls and guys who give you a lot to look at, like Gwen Stefani, Bowie, Alicia Keys…I even love that new girl Norah Jones. I like special people that hold onto their own look.”
— Betsey Johnson
“I remember going home and watching MTV and seeing Janet [Jackson] wearing my clothing in her video [“Go Deep”]. I went, ‘Oh my God she’s wearing my top!’ Designers get inspired by people who are creative and out there, people like Kylie [Minogue] and Mary J. Blige and Shakira. One of the most inspiring people right now is Missy Elliott.”
— Julien Macdonald
“My whole reason for designing clothes originally was no more than to design for rock stars and the people who go to rock concerts. Of course, it grew from there, but rock is behind everything I love about fashion and style.
“I usually listen to rock music. That’s what I like. I’ve done a lot of collections that have been totally influenced by music, like the Tibetan surfer collection was all inspired by a Tibet Freedom Concert that I saw in San Francisco, that the Beastie Boys put on. The Glam collection was inspired by Glam Rock and the Velvet Goldmine movie. The Grunge collection was inspired by Nirvana and all of those Seattle bands; the Mod collection was inspired by the Beatles, The Who and British Invasion music.”
— Anna Sui
“Every art is influenced by every other art, you can’t calculate the obvious. That’s what makes it magical. We are all influenced by things around us. It’s not only what you see but how it makes you feel. I watch music TV and get inspired.”
— David Yurman