TORI’S QUIET CULT
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — Pop star Tori Amos doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a bubbly, commercial rocker.
Her dark, raspy music relays painful messages about religion, abuse and rape, and her fashion style is eclectic, gypsy-like. Yet, since bursting onto the scene in 1992 with her first album,”Little Earthquakes,” the 33-year-old pop singer/pianist, with her signature auburn hair, has been seducing a diverse following, from teens to gays.
She considers her music a melange of ingredients, drawing on her various experiences like a chef, turning what might be odd combinations into a harmonious medley. And she views fashion the same way.
“With each work, I approach my look differently,” said Amos, during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel here last month, shortly before her concert at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “My look is an extension of my work. Different parts of me come to the forefront in expressing my style.”
Amos, dressed in an Alexander McQueen pink brocade vest, Joseph jeans and black boots by Ann Demuelemeester, had just flown in from London, where she lives. The concert was a benefit for RAINN — The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network — a 24-hour hotline that Amos founded two years ago to help survivors of sexual assault. Amos was raped in her early 20s and has used the issue as her cause celebre. “Me and a Gun,” a hit song from “Little Earthquakes,” (Atlantic Records) is based on that experience.
“Tori has a rare ability to translate the most intimate feelings into music,” said Calvin Klein, who hooked up with Amos for a year-long ad campaign, launched last month, for his CK brand to raise funds for RAINN. “She has developed her own language, which allows her to build a unique rapport with her audience. Much like her music, her style has an almost ethereal quality that reflects her intense creative ability and remarkable range of moods and emotions.”
Amos is something of a contradiction in fashion, according to Daisy Von Furth, designer for the streetwear line X-Girl.
“Tori has become kind of like a moonchild for lost souls and misfits,” she said. “She’s not about being cool or trendy, but in a way, she is cool. Her crowd is definitely not trendy, but more of a cult. And she is so unfashionable, but yet I like the way she dresses.
“She’d been wearing these romantic, asymmetrical, diaphanous clothes and spaghetti strap camisoles long before they became stylish,” Von Furth continued. “She almost seems half nude, even though she is wearing clothes. It’s a vulnerable way of dressing, and there’s no armor — just like her music.”
One fan who got hooked on Amos almost overnight is Ady Gluck-Frankel, designer for the junior line Necessary Objects. Her mesh tops and sleeveless tanks for spring were inspired by the singer.
“I saw her on MTV a few months ago, and wow, I thought, she looks special. She’s very sensual, and her hair is so great. I was definitely inspired,” said Gluck-Frankel.
For fall, Gluck-Frankel said she will be use a lot of browns and synthetics, all sparked by the cover of Amos’s third album, “Boys for Pele,” where the pop diva is photographed in a rocking chair, her bare legs covered with mud, with a snake wrapped around her body.
“She’s definitely a trendsetter,” continued Gluck-Frankel. “She’s a combination of ethereal and earthy.”
“I think of her as this Pied Piper, a magical leader, with her look so relaxed, pared down and seductive,” said Eva Delgrande, owner of Religious Sex, a clothing store in SoHo that caters to downtown fashion groupies.
Delgrande noted that she is now seeing the singer’s young fans starting to wear tight capri pants, a look Amos often wears.
Born Myra Ellen Amos, the daughter of a Methodist minister in North Carolina, Amos enrolled as a five-year-old prodigy at the prestigious Peabody School of Music in Baltimore. But at age 11, she was expelled after rebelling against its regimented classical program.
Later on, Amos started playing piano in gay bars in Washington and Baltimore. It was there, she said, that she learned about style.
“They [gay men] really tried to teach me the foundations of style, not about brands or designers,” she said. “They taught me to develop an eye, how you just don’t look good by just wearing a brand name. It is all about understanding what is a line, what is the cut, what it will do for the body. We would look at magazines together, and they would talk about the message that this woman is giving in the magazine.”
Amos emphasized she is not a clothes snob — nothing is off limits, including thrift stores. But that doesn’t mean her closet is void of some heavy hitters; she said her favorite designer labels include Prada as well as British designers Martine Sitbon and Andrew Walker. As for shoes, she is a Manolo Blahnik fanatic.
Her style changes with her musical phases. While she was working on “Under the Pink,” her second album, recorded in 1994, her uniform was white cotton sleeveless dresses and mountain boots. The album’s theme is betrayal and friendship with women.
“It was all about a glass world,” she said. “And you wanted to be light [in color], so if you cut yourself, you will really see the blood.”
As for “Boys for Pele,” recorded last year, “it was all about finding your fire,” she said. The album title, which refers to the Hawaiian volcano goddess, is about her relationships with men. “During that period, I wore clothes that hugged the body. There was a lot of Scarlett O’Hara and Southern influences in my dress, and I wore bustiers.”
Amos’s cult following was evident at the concert, where 6,000 fans, many wearing dyed red hair and crystals, packed The Theater. They weren’t the usual rowdy rock fans, but a quieter, more cerebral crowd, many of whom carried roses to the stage.
Kelly Woessner, 15, of Northport, N.Y., was trying very hard to mimic Amos’s style, with long, dyed red hair, capri pants and a sheer asymmetrical top.
“I’m very Tori-esque, don’t you think?” she asked.
Amos, however, said she doesn’t want to see an audience full of Tori clones.
“The energy I hope I am giving is that there has to be a freedom to express yourself to change, that your style can change any moment and you have the right to do that,” she said. “You have the right to dislike what you picked out yesterday, and change in 10 minutes. There is no right or wrong. That’s when it really works — when you really allow yourself that freedom.”