Blame it on karaoke or the ever-increasing fixation on fame. For better or for worse, pop’s scantily clad vixens have captured the collective imagination. They have fueled the craze for teen trends such as midriff-baring Ts and low-slung jeans, and after an Emmy show at which the boring black suit ruled, divas like J.Lo, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani and Beyonce Knowles are the girls an easily bored public is counting on to keep fashion fabulous.


Whether she’s corseted, laced into custom-made leather or doing her saucy schoolgirl routine, Britney’s sexed-up look, created for the past two years by styling duo Kurt and Bart, infuriates parents. But retailers seem to like it just fine. Who else but Britney could successfully promote the sorry old gym sock, like the one she wore on her arm at the Super Bowl last January, as an accessory? “Everybody was like, what’s up with the tube sock?” said Bart. “But then Urban Outfitters did a little line of them.”


Of course, the fashion medley Madonna’s team put together for her “Drowned World” tour also made a major impact. Jean Paul Gaultier turned his work on the diva’s wardrobe into an Oriental excursion at the spring couture. Meanwhile, Dan and Dean Caten, the Canadian-born twins behind the Milanese men’s label D-Squared, who also designed the tour’s Western-wear segment, gained exposure by their labors. “Millions of people have bought copies,” said Dean.


Over the past two seasons, Richie Rich, a former club kid and Ice Capades skater, and Traver Rains, a real-live rodeo rider, turned their knack for catering to pop royalty — such as Spears, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, the Backstreet Boys, Shakira and Jessica Simpson — into the campy new fashion line Heatherette. When a star like Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys needs a customized T-shirt asap, these are the boys she calls. The duo often arrives at New York’s photo studios with an air-brush machine and bedazzling kit in hand to whip up their wacky creations onsite. “Basically, we came up with Heatherette for the pop star in everybody,” said Rich.


The appeal of pop’s sauvage T-shirts and newfangled denims is all about accessibility. While most fans will never be able to afford Versace or Roberto Cavalli, they can rip up their T-shirts or don a little something from one of the many new pop-centric clothing collections. For her part, the 22-year-old rapper Eve launched a new clothing line of her own called Bombshell, while, in a crafty bit of cross-marketing, the junior clothing chain Wet Seal inked a deal with the WB to produce Popstars, a collection based on the popular TV show “Popstars2.”


And then there’s J.Lo. “Growing up in the Bronx, I wanted to emulate what I saw on TV and movies and videos,” said Lopez, “but then again, I still wanted to be cool in the neighborhood.” In April, the star partnered with Andy Hilfiger and translated that neighborhood cool into a junior line full of lace-up jeans and denim jumpsuits, dangerously cropped T-shirts and tiny miniskirts that any diva-in-training would love. “Eventually,” said Lopez, “the J.Lo brand will branch off into a lifestyle type of thing where you have all the different types of products: perfume, lingerie, hosiery. But I want the clothes to stand on their own first.”

Vienna Waltz
Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs, JiIl Stuart and Anna Sui aren’t the first to swoon over the crafty styles created by Emilie Floge, her longtime love Gustav Klimt and the members of the Wiener Werkstatte’s fashion department nearly a century ago. But for spring, they translated the era’s trademark bright colors and wild embroideries into a fresh, modern-day folkloric look. Here, a dress by Miu Miu.

The Thin Man
Karl Lagerfeld showed a slim silhouette on the Chanel runway in October — and we don’t mean his collection. Following a low-fat regime designed by Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret, Lagerfeld shed nearly 90 pounds in 11 months. He attributed his willpower to his desire to don the pencil-thin suits by Christian Dior men’s designer Hedi Slimane. “It’s all about the clothes,” said Lagerfeld. Now, he and Houdret are writing a weight-loss book titled “3D,” which is shorthand for a doctor, a designer and a diet.

New Taboos
An odd time for warrior chic, perhaps. But then, the spring collections were designed long before Sept. 11. While some designers reportedly made last-minute alterations to their lineups, others, such as Hussein Chalayan and Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi, showed collections that seemed to face the world head-on. Chalayan did artistic, post-apocalyptic looks — featuring tattered, shredded chiffon (shown at right), while Karl Lagerfeld conjured up a “Mad Max” world with strong, warrior princesses at the helm. And many designers featured Mideastern themes, including Miguel Adrover, Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianfranco Ferre.

White Now
Talk about pale fire. White dominated the spring collections on both sides of the Atlantic. Some designers, most notably Ralph Lauren, Comme des Garcons, Rei Kawakubo and the Viktor & Rolf team, showed all-white collections. While looks ranged from romantic to utilitarian, the prevailing aura of lightness felt perfect in the oddest of seasons. Here, a look from Ralph Lauren.

A Kind of a Hush
After the events of Sept. 11, the fate of the Emmys was in limbo. Was it inappropriate to carry on with the show in the wake of tragedy? The producers struggled with the question and decided to go ahead, albeit with a revised script. After two postponements, the show took place on Nov. 4. The invitations requesting “Business Dressy” made for a drab affair, big on little black dresses. Among the exceptions: a quietly chic Calista Flockhart in an understated Christina Perrin peasant top and skirt.

Joy to the World
Victoria’s Secret went prime time in November with its first televised fashion show on ABC. The spectacle cost parent company The Limited Group a cool $6 million, while garnering priceless publicity. Aside from the most super of supermodels in some of the sexiest lingerie around — how about a $12.5 million dollar bra comprised of thousands of pink sapphires and diamonds? — there were aerialist angels, a performance by Andrea Bocelli, a dreamy winter wonderland setting and enough near-nudity to prompt some next-day phone calls to the FCC.

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