Duran Duran’s MTV Lifetime Achievement Award is launching the group’s long-awaited return. Expect continued attention to fashion.
Duran Duran ushered in the Eighties with a string of addictive pop hits, along the way convincing straight teenage boys in the suburbs to slap on lip gloss and eyeliner and don tailored, epaulet-trimmed jackets, ruffled Vivienne Westwood shirts, slim sharkskin suits and moussed ’dos. And the girls went gaga.
Named after a character in the 1967 cult film “Barbarella,” the band merged fashion and music unapologetically and to maximum effect, particularly in a series of high-gloss, model-heavy music videos. While MTV presented the fab five a Lifetime Achievement Award at last week’s Video Music Awards, the original lineup of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor (none of the Taylors are related) are far from done achieving, as a recent spate of sold-out, celebrity-packed concerts filled with new material proved. Bassist John Taylor talked clothes the morning before the band’s show Sept. 27, at New York’s Webster Hall, which happened to be presented by his wife Gela Taylor’s fashion powerhouse brand, Juicy Couture.
WWD: In the band’s first years, were all the bandmates on board with the flashy image?
JT: They were. Nick and I grew up together since age 12, and we always had an interest in fashion. We were drawn toward musicians a little more extreme in their dress — which was the way in Seventies England. It was a very creative time, really, to turn 17 and be in a band. When Duran Duran came together [in 1978], there was this future mode kind of style emerging: shoulder pads, formal, almost quasi-military. That’s where we kind of found our look. When we signed our record deal in 1980, the whole band dug the fact that this wasn’t a band that was going to wear Levi’s.
WWD: It was a kind of Bryan Ferry school of style, right?
JT: The whole of Roxy Music styled by Anthony Price. He did Bowie, too. I remember seeing them on television for the first time and it really blowing my mind. Also, Jagger in the early Seventies, even Rod Stewart. It’s hard to separate the music from the fashion in Seventies England. It was all good. Anthony was high on our wish list of people we wanted to work with.
WWD: Did you?
JT: The record company brought in Perry Haines, one of the founding editors at i-D Magazine, which was just getting going. He showed us where all the good stores were. We came from Birmingham, where everything was a little provincial, we just needed to be upgraded. You know, we suddenly could get real leather pants. We did get to work with Anthony quite a bit. Still do.
WWD: And it was all about the hair.
JT: We came of age in the Crazy Colour era. My favorite shade was Bordeaux. We came from the club scene in Birmingham and there were a lot of hairdressers. Andy married one of our stylists. No one said this is how you’re going to look like or how you’re going to wear your hair. We just all went in together.
WWD: Did you do your own makeup?
JT: Oh, yeah. Always. There’s part of being an entertainer, the process of getting ready. There’s something really meditative about putting makeup on and preparing to go on stage. People always felt Duran Duran was more manufactured than we were, but it all came from inside us.
WWD: Did this assumption ever interfere with the way critics or the public received your music?
JT: It might have, but ultimately it was part of what got us the attention. It’s a Catch-22 really, because you look different, it draws attention. Then you’re an easy target. But it’s not worth analyzing.
WWD: The recent shows indicate the band hasn’t lost its style sense, although it’s much more minimal and modern now.
JT: We wrote a lot of new songs and didn’t want to come back as a nostalgia trip. The first thing I thought was suits, a uniform. We set to work with a stylist in London, William Gillcrest. I landed with some suits from Spencer Hart, TK. The effect is clean and cool. Lazy formal. Gela and I live in L.A. and we’re very laid back. But casualwear is not what we wanted. Or what the audience would want of us.