A singer defined as much by fashion as by his music

David Bowie’s unmistakable style expressed as much about his personality as his music. He was the man who fell to earth – and dived into fashion. In the 1960s, he was an adopter of French and Italian mod garb, his sleek-chic look featuring coiffed hair, button-down collared shirts and drainpipe trousers. In the 1970s, his […]

David Bowie’s unmistakable style expressed as much about his personality as his music. He was the man who fell to earth – and dived into fashion.

In the 1960s, he was an adopter of French and Italian mod garb, his sleek-chic look featuring coiffed hair, button-down collared shirts and drainpipe trousers.

In the 1970s, his fictional rock-star alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, defined Bowie’s glam-rock, kabuki-theatre-inspired phase – and the influence was far-reaching and long- lasting.

Fashion designers including Jean Paul Gaultier and Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent were among the heavyweights to pay homage to Bowie’s creation, sending star-patterned platforms and dazzling bodysuits down the runway.

The true mastermind behind Bowie’s onstage outfits for Ziggy was Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto. The trailblazer in contemporary fashion befriended the singer early in his career and made some of his most memorable costumes, including those for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour.

Some of the show-stopping numbers, including a striped bodysuit with enormous billowing knees, were exhibited in 2013 by the Victoria & Albert museum in London as part of a retrospective of Bowie’s remarkable wardrobe.

In the 1980s, art imitated life with the release of Bowie’s song Fashion. Some believed it to be a veiled comment on fascism, but its true meaning will probably never be known. Imagining it to be an ode to an aesthetic, the piece was played during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics as a tribute to the British fashion industry.

In later years, Bowie became an ardent fan of couturier Alexander McQueen and his “radical” approach to his craft.

Notably, he collaborated with the late designer to create a Union Jack trench coat for his Earthling album cover in 1997. Torn and stained, while exquisitely tailored, the piece would seem to sum up the singer’s aesthetic for classic design with a wildly subversive punk element.

To give the great man the last word: “Oooh, fashion,” he sang, “We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town. Beep-beep.”

� rduane@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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