HOW MUSIC INFLUENCED THE FASHION INDUSTRY IN WESTERN SOCIETY- from the 60’s till today –
Post World War II, many countries in the globe experienced massive human loss, economic destruction, and the collapse of entire structures. Fifteen years later, the world began to heal and regain balance, recovering from all of the damages; soon after, the Cold War started. Europe was split and controlled by the U.S.A. and USSR; the United States helped Europe regain its economic stability making European countries the biggest consumers of U.S. goods. Consequently, people began to spend money and enjoy wealth, but at the same time, were living in fear of the possible nuclear outbreak between the opposing superpowers.
Flashing forward to the 50s, both the U.S. and USSR organized expositions to show o their new clothes and designs to initiate what would be a dual competition on which country was best. Years later, The Vietnam War began a phenomenon that moved artists to speak up on the injustices and spread a message of peace, love, and freedom. Young individuals inspired by the evolving movement wanted to make a statement: go against the status quo and show an attitude of rejection towards the schemes imposed on them. Escaping from the discords of society meant expressing liberty, individuality, finding a place where you can be yourself, wear, think and be who you are without any constriction. Wearing a clothing style suddenly was not just a practical, helpful thing to do, but also a means to associate with a particular movement and way of thinking. People started to identify and distance themselves with clothes, music, beliefs, and attitude.
The ’60s was the period when all music genres flourished. Londoners began listening to a more modernized version of jazz and wearing turtlenecks, knee-high skirts, fitted bodices, trouser suits, sleeveless gowns, etc. These were known as modernists, a subculture that had gained a deep interest in the beginnings of Ska, R&B, B Amp, and Soul. These became known as “Mods” (Imonation, unknown). By the mid-’60s, the Mod subculture brand of “beatnik” (a young person in the 1950s and early 1960s belonging to a subculture associated with the beat generation) met modern fashion and became the biggest breakout-style in high fashion history. “The Beatle Mania” had a significant impact in London. Cheap suits, Cuban-heeled boots, and shaggy haircuts named “mop-tops” were the first steps into grasping rock n’ roll. Even today, Mod fashion’s music and stylistic ability remain a source of inspiration for top designers (Vocal Media, unknown). Ossie Clark (U.K.), a designer who styled The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Twiggy, Liza Minelli, and Talitha Getty, alongside his wife Celia Britwell, played an essential role in the evolution of fashion in the music of that time (MarieClaire, 2019). Clark, next to Mary Quant and Malcolm Maclaren, defined the spirit of London alongside figures like Anita Pellenberg, a german-Italian actress and designer. She was considered the queen of the underground and muse of the Rolling Stones. She was a memorable part of the designer’s inspiration and creator of a style of dressing that is still present today. The low-sling pants, furs, feathers, floppy hats, and jewelry transformed them from the jacket and tied boys into icons of decadent glam during the mid-’60s. Pellenberg mixed high and low with blended genres with a magnetic spontaneity (The New York Times, 2015). Figures to mention are Paco Rabanne (France), Emilio Pucci (Italy), and Pierre Cardin (France).
During the Vietnam War in the U.S.A., many artists began to write music that flowed in the face of traditional values. At that same time, many artists and musicians also began to use psychedelic drugs like L.S.D. and Peyote, which resulted in fashion and music turning trippy. 1967 was the peak year for psychedelic rock. Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, and many others emerged. Psychedelic fashion became a way for external reality to be transformed into visions projected on the mind’s internal screen. Many designers adopted to psychedelic style and design. Tribal and psychedelic converged with blotchy patterns of African and Indonesian fabrics, the luminous patches, and showers. In 1966 a great example of this evolution was the vinyl dress that turned on the wearer’s command made by designer and engineer Diana Dew (U.S.A.). A minimized potentiometer fit the belt of the dress and regulated the frequency of the blinking hearts or stars, which could be coordinated to the throbbing beat of the soundtrack. (Ultratribe, 2017).
The ’70s was an era focused on using technology, a period of enhancement in infrastructures and design. The creation of the first movie franchise, “Star Wars” led to science fiction becoming a prime focus in pop culture. Glam Rock was born, pulling a darker, more aggressive corner of society. The dazzling clothing of performers of this era was often androgynous, unisex, and did not tolerate traditional gender roles. Punk became a social movement about freedom and individuality going against society’s parameters. Designer, anarchist, anti-conformist Vivienne Westwood (U.K.) is one of the minds behind the success of The Sex Pistols, a band that in a few years became the most meaningful symbol of what being punk means. The fashion was composed of tartan and kilts, leather jackets, studs and safety pins, t-shirts with powerful slogans, a mix of different fabrics, theatrical makeup, and militarism (Grailed, 2017).
Punk Rock emerged, giving birth to thousands of sub-genres that overlay every possible state of mind, mood, or political view. From hardcore to Christian punk, to pop and alternative rock to the latest indie rock.
David Bowie was undoubtedly a true fashion icon. It wasn’t until 1969 that Bowie caught the world’s attention with the song “Space Oddity.” After reinventing himself, he returned in 1972 during the glam rock era, with his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. He proceeded from somewhat feminine tight shirts and flares to another level of style and image: makeup, feather boas, bright red hair, etc. His look evolved more wild all the time, inspiring millions to a cult of status unseen before. Japanese designer Yamamoto is responsible for designing most of his costumes (Worcesternews, 2011). The multi-body suit is made from metallic yarn and topped on the stuffed bangles to the “Space-Samurai” costume made with shiny red, black, and blue material and gilded with black sequins. Yamamoto understood and knew his style, making him the perfect choice for a designer (Worcesternews, 2011).
The disco-fashion era
On the other side of the spectrum, disco fashion starting from the ’70s, picked and chose elements from the ’60s and expressed female and male sexual liberation. The disco era was concentrated on the dancefloor, so fashion played a crucial role in completing the entire disco experience and the venue and the music. Giorgio Moroder, the Italian legendary music producer, collaborated with artists like Rick James, Michael Jackson, KC, and the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gees, and Donna Summer (to name a few). The disco sound is typified by 4/4 beats, syncopated basslines, strings, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric guitars. Disco-era DJs would often remix existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines and add percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. D.J.s would select songs and grooves according to the dancers’ wants, transitioning from one piece to another with a D.J. mixer and using a mic to introduce themes and speak to the audiences. Major turning points of fashion in the disco fashion era were John Travolta’s white three-piece suit from Saturday Night Fever and Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Shoes made the disco outfit complete. Men got into chunky high heels shoes too. Gold and silver lame’ and glitter were typical, and it was acceptable to wear a suit without a tie and show a little chest hair. Women wore everything from leather to flowy skirts and dresses that moved with the groove. The dance floor became flashy and bizarre where both men and women wore satin pants and shirts and one-piece bodysuits, a sort of fantasy land where anyone could dress up, stand out and be themselves (Groovy History, 2019). Important to mention that during that turning point in time, designers like Halston (U.S.A.), who was collaborating with Andy Warhol, revolutionized how women wore clothing. Compared to France and Europe in general, Halston focused on making clothing for women of any size and color, making him the first one to liberate women and work with the body. Minimalism was born. He created clothes for Bianca Jagger, Iman, and Studio 54 frequenters, inspiring other fashion designers like Tom Ford, JC Penney, and Calvin Klein to do the same in the following years (Cr Fashion Book,2019- The Guardian, 2019).
During the ’80s, a lot was going on in the music industry—Prince uncensored his bold and wild personality, stretching the dynamic to the extreme. Animal prints, velvets, golds, and purple were among the fashion choices in his repertoire. Goth music emerged, starting from deathrock characterized by darkness and gloominess. Deathrock evolved into synth-pop, new wave, and many other musical genres (Model Board Magazine, 2015).
Out of the many, emerging designers and collaborating with artists were Christian Lacroix (France) and Drew Bernstein(U.S.A.). Christian Lacroix’s fashion was a mixture of humor, parody, kitsch, and cliché. What they also had was an instantly recognizable style. Lacroix’s clothes, by contrast, were fun, flirtatious, and gauzy, characterized by teasing layers of petticoats about the thigh. He had an affection for the high-gloss of Duchesse satin, discording together various colors – like his signature shades of shocking pink, hellfire orange, and sickly gooseberry chartreuse – in a single outfit. Christian Lacroix’s style was about excess and abundance. It was, simply, about more. He dressed figures like Madonna, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and many more (The Guardian, 2019). American designer Drew Bernstein established the Lip Service clothing company in 1985 when at the age of 21, he was influenced by fashion designers of glam and death rock. He saw a workable outlet for branding goths and punks. In the company’s beginning, he relates he had a lot of wild ideas, including his first success with selling leggings with prints of skulls and daggers.
The brand was picked up by musicians and fans who could access the clothes through specialty boutiques. His close friend Izzy Stradlin, guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, took one of Bernstein’s Lip Service jackets and gave it to his singer Axl Rose to wear, and there was a massive boost in sales as a result (Apparel News, 2014).
During the ’90s, rap battles and break dancing became the new way of communicating feelings, messages, and social injustices. Halter neck tops, crop tops, tube starts, jelly shoes, and tracksuits became the style of this subculture. Another manifestation was the gangster fashion; the prohibition of gangsters influenced the trend in the ’20s. Figures like Snoop Dogg, Diddy, and Tupac were fans of the double-breasted suits, silk shirts, and alligator textured shoes. Around 1995, people stored baggy jeans away, and rappers developed a taste for magnate clothing accessories (Vocal Media, unknown year).
The iconic Alexander McQueen had a fashion vision characterized by theatrical romanticism statements of normative beauty and extreme versions of femininity. He entered the fashion industry in the early ’90s when logomania (abnormal talkativeness) was present in Paris. The birthplace of haute couture was losing its ground to looks inspired by
London’s hedonistic rave and acid club subcultures and urban sportswear influenced by the hip hop styles in N.Y. city. McQueen uncovered the dark side of union between nature and humans: horns emerging from women’s shoulders, birds grabbing a model by the collar, butterfly headdresses, etc. He wanted women to appear tough and fierce and was very inspired by the music that was going on there and by the new technologies of that time. He dressed figures like Bjork, Lady Gaga, and others (AnOther Mag, 2018).
Tommy Hilfiger, before getting into fashion, was an aspiring rock star. That says it all. After Snoop Dogg performed at the Saturday Night Live show wearing a rugby t-shirt with red, white, and blue colors, sales skyrocketed, making all the biggest stars of the R&B and pop world want to wear his clothes. He was one of the first designers to create an uncontrolled promotion in the golden age of hip-hop. He dressed celebrities like T.L.C., Destiny’s Child, Mary J Blige, Usher, Aaliyah, and Gwen Stefani. To this day, Tommy Jeans culture lives on by still getting inspired by the past fashion, making it the key ingredient for his omnipresent success (N.S.S. Mag, unknown year).
Music’s influence on today’s fashion
Music has been associated with fashion and style since its very beginning. However, today’s musicians have much more impact on trendy and cool. Continuously cosigning labels in their songs, having brand deals, and creating their clothing lines, these new artists greatly influence fashion unlike ever before.
But, with music becoming more mainstream, more opportunity for impact comes to light. Starting in 2010, famous artists like Drake, Rihanna, Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West all heavily influence today’s trending styles. Nowadays, it’s rare to see a favorite musician without a brand deal or endorsement. The 46-year-old musician and designer Pharell Williams have worked with numerous brands like Chanel, Bape, Adidas, and more. Another one is Kanye West, the famous rapper who owns Yeezy, a brand that has impacted streetwear as we know it today. Although rap music certainly significantly aects today’s fashion, so do other genres. Billie Eilish, for example, the 18-year-old singer from California, is creating her idea of style. With her solid fan base and her baggy oversized outfits, the pop artist has people all over the world wearing her neon-colored beanies and shirts with her name on them (The Blake Beat Newspaper, 2020). According to the quarterly ranking released by the fashion e-commerce platform Lyst, we are dealing with the most influential brand at the moment. In my opinion, this example gives living proof of how music influences creativity and fashion. I say this because Abloh started as a D.J. at small nightclubs and events before getting into the fashion world. It was only after a couple of years of collaborating with Kanye West’s album and art that in 2012 he founded his brand OFFWHITE (Vox, 2018). Before that, he had the chance to collaborate with brands like Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Balenciaga, dressing musical individuals like A$AP Rocky Rihanna, Peggy Gou, and of course Kanye West. His fashion would be best described as ironic, where the guiding principle is just everything in quotes and chunky quotation marks. The passion he has for music somewhat led him into fashion, showing us that we can do many things and create an everlasting impact on our style and persona for ourselves and the world.
As today’s musicians continue to have such a close relationship with fashion, these two will not separate anytime soon. With the constant cosigns, brand deals, and merchandise, it is clear that music will continue to impact fashion trends and inspire style as we know it today.
Music Editor : Joiah Luminosa