Fashion, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 11/04/13: The Music Muse

It’s an interesting – but not that interesting – thing to note that most people’s style icons are women and men who don’t actually work in the fashion industry. Think about it – who admires the personal style of fashion designers? Do women want to emulate Vivienne Westwood’s ‘tights with no knickers’ sartorial approach? Or Donatella Versace’s ‘platinum blonde hair atop a chain smoking leathery visage’ look? We don’t admire their style. We admire their talent.

The creative industry most conducive to admiration and copycat-ism is the music industry. To want to look like a writer is to want to look like you fell headfirst into a skip. To want to look like a film star is to want to look totally homogenous and inoffensive. To look like a musician is also to look like you fell into a skip to an extent, but a skip out the back of The Coolest Store In The World.

Musicians; they just get it. Successful musicians know, and are sometimes saddened by this, that image plays the most vital part in getting yourself noticed. Image is everything. It is sadly most definitely the case with the majority of young female singers. However, it is nice to see how many female artists now subvert the conventional cute’n’sexy kitten look for something garish, weird, intimidating or slightly smelly – all of which, not encouragingly, can still translate to short, tight and sparkly under a different guise.

It’s with this in mind that we turn to Saint Laurent Paris. The rebranded French fashion house, once called Yves Saint Laurent, is now headed by designer Hedi Slimane. Slimane has a habit of using musicians as muses. His first advertising campaign is no different but still manages to buck the trend for the marriage of fashion and music – the campaign features Marilyn Manson, not-a-household-name Ariel Pink, Courtney Love and Kim Gordon, bassist and guitarist for Sonic Youth.

Both the women featured in the campaign are of a certain age (in Gordon’s case, over fifty) and they look great. They look even better than the average model despite – or in my opinion, because of – their age. Grunge fans will know Love for more than just her ripped babydolls and smeared makeup aesthetic, while as well as a musician Gordon has become the understated style icon for fans of understated cool (Chloe Sevigny and Sofia Coppola both modeled for her clothing line, X-Girl, when it debuted in the early Nineties).

From MIA to The Dumdum Girls to Florence to Kim Gordon, what makes musicians so cool? I don’t think it’s the music; I think that it’s because they don’t care too much. Musicians who have the weight of stylists and record companies behind them never look too well. We just need to watch an episode of The Big Reunion to remember that.


Kim Gordon for Saint Laurent Paris

I make no pretensions of being a Cool Person, so it’s OK to tell you that the first I ever saw of Kim Gordon was in jaundiced two-dimensional form, stealing sandwiches from Peter Frampton in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a human cannonball.


Like little red bicycles or people wearing Uggs outside in the rain, once you see her for the first time, she pops up everywhere. Of course Kim Gordon isn’t just remarkable for her music or her not-giving-a-shit attitude towards miniskirts over fifty, she’s a legitimate style icon (and I really hate that phrase) – someone to draw unquestioned inspiration from.

Hedi Slimane may have drawn a muted response for his first collection for the interestingly-rebranded Saint Laurent Paris (I haven’t looked at it yet – bad blogger, bad!) but his campaign images are quite striking. They feature Gordon, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson and Ariel Pink – Pink doing that thumb thing that my uncle used to do at parties to scare the bejaysus out of us children. It’s very reminiscent of Slimane’s previous efforts in his Rock Diary, which show what a skilled imagemaker he really is.




Fashion, Licentiate Columns

The Lost Column: Gaultier vs. Winehouse


Another day, another designer gets accused of acting in poor taste. This time it’s french couturier, Jean Paul Gaultier. The alleged victim of his questionable actions is deceased chanteuse Amy Winehouse – a woman not totally acquainted with elegance and subtlety in her tragically short lifetime.

​Gaultier unveiled a couture collection this week that was totally wrapped around Winehouse. The clothing was very Amy; nipped in pencil skirts, Fred Perry-ish polo shirt details, Back to Black ​ veils and a strap ever falling off the model’s shoulders. The models, by the way, were trussed up in beehive wigs of different colours – only the cigarettes dangling from their lips were uniform.

​Bad taste? Definitely. But an insult? Maybe not. In conversation with Vogue, Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse said, ‘To see her image lifted wholesale to sell clothes was a wrench we were not expecting or consulted on. We’re proud of her influence on fashion but find black veils on models, smoking cigarettes with a barbershop quartet singing her music in bad taste. It portrays a view of Amy when she was not at her best, and glamorises some of the more upsetting times in her life. That’s upsetting for her family’.

​Those unfamiliar with Amy Winehouse’s story will probably have a lot of sympathy. Mitch Winehouse has often acted as an unofficial spokesperson for his daughter. A totally superfluous, unnecessary, possibly exploitative spokesperson who made a lot of money from his daughters woes as well as her successes. If Gaultier is a kettle, then Winehouse is a bloody massive pot.

​Nor can Gaultier be accused of railing against type – the man did co-present the first seven series of Eurotrash (alongside Antoine De Caunes – the guy from the Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles ice pop ad – and now-deceased owner of the world’s largest breasts, Lolo Ferrarri). It’s not exactly The Royal Variety show – unless the Royal Variety has started featuring porn stars in its roster.

​Amy Winehouse herself, the third point in this couture triangle, became an item of kitsch as soon as she died. On walking down the famous Portobello Road market, you can spot alongside the red telephone boxes and teddy bear beefeaters Amy Winehouse’s face – on a plate. You can see it on paraphernalia almost as often an the queen. She has become an emblem. Of what I don’t know. Her voice has been taken from her.

​Gaultier takes a lot of trashy tropes and does what it incredibly difficult to do. He makes magic. His perfume bottles are modelled on the bodies of courtesans and caricatures of sailor rent boys. He designed Madonna’s cone bra. One of his couture collections was based around sexy little old ladies. He’s no minimalist.

​Famed fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, ‘while good taste is innate, vulgarity is a very important ingredient… as long as it’s got vitality’.

​Gaultier has vitality, as most men who wear kilts on a regular basis do. It’s just a shame that Amy Winehouse can’t weigh in on the bad taste debate.

Fashion, Inspiration

Inspiration: Rose Tinted Uncertainty

Today’s guest post comes from Rhona of Rose Tinted Uncertainty. As a graphic design student and an all-around stylish lady, she’s got a finely-tuned visual sensibility that makes her posts unique to her and a serious treat for the eyes.

Isn’t it great when you discover something completely by accident, or without realising? Isn’t it great when you give something a chance and get blown away? This is exactly what happened to me over the summer when I discovered one of my new favourite bands, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside. I discovered them on my Facebook page of all places via NYLON. I confess I was bored and had nothing better to do so I delved a little deeper and listened to a few of their songs. I fell in love instantly. Their music is so quirky, so cool. Kind of like fifties rock, but with a twist. Their songs were seriously stuck in my head for weeks; there was such a vibe about them that stayed with me.

And then I saw them. I saw Sallie and her sound outside; and they really matched the vibe I was getting from their music (which I was delighted about). I was amazed by Sallie most of all. She is lead vocalist and she plays the guitar, and, well there is something so awesomely quirky about her and her style. She pairs her horn-rimmed glasses with vintage tea dresses and leather ankle boots. Lace tights with cutie pie curls and fur coats. There is such uniqueness about her, something so very different, reminding me of a librarian who chews gum and strums her guitar while at work (if there is such a thing). There is strength in her look, its effortless, its comfortable, and its fun. I just want to spend the day with her, sipping coffee in the cold with our fur coats and cowboy boots on and singing while she’s strumming her guitar on the front porch.

Can you tell I’m in love?

Rose Tinted Uncertainty on facebook.

Fashion, Photography, Subculture

Related #3: Do it like a Dude

Yesterday’s post dealt with women who dress like men, or don’t (Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, I’m a-looking at you) to assert their power.

But where there are Queens, there are Kings…

And where there is power, there is also subservience…

So, to veer insanely from one end of a spectrum to another, here are some pictures of women who dress like men to show their love for a man.  Like a king.  The King, in fact.

These photos were taken by Grey Villet in 1957 for TIME Magazine.  They show a day in the life of Susan Hull, who has decided to take the plunge and get an Elvis-style pompadour, joining the thousand strong ranks of girls and women in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who love Elvis so much that they want to look like him.

If you want to put it in a modern context, imagine thousands of femme Justin Beiber fans, all with the same, super feathery, peekaboo, come-hither (but not too close, I’m a good Christian) hair*.  Just for the love of the Biebs.  Have you shuddered?  Has an icy cold finger of revulsion crawled down your back?  Good, let’s look at the pictures.

All captions from the original article (because they’re hilarious)

Susan Hull looks apprehensive as beautician prepare to form lock into Presley sidecurl
IN NEW GLORY: Nancy Hull happily shows off Presley cut.  Beautician who created style stresses convenience for girls who like swimming without caps.
CONFRONTING FATHER outside the beauty shop.  Susan Hull (left) and her sister Nancy, 20, display haircuts.  He was noncommital about new style.
COMFORTING MOTHER, Susan promises not to have her brown hair dyed black.  After showing cut to family, she gave ponytail to 4-year old brother.
CONVINCING SWEETHEART, Susan explains her coiffure to her beau Lew Potter in Motorcycle shop.  At first he threatened to break their next date.
CLIPPED GALLERY sits for a group portrait in Didgson’s beauty shop.  The sideburns are standard but the number of stray locks on foreheads is optional

Read the original article here.

*Lesbians who look like Justin Beiber notwithstanding.  The Lesbiebers are awesome.

Fashion, Subculture

Kinda Sorta Love…

>…The Eurovision, which for one night only turns everything the most amazing shade of camp.  This is the Serbian entry Nina, who sang… er, I have no idea.  In my mind, it sounds a bit like this.


Need more pictures of this act. Source

  Coloured tights, bright colours, patterns, sharp bobs, heavy eye make-up, micro minis.  Remind you of anyone?

Sandie Shaw, Eurovision winner 1967.  Source

Odds and Sods

>I’ve spent this weekend travelling (one and a half hour wait on a freezing platform, thank you Irish Rail) and working while sick, so I’m a little bit burnt out and uninspired.  I’m going on an enforced blog hiatus (I’m away from my computer and photos and such) and I’ll be back on Thursday, hopefully reinvigorated by some family get togethers, cups of tea and plates of shortbread.  Ok, ok, I’m going to stop moaning… now. Here’s a few bits that are looking mighty good to feverish ol’ me at the moment.

This is my favorite Christmas song. When the horns come in…


My new shoes. They are fakey fake fake Miu Mius but they rock my socks. Incidentally, I should probably think about wearing socks with them. My toes are still sore from the last time I wore them out.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Conor Walton is my favorite Irish artist.  His still lives are amazing, done in the style of the Dutch Masters – exploring similar themes using modern, everyday objects.  Sinister, sexy, funny, amazing.  He’ll be giving a lecture on the aforementioned Dutch Masters in the National Gallery on December 14th.  He has stopped painting and taking commissions for the time being due to a personal matter (my mom is on his mailing list, feverishly waiting to snatch up a still life) so this will be a rare opportunity to interact with a great artist.

Have a great week everyone.  Hope it’s a festive one!