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.




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.

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.


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.

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!

Who invented the Typical Girl? A celebration of Ari Up


The Slits in 1977. Ari up is third from left.  Photo – Ian Dickson

“The Slits were a feral girl gang. Aged just 15 in 1977, singer Ari Up recalls being ‘wild and crazy, like an animal let loose – but an innocent little girl with it, too’. From her striking image (tangled dreadlocks, knickers worn on the outside of her clothes) to her seemingly pre-social antics, Ari inspired fear and fascination in equal measure”.

– Simon Reynolds in Rip it up and Start Again

Note the knickers-over-trousers.  Photo – Caroline Coon.  

Stupidly, one of the posts that I’ve left on the back burner was a remembrance of Ari Up, a punk singer and forming member of The Slits. Their songs were a formative influence on me when I first went to college and was experiencing first-hand what it meant to grow up and be a woman and not someone who treated Sex and the City like a lifestyle Bible. Cut has to be one of my favourite albums. If you ever have a bad day wondering why that hot guy only likes the other hot girls, or if WAGS make you despair of your life, or bad that you don’t have the same waistspan as Cheryl Cole, then listen to Typical Girls and feel much better for having the courage to just be yourself.


No prizes for guessing which one is Ari.  Photo – Ray Stevenson

Photo – Caroline Coon

From a style point of view though, Ari Up was an inspiration not in what she wore (there’s NO way I could pull off the Superman look) but in her attitude towards clothing.  She wore what she wanted, when she wanted.  She had dreads piled up on top of her head like a modern day Rococo wig.  She wore facepaint twenty years before a legion of Oxegen and Glasto goers. She was variously Punk, proto-Goth and Rasta.  She applied the same freedom of thought to her wardrobe that she did to her lyrics.  She didn’t really care about the judgement of others.  It suited her just fine.  And that is definitely something to admire.

Mixtapes @ The Glucksman – A closer look at Linder

>This post has been a long time coming, and I certainly hope that I can do the subject justice, as I now schedule what must be the millionth post tonight before I head to London.


Last week I took a wander with my friend Hayret to the Glucksman Gallery, situated smack bang in the middle of a leafy enclave in the UCC campus grounds. Our target was the Mixtapes exhibition, which explores contemporary art through the work of artists who are heavily influenced by music.

It’s fairly safe to assume that a majority of art is visual, and so the art involved is not so much involved with music itself as the visual aspects of music, like dancing, instruments, album covers and of course, the fashion that separates out followers of one musical tribe from another.  One of the things that drew me to punk as a young’un (and at a later stage, No Wave) was how different the clothing was to everyone elses.  It might seem like a shallow response, but that’s because it is.  In my defense though, ask yourself, ‘would Lady Gaga be half as interesting if she wore Clarks and sensible sack dresses instead of JC de Castelbajac and Thierry Mugler’?

Dancehall Danceoff from Sarah Doyle on Vimeo.

Sarah Doyle’s artwork plays on a loop (I think her stuff will most definitely merit a much longer post when I have the time), zooming in and out on watercoloured ladies gyrating in tight denim, crop tops and bikinis to a tinny, merry-go-round sound.

The one artist that I came to see though, had her work displayed under glass at a small display table.  Here were a few works of Linder Sterling, an artist I knew from her simultaneously jarring and sexy collages from the late seventies to early eighties.  Like Cosi Fanni Tutti, but less obvious, or Duchamps with a decidedly feminist bent, Sterling succeeds where others have failed.  She manages to create a cohesive feminist statement, but remains a part of mainstream consciousness.  Her early work was concerned with music and her collages were used as covers for Buzzcocks singles, but today her work has been more broadly translated into fashion, with Richard Nicoll using her prints to form the basis of his A/W ’09 collection.

Richard Nicoll’s A/W ’09 Collection.  Pics – 

It isn’t such a big jump from music to fashion and we can see that Sterling’s work is easily applied to both.

Left – Sterling in 1981.  Right – Sterling’s cover of i-D, October ’09

Take the Punk Ladies series for example.  Sterling takes a photo and makes two different collages, the focus being on the new and different textures that are added to the clothes. 


The original photo


One of the resulting collages.

Want to see the other collage?  It’s one in a series of three posters promoting the exhibition.  I’ve got one, which is tacked up safely on my fridge.  If you want to see it, maybe you should check out the exhibition or the Glucksman website (I know, I’m such a spoilsport).  Last I heard the posters were given away for free by patrons who mentioned the gallery’s twitter feed, but this may not be the case anymore.  Free swag or no, it’s still a must-see and Linder Sterling’s work alone makes this well worth visiting.
The exhibition itself is well worth a visit and runs until October, should you want to spent a diverting afternoon learning, getting your fill of culture and generally having good, clean fun.

Hot models in dark places

>I might be incredibly facetious here but it seems that the underlying trends when it comes to the new waves of promotional fashion film are dirty sub-bass dubstep sounds and flashing your boobs.  When you think about it, this all makes sense.  No, really, it does.

Fashion videos are about movement and highlighting contrast.  The dark of Gareth Pugh’s matt leathers and Alexander Wang’s rich velvets contrast with harsh bright light on pale skin.  The baring of more skin provides more of a contrast.  The whirling, the dancing and the lady parts on parade all provide part of the initial aesthetic experience.

Dubstep has a lot of bass.  A LOT of vibration.  What better music to pair with hot models in dark places?  There’s no real point in me explaining any further.  Watch the videos and make up your own mind (NSFW, in case you didn’t already know).

Music by Lukid

Music – The XX – Infinity (flufftronic remix)

P.S – The Licentiate column is out today in The Cork Independent. You can read here .