Style Counsel (part two)

Princess Julia concludes the great style icons in pop music

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 13 Oct 2010
  • min read
Recent PRS for Music research* has uncovered the amazing fact that the way 40 per cent of the population dress is influenced by their taste in music. Armed with this tasty nugget, Princess Julia reflects on the great style icons in pop music – and their relationship with their stylists.

Working with a music artist puts the stylist in a major creative role, but the truth is, as fame increases for the artist it’s very hard to cope with the day-to-day running of maintaining an image. Paloma Faith’s image is very much her own invention but says a stylist is vital: ‘Only for the sake of time. You can have a stylist who just picks out too much for you and then in the end you choose. That's what I have and he's brilliant at it!’

There used to be a stigma about admitting you had a stylist, such was the pressure to be seen as credible. The grooming of pop stars is nothing new, and there is room in the charts for an extravagant variety of entertaining entertainers. How they arrived at personalising their image and becoming the style icons we know and love adds to the spin and mystery. Credibility is a preoccupation in the UK, so let’s not forget that Madonna arrived in London in the early 80s and went straight to London’s Kensington Market for a makeover. In a sense Lady Gaga has done just the same with the magic touch of Nicola Formachetti’s styling.

In the game called constant re-invention, the stylist’s job has became an important factor in the carefully packaged image of our heroes. William Baker sees his role as an ongoing relationship with the artist: ‘I love it as there is something very special about working long term with an artist as a stylist, a closeness and intimacy that is unique... I guess this comes from playing dress-up dolly and making them look and feel great and sexy. Anyone loves the person that makes them feel sexy, but also it is incredibly creative and the ultimate in “pop art”, a walking, breathing, performing canvas for which there are infinite possibilities. Window dressing for a pop song… selling a tune. Of course, there is far more to Madonna than a conical bra, far more to Kylie than a pair of gold hot pants... yet they are symbols of these stars, like Michael Jackson’s glove or Liam Gallagher’s parka.’

Pam Hogg, fashion designer and singer in her own right, has created clothes for Siouxsie Sioux and Alison Mosshart. She is very much associated with rock‘n’roll but sees her role on dual levels, saying: ‘I have a like-minded connection through music, so I think my “looks” have a life to them that they [popstars] respond to. I have no one in mind when I design, I make with a desire to create and see where it leads.’  In fact Hogg’s designs have a knack of ending up on the most unexpected bodies, far removed from the rock world including Rihanna, Lili Allen and Gaga: ‘It's amazing to have wonderful women desire and wear my clothes but since I don't create for any one person I'm glad I don’t have to make that kind of choice. I sometimes make slight adjustments; perhaps merge two or three designs to suit the wearer best. I recently personalized a lace and chiffon cape kitten suit for Kylie for her surprise guest appearance with the Scissor Sisters at Glastonbury. It was basically the first two pieces from my recent catwalk collection merged to create exactly the right look for her.’

Now, in the recessionary 2010s, the perceived shift away from commercialism and associated fashion has seen Natasha (Bat for Lashes) Khan and Florence (and the Machine) Welch set a precedent for a more bohemian vintage fantasy style. Whatever the look, there’s no question that our latest pop icons have more than ever a sense of the importance of personal image. How they choose to acquire and maintain that image remains a matter for debate…

Most Iconic Look:

  1. Sex Pistols – Punk

  2. Michael Jackson – Solo Glove

  3. Madonna – Cone Bra

  4. ABBA – All White Outfits

  5. Kylie Minogue – Hot Pants

  6. Frank Sinatra – The Suit

  7. Geri Halliwell – Union Jack Dress

  8. Bay City Rollers – Flares

  9. KISS – Black And White

  10. Oasis – Parka Jacket

* The Research
Research undertaken on behalf of PRS for Music in May 2010 sampled 1500 respondents in an online survey. It showed that 40 per cent have let their wardrobes be influenced by their music tastes. Men are most likely to let their dress sense mirror their favourite music at 41 per cent, with 39 per cent for women.

Return to part one of Style Counsel