David Bowie: Fashion Chameleon and Influencer
Posted on 21 January 2016
“I take some comfort in the idea that David Bowie, the master of reinvention, has probably just evolved into something so spectacular that we as mere mortals cannot comprehend it on this plane of existence.”
This is a glimpse of how musician David Bowie’s passing last week moved his audience, remembrances which evoke an ethereal, enigmatic artist, still planted on terra firma.
Bowie spawned the notion that there is value in reinvention. His had an inimitable and enduring sense of fashion. “I think if you’re really going to entertain an audience then you have to look the part, too,” he told Cameron Crowe in a 1976 Playboy interview.
On the eve of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s David Bowie Is 2012 fashion retrospective opening, Tim Blanks published a beautiful homage to the artist’s seemingly incalculable creative impact on fashion, design and music in Love Magazine. Constructed from his decades of personal archival all things Bowie scrap-booking and arcana, Blanks’ moving tribute depicts a boundary-pushing creative talent, inspiring and animating generations.
Bowie was instrumental in shaping pop culture from the 60s. In the ensuing decades, Bowie’s fashion and artistic influence—as fathomless as the mystery he conjured through his numerous personae—may have impacted so many artists and designers on a subconscious level.
In an attempt to capture and digest the immense social media encapsulating his life, I charted in NetBase a comparative crosstab analysis of fashion designers to illustrate their correlation with Bowie. His impact on Alexander McQueen, for instance, who, while still relatively unknown, designed Bowie’s famous Union Jack frock, is remarkable among the designers shown.
Dior’s former creative director Raf Simons, has described the Dior woman as “exquisitely decorated and disruptive.” Simons edge during his spring-summer Paris couture show last year was to channel Bowie, wafting his Moonage Daydream tsoundtrack to accompany the Dior catwalk sequined and striped catsuits, paraded, naturally, alongside Bowie-inspired bright full-length latex boots. The designs referenced Bowie’s 1973 Aladdin Sane tour costumes, designed by one of Bowie’s preeminent collaborators, Yansai Yamamoto.
Emboldened, like so many designers, to take creative risks, Jean-Paul Gaultier famously riffed Bowie’s one-legged catsuit in his spring 2013 collection. Gucci’s appreciation of Bowie fashion included its sponsorship of the V&A David Bowie Is retrospective. The house of Gucci, in Alessandro Michele’s most recent reinvention, appears to riff Bowie’s bold bright color hues and contrasting patterns.
Several generations of creative artists have been induced by Bowie to surmount their own creative blocks and purge their demons. As Dries Van Noten remarked, “He opened the great big gates to our future and sparked in us that creativity that proves vital even to this day.” Accentuating his Spring 2011 women’s show, Van Noten reworked Bowie’s “Heroes” soundtrack to accompany models donned in Ziggy Stardust hairdos.
Bowie’s influence on androgynous fashion, a dominant theme since last year in the Europe Men’s SS16 Collections, references the confidence he exuded even in the 70s in the image of a cross-dressing bisexual. It seems designers continue to this day to dip into his seeming bottomless well of artistic inspiration, improvising not only Bowie’s singular style, but also tapping into the attendant confidence with which he assumed his mutable personae.
Yet Bowie’s bespoke androgynous costumes and style have also inspired women, who not only relate to the glamour he displayed, but feel empowered by the capricious élan he radiated.
The NetBase theme crosstab analysis below illustrates Bowie’s impact on gender challenging, agender and androgynous fashion themes trending today. While the contemporaneous gender neutral theme may overshadow other popular design trends, the enduring currency of punk in couture, ready to wear and street style is also a notable Bowie fashion influence.
Befitting an aspirational and enigmatic artist who never failed to excite and stimulate generations, these popular social media tributes are inspired by those who choose, like Bowie, to defy convention:
If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.
I bet David Bowie still finds glitter from the 70’s
David Bowie reunites with Freddie Mercury to perform Under Pressure in Heaven.