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Milla Jovovich interviews RuPaul for MTV’s Fashionably Loud, 1996via wordpress.com

The secret history of MTV’s Fashionably Loud

Remembering the forgotten annual spectacular that brought together Kate Moss, The Prodigy, Vivienne Westwood, No Doubt and more

Last month, Tyra Banks revealed that the end of America’s Next Top Model was basically nigh, and Apple TV announced a new fashion-only channel that will air everything from documentaries to runway shows. But aside from the victories like that of Loiza Lamers, who was just crowned the first trans Top Model winner, fashion TV has become somewhat lacklustre. 

It wasn't always this way: you used to be able to turn on and find the young Tim Blanks reporting for Fashion File, or the legendary Jeanne Beker hitting the front lines for Fashion Television. Then there was Cindy Crawford, mic in hand, interviewing her supermodel BFFs for House of Style. But there’s one other fashion pinnacle of the cable TV generation that often gets forgotten about – Fashionably Loud. A yearly MTV special, the show was designed to bring together the hottest runway looks of the day with the most popular musicians – in a world before live streams, Instagram and YouTube, it told teens across the globe what (and who) was going to be in this year. But what happened to it?

IT FIRST DEBUTED IN FEBRUARY 1996

Recorded the previous year during New York Fashion Week’s SS96 shows, the “first rock 'n' roll fashion show” (as it was billed) came on air on February 22nd 1996, at a time when “Not Gon Cry” by Mary J. Blige was in the top five and Wes Anderson had just released his first ever feature film, Bottle Rocket. Fashionably Loud’s first incarnation featured clothes by the likes of Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui, while Debbie Harry and singer Brandy modelled and Coolio and Elastica were musical guests. Cindy Crawford was on backstage interviews, and Milla Jovovich presented, chatting up a storm with Ru Paul in the FROW. 

IT BROUGHT TOGETHER THE WORLD’S BIGGEST MODELS

The mid 90s had seen the supermodel glamazons of the 80s dethroned by waifs like Kate Moss and Amber Valletta, but that didn’t mean girls like Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista were out of a job. MTV’s Fashionably Loud brought them all together, as well as other famed faces of the era like Shalom Harlow and Helena Christensen. And, as a feature from Spin magazine on Harlow reported at the time, they had their own signposted ‘Supermodel Entrance’ to the venue. Naturally. 

THE PRODIGY SOUNDTRACKED VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

For Fashionably Loud in 1997, Vivienne Westwood presented her Red Label collection on stage with a live performance from The Prodigy – the first time she had shown in the USA in over a decade. At the same show, Gianni and Donatella Versace showed off their Versus collection, soundtracked by trip-hop artist Tricky. Although a Bristolian rapping in an Umbro running jacket while Linda Evangelista swanned down the runway perhaps wasn’t the most natural pairing, that didn’t deter the audience. “I love the whole feeling of it. The mix of the music and the girls walking on this sort of industrialised Blade Runner catwalk, it’s brilliant,” said Andre Leon Talley of the spectacle.

IT ALL WENT A BIT SPRING BREAKERS

By 1999, MTV had started wrapping up Fashionably Loud as part of its annual Spring Break coverage, which had been airing since 1986 – and basically featured a load of hypersexed college students in swimwear. Gone was the edgy scene of New York Fashion Week, instead the sunny beaches of Miami and Cancun provided the backdrop for performers like Jay Z, Eminem, Dr Dre, Destiny’s Child and... *NSYNC. The music might have represented the best in class, but the fashion took a nose dive – no more Naomi and Kate, but a procession of bikini-clad babes who grooved along awkwardly to the music. Things did (kind of) pick up for 2000’s very millennial, studio-based taping though – see: No Doubt being interviewed by Tara Reid and some guy who calls them “the raddest band ever”.

IT DIDN’T GET THE BEST PRESS

“Models marry rock stars. Rock stars wear clothes. People want to wear the clothes that rock stars wear. Simple, right? Not news, right?” So wrote Teresa Wiltz for the Chicago Tribune in her less than complimentary review of the first instalment of Fashionably Loud, which concluded with the zinger, “There is, after all, only a thin line between hip and hype”. Ouch. Things seemed to have fizzled out by the early 00s (IMDB records the last airing as 2002) but the show did go on the road to Singapore in 2006, where Placebo provided the tunes to a slightly puzzling runway mix of Givenchy, Ed Hardy and Jean Paul Gaultier. Still, resurrected via dodgy VHS recordings uploaded to YouTube, Fashionably Loud remains to be a perfect throwback of the MTV era pre-social media – when you had to turn on the TV to get access to the moving world of fashion and music. Kids these days don’t know how easy they got it.