In honour of the British icon’s birthday, we take a look back at some of her best looks
Tilda Swinton is a certified shape-shifter. So often described as a chameleon, her ability to swing between androgynous, glamorous and utterly otherworldly is magnetic. She is beautiful and weird, and not like any verified descriptive word. This makes her somewhat of a wild card in most of her roles – unexpected, but eventually irreplaceable. Because of her incredible talent in the field of becoming and being, she has been able to form relationships with great visionaries and in turn become one herself – not limited to acting, she is a performance artist, model, cult figure and fashion icon. Today, she is also a birthday girl, and to celebrate, here are her (in no way definitive, because how?) coolest style moments.
DRESSED IN YOHJI FOR TEKNOLUST (2002)
In early 00s film Teknolust (2002) Tilda plays a bio-geneticist who uses her DNA to make three Self Replicating Automations who act as Internet portals, who help users fulfil their dreams. These SRA’s also need sperm to survive, and can dance like no other. It’s a winner even before you find out that Yohji Yamamoto was behind the costume design. Huge candidate for top ranking Tilda look.
BEING A MUSE FOR CHANEL
Can you even imagine the honour of overhearing banter between Karl and Tilda? Would they talk about cats or the fact that their hairstyles at the time were very complimentary? Because of her long relationship with the label, and Scottish heritage, it's not surprising that Karl shot Tilda for Chanel’s 'Paris-Edimbourg' Métiers d’Art campaign back in 2013. Of course she was everything all at once – a natural wearer of tartans, whose fine bird-like features refuse to be lost in the chunky garb. Androgynous in layers of black and hardware, goddess of snow in white embellished knits.
EARLY WORK WITH DEREK JARMAN
We're cheating here and piling all of her collaborations with late, great filmmaker Derek Jarman into one section, otherwise they’d make up majority of this top ten. Her royally haunting look as Madonna in The Garden (1990), her ability to wear mini chandeliers on her ears in Edward II (1991), and her neon pink big bird and cubist graphic face paint in Wittgenstein (1993) are top of the pile.
IN CHARACTER FOR ANOTHER MAGAZINE
Swinton graced AnOther’s recent cover in character of her A Bigger Splash (2015) role as Marianne Lane, the legendary singer suffering from a missing voice (who spends the film dressed entirely in Dior). With the cover photographed by Collier Schorr, the issue’s aim was to "blur the lines between fact and fiction," which is something that Tilda does effortlessly. Patti Smith puts her impact into a perfect two sentences, "She is both princess and prince... She can in a turn seem consumptive then comic."
MAKING A BOWIE CAMEO
You’ve already noticed that Tilda Swinton and David Bowie are the exact same person, so there's zero confusion that she appeared in his music video. What you probably didn't expect is that she'd be convincing as a tong curled, baby blue eyelined, pink housecoat-wearing Hollywood lady, but also conniving as the carving knife-swinging psycho that she turns into. But that’s a lie. Of course you expected that.
TEAMING UP WITH WES ANDERSON
Cheating again! Lumping her two Wes roles into one section to free up spots for other incredible moments of style. As Social Services in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), she’s sharp as a tack and her lashes are something else. But in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) she added 30 years, a variety of rubber prosthetics and a couple of liver spots, and still killed it with Ralph Fiennes.
BAREFOOT FOR RYAN MCGINLEY
Ryan McGinley shot Pringle’s 2010 campaign video, which features a wild Tilda powering barefoot through parts of Nairn, Scotland, where she grew up. It’s super raw, hearing her out of breath and watching her force her body up hills and over rocks. But her comfortable connectedness provides real elegance. As well as the womenswear, she also fronted the menswear.
AS A FUTURISTIC COWBOY IN THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (2009)
Jim Jarmusch opted to put Tilda in some kind of Inspector Gadget vs Dolly Parton situation for her role as Blonde in mysterious assassin flick The Limits of Control (2009). She is one of the only women alive capable of pulling off a dead straight platinum blonde wig, blood red lipstick, a cowboy hat, a flasher’s coat, and leopard print boots. Not much else of this film makes sense either – it's tricky and cryptic – but the cinematography and vision are what makes it entertaining.
PARTYING TOO HARD IN JULIA (2008)
Tilda plays lead party gal in Julia (2008), and boy does she wear horrible jewellery well. The film, a fearless crime drama by Erick Zonca, centres around a reckless alcoholic named Julia who eventually meets someone in AA and is roped into kidnapping their son. In clothing that can only be described as flammable-looking and topped off with a creepy, expressionless black mask, Swinton certainly looks the part.
COVERING DAZED IN 2010
When Tilda covered Dazed as two versions of herself, she also worked with Glen Luchford on an exclusive film for the magazine, again filled with multiple versions of Tilda. In the accompanying interview it's clear that indie filmmaking is her love and foundation – when discussing the Oscars, she puts her own finger on what it is that makers her so likeable: "Occasionally, people remind me that was a peculiar night that happened. It was sort of a nasty dream. I'm not keen on standing up in front of three billion people. It would be all right if they sent it to you in the post."