Following the icon’s death, we look back at the designers and collections which bear the hallmarks of Bowie’s style
There truly is no other icon quite like David Bowie. His positioning remains entirely unique in the annals of popular culture – with no other star both changing the lives of individuals, and the landscape of an entire industry, quite so drastically. From Ziggy to Aladdin, from his “Diamond Dogs” to “Let’s Dance”, his life in the public eye was a kaleidoscope of reinvention which gave, and continues to give, so many the chance to explore the different facets of their own identity.
No-one mixes the avant-garde with the underground, trash with class, joy with trouble quite like Bowie did. Through his radically queer explorations of gender and sexuality via his unmistakeable visuals and lyrics, the singer opened the world up to so many new ideas from the moment he zippered that first glittery boot. Bowie’s influence is so far-reaching, and while we will continue to draw inspirations from his originality in all aspects of contemporary culture.
Here we look back at just how much David Bowie – in all manifestations of himself – has impacted some of the world’s most definitive fashion designers.
Slimane’s entire design aesthetic takes directly from The Thin White Duke years — classic Bowie brilliance, circa his 1976 album Station to Station. The white shirt, slim suit, slim tie and slicked red hair were yet another direction for Bowie, although according to the late musician this character began to represent a real ogre for him: “ice masquerading as fire, (a man) who lived on red peppers, cocaine and milk.” As a child Slimane used to use Bowie as his escape from reality, like so many, and now continues to pay homage to his childhood hero. “I would turn to my music heroes, and this was comforting,” he said in an interview with Yahoo! last year. “I could recognise it and feel a connection at the time with ‘The Thin White Duke’ character of Bowie. This is pretty much the origin of everything I did in design after that, a boy or a girl with the same silhouette.”
Exalting Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust days, it was the brilliant Raf Simons at Christian Dior who named his spring 2015 couture show “Moonage Daydream” after the third track on Bowie’s 1972 record. “Bowie is very haute couture, but at the same time he’s the opposite,” Simons told Dazed in an interview last year. “He has been able to constantly reinvent himself, but also to materialise – because I speak about him not just as a person, but as a kind of phenomenon.” Bowie blared over the speakers, while models rocked thigh-high latex boots, and graphic bodysuits.
While Galliano didn’t specifically note Bowie as an inspiration, Aladdin Sane had a definite presence at Maison Margiela’s SS16 ready-to-wear show. His influence extended to the gender-fluid casting, which saw several male models take to the catwalk alongside their female counterparts. Such strong references, without any credit to the Young Americans singer, serves to show just how deeply Bowie, and all of his personas, are ingrained into the psyches of so many generations, and will be for years to come.
The Bowie-esque androgyny spans the globe; it has hit Paris, London, New York and Milan. Miu Miu AW12 campaign, which starred Chloë Sevigny, bears a striking resemblance to Bowie’s Aladdin and Ziggy all at once. Miuccia’s tribute to the musician places him among one of her many refined inspirations – inspirations which usually pull from high-art and architecture: but what was Bowie if not a walking, singing, speaking work of art?
Bowie didn’t just inspire designers; he worked with them too. Case in point, Alexander McQueen, who he collaborated with on his tour costumes. “Do you enjoy collaboration?” Bowie asked him in a 1996 Dazed head-to-head. “I do,” McQueen replied, “But the one thing you have to do when you collaborate is actually respect the people that you work with.” Since the designer’s death, the house of McQueen has continued to respect Bowie. The back cover of Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory – still critically described as one of his best works, proffering the track “Changes” – proved as the starting point for Sarah Burton in her andro-seventies Cruise 2013 collection. His flared trousers, sharp shoulders and mane like hair depict another of Bowie’s explorations of differing gender presentation throughout his career, and Burton’s interpretation was to the letter.
“Not heroic, but romantic,” Van Noten told Vogue, of his feeling towards the song “Heroes” – the main inspiration for his Stardust-meets-Ballets-Russes collection. One of the most important, euphoric tracks in pop-rock history – and composed in the shadow of the then intact Berlin Wall – Bowie’s “Heroes” redefines heroism as something more humane. It was all a reference to the Star Man; in colour, print, texture and shape. Bowie even gave Van Noten the track “Heroes” to remix, as the soundtrack for the show.
A designer known for his humorous rehashing of popular culture, Jean Paul Gaultier honoured Bowie in all seriousness at his SS13 show. It’s undeniable that the Ziggy Stardust days were one of the musician’s most revolutionary – in terms of visual and musical message. Cosmic prints, sharp-shot shoulders and tight bodysuits were teamed with iconic red mullet wigs — there’s no need for subtle references when the original is so damn brilliant. Even the most creative of the design cohort can’t do better than Bowie’s original, so why change it? Again, the soundtrack to his SS13 show was Bowie’s 1980s hit “Fashion”.
As quite the queer rock and roll firecracker, it’s no question why so much of Pam Hogg’s design archive feels like a continued reimagining of a typically Bowie uniform. From 60s visions of what the future would look like, to actual appliqué patches which read “Diamond Dogs“ on trench coats or kipper ties, Bowie’s influence shows through time and time again. Hogg has always been a radical, and her references to Bowie are significant of his wide spanning effect on men, women, punks, glam-rockers, and queer folk alike. Not to mention your Average Joe.
One of the industry’s most experimental designers, it’s no question Bowie is cited as a huge inspiration for the Belgian designer, an original member of the irreverent Antwerp Six. Political action is at the centre of Beirendonck’s work, and Bowie’s archive is part of a canon that politicised a whole generation. Here, for AW13, the Aladdin Sane references were unmissable, with Beirendonck carrying the lighting bolt through his entire collection. “Bowie made me think and reflect about clothes, and the immense power they can possess,” the designer said in a 2013 Dazed interview, “The themes he was referring to in his songs; aliens, sex, gender, stars, love, new worlds and alienation completely fascinated me. Glam rock and Bowie changed men’s fashion so not only so quickly but also so unexpectedly, and with such energy that marked a milestone in fashion... He could do what no one else at the time could dream of doing: re-inventing himself with every new record, but in a spontaneous and genuine way!”
After seeing a fashion show in London in 1971, Bowie was desperate to wear Yamamoto’s designs on stage. A year or so later, after becoming friends, the musician and the designer collaborated on the iconic bodysuits and kimonos worn throughout the Ziggy Stardust world tour. “David Bowie and I combined the worlds of seeing and sound,” Yamamoto told Dazed in a 2013 interview, “Because musicians who want to be number one, want to wear the number one.”