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Charting David Lynch’s influence on fashion

In the wake of Raf Simons’ show dedicated to the director, we explore his impact on the world of fashion

Pauline Kael, the New Yorker’s late, great film critic, dubbed David Lynch as ‘the first popular surrealist’. Although this was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the ubiquity of the Lynch canon – and its influence which creeps across so much of art and culture – is something worth pondering. Often described as cult, the Lynchian following is more than just obsessive fans (although these, of course, come in their thousands) – here is an auteur who’s visual and directorial voice so deftly critiques the perceived perfection of middle America’s middle classes, something which strikes chords with so many of his viewers.

From Twin Peaks to Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet, it’s the beauty and the sense of the uncanny found lurking beneath the banal surface of white picket fence suburbia that Lynch so brilliantly communicates through his work, that has made his name rightfully popular, beyond the niches of cult. Here we look at how Lynch – with his unparalleled visions of American reality and surreality – has informed some of fashion’s favourite frontrunners.


Nightmares and Dreams was the name Simons gave his first collection out from under the auspices of the global titan that is Dior. Obscure and oversized American Varsity sweaters clothed the boys who wandered through the maze-like space, often touching the audience members. Much like a rehashing of Agent Cooper’s crucial dream sequences in the show, it was both visually and atmospherically Lynchian. Not to mention the voice of Angelo Badalamenti discussing his collaboration with the director droning over the speakers, in replacement for music. “I always like making beautiful things,” Simons told Dazed, “but it’s also interesting when something goes wrong, something’s weird, something’s dark...there’s very much this contrast.” And that’s totally Lynch.


If the blue velvet of Comme des Garçons SS16 was anything to go by, Rei Kawakubo had been touched by Lynch’s cinematic work. In fact, the soundtrack of Blue Velvet underpinned the entire show, mixed by fashion’s favourite runway composer Frederic Sanchez. For the collection, Kawakubo was inspired by witches, misunderstood women shunned by society – not dissimilar from Isabella Rosellini’s character in the 1986 film, Dorothy Vallens.


The soundtrack and set for Kenzo’s AW14 womenswear collection were in fact a collaboration between Lynch and the brand’s creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim. From funhouse mirror-lined walls, to another maze-like set, Lynch said that he “wanted to try and get a different feel for a runway show, having mystery and emotion swimming together.” Models’ reflections became warped, adding an extra layer of mysteriousness atop the already twisted silhouettes of ballooned skirts over full-tailored suits, or trousers over a pullover beneath and opera coat. Lynch’s influence was particularly evident in the Black Lodge-esque black and red zig-zag patterns. Kenzo’s AW14 campaign, directed by Toilet Paper, was also obtuse in its references to Lynch’s penchant for American glamour-slash-trash.


Miuccia Prada’s AW13 womenswear collection was a neo-noir take on unexpected femininity, with wet-haired girls who wore dresses half hanging off their shoulders. As Tim Blanks pointed out, they resembled one specific character from the Lynch universe – Mulholland Drive’s brunette beauty Rita. But the soundtrack (taken from Betty Blue) pointed to another character – Betty, the fresh-faced actress and the film’s lead, played by Naomi Watts. It was her spirit (and her identity crisis, that underscores the movie’s dark descent into Hollywood) that Prada and Steven Meisel channelled for the season’s campaign, constructed around the premise of an audition. Like Betty's famous audition scene in lunch's film, Prada’s women are there to prove they aren't the girls you had them pinned as.


The sixteen minute sleeping and waking sequence, one of Dior’s campaigns for the iconic Lady Dior Bag, stars a confused, lovesick Marion Cotillard (what’s new?) piecing together clues from dreams of her past and the appearance of a strange blue Lady Dior bag in her hotel room. Written, directed and edited by Lynch himself, the melding of dreams and realities is a trope which runs right through the entirety of the director’s annals, informing even his work with Dior. Usually glossy – remember L.A.dy Dior by John Cameron Mitchell? – Lynch’s take on the brand and the bag remains grainy, imperfect and surreal in its focus.