This weekend marks the opening of Coachella, the Californian music celebration that kicks off the festival season. It will continue with the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and beyond – and finish neatly just before September’s ready-to-wear shows. Coincidence? Perhaps not. These days, such events are as much about style as music.
Once a small festival founded as an alternative to the mainstream events, Coachella is now split over two weekends and also features parties hosted by brands including Mulberry, H&M, and Armani Exchange – all of which then get celebrated by countless magazines documenting “Coachella style”, celebrities (often sporting clothes sent by labels specifically for the occasion) and design teams scouting for inspiration.
“Not a season goes by without a collection being definitively presented as rock-inspired, grunge-inspired, hip-hop-inspired … it’s inescapable,” says Judd Crane, director of womenswear at department store Selfridges. “It’s a huge part of what designers look to for inspiration.”
It was at Coachella in 2012 that the current trend for 1990s-style grunge first reappeared and went on to inspire spring/summer 2013 collections from Phillip Lim (silk skirt printed with plaid shirt sleeves around the hips, £400) and Dries Van Noten (“Sylvian” brocade and plaid skirt, £500). Ditto the current 1970s hippie look, all floaty dresses, floppy hats and kaftans that were later echoed in Saint Laurent’s silk chiffon cape (£1,715), Versace’s belted macramé dress (£2,190) and Mulberry’s embroidered white cotton jacquard dress (£1,250).
Such idea-shopping is not exactly new – from Mick Jagger to David Bowie, Madonna to Lady Gaga, musicians have been strutting the stage as if it were a catwalk for decades, their signature styles influencing countless fans and fashion trends. Indeed, music and fashion have become so linked, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Festivals just make the symbiosis more efficient, and obvious to all.
“I think music and fashion are intertwined,” says Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry. Bailey not only uses musicians as part of his shows (most recently, Brit award-winner Tom Odell) and puts on bijou concerts in the flagship London store, but has also launched Burberry Acoustic, an initiative designed to showcase young artists. “When you start to put music with fashion, it gives you energy and attitude,” he says. “Burberry Acoustic was born from the simple fact that people were always asking questions about it. The idea was both to provide young artists with a common space and allow them to interact with different worlds – fashion, catwalks, photography. They are as much a part of our world as we are of theirs.”
Designer Tommy Hilfiger says: “For me, fashion and music are inextricably linked. My biggest inspirations growing up came from the unique style of rock legends – album covers from The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix inspired some of my earliest designs. My clothes have always been about classic, preppy dressing but with a rock’n’roll attitude.”
Hedi Slimane, creative director at Saint Laurent, has used musician Beck as the face of his spring/summer menswear collection. He has also featured Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth) and Ariel Pink in an advertising campaign featuring musicians wearing some well-known Saint Laurent pieces. For Slimane, who sent model after model at the recent autumn/winter womenswear show down the catwalk dressed in clothes inspired by California grunge, it’s just the most recent example of a long-term fixation. In his previous job as designer of Dior Homme, Slimane was inspired by skinny musicians such as Pete Doherty and Carl Barât to transform the way men dressed, streamlining the silhouette and bringing in tight tailoring quickly replicated in the industry.
But it’s not just the fashion labels that profit from this relationship – musicians’ careers have been helped by the exposure provided by a designer. The passage of Lana Del Rey’s song “Video Games” to viral ubiquity was accelerated by its being used at Christopher Kane’s spring/summer 2012 show, and she is now a global star, with two Brit awards, an H&M campaign and a Mulberry handbag to her name.
“We’ve seen increasing numbers of labels harnessing music really beautifully to bring collections to life,” says Selfridges’ Crane. “More and more of them are using live performances at the shows themselves, which is a great avenue for expressing influences.”
Andrew Bolton, curator of Punk: Chaos to Couture, the Costume Institute’s new exhibition, starting next month at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, says: “Music is strongly associated with youth culture and most of the innovation in fashion in the past 60 years has really come from youth and street culture. Punk, in particular, is a really good example of when fashion and music collide to expand the boundaries of fashion and completely change our eye.”
Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder of online fashion retailer Moda Operandi, says: “Decades are defined by their musical movements and immortalised in their fashion.” Consider, for instance, glam rock, the new romantics, punk and hip-hop: genres of music where the artists’ style is as distinctive as their beats. Or consider the acts of this year’s Coachella – Bat for Lashes, Franz Ferdinand (who worked on the 2010 Lady Dior campaign) and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (whose most recent video starred the British model Lily Cole) – with their art-school, theatrical style and, in the case of Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ lead singer Karen O, heavy blunt fringes, sharp bobbed hair, capes and brightly-coloured leotards.
Capes? Brightly-coloured leotards? Trend-watchers, take note. Consider it a preview for what we may see come the spring/summer collections.
Rock chic: Pop stars past and present who have shaped fashion
David Bowie One of music’s greatest style icons, so influential that London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has dedicated an exhibition to him. He has been cited as an influence by designers from Hedi Slimane and Gucci’s Frida Giannini to Céline’s Phoebe Philo, whose mother Celia, a graphic artist, worked on the cover of Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane. The singer’s androgynous appearance, sharply tailored suits and iconic Starman bodysuits (all dating from the 1970s) are his most famous looks.
Debbie Harry Arguably, the ultimate rock chick, Harry’s 1970s style encompassed peroxide-blonde hair, black eyeliner, studded leather jackets, fur coats and tightfitting stagewear. Her mix of punk, rock and glamour has inspired designers including Richard Nicoll, Preen and Louise Gray.
Madonna Her 1980s look (fingerless gloves, studded leather jackets and ra-ra skirts) came to define a generation, while in the 1990s her Jean Paul Gaultier-designed costumes for her Blonde Ambition tour included conical bras and slashed suits, inspiring the era’s trend for underwear as outerwear.
Stevie Nicks Stylist Rachel Zoe’s signature look of floaty chiffon dresses and shaggy boho style comes straight from Nicks, who also influenced Saint Laurent and provided the soundtrack to, and inspiration for, Versace’s spring/summer 2013 show, complete with lacy tops, low-slung belts and fringed evening wear.
Patti Smith Her 1970s look of oversized white-shirts, men’s coats, leather jackets and tight jeans have inspired countless imitators. Pointedly, Smith herself was influenced by the style of fellow musicians John Lennon and Keith Richards. These days, she favours Ann Demeulemeester’s white shirts, themselves inspired by the one Smith wore on the cover of her 1975 album Horses.
Rihanna “What Rihanna wears is hugely influential,” says Laura Larbalestier, buying director of Browns Fashion. A fan of bright, tight and sexy sportswear, the singer is most closely linked with Riccardo Tisci, who designed the clothes for her 2013 tour and has included boldly patterned hip-hop inspired sweatshirts (worn by Rihanna) in his collections for Givenchy. Previously the face of Armani Jeans and Emporio Armani, Rihanna debuted her first collection for high-street retailer River Island at London Fashion Week.
Florence Welch The singer from Florence and the Machine dresses eclectically, mixing vintage finds with designer pieces. Gucci’s Frida Giannini so admires her that she used one of Welch’s songs, “Hurricane Drunk”, as inspiration for her autumn/winter 2011 show, and designed all Welch’s costumes for that year’s US tour. Welch performed at Chanel’s spring/summer 2012 show.
Lady Gaga Her wardrobe is defiantly theatrical, and her boundary-pushing style (helped by stylist Nicola Formichetti) has influenced the likes of Marc Jacobs and the late Alexander McQueen, who dressed the singer on countless occasions, and Giorgio Armani who designed the outfits for her Born this Way tour.
Alison Mosshart A modern day rock chick, Mosshart’s fellow Kills band member Jamie Hince is married to Kate Moss. Mosshart’s grungy style is surprisingly luxe (Saint Laurent shirts, Sass & Bide jeans and Alexander Wang tops). She regularly attends fashion shows and has fronted an Eddie Borgo jewellery campaign.