As the high-profile worlds of fashion and music collide at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, one need only consider David Bowie to see why the two will be forever intertwined.
Five decades after he introduced the first of his myriad manifestations, Bowie and his stylistic influences still reverberate from Hollywood red carpets to glossy magazine covers to the runway shows going on now at New York Fashion Week.
And, if the first month and a half of 2013 is any indication, there's every reason to believe that the Thin White Duke will cast a long shadow across popular culture this year.
Part of it will be due to the natural halo effect of his first new album in a decade, "The Next Day," due out in March and announced with the stealth release of the single "Where Are We Now?" on Jan. 8, the musician's 66th birthday.
But it's more than that. A half-century in, the androgynous look he pioneered so perfectly is once again a major fashion influence, with gender-bending models like Lea T and Andrej Pejic inspiring high-end designers like Riccardo Tisci and Jean Paul Gaultier, and a boy-meets-girl tomboy chic rippling through popular collections from Isabel Marant to J. Crew.
Then there's the "David Bowie Is" exhibition, scheduled to open March 23 at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. The Gucci-sponsored retrospective of the musician's colorful career marks the first time a museum has had access to Bowie's personal archives and includes some 60 stage costumes — among them, Ziggy Stardust bodysuits designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto costumes and the Union Jack coat Bowie and Alexander McQueen designed for the "Earthling" album cover.
Work on the exhibition, put together by the V&A's Theatre and Performance curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, started two and a half years ago. Broackes said they were as surprised as the rest of the world when news of Bowie's upcoming album broke.
On this side of the pond, Diane von Furstenberg is set to show a Fall-Winter 2013 collection on Tuesday at New York Fashion Week that was born of a bit of Bowie on the brain.
"[The collection] is called 'Glam Rock,'" Von Furstenberg said. "It's a little bit '70s and there were a lot of David Bowie photographs on the inspiration board.... It's interesting because I'm a contemporary of David Bowie's — we're exactly the same age — and I was never really inspired by him because we were so close. But once I started looking at all those books and photographs, I realized he was actually very inspiring. This collection has a little bit of that androgyny — a little bit of that: 'I'm a guy / I'm a girl.'"
Von Furstenberg said going the glam-rock route was part of a conscious effort to take her label back to its 1970s-era roots. And she's not surprised that all things Bowie — and glam rock — are rearing their heads.
After all, the guy whose song "Fashion" blared over the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics is no stranger to the fashion world. He's been married to supermodel Iman for the last two decades. His early embrace of Yamamoto helped establish the Japanese designer's international reputation. And, in 2007, a Bowie-inspired limited-edition men's collection called Bowie by Keanan Duffty hit Target.
In Hollywood last month, actress January Jones walked the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet with a severe upswept 'do and bright red lipstick that called to mind early Bowie album covers — a fact that didn't go unnoticed in the Twittersphere (where one can imagine people who weren't even born when the albums were released were trying to figure out if the look referenced Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane).
"I think there's definitely something in the air for sure," Von Furstenberg said. "But why? I'd say that's part of the mystery of fashion."
Gucci creative director Frida Giannini is another designer who often mood-boards the Man Who Fell to Earth. "David Bowie is one of my favorite musicians," Giannini said, "and is an inspiration for his aspirational and unique style — so personal that he was never meant to be styled by anyone else. I think of him doing his makeup by himself in the mirror or cutting his own clothes and dressing himself."
Giannini said that for her, Bowie's influence usually manifests itself in abstract ways. His "effortless androgyny is a reference point for the Gucci woman's masculine strength and the Gucci man's feminine rock 'n' roll undercurrents," she said. But she points to recent collections with more overt inspiration, including the men's and women's fall-winter 2009/2010 collections awash in androgynous glam rock touches; strong-shouldered boxy jackets, and models styled with slicked back pompadour-mullet hair.
"Without a doubt, he's made a huge impact on fashion," the V&A's Broackes said. "There seems to be well over the national average of creative directors that have been influenced by David Bowie … it's extraordinary. In fact, our last exhibit in the exhibition is a piece we commissioned to try and show all the creative connections between Bowie and the people he's influenced and been influenced by. It's arranged like a periodic table of elements where the different letters are initials of different people — from Tristan Tzara to Lady Gaga. It's called the Periodic Table of Bowie."
If the past is any indication, expect all kinds of new elements to be discovered this golden year.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun