Hip, hot MTV wields heavy clout when it comes to global fashion


What does MTV stand for -- Music TV or Major Trend Visionary?

Both, of course!

Madonna's decision to unveil her new "Girlie Show" on Thursday night's video-awards broadcast is very much in tune with the vibe that MTV is the most powerful influence on the global fashion industry.

The Material One's move says a lot about MTV's clout, according to Gabe Doppelt, editor in chief of Mademoiselle magazine.

Ms. Doppelt points to the fashion industry's obsession with grunge last season as a perfect example of how the network is influencing the way we dress -- from hip-hopping club kids to haute couture designers.

"Look at the way grunge affected the runway," she says, spotlighting designers like Marc Jacobs and Gianni Versace.

Both were obviously inspired by the movement, which began in Seattle but was pumped onto the national scene via MTV.

"Everyone, especially the young, are influenced by the way famous people dress," says Patrick McCarthy, executive editor of the style bibles W and Women's Wear Daily. "It used to be movie stars, actresses, but now most of them don't care about fashion. They've abdicated their role to music-video stars."

George Michael and Sting are some of the artists who, McCarthy believes, lend as much -- if not more -- importance to their appearance as they do to their music.

"The lingerie look in Madonna's early videos started out appealing to the young, but went right up -- in the fashion food chain -- to the couture runways. Karl Lagerfeld showed combat boots with Chanel suits in his latest collection. That's pure MTV. Sinead O'Connor was the first person I saw in a long, flowery dress with combat boots, and that was a look that went around the world."

"Sure, MTV influences designers," agrees Benny Lin, fashion director for Macy's East, "but it's also responsible for speeding up the entire process by which fashion reaches the general masses.

"It's easy for teenagers to adapt the looks they see on MTV. And because of MTV, fashion is filtering from the street, to TV, to Middle America faster than ever. Go into a mall in the Midwest, and the kids hanging out there are every inch as hip as the kids downtown in Manhattan or L.A. That's thanks to MTV."

Mr. Lin also credits the rise of young fashion designers -- like Anna Sui and Todd Oldham -- to the fact that their designs are worn by style icons such as Madonna and Janet Jackson.

"We get people calling the store asking for the dress Madonna wore in this video or the bustier Janet had on in that video."

"No other medium reaches such a youthfully spirited market," says Oldham, the Manhattan-based designer and host of "Todd Time," a segment on MTV's "House of Style." This program, notes Vogue senior fashion writer Katherine Betts, helped elevate the stature of the supermodel.

"Music has always influenced the way people dress," says Mr.Oldham, "and video tends to program your visual sense. Together, it's a potent combination."

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