10 Fashion Designers and the Musicians Who Inspired Them


As anyone who’s ever cracked open a copy of Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style — or, really, just taken a walk around a trendy neighborhood in a major city — knows, there will always be a relationship between the music listen to and the clothes we wear. And while musical movements and the street style that surrounds them are always fodder for designers, it’s rarer to find entire collections inspired by a single artist. Check out ten of our favorites after the jump, and then continue your fashion odyssey with this roundup of clothing influenced by books.

Jean-Paul Gaultier and Joan Jett For three decades, Jean-Paul Gaultier has been known for his creative iconoclasm, costuming music’s most famous provocateurs, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson. So it’s not at all surprising that, for his Spring 2011 collection, Gaultier found inspiration in music’s baddest girl of all — Joan Jett. The collection featured leather, fishnets, shredded fabric, and denim, styled to recall Jett’s tough, androgynous look. As a further tribute (and fuck-you to the fashion establishment), Gaultier put plus-size Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto on the runway as a model. Call us crazy, but we also spot a bit of Ziggy Stardust influence in the mix, too.

Gucci and David Bowie Speaking of Bowie, he’s been a touchstone for designers ever since the early ’70s, when he walked around in garments he dubbed “man’s dresses” and then traded in his long, hippie locks for Ziggy Stardust’s otherworldly red shag. One of the most high-profile designers to name him as a muse is Gucci’s Frida Giannini, who paid Bowie tribute in her Fall 2006 collection. “I was thinking of David Bowie and the way people played with their image to be something different every time they went out in the seventies,” she told Style.com. “It’s less romantic and more about energy and showing off.” We could definitely see Ziggy in that gold suit.

Zang Toi and Prince By now, you should be sensing a pattern: designer love androgynous musicians. And so Malaysian designer Zang Toi wore his inspiration on his models’ sleeves with a Fall 2010 collection named for Prince’s song/album/movie/lifestyle Purple Rain. From the lace to the velvet to the lipstick, just about everything on the runway was purple — and “Purple Rain” played during the show because, well, of course it did.

Kobi Levi and Madonna We’ve been fascinated with Kobi Levi‘s funny, boundary-pushing shoes for a while now. But we’re literally speechless over his Blonde Ambition heels — inspired, of course, by the Madonna tour of the same name and referencing the cone bra, lace-up costumes, headset, and high, platinum ponytail Madge rocked onstage. These shoes may be entirely impractical, and Levi is far from the only designer Madonna’s influenced. Really, though, we can’t think of a better tribute to such an outsize personality than a pump so fabulous you can’t even wear it.

Marc Jacobs and Donna Summer Marc Jacobs has always had a give-and-take relationship with music and pop culture. In fact, the top designer made his name back in 1992, when he premiered a revolutionary “grunge” collection for Perry Ellis. Jacobs’s Spring/Summer 2011 line drew inspiration from a different kind of musician, disco queen Donna Summer. The designs were bright, fringed, and voluminous (even when skimpy) — perfect for a diva to wear out dancing.

Stolen Girlfriends Club and Sex Pistols Punk rock and fashion been inextricably linked ever since the Sex Pistols formed around Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s London shop, SEX. So it makes sense that the band continues to provide material for fashion designers around the globe. New Zealand’s Stolen Girlfriends Club titled their Autumn/Winter 2009 collection Pretty Vacant and sent models down the runway in fishnet shirts, ripped tights, oversize plaid blazers and vests, and skirts held together by safety pins. One thing we’re pretty sure wasn’t in Johnny Rotten’s wardrobe? That scarf made to look like human hair. Creepy!

Roger Vivier and Keith Richards Mick Jagger might be The Rolling Stones’s most obvious style icon, but for edgier fashion mavens, Keith Richards looms equally large. In the early ’70s, Patti Smith famously cut her hair to resemble Richards’s artfully ragged mop. Four decades later, Roger Vivier designer Bruno Frisoni debuted a Fall 2011 accessories collection with a rock ‘n’ roll soul. The formula, as Frisoni described it to Style.com: “Think Keith Richards, with an intellectual twist and a thirties feel.” While stiletto boots and clutches probably aren’t on Keef’s shopping list, Frisoni’s pieces do suggest a certain damaged glamor and excess that Richards embodies.

Balmain and Michael Jackson Balmain’s Christophe Decarnin didn’t just do a single line inspired by Michael Jackson. Instead, hints of the King of Pop seem to turn up in just about every one of the designer’s shows, from studded jackets to military blazers to bright, red leather pants. In fact, Decarnin has credited Jackson’s influence with reinvigorating the Balmain brand. And it’s clear the appreciation was mutual. In the months before his death, Jackson was photographed in a Balmain T-shirt straight from the Fall 2009 (women’s) collection.

Jill Stuart inspired by Cher From the fur vest-wearing, long-haired hippie of “I Got You Babe” to the leather-clad, butt-baring Amazon woman from “If I Could Turn Back Time,” Cher is a grand dame of fashion. You know you’re doing something right when so many drag queens want to be you. But they’re not the only ones who think Cher’s got style worth stealing. For her Spring 2010 collection, designer Jill Stuart mined decades of the singer’s outfits. I had a really big old scrapbook of hers and I just went through the whole thing from the beginning to now,” Stuart explained in an interview with Paper magazine. The results were sexy, skimpy, and shiny, with an independent-minded toughness we’re sure Cher could appreciate.

Amy Kaehne and the Velvet Underground No band embodied New York cool quite like the Velvet Underground. Their music — and their style — was dark, gritty, mysterious, and sexual, with Lou Reed and Nico waxing poetic over everything from bondage to heroin addiction. Amy Kaehne captures that decadence in her Winter 2010 collection, White Light White Heat, named for the band’s second album. “I had heard the music for years and loved it but recently I started to listen to it and really feel it, and I’ve tried to embody those feelings into my winter collection through texture, colour and shape,” said Kaehne in an interview with the blog The Corner Shop. As huge VU fans, we’re pleased to see she nailed it.