david bowie a popular fashion icon
‘He has an unusual face, neither man nor woman… which suits me as a designer, because most of my clothes are for either sex’ – this is how Kansai Yamamoto described David Bowie.
A trailblazing singer, songwriter, actor, David Bowie was as much a fashion icon as a musician.
David Bowie was ahead of his time. He questioned gender and social norms before it became de rigueur to do so. Bowie was outrageous and provocative.His androgynous alter ego was Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy’s flaming red hair and skin tight sparkling attire created by sewing together costumes from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ became etched in public memory. We have, since, seen many Bowie clones on the runway with earrings, colourful wedges, cosmetics, glitter and hair dye.
david bowie and japanese fashion
David Bowie discovered Kansai Yamamoto at the first Japanese fashion show in England. Kansai went on to create many memorable costumes for the singer, including the celebrated ‘Tokyo Pop’ vinyl bodysuit and the one legged knitted catsuit, the pattern for which appeared in Elle.
David Bowie borrowed heavily from Japanese design aesthetic. This was manifest in the cloak decorated with Kanji characters, the embroidered suit and Japanese sandals inspired by Kabuki theatre. In oriental theatre genres like the Japanese kabuki or the Indian kathakali, it is commonplace for male actors to perform female characters. Bowie’s androgynous persona found resonance in the kabuki onnagata. With David Bowie’s support, Japonism became central to Western fashion.
david bowie cultural and artistic diversity
Bowie’s love affair with fashion continued with the black suit with pointed shoulders or the iconic polka dot jumper. He co-designed the Union Jack coat with Alexander Macqueen. Macqueen created several outfits for David Bowie, including a distressed brocade tailcoat and a brilliant tyre print suit. Collaborations with Issey Miyake and Georgio Armani followed. Bowie combined a Thierry Mugler suit with kitten heels. He was also designer Thierry Mugler’s first celebrity client.
Bowie embraced cultural and artistic diversity. Some of his costumes had a sinister tribal aspect. He went beyond Japonism to embrace Puerto Rican style. A prolific painter, he was influenced by Andy Warhol. The wallpaper he designed for Laura Ashley, was censored. Bowie called it the ‘third castration’. His deep interest in Buddhism led him to protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet. Post his ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour, Bowie turned to tailoring and monochrome, wearing a powder blue tailored suit by YSL or sporting the celebrated ‘thin white duke’ look.
The Pierrot or the blue clown costume for the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video and Scary Monsters album cover epitomised what Bowie stood for. ‘I am the last person to pretend I am a radio. I’d rather go out and be a colour television set’ , said Bowie.
As Kansai Yamamoto said, ‘I love his music… but most of all there’s the aura of fantasy’. Inspired by David Bowie’s ‘aura of fantasy’, Deidaa celebrates life and colour. Like Bowie, Deidaa is unfettered by stereotypes. Deidaa embraces cultural diversity. Deidaa is committed to the cause of artisan wellness and works with artisans to produce a unique range of fashion garments and accessories.
Acknowledgement: David Bowie Is exhibition, V&A Museum, London and ACMI Melbourne