‘An artist for the eye as well as the ear’ – Jeremy Vine, BBC1, 11/1/2016
Much has been written and posted about the late, great David Bowie in the past week. Bowie was, without doubt, a significant cultural icon – a man through whom music, art and fashion converged. I love Bowie’s music, but I agree with Jeremy Vine, his visual appeal is just as important.
Bowie understood that his look was an essential part of his (very-theatrical) performance. A follower (and inspirer) of fashion both onstage and off, he adopted and discarded personas, becoming rock’s greatest chameleon and paving the way for Madonna and Lady Gaga. The great man said it himself back in 1974: ‘One of my great loves is clothes…I’m really mad about them’.
In his quest for new looks, Bowie also supported new talent. In 1996 he commissioned the then-relatively unknown Alexander McQueen to design the union jack frock coat that he went on to wear on the Earthling album cover and subsequent tour. The coat was then displayed at the David Bowie IS retrospective at the V&A in 2013. He was also loyal to chosen designers. He wore Paul Smith a lot, for example, who said on Radio 4 last week that Bowie ‘had such good personal taste’.
From the glam appeal of Ziggy, to the stark Berlin-inspired elegance of the Thin White Duke, from the yellow suit for the Serious Moonlight tour (which, incidentally, was the first time I saw Bowie in concert) designed by opera costume designer Peter J Hall, to the minimalist cool of the early 2000s – no one quite wore it quite like him.
Unfortunately I don’t have the rights to any images of Bowie, but the New York Times has helpfully published a great slideshow showing some of his most iconic looks here.