You may remember the Bey-sting that TV personality Pearl Thusi received with her unfavourable tweet about Beyoncé’s Met Gala dress last year. Like many before her, Thusi learned an important lesson: that Beyoncé is untouchable. Well, at least in the eyes of the Beyhive who believe their favourite pop star can do no wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Beyoncé is amazing. There are so many things I love about her: the music, the epic videos and performances, but her style? Not so much. The problem is that the Beyhive conflate Beyoncé’s magnificence as a performer (undeniable) with their belief that she is great at everything, including fashion (not so much).
My favourite fashion critic Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times eloquently articulated Beyoncé’s lack of impact on the industry when she wrote: ‘(Beyoncé) doesn’t worm her way into designers’ imaginations, the way Patti Smith and Courtney Love did. Her stylist has not become a well-known name in his own right, the way Nicola Formichetti has moved from working with Lady Gaga to becoming the creative director and frontman of Diesel.’ Friedman adds bluntly: ‘Her megafame could not even sustain her own fashion brand, House of Deréon.’
So what does make a fashion icon? Well I can tell you what doesn’t: mega-superstardom. Take Kim Kardashian. Super famous. Wears a lot of beautiful clothes. NOT a fashion icon. Never mind what your favourite gossip site or magazine says.
Fashion icons move fashion – Beyoncé and Kim haven’t – not yet anyway. Think of Coco Chanel and the LBD; Madonna and her cone bra and micro-minis. Think of the late Princess Diana’s extraordinary elegance and the influence it had on a generation of women.
I’ve noticed a recent trend of awarding the term ‘fashion icon’ to someone famous who collaborates with a fashion line or retailer. When it sells out. Boom! Fashion icon. This kind of thinking frustrates me because, really, those sales have no enduring effect on fashion.
So who is a fashion icon in contemporary culture then? I would argue Rihanna, the Bajan pop-star whose red carpet looks consistently spark debate, is undoubtedly fashion’s most exciting muse. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Alexander Wang was quoted as saying, ‘there is no one else that excites me more.’ Of her style Tom Ford has said: ‘It’s raw, it’s smart, it’s everything pop culture needs to move forward. She can throw on combinations you can’t imagine other people could possibly wear, and look great. In the fashion world she has inspired a very, very loose mix of random items.’ Peter Dundas of Pucci compared her to Kate Moss, calling her a very talented dresser. ‘She’s an amplified version of what a lot of girls want to look like, but she’s always a step ahead of the game.’
Beyoncé is a musical and entrepreneural icon. But a fashion one? I don’t think so. She looks great most of the time (she definitely did at the Met Gala), but then so do many other stars.
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