Many regard fashion as one of the more superficial art forms – too ephemeral and fleeting to stand the tests of time – but if anyone proved this wrong, it was certainly David Bowie.
Bowie’s chameleon-esq transformations did not just embody style; they tested the scope of fashion as art. His collaboration with Yamamoto for his ‘Tokyo Pop bodysuit and his Blue Clown outfit by Natasha Korniloff pushed fashion boundaries to their extremes. His eclectic style crossed eras from Neo-Classism, Mod and Glam, having a lasting impact on contemporary fashion brands – after all, it is no surprise that Gucci sponsored his exhibition at the V and A.
People turned out in Brixton last Monday dressed in the attire of their favourite Bowie characters, which seemed to show that they related as much to the man as his constructs. It appears that the intimacy many fans felt with Bowie was because he was never one thing and this allowed them identify with some of his creations more than other- whether it be The Duke, Major Tom or Ziggy. In Bowie’s transformations the metamorphosis in his appearance seems as important as his fluidity through musical genres.
Bowie’s fashion did more than present characters, as his androgyny challenged traditional conceptions of gender and sexuality. In his live performances he committed to drag and carried this through into his album covers – looking particularly striking in gold and blue on The Man Who Sold the World. For many (myself included), his status as a sex icon was cemented by his role as Jareth in the Labyrinth, which seems strange as a child stealing, tight wearing character, which leads goblins.
Kansai Yamamoto, remarked at the passing of Bowie: ‘he was someone who knew how to express himself with music and fashion…someone like that may not be so rare these days, but he was one of the pioneers to do both.’ Fashion is probably the most common form of self-expression, as something we all partake in to some degree. Through his characters, David Bowie raised this bar of self-expression to new heights and his contribution will never be forgotten.