Zippy 'Ziggy' Bowie: A Boon to the World of Fashion

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A Bowie-inspired design by Jean-Paul Gaultier, presented as part of his ready to wear Spring-Summer 2013 collection, in Paris.
A Bowie-inspired design by Jean-Paul Gaultier, presented as part of his ready to wear Spring-Summer 2013 collection, in Paris. Credit: AP
Ruth Perl Baharir
Ruth Perl Baharir
Ruth Perl Baharir
Ruth Perl Baharir

It is hard to think of the life and work of David Bowie, who passed away on Sunday at age 69 of cancer, without talking about the enormous influence he had on the world of fashion.

In practice, as appropriate for a true pop icon, his style was inseparable from his music. Until the 1980s, for every album he recorded, Bowie created a persona with a background story and a clear style to accompany it.

The term that was commonly, but unfairly, used to describe the musical and fashion transformation Bowie fomented over the years, was “chameleon.” While that description may have been appropriate for certain phases in his career, in which he adapted himself to popular styles (for example, in the “Young Americans” period in 1975) – it ignores the times in which Bowie was clearly the leader who marched ahead of everyone else.

His daring approach to fashion started making waves in 1972 with the release of his album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars." The persona Bowie adopted for himself as Ziggy included a “screwed down,” bright-red mullet hairstyle and skin-tight vinyl, satin and glittery costumes in bold colors, coupled with platform boots.

David Bowie performs onstage with bass player Trevor Bolder (1950-2013) during his 'Ziggy Stardust' era in 1973 in Los Angeles, California.Credit: Getty Images

Although young London designers contributed to his creation of that image (including Derek Morton, later chief designer for men’s fashion at Paul Smith), Bowie was the one who brought them together and exploited their talents in order to fulfill his own fashion vision.

This phase in his career resulted, recently, in some impressive documentation in photographer Mick Rock's 2015 limited-edition book "Shooting for Stardust. The Rise of David Bowie & Co.” According to the book, which covers the 1972-73 period, the strength of the British men’s fashion industry – in particular, in those elements that embodied a deviation from gender norms – owed quite a lot to Bowie's innovative style at that time.

We can go as far as saying that Bowie’s style, especially as expressed during this phase, influenced the fashion scene outside of Britain, too, and his impact is clear to this day. Indeed, famous designers such as Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Hedi Slimane and Jean Paul Gaultier have all declared at one point or another that they are diehard fans of the singer – and the fashion world continues to supply "quotes" from his wardrobe.

For example, an exact copy of the tailored blazer designed by Freddie Burretti and identified with Bowie during his “Thin White Duke” period, suddenly appeared in the 2010 spring collection of Givenchy. Alber Elbaz too, was influenced by this persona in the spring collection for Lanvin that same year.

David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust, in his 'woodland creatures' costume designed by Kansai Yamamoto, at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1973.Credit: Getty Images
Kate Moss is seen on stage accepting the award for British Male Solo Artist on behalf of winner David Bowie at the BRIT Awards 2014 at the O2 Arena in London on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: AP

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