David Bowie’s legacy stretches well beyond this planet, with his otherworldly alter egos, songs about space, and astronauts singing his tunes from the International Space Station. But as well as his incredible music, it is his unique sense of innovative style that the fashion world just wouldn’t be the same without. Even though he always claimed that he wasn’t interested in fashion, rather that he wanted his music to ‘look how it sounds’, he was a huge influence on many designers. Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane loved him in his Diamond Dogs days (and later dressed him for his tours), and where would Phoebe Philo’s masculine tailoring at Celine or Alessandro Michele’s androgyny at Gucci be without him? Perhaps they just wouldn’t have been.
Born David Robert Jones in 1947, as a teenager in the mid-Sixties he was a mod. Unlike other parka-clad scooter enthusiasts of the time whose style got trapped in that era, he embraced the true meaning of the word mod – modernist – and moved with the times a few years later to be a long-haired hippy who went by the stage name David Bowie.
But it was in 1972 and with his second alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, that Bowie really cemented himself as a game-changing icon, one capable of singlehandedly starting cultural shifts and spawning countless copycats that you can still see evidence of on the catwalks in any given season. Ziggy was a sexually ambiguous rock star who wore make-up, shaved off his eyebrows, and had a penchant for wearing skin-tight catsuits (sometimes one-legged ones) and glam rock platform boots. He also wrote really, REALLY good songs.
Left, Bowie in 1976; right, Gareth Pugh SS16
Bowie killed off Ziggy in 1973, just a year after his incarnation, and was ready to move on to the next character. Aladdin Sane (a pun on A Lad Insane) had the same red hair as Ziggy but was even more OTT – he’s the one in that iconic image (top) with the lightning bolt make-up. By the mid-Seventies though, Bowie had toned it down and was wearing sharp suits with his bleached blond hair slicked back. This new persona was called the Thin White Duke, who Bowie once described in one of the coolest sentences ever uttered as ‘ice masquerading as fire’. And then, a decade on, no-one did for peach and powder blue tailoring what David Bowie did in the Eighties.
Left, Loewe SS16; right, Bowie in 1983
Right up until his untimely departure from this world, David Bowie continued to inspire fashion creatives everywhere. This season, you can see elements of Bowie - in all his guises - in dozens of collections, from the avant garde make-up at Gareth Pugh and Maison Margiela, to the oversized tailoring in muted tones at Loewe and Stella McCartney. In fact, a mere five hours after the news of his death broke, tributes were spotted on the catwalk at LC:M at the Sean Suen menswear show. Without David Bowie - and Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane - the fashion world would be a much duller place.