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The Relationship Between Music And Fashion Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4923 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This chapter focuses on the music present in contemporary culture and life. In the previous two sections, the analysis covers the study of different regions in the world and how its traditional music has had influence on its traditional costume and culture. Then, in the second chapter, the study focuses on of how music has influenced fashion through different subculture aspects during the decades from 1920-1990. Some of the influences even created an entire genre of musical fashion movement and left a distinct mark in history. Each music genre has its own visual fashion identity. Designers have been blurring the boundaries between music and fashion. For instance, when punk music era is mentioned, it will immediately be linked with images of punk fashion. The analysis of this chapter is about the investigating process of musics’ influence on fashion in contemporary culture and life. Instead of analyzing the influence through different time frames as studied in Chapter 3, this chapter will be focused on specific elements such as the music fashion icon influences, the relationship between music and fashion shows and shops, and the music and movie impact on fashion. The study will reveal the relevancy the relationship between music and fashion in our society today.

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The impact of musicians on the society and their influence on fashion has been established in the previous analysis of the timeframe from 1920s-1990s. The Jazz musicians of the 1920s not only led the music trend of the period but also created a phenomenal trend of Flappers style, symbolic of the Jazz fashion. Then in the 1950s, Rock ‘n’ Roll music was introduced to the world as it was the initial introduction of Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion. Iconic musician such as Elvis Presley had a great influence on Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion through the way he expresses his music personal style, public persona and dressing. If not through its music form, audiences and the public might not have ever been exposed to Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion. Three decades after Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hip Hop emerged from the Bronx to the society in both the music and fashion field. Hip Hop musicians expressed their fashion style through their lifestyle, performance and especially the broadcast of Music Television, commonly known as MTV. MTV was extremely popular during the 1980s and it might have been the initial form of exposure for many audiences worldwide to the Hip Hop Culture. And the public display of how music has influence on fashion and the perfect marriage of the two pop elements. As the analysis of the previous chapter have established, musician did have a great influence on fashion trends, this leads to the interest in the investigation of whether this relationship is still effective on contemporary society and which are the current musicians that influence fashion trends.

Madonna, Michael Jackson and of course, Lady Gaga are a few of the most prominent music and fashion icons in our society today. Since the 1980s, Madonna has been recognized as the queen of trendsetting for both music and fashion. Her overall style in music and fashion can be defined as bold, fun and uninhibited. She has changed the way young girls dressed forever, because of her ‘the calf-length black leggings, head bands, granny boots, bangle bracelets to the ballerina skirts, net spandex tops and large earring’ according to (Mark Stewart, 2010) all became a major fashion trend. Madonna has a large group of audiences and fans that greatly admire her music as well as her fashion style. It is of no doubt that she is a music fashion icon who has made a mark for herself in the music scene as well as the fashion circle. Famous French design Jean Paul Gaultier who was a huge fan of the music diva in the 1980s, tributes his controversial conical bra design to her. The provocative Madonna not only inspired the designer, but also secured him one of his most signature designs.  Major brands such as Topshop and H&M, have collaborated with Madonna and also have received positive responses and extraordinary sale response.  

Another music fashion icon that must be mentioned is Michael Jackson. The legendary jackets he wore seem to always blend together with his music. The leather jacket is an iconic must-have element for those who want to dress like Michael Jackson. What really makes him a music and fashion icon is his unique individual and extremely theatrical choice of styling for his performances. His fashion style that is presented on stage is as attention grabbing as his performance. Michael Jackson has set himself apart from every other musical artiste with his tremendous talent in music and also his unique sense of style. His fashion statements are etched permanently onto history, where it is the bell-bottoms pants and Afro hair he donned as a child star, or his glamorous military inspired suits worn at his peak. Current Balmain designer, Christophe Decarnin, also revived the classic Couture House of Balmain with his glam-rock military style, which was inspired by the late Michael Jackson. King of Pop was the first to add his own glamorous twist to the tough look of the military style, with his sequined military coats and metallic theme outfits. 

Besides the fashion contributions of musicians such as Madonna and Michael Jackson, a recent year music phenomenon known as Lady Gaga, has also been making waves in the fashion circle. Lady Gaga has had a profound influence on American fashion since her debut in 2008 and her popularity along with her style has quickly spread worldwide. Along with embracing her music talent, her style, attitude and dressing has been also copied by many fans all over the world.  Her provocative style causes the society to feel stunt by the exaggeration and thus spark curiosity. Regardless of her choice, where she is wearing a stunningly beautiful dress or awfully horrid jumpsuit, she is still regarded as a Music Fashionista by the general society. The people who are try to copy her fashion style, often dress themselves in exaggerated clothing or mix a combination of elements from different trends, which might seem ridiculous to other people. However, Lady Gaga has definitely set new trends in fashion and won over her own die-hard audiences. Her theatrical and over-the-top performances, attention-grabbing wardrobe and headline-ready interviews have only fuelled her music career making her a global celebrity in more ways than one. Whether it is the high street labels such a Topshop or designer brands like Lanvin, Lady Gaga has somehow managed to inspire designers all over to embrace their bold, fun and loud side. 

Music has taken a very important role in peoples’ life since decades ago, and it still remains so in contemporary society. New musicians are introduced during constantly. Season after season, some musicians will fade off as they lose the interest of their audience, whole some are still able to create new interest and maintain their glamour on stage. The music and fashion goes hand in hand. If the musician is performing an ill received style of music or music that cannot be accepted by the majorities, people will not pay any attention to their music and fashion style. On the other hand, popular artistes not only have fans who admiring their music, yet adore and copy their fashion style as well. For instance, fans of Michael Jackson, not only know his songs and music by heart, but they also adopt his fashion style, by wearing items such as his famous silver shoes and glittery jackets. The influences of musicians on fashion can be simply known as the mass acceptance and copying of a certain style presented by musicians, proving that they recognized both the musical and fashion expressions of the artiste. This proves that fashion trends can be influenced by musicians as much as fashion designers and industry leaders. Musicians and celebrities are able to set a fashion trend and inspire even the designers and the fashion industry.

4.2 The relationship between music and fashion shows

The previous section has mentioned the music fashion icons influence on the fashion scene, however the relationship between music and fashion shows are equally as important as well. A fashion show without music would seem impossible and lifeless. There would definitely be a sense of something missing from the fashion show although the problem does not lie with the garments. Fashion needs music, making music a must have for fashion shows. Therefore in this section, it will be focused on the analysis of the relationship between music and fashion shows. The music being played as fashion models strut down the runway can be as important as the clothes they’re wearing. The background music serves to convey as much meaning as the cut or color of a dress. A model from Australia named Narelle Payne says music played in runway can boosts her confidence while cat walking on stage, and she said “Imagine walking out in front of a few hundred people barely dressed with no music. It just couldn’t be done.”

The relationship shared between the music selection for fashion show and the style of the collection, is not always as direct as it seems. Punk labels such as Vivienne Westwood tend to use Punk music for their runway shows, and this is an example of direct relation between the two. However, sometimes the connection is less direct. For instance, instead of using the usual choice of classical music, for the 2010 Chanel Spring/Summer’s runway, the classic fashion label of Chanel decided to employ the performance of glam rock musician Lily Allen, as she emerges through a trapdoor on the centre of the stage, singing the hit song “Not Fair” to a live audience while the models strutted down the runway. The glamorous lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, also employed the performance of the Hip-Hop group Black eyed peas in its 2009 runway show. The sexy and elegance of the lingerie seemingly irrelevant to the Hip-Hop music genre, yet the combination of the two contrasting styles illustrated how unique and sometimes inexplicable the relationship between music and fashion can be. It is popular for designers to hire DJs for the runway show or approach music companies to create their own special re-mix version of a certain kind of music that compliments their collection on the runway.

The selections of music by designers for their runway shows are usually serve to reflect the similar style as their collection. For instance, the 2009 Spring/Summer Kenzo collection was pair with music with a mysterious element. That gives the illusion of its fairytale theme, which is reflected in the style of the garments. The fairytale style music played in the background supports the theme of the collection and helps to create the desired ambience for the audience.

Therefore it can be established that music not only compliments the style of a collection, it also serves as an additional extension of the designers’ style, inspiration and theme. For instance, American designer Anna Sui who is a child of the 60s and grew up to the tunes of the Beatles and experienced the Mod culture, it reflects her life experience and personal style through her clothes and music choice. When the “Beatles’ Live at the BBC” was released, there were songs that Sui has never heard before. This inspired one of her Fall collections that was based on the archetypal two-pieces of London’s Carnaby Street heyday. The designers draws from musical inspirations of the past generation and current contemporary artiste such as new British bands Elastica and Oasis as well. 

In the latest Lanvin collaboration with H&M, the short video released to promote the collection, suggests that pop music icon such as Lady Gaga as one of the main source of inspirations behind the style. The music played in the video not only compliments the story line of the video, but it adds an inexplicable edgy dimension to otherwise overtly glamorous clothing. This once again proves that music can alter and affect the fashion style. Labtonic is a famous music styling team that works with companies in the fashion, design and entertainment industry. The team was co-founded in 2002 by Nima Abbasi the businessman and DJ Laurent Vacher. ‘The company has worked with high profile clients such as Karl Lagerfeld, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Issey Miyake and Fendi’ according to fashion website (fashion spot, Andrea Grant Mar 30th, 2008).

It is not only the high street fashion that is affected by music, but every fashion show requires the music to be carefully selected. The soundtrack choice has to match the model’s catwalk and the overall theme of the fashion show.  As background music can create an atmosphere for the audience’s emotion to be evoked more easily during the show. It has become instinctive for audience to expect a soundtrack to be played in the background for all runway shows. The music helps to build a multi-sensory experience as the models strut in their best outfits. Some people might wonder why the need for music in the background of fashion runway shows, as the audiences are only there to view the clothes anyway. However, it needs to be recognized that the designs and the mood of the collection is hinged on the music, which represents the sentiments of the designer and their theme for the collection. The music played in runway shows resembles the message conveyed through a conductor as models walk down the runway separately but with the same rhythm and mood, composing one harmonious performance.


4.3 The relationship between music and fashion shops

The relationship between music and fashion shows have been analyzed in the last section, as a continuation of that, this section will be an investigation of the relationship between music and fashion shops. The importance of the music choice in fashion shows is similar to the importance it plays in fashion shops. They hold the same ability to motivate the crowd, which in this case is the consumer to easily understand and feel for the garment, thus leading to sale success. Both the interior design and background music is important to a fashion shop, and since interior design cost more than music, shop owners can rely more on music for help.

Music fans desire to look like their idols. Hence, the style elements of popular celebrities get quickly filtered into high street labels for purchase. The fashion label Topshop takes this trend influence very seriously and has gone so far as to sell CD’s of the bands that they think their customers might be interested in. Anyone who has visited a Topshop store, will be aware of their propensity for playing Indie music. Thus elements of influence from the indie music can be seen in the stores retailing of items such as indie accessories or products with indie prints applied on its design. The fashion chain has been criticized for their indie-music favoritism. According to the news from Topman’s offical website, Topman will be joining forces with the largest independent music stores, Rough Trade, which currently resided in East and West London to sell CDs in their store. Sometime between the periods of 2010-2011, customers will be able to see the first collaboration between Rough Trade and Topman. The idea of this collaboration was sparked by the notion of helping the customers spend less time searching for their recommended new music. And also to expose their customer to new music trends before it hits the mainstream, all while they enjoy their usual shopping experience in Topshop or Topman. By doing so, major fashion brands can also raise the awareness of music. It is not only benefits music side but also the fashion industry. In 2008, Scottish pop singer Paolo Nutini endorsed Puma, the sportswear label in their campaign. He appeared in Puma’s television, mobile, and radio advertisements singing “New Shoes” from his multi-platinum debut album. This song was used as background music of the Puma store. Likewise, high-end designer labels such as Vivienne Westwood favor her own unique fusion of classic punk rock music theme as their background music, as an extension of their already distinct brand image.


In the later half of the 20th century, more major designer labels such as Gucci, Fendi and Burberry have collaborated with music artistes, such as DJs, pop stars, than ever before in history. Music’s ability to help decode fashion and symbolize brand image, has never been stronger. For instance, Pop music soundtracks are attached to major television advertising campaigns for big designer brands. British singer Lilly Allen not only made her guest performance in the Chanel fashion show, but also starred in the television advertising campaign for the label in the same season. Her personal MTVs and the Chanel advertisements were played as background music on plasma television screens in the boutiques during that promotional period. These examples prove that music has the ability to influence the potential of sales made in the store.  

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‘Uptown luxe is traditionally associated with an intimidating cocoon of posh-piped-in music which is essential to a snooty image, as the curl of the store manager’s lip.’ Luxury fashion label Burberry even employed the expertise help of a famous music-marketing designer, Rischel Granquist. According to this music marketing designer, ‘what do we want the music to do-evoke an emotional response. Transport the customer to a different place. How do you want to fill the space? Most important, what is the brand DNA? With Burberry it was ‘classic goes new Brit’: a swinging London for the naughties.’


Fashion shops have been employing the help of complimenting music to enhance the store ambiance for a long time, it is not only a marketing tactic developed recently. For instance, in the Sixties, storeowner Barbara Hulanicki already understood the importance of music in marketing. When the name Barbara Hulanicki is mentioned, it might sound foreign and unfamiliar to most people, meanwhile if we mention the name BIBA, it will definitely ring a bell for many, but this is not followed through without a sigh, as this fashion house did not last long in the market and it was shut down in 1975.  BIBA, was a famous fashion brand which born into the fashion during the swinging Sixties in London.  The then iconic fashion store deeply impressed people in the 60s and 70s. Noted for its Mod style of the 60s, their selection of Mod music played in the store contributed to helping attract the attention of customers and sales. When the first BIBA shop was launched in London, it became a popular haunt for local artists and musicians such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie.


A fashion shop that sells an assortment of casual wear might not have any specific kind of music selection. Instead, the owner of the shop will simply select the latest popular music or personal preference as the background music for the shop. However, brands with its own distinct image might have required a certain kind of music to compliment their collection and brand image. Meanwhile others have the flexibility to change the style of music seasonally according to their latest collection. Music is known to be extremely important in men and women’s fashion in terms of creating the image of the store. For centuries, it has had a powerful effect on human responses and emotions, as it is particularly know for its effectiveness in evoking moods. In the marketing industry, music has been proven to affect consumer behaviors, particularly those of shoppers, as it evokes emotional response. Retailers have realized the importance of music in their stores and simply playing music any random music is not enough to serve effectively. And as it is a tool to help the stores differentiate from competitors and maximize the potential of the store image rather than becoming a distraction for shoppers. 


4.4 Music and movie impacts on fashion

In order to prove that music can and has influence fashion in multiple different aspects; the analysis of this section will be focused on the music and movie impact on fashion. The analysis in this section will includes examples from 5 movies that have influenced fashion through its music in the 20th century. Fashion’s relationship with film is characterized by two factors: how film has influenced fashion and how fashion and the work of specific fashion designers have been used in film. The movies mentioned in this section does not only influence fashion trends but also the development of musical fashion culture.


Despite the film Quadrophenia not being a musical film, it has influenced fashion trends through music and lifestyle. The story starts off with the youth cults enacting their alternative lifestyles, and focuses on the 1960s in London. It was a booming era where wage-earning teenagers were keen on fashion, socializing, recreational drugs and music. The movie in a nutshell, was a reflection of the 1960s and Mod subculture and it also inspired different designers. It was a time when young designer such as art Quant, Barbara Hulanicki and Andre Courrèges revolutionized fashion, making it more relevant and popular for the younger generation. Quadrophenia made an impact not only to the fashion trends of the Mod style, but it also introduced the brand of music and lifestyle favored by the Mods. Through watching the movie Quadrophenia, audiences get introduced to the Mod culture along with the prominent designers of that decade, and may become inspired to adopt their style and fashion.

The second film example is the 1979 musical movie, Hair. It portrays the Hippie Movement, through the experience of a Vietnam War draftee who meets and befriended a tribe of hippies on his way to the army induction center. The Hippies expressed their universal love, free-spirited daring, the kind of music they played and their fashion style, through the depiction in the film. Hair is now known as an American tribal love-rock musical film, a proud product of the hippie subculture of the 1960s. Several songs from the film have become anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. These songs also stirred the interest and propelled the popularity of the Hippie culture and fashion during that time period. American designer, Holly Harp was amongst the many designers who were inspired by the Hippie trend. Her personal take on a “rich hippie” look, made her a instant success in Los Angeles where she made the Hippie culture appealing to the youthful population, who wanted to stand out in melodramatic ways and psychedelic colors.

Another movie considered as a musical film that has influenced fashion, is the “Wild style”, the first hip hop motion film made in 1983 and “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” in the 1980s. The films are based on the iconic punk rock band, Sex Pistols. Both of these musical films deepen the image and background of the Hip Hop and Punk culture in the audiences’ mind. The punk of the 1970s and hip-hop of the 1980s were not only regarded as a music genre but also a fashion style. The 1960s marked the beginning of the new youth culture and the beginning of the long enduring career for designer Vivienne Westwood, who was and still is inspired by the Punk culture. Whereas the 80s teenagers would easily identify with the Hip Hop culture of Rappers, graffiti art and designers such as Issac Mizrahi, who was inspired to make the street culture become high fashion.   The young people began to create their own mark and place in the society. They were trying to express their thoughts and feeling through their choice of lifestyle, music and fashion. Wanting the society to know more about their music culture, a musical film was one of the ways, which allowed them to send their message through.

Due to the popularity of these musical films, the fashion industry and designers began to target on certain kinds of music style. Through the impact of these musical films, the message that was being spread through society was that fashion like music, is a universal language. For instance, the famous Hong Kong film, “The Mood for Love”, by director art film director Wong Kar Wei, has been dubbed as a universally popular film, which inspires and introduces the Western world to Orient culture and fashion. Despite the film being narrated in a foreign language and depicts a culture unlike their own, the audiences are still able to understand and appreciate it through the universal language of music, art and fashion.

In the recent years, one of the most famous musical films produced is “Chicago”. The film that has illustrates the impact of Jazz music on the society, and it has influenced fashion trends through the details in the length of the garment and the choice of accessories. The fashion industry and designers can gain inspiration from different areas. Due to the popularity of the movie industry in the 20th century, the trend of music and fashion is heavily influenced by what is portrayed on screen through the vision of filmmakers and other professionals involved in the production. The movie industry on the other hand, also takes popular music elements of the time and particular fashion styles to be incorporated into films. The impact of musical films on fashion is equivalent to musicians influence on fashion. The films are able to provide more information to the society, about the background culture of certain music style and how has it influenced on its fashion. For example, when the audience watch the hip hop movie “Wild Style”, they will understand that the loose fitting silhouette of hip hop fashion was influenced and relevant to the free style nature of hip hop music, the movements in the dance is an expression of the pursuit of freedom. 

Conclusion of Chapter 4

In conclusion, through the analysis of this chapter, it has been proven that music has substantially influenced fashion in many different aspects and is constantly changing our contemporary culture and life. Influential characters such as celebrities, film directors and musicians have the ability to affect how much can influence fashion. For example, during her peak in the 1980s, the multi talented artiste, Madonna, helped to propel and empower the new image of the provocative female image through her daring dress sense and lifestyle. Not only did she inspire the audiences of that generation, her influence through her persona image and music still continues to path the way for new fashion trends and inspire other rising stars, such as Lady Gaga. Therefore proving that musicians have a big influence on fashion. 

The relationship between music and fashion shows is also equally importantly. The music played in fashion shows will not only influenced the models who are strutting on runway but also compliment the collection, helping to a create a unique mood that reflects the designers vision and inspirations. Fashion labels and designers have in recent times, also prefer to use musicians and movie celebrities to front the advertising campaigns. As these well known artistes have a more impressionistic and personal appeal than the regular models, there making a greater impact on the consume. When these musicians are being interviewed, they are more likely will be asked about their style and image rather than their music. When new musicians are introduced, besides appreciating their musical talents, the audiences and the public also base the impression on the personal style and appearance of the artiste. Individuals with a unique style or outstanding appearance, have the ability to influence a new fashion trends, as their music grows popular. Finally the impact of music and movie on fashion can be seen through different musical movies from the past till present. Some of the musical movies have influenced fashion trends and likewise movie productions have been targeted by the fashion industry and designers to serve as a marketing tool. Musical movies are evidence that music can influence fashion through many different mediums and aspects.

Musics’ ability to influence fashion is mostly obviously showcased through that effects it makes on social trends, fashion trends and the change of a person’s style identity. For example, a music fan will be keen to dress like his or her music idol and music can help build the popularity of a new subculture such as the teenage culture, the Punk Culture, where teenagers can relate to the angst in the music and thus dress in a rebellious manner to express their emotions. The relationship between music and fashion have evolved considerably over the last decade as musicians have also started to launched their own fashion lines, and fashion designers have also become actively involved in the music scene. The boarders between music and fashion have never ever been such a vague boundary. 


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