Getting up-to-the-moment fashion information is as easy as turning on the television. In fact, in millions of households, that’s precisely how it’s done. And consumers are not the only ones tuning in to this trend. Fashion designers from couturier Karl Lagerfeld to those who make the most casual clothes study popular culture. Music videos are one of the most direct routes for finding out what’s going on outside their studios.
“There is no question that music and music videos have an influence on Milan and Paris,” says Alan G. Millstein, an industry analyst and editor of the Fashion Network Report, a monthly newsletter. “For the 14- to 25-year-old consumer, the music video is the single most important influence. There is no hard research, no Roper or Nielsen study. I base this statement on what I see happening in fashion.
“Madonna’s influence on lingerie as outerwear is colossal,” Millstein says. “The look may have been done by (Jean-Paul) Gaultier or (Jean-Charles de) Castelbajac on the runway years ago, but Madonna drove it home. The sale of bras, camisoles and bustiers have been up for the last two years in a row while the rest of ready-to-wear has been stagnant.”
Many industry insiders agree that music videos, shown on MTV and other cable and network programs, are becoming as influential as magazines in conveying trends. As the public reads less and relies more on the electronic media, it’s easier, and may be cheaper, to turn on the TV than to buy a magazine.
As of this month, MTV has 59.2 million subscribers in the United States and is beamed to 77 countries.
“The world shrunk to the size of a pea when MTV happened,” says Rosemary Brantley, chairman of the fashion design department of the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. “MTV accelerated the speed that fashion moved around the world. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she says. “Something will happen on MTV--say they show a new London group. The kids will see it in L.A. the next day and they’ll be wearing the clothes the day after that.”
“Videos have become our own little Paris runways,” says Madonna’s costume designer, Marlene Stewart, who has been a leading designer in the medium for seven years. “Videos have a double impact because not only do they show the clothes, (but also) a star is wearing the clothes. It leaves a strong impression.”
Downtown Julie Brown, host of “Club MTV,” a modern version of “American Bandstand” that airs Monday through Saturday, says it’s easy to understand the appeal of videos. “You don’t have to see a beautiful, six-foot, Size 2 man or woman wearing the clothes. In videos, (musicians) come in different sizes, shapes and colors. When kids see that, they say, ‘I can wear that too.’ ”
When musicians get clothes directly from designers, the exact look in the video is sometimes available in stores. But do consumers actually ask for things they’ve seen on MTV?
“Absolutely,” says Carolyn Mahboubi, owner of the Gianni Versace boutique in Beverly Hills. Versace, who lists many rockers as friends, supplies clothes to Sting, David Bowie, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Quincy Jones. Friendship aside, loaning out clothes is good business.
Some stores in the Bullock’s and Broadway chains have TV monitors playing carefully selected music videos in young men’s and junior’s departments; Nordstrom plays videos in all its Brass Plum departments. “While we may not have the same outfit Janet Jackson is wearing in her video, we probably have something similar,” says Marie Joyce, sales promotion coordinator for Nordstrom. “We also produce our own music video spots of current merchandise to play between videos.”
“I make a point to tell junior buyers to keep up with MTV, ‘Club MTV’ and Julie Brown,” says Robert Rosenthal, Macy’s South/Bullock’s fashion director.
East Coast stores are also taking note. “Our junior’s and young men’s buyers pay attention to music videos,” says Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s fashion director. “The oversized clothes kids are wearing now are a good example of clothes you see in videos. I watch MTV all the time to get an idea of how hip kids like to dress.”
Although videos influence fashion, the opposite is also true. The biggest stars seek out major designers to help them create an image.
Madonna has worn Jean-Paul Gaultier interspersed with Marlene Stewart designs. Deee-Lite’s Lady Miss Kier wears both Thierry Mugler and custom pieces. Janet Jackson, whose last video was directed by fashion photographer Herb Ritts, is reportedly planning to shop the big Italian and French fashion shows next month. (Tam Tam, a 17-year-old rap artist, was talked out of wearing a Chanel suit in her latest video. Her managers felt she was too young. Wait until you’re 25, they said.)
Following the splashy release of Prince’s “Gett Off” video, two of his yet-unreleased videos will reportedly reach new fashion heights. While Prince’s clothes are made by his tiny Paisley Park wardrobe department, and are true to his body-conscious look, his dancers in the “Diamonds and Pearls” number, filmed at Los Angeles City Hall, are decked out in futuristic designs by Mugler and Dolce & Gabbana.
In “Cream,” a video scheduled for release Monday that was shot at Union Station, the two lead female dancers wear colorful Dolce & Gabbana cabochon-encrusted corsets, samples from the fall collection. Fifteen chorus girls wear pearl-covered 1920s bathing suits by L.A. designers Maggie Barry and Stephen Walker of Van Buren.
Van Buren, which has provided designs for Cher and for Karyn White to wear in her latest video, has a retail line of men’s leather pants and funky separates, and women’s leather and Lycra chaps, pearl-encrusted dresses and patent leather separates. Stores such as Antenna in Hollywood and Fred Hayman in Beverly Hills carry the clothes.
L.A.'s Chrome Hearts designers make hardware-ornamented leather clothes for Billy Idol, Lenny Kravitz and Aerosmith. The company’s line of vests and jackets is available at Maxfield in West Hollywood. Richard Tyler and Henry Duarte are two other local designers who contribute regularly to videos while designing their own retail lines.
Although the annual MTV awards don’t acknowledge costume design, as do the Oscars and Emmys, the music channel does capitalize on the public’s thirst for fashion information.
“House of Style,” hosted by model Cindy Crawford, is one of the highest-rated shows on MTV. (It is produced quarterly and is rebroadcast periodically.) The show includes coverage of fashion labels ranging from Benetton to Versace. Upcoming pieces feature photographer Helmut Newton, plaid motorcycle jackets and a Calvin Klein fashion shoot.
“Club MTV,” which splices together music videos, live music and dance performances and choreographed fashion segments, will feature clothing by designers Nicole Miller, Dolce & Gabbana and Liza Bruce in upcoming segments.
While “Yo! MTV Raps” is not a fashion show, it offers a concentrated look at top rap artists, many of whom are highly innovative in their dress. “There is no one rap look now,” says show producer Ted Demme. “There are a lot of Gap-looking clothes worn with cool sneakers. There’s the Afro-centric look. Raiders hats are still hard-core B-boy wear. But the women are starting to wear incredibly sexy, classy clothes. They’ve gotten away from looking like the boys.”
Queen Latifah, for example, loved the look of New York designer Todd Oldham’s spring line. She ordered several customized latticework suits and the results can be seen in her new “Fly Girl” video. “They’re clean-lined jackets with baggy pants. There are no rap references,” Oldham says.
For the past two years, rap artist Play, of Kid ‘N Play, has designed clothes for his own videos, for his store in Queens, N.Y., for the “House Party” movies and for other rappers, including Heavy D. and the Boyz and Salt-N-Peppa. His newest line of colorful jackets and sports-inspired clothes will be in Ebbi’s on Melrose Avenue at the end of October.
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