Lately, I’ve been thinking about what makes a style icon. I suppose it’s been in reaction to the ubiquitous Alexa Chung and her new title as British Fashion Council’s Young Style Ambassador and of types such as Olivia Palermo, model, rich girl socialite and ex-reality TV show member of ‘The City’ or even Katy Perry who terming both ‘style’ and ‘icon’ is laughable in the extreme despite her recent front row Chanel appearance.
It used to be that women named style icons were lauded for their talent be it acting, voice, writing ability or other and their natural (self) style which became a moniker and a signpost of their image. Pre-stylists foisting image and designers throwing free clothes upon them, stars such as Grace Kelly, Gina Lollobrigida, Marlene Deitrich, Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn chose their image and carefully kept to its confines, using it to reinforce their stardom and their kudos. Style was an adjunct to their abilities and how they conducted themselves, not the sole reason for their existence or their many column inches.
Today, it seems that many self modelled style icons seek validation and reify themselves by being no more than clothing puppets, raising their stakes in global fashion media, neither aligning themselves to one design house or other, chopping and changing their loyalties to whomever will dress them willingly and often freely. No sooner has someone glimpsed fame than the hungry media from gossip mags to glossies and the marketing needs of designer brands to high street, leap on the chance of a new find with whom to bind themselves. We can see this in the case of the gorgeous Lana Del Rey who had barely released her first album and already featured in multitudes of fashion editorials and even had a Mulberry bag named after her. It may not be Hermes, but still…
Style by association is now revered instead of reviled. Many who have little style (Diana Vickers anyone?) and who may be little more than vacuous clothes horses are paid to feature front row at catwalk shows further denigrating the notion of self style, elegance and class and also of loyalty to a design House. Which is why the strongest brands today are niche brands such as Balenciaga, Celine and Haider Ackerman who, strong in their own personality, choose carefully and who don’t need the same front row footloose brand harlots to parade their wares, unyielding to those celebrities who see themselves as commodities and sell themselves to the highest or most frequent bidders.
Similarly, labels such as Dior still have weight when it comes to who wears their wares. Over the years, Dior have groomed only the best and have a long history of the most beautiful and sought after women in the world wearing the label. Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Kim Novak, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor have all starred in the greatest films shot by the finest directors and were dressed to match their role, by Dior Haute Couture.
To celebrate this fact Dior’s latest release (published by Rizzoli, New York), ‘Stars in Dior’ features such screen goddesses at the height of their fame as well as modern stars such as Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, Penelope Cruz and Monica Bellucci. Times may have changed but Dior honours its past by choosing wisely.
Christian Dior started out as a costume designer even before his couture house was founded in 1946 so it’s no surprise that Dior’s filmography is impressive featuring in more than 90 films.
Check out some true style icons in ‘Stars in Dior’, released in Europe in May 2012 and in the USA in September 2012. Imagery featured taken from this book and supplied by Dior.
Let me know what you think about today’s termed ‘style icons’ compared to the film starlets of the past.