“I think musicians are particularly attracted to what’s happening in London right now, as those designers are the most forward thinking and more youth focused,” says GQ Style’s Fashion Editor, Victoria Higgs.
There are plenty of examples to support her claim, like the time Zayn Malik wore Lee Roach to the premier of One Direction’s film ‘This Is Us’, or the recent pap shots of Mariah Carey wearing Sibling to dinner, or when Rihanna wore Marques’Almeida in her 2012 ‘Diamonds’ video, or Drake wearing Liam Hodges on tour, or A$AP Rocky’s continued support of Shaun Samson, or Astrid Andersen dressing RiRi, Drizzy and Rakim Mayers.
For every street style image of Susie Lau or Francesca Burns that turns up on Tumblr, there are plenty more of the above, each with double the number of notes. Via Twitter followers alone, neither Burns’ 26,800 or even Lau’s 225,000 can compete with Rihanna’s 34.9million or Carey’s 15million in terms of reach.
So when said pop star wears your clothes while you’re still under the Fashion East umbrella or on your first NEWGEN outing – or in the case of Ed Marler, dressing Debbie Harry in your BA collection – it’s got to mean something quite prolific, surely?
“It was a really great point to reach,” says Liam Hodges, the designer who presented at the Fashion East Menswear Installations for the second time in January. “I guess it helps show friends and family that I'm doing something right, even if they don’t always get the rest of it, or think I'm just playing at starting a business when I go to my studio everyday. It makes it all a bit more official and real.”
Cozette McCreery of Sibling – the knitwear label whose pieces have been styled onto the likes of Pharrell Williams and Kylie Minogue – suggests: “We can't ignore that stars like Pharrell, Kylie and Mariah have a very strong personal identity and will be very vocal about garments they'll agree to be photographed in. It's THAT which makes our day, that out of (possibly) rails and rails of big named brands that they chose SIBLING.”
Moreover it means the celebrity is more likely to become a customer, as McCreery notes, “We know that a certain stick-your-tongue-out star has bought, as has Blondie because stockists report back. They are as excited as we are. In the end we are all fans aren't we?”
At the time Clash put New Zealand born artist Lorde on the cover last year, she was yet to wear Balenciaga to collect her two Grammy awards, yet to receive a ‘holiday gift’ from Chanel, and still to Instagram a photo of her Celine slides, but she was about to have a number one single in the UK with ‘Royals’, from the debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ which had already achieved no.3 in the US Billboard charts and higher accolades in her home nation.
Styling the then 16 year old, Higgs mixed Miu Miu and Dior with Hong Kong born designer Ryan Lo’s AW13 collection, his second with Lulu Kennedy’s initiative. Says the stylist, “I think it’s really inspiring to come across someone at the top of their game at such a young age; Lorde is the poster girl for her generation. I love the youthful spirit of Ryan's clothes, his designs have an innocence but also a confident rebelliousness which I felt was an interesting fit for her.”
“My friend Adam is a massive fan of hers,” gushes Lo. “As soon as we got the email from the stylist, Adam said you have to go to YouTube and listen to her, she's MAJOR and a big force!”
He continues: “We have been really selective lending out our collection. She is different from all the other teenage mainstream singers or young actress/celebrity; that's why we have to support her because she is one of a kind and original. Lorde is different than our usual cute sexy sweet Ryan LO girls/models. But that's why you can see a different side of our collection.”
With her own following today above the million mark on both Twitter and Instagram and heading towards 4 million likes on Facebook, Lorde’s celebrity – and the buzz that surrounds her – is not to be ignored. Her style specifically, thanks to her age, gender and the critique that unfortunately so often accompanies these stats, means hers more than others holds value within the industry; right, Chanel?
On Jools Holland last year – itself a benchmark within UK culture – Lorde dressed in a skirt by Lo’s Fashion East comrade, Claire Barrow. At a gig she wore Lo again, and at another she was adorned by a choker by O Thongthai, a designer who only made her London Fashion Week debut February just gone, via a short film.
“I was super excited when I saw the picture,” the Thai designer says. “I always get happy when I see people wear my pieces, especially those that I do not know, that means they like my work and designs. With Lorde, I appreciated that she chose to wear my signature choker; someone with her popularity, I can imagine she can choose any big brands over mine.”
For Marques’Almeida pair Paulo and Marta, the cameo of their AW12 collection in Rihanna’s music video came as a shock: “We had no idea, she bought it from Opening Ceremony so it was a complete surprise!”
But despite the appearance, combined with Cassie and Rita Ora donning their trademark shredded denim, feedback changed little. As they tell Clash, “Obviously the exposure is a lot bigger, but for us the feeling is the same! It doesn’t really differ from seeing someone in the industry or one of our friends (in our clothes).”
Whether you have Harry Styles sitting front row at your show wearing your T-shirt, or are asked to remake your collection to accommodate a sweaty performance, the practicality of such exposure is having something to show for it.
“It's definitely been helpful to have the images to present to buyers and show the development of the brand,” admits Hodges. “It’s created a bigger conversation.”
This is perhaps where large-scale exposure becomes most crucial, after all it’s the buyers who will spend the money and keep a label in business. Though it must be quite nice to see your top on the telly too, if only to show aunt Doreen.
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photo: Billy Ballard
Styling: Victoria Higgs