10 Rock and Pop Costume Designers Who Rule
Yeah, "the music is supposed to always come first," but don’t let anyone kid you: In popular music, a musician’s look is a very close second.
Would KISS have half as many fans if the band all dressed like Elvis Costello? Probably not. Do we want Lady Gaga looking like some mousy singer-songwriter while belting out her postmodern pop hits? Lame. And while many artists maintain an active role in creating onstage looks, they also heavily rely on designers who know how to make a star look like a star. Here are 10 of the best in the business.
Freddie Mercury in 1974, in one of his many Zandra Rhodes-designed looks
Courtesy of Zandra Rhodes
Dressing flamboyant Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was surely a dream gig for any costume maker. English fashion designer Zandra Rhodes had the pleasure of creating looks for Mercury during the operatic singer’s ’70s prime. She once told Vogue one of her “15 favorite fashion memories” was “'Freddie Mercury waving his arms to try out the sleeves on a pleated ladies top that I had on the rail, late at night in my attic studio.” Rhodes also designed garb for Queen guitarist Brian May, foxy T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan and punk princess Debbie Harry. Nonrocker Rhodes clients have included ultra A-listers like Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Onassis.
For Muse's 2010 U.S. tour, Ray Brown turned Muse frontman Matt Bellamy into a human disco ball.
Photo by Timothy Norris
In 2012, when Lady Gaga sat in with the Stones to sing “Gimme Shelter” live, she was wearing a black and gold Ray Brown jumpsuit. An Australian custom tailor, Brown is best known for creating awesome studded and leather designs for heavy-metal and hard-rock acts like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio, Lita Ford and Guns N' Roses. Gaga’s Stones look is very reminiscent of the distinctive striped jumpsuit Brown made for Nikki Sixx during Motley Crue’s Theatre of Pain era. More recently, Brown has created clothing for Muse, The Darkness and The Struts.
You know those sexy, sequined jumpsuits Mick Jagger sashayed around in on early '70s Stones tours? Ossie Clark designed them. Clark created the jumpsuits in several colors, including gold, blue and white variations. "With the Ossie Clark jumpsuit, it was like I had almost nothing on," Jagger said during an interview with fashion mag Another Man.
London “image maker” Antony Price styled Duran Duran in the early '80s – those are his dashing silk suits in the “Rio” music video. Price also worked with David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, and dressed model Gayla Mitchell for the back cover of the 1972 Lou Reed album Transformer. But Price is most closely associated with dapper singer Bryan Ferry, whom he styled for the first eight Roxy Music LPs.
Katy Perry's Prismatic tour, featuring costumes by Marina Toybina
Photo by Timothy Norris
Marina Toybina designed more than 275 costumes for pop singer Katy Perry’s 2014 Prismatic tour. According to a Hollywood Reporter interview, these included “80-plus original outfits for the dancers, 170-plus duplicates and 21 one-of-a-kind looks for the band.” Egyptian and animal themes played a prominent role. Toybina also designed for Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl halftime extravaganza — hello, Left Shark! — and Taylor Swift's Red tour. More recently, the Emmy Award–winning designer created shimmery costumes for Ariana Grande’s Honeymoon tour.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.