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Perhaps more than any other medium, music makes a statement. When a song hits just right, we are instantly connected to someone we’ve never met, someone we may not have even known existed five minutes earlier, but through the music we have found some modicum of mutual understanding, of shared perspective. The same can be said for fashion. Since The Beatles iconic debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, the visual element of musical performance has never been the same. An artist’s style conveys attitude, personality, a statement—it is a visual extension of their message. Whether at the forefront of the performance (i.e. Madonna), or an afterthought at best (in the case of Nirvana), that raw sonic energy is inevitably interpreted as a fashion statement.
Nowadays, with artist visibility at previously unimaginable levels, style goes far beyond the clothes you wear. Whether it’s a high-budget video production, or a quick post on their social media channel, an artist’s wardrobe is intrinsically linked with their music and personality.
“When you step into a costume you are essentially stepping into character,” says costume designer Alabama Blonde. “Costume design is integral to the performer, and therefore their performance.”
A native of Sydney, Australia, but a daughter of the New York punk-rock scene, Alabama Blonde’s unique style is one born from unabashed self-expression. Informed by her idols Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Souxsie and the Banshees, and the Sex Pistols, Blonde inherited their penchant for leather and combined it with her need for on-stage functionality while performing, leading her to create her signature lace-up leather pants. The lace-up design’s freedom of movement and adaptability to virtually all body types spurred Blonde to develop an entire collection of lace-up garments.
Blonde’s passion is intrinsically woven into her designs, and is the reason why she believes the lace-up collection has been so well-received.
“I ultimately wanted to find something I could throw myself around in that was like a second skin,” recalls Blonde. “I loved that aesthetic so much that others really responded to it also, it became a ‘lace-up leather everything’ moment.”
The head-turning design garnered international buzz when English musician and fashionista FKA Twigs modeled Blonde’s garments for the 25th anniversary cover of London-based style magazine “Dazed.” This proved to be a landmark moment for Blonde’s career, elevating her artistry from passion to profession. She says, “The moment I saw FKA Twigs wearing my garments, I realized this wasn’t my side job anymore.”
Subsequent cover shoots with British taste-maker Schön! Magazine propelled Blonde’s captivating creations to new levels of success, and she was soon commissioned for a feature shoot in Playboy. Ever-ready to rise to a challenge, Blonde unleashed her most nuanced work yet for this milestone opportunity, adorning Playboy Plus Model and social media guru Lana Rhoades in provocative pants constructed entirely of red leather fringe.
Blonde’s unapologetic sartorial statements quickly resonated with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. Jeffree Star Cosmetics, owned by internet personality and the world’s wealthiest YouTuber Jeffree Star, exclusively featured Blonde’s trademark leather work in its 2021 “Velvet Trap” campaign. In collaboration with the visionary creative director Benji Carlisle, known for his work with hip hop stars Nicki Minaj, French Montana, and Amber Rose, Blonde delivered some of her most captivating work yet. Quick to lavish praise on Blonde’s creative contribution, Carlisle says, “Working with Alabama Blonde is literally working with the best. She is an innovator in this industry, and above all, a tireless professional.”
The raw individualism that radiates from Blonde’s apparel has made her the go-to costume designer for the videos of music’s brightest young stars. In the role of costume designer, her bold designs communicate the essence of the artist, bringing their message and image into aesthetic alignment.
Blonde’s down-to-earth punk sensibilities proved to be the guiding creative force for rapper Tokyo’s Revenge (Interscope) emphatic street style, as his debut music video “GOODMORNINGTOKYO” skyrocketed to over 33 million views on YouTube alone.
“An artist’s debut music video sets the tone for who they are aesthetically, as a musician and as a brand,” states Blonde. “I had the responsibility and the privilege to develop what Tokyo’s Revenge trademark style would be.”
The young rapper’s rambunctious persona alone provided Blonde with the inspiration needed. To highlight Tokyo’s hybrid hip hop/punk nature, Blonde opted to work from a streetwear aesthetic, while incorporating classic punk elements. Through fabrication and design details such as chunky zippers, safety pins, patches, and bondage straps worked into oversized patent leather trench coats, Blonde succeeded in bringing Tokyo’s edge to the forefront.
James Pereira, the director behind the music video for “GOODMORNINGTOKYO,” says, “People in the industry are becoming more and more aware of Blonde’s work because it simply brings a level of production value to a set that most cannot.”
Pereira was also at the directorial helm of Tokyo’s Revenge’s ensuing music videos “THOT!” and “Gotham”; both reaching sensational levels of viral success on YouTube, TikTok, and Spotify, with Blonde reprising her role as costume designer.
“Fashion is often taken so seriously, yet Tokyo is an adventurous and kind individual,” Blonde says. “I didn’t want that side of him to be lost under layers of contrived garments.”
The music video for “Gotham” gave Blonde her first opportunity to design costumes that would later be rendered digitally through VFX on green screen. Working with this medium demanded a new set of challenges for Blonde, requiring interesting aesthetics that were ultimately simple in their textural design, so as to not interfere with the subsequent digital animation process.
Blonde has demonstrated time and time again that her fluidity and originality on the set enhances the creative environment for the entire production. “Alabama can connect in a way that allows her to tap into a different level of synergy between the project, the talent, and the styling,” says Pereira. “Because Alabama is so hands on with her garments and her pieces, it makes everything that much more special.”
Blonde’s willingness to push conventional boundaries brought her to the attention of Phil Gomez, editor-in-chief of LADYGUNN magazine, a quarterly fashion and arts publication based in Los Angeles, New York and Stockholm. Gomez knew that Blonde’s inimitable designs would be the perfect fit for LADYGUNN’s cover shoot with singer/songwriter and actress Noah Cyrus, the younger sister of pop superstar Miley Cyrus.
“Unique, authentic and unfiltered fashion is what makes Alabama so good at what she does,” states Gomez.
The LADYGUNN shoot proved to be an inspiring endeavor for both parties, as Gomez has continued to call upon Blonde’s design expertise for both custom event styling and costume design for Cyrus’s music videos. Cyrus’s hit single “Dear August,” so far registering over two million views on YouTube, stretched Blonde’s creativity in new directions, further expanding the versatility of her craft. The 1940s-inspired storyline forced Blonde to meld her innate creativity with historical accuracy, ultimately leading her to discover a new dimension within her boundless creativity.
“The main challenge was that the inspiration for this music video was so out of my comfort zone in terms of aesthetic and fabrication,” Blonde recollects. “However, I trust Phil [Gomez] completely and the fact that he brought me on board for this music video made me realize that ultimately as a designer I want my capabilities to be limitless.”
Blonde’s continual exploration of her artistry has now landed her on the set of the feature film “Snow Valley,” an upcoming indie horror thriller, bolstering her already impressive costume design credentials. Blonde has particularly relished the opportunity to dive into a script and bring the film’s dark tones to life through the characters’ wardrobe choices.
“There’s so much delicious detail within a script to tell the characters’ story visually,” explains Blonde. “I love having the time to embed those subtle details in the garments.”
Once again, Blonde made her mark as an invaluable addition to the film’s production crew. “Snow Valley” director Brandon Murphy says, “Alabama added her own personal flair and aesthetic to almost every detail, but always stayed true to who the character was. She was able to quickly grasp what I'd envisioned for a character, and then made it totally fresh and unique.”
With “Snow Valley” in its initial editing stages, and costume design credits on another feature film, “The Immaculate Room,” due to be released later this year, Blonde’s dynamic designs will be in front of audiences everywhere. A true original, capable of traversing all mediums of artistic expression, Blonde’s stand-out style is not to be missed.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
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