Fashion reaches peak pop: Dua Lipa, Versace and the pop star muse

6 mins
05 May 2023
Fashion reaches peak pop: Dua Lipa, Versace and the pop star muse

Plus the BFC’s New Gen recipients, Vaquera’s AI Met Gala and BLACKPINK collabs with Calvin Klein and adidas

image Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

words Sophie Lou Wilson

Love it or loathe it, fashion and celebrity have never been more intertwined. No event embodies this quite like the Met Gala, where celebs like Rihanna and Doja Cat get to flex their fashion cred. But, of course, it doesn’t begin and end there. This week came with the announcement that Dua Lipa has co-designed Versace’s next collection, while BLACKPINK’s Jennie has collaborated with Calvin Klein and adidas. Being a designer’s muse is no longer enough. Now celebs are the designers themselves. However, there’s still plenty of news this week for the fashion purists to sink their teeth into with the BFC announcing their New Gen recipients and Vaquera’s AI-generated Met Gala proving more innovative than the one that took place IRL. So, here’s all the feel good fashion news from this week you might have missed.

Pop off queen! The pop star designer-muse is here to stay

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Music and fashion’s symbiotic relationship goes back decades. Since the birth of pop music, designers have been tapping the mass appeal of the medium’s biggest superstars to promote and enrich their brands. Back in the 1960s, French pop singer Françoise Hardy helped make Paco Rabanne a household name. Jump forward to the ‘90s and Madonna’s iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier cone bras proved just how enduring the perfect pop-fashion collab can be.

Since then, however, the pop star fashion icon has undergone a shift. Celebrities are increasingly making the transition from muse to creator. With the launch of her Ivy Park Line in 2016, Beyoncé leveraged her style status to promote her own fashion brand and last year co-designed a collection for Balmain. Rihanna followed in 2018, founding her lingerie line Savage x Fenty. The following year, LVMH announced it was backing Rihanna to launch a Fenty fashion line. When the project was paused in 2021, some suggested it could mark the end of celebrity fashion.

But two years later, the celebrity designer is still going strong. Pharrell’s appointment as creative director of Louis Vuitton Men’s divided opinion earlier this year, proving that multi-hyphenate celebs with international reach are a more sensible choice than niche fashion names from a business perspective. Dua Lipa is the latest pop star to try her hand at designing a collection. This week, it was announced that she co-designed Versace’s next collection, showing in Cannes on 23 May.

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Fashion has reached peak celebrity. With an archival Chanel Met Gala look, custom Mugler tour wardrobe and Versace runway moment under her belt, Dua Lipa is fashion’s current favourite pop girlie. It was only a matter of time before she would help design a collection herself. Dua’s friendship with Donatella goes back years and many of her most iconic looks are by Versace, including her harness gown at the 2022 Grammys and the maximalist peplum dress she wore to the Met Gala in 2019. Dua’s signature style is all gold chains, sparkles, safety pins and straps, so we can bet some of these motifs will crop up in the collection later this month.

It might seem like anyone with a big enough reach can be a fashion designer these days, but in reality, the line between muse and creator isn’t so rigidly defined. Dua Lipa, Beyoncé and Rihanna don’t sit down to sew the clothes themselves. Rather they enrich the collection with their creative vision, one that comes from years of being part of so many culture-defining fashion moments. In this context, the move from muse to designer isn’t always such a huge jump. Indeed, many pop stars already have experience working closely with designers on their custom tour wardrobes.

Before the era of the celebrity muse, designers turned to aristocratic it-girls for inspiration. When fashion first redirected its gaze away from the upper classes and towards pop culture, it was seen as a democratising move. Dua Lipa’s luxe Versace party girl aesthetic might not be an accessible everyday look - or price point - but the collaboration reflects fashion’s return to excess, adding yet another chapter to designers’ enduring love affair with pop.

Introducing the British Fashion Council NEWGEN recipients

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HARRI, Sinéad O’Dwyer and Robyn Lynch are among the 2023 BFC NEWGEN recipients. Making it as a young designer with your own brand is tough, but we need new points of view to change fashion for the better. Thankfully, there are prizes set up to help emerging brands grow their business. With the LVMH and Woolmark Prize finalists announced earlier this year, it has this week been announced that the BFC NEWGEN designers will receive funding, showcasing opportunities and mentoring. This year’s recipients are AARON ESH, ANCUTA SARCA, Chet Lo, Conner Ives, DERRICK, DI PETSA, EFTYCHIA, FEBEN, HARRI, HELEN KIRKUM, Kazna Asker, LABRUM London, Leo Carlton, MASHA POPOVA, Paolo Carzana, ROBYN LYNCH, S.S. DALEY, SAUL NASH, Sinéad O'Dwyer, The Winter House, TOLU COKER and yuhan wang.

BLACKPINK’s Calvin Klein and adidas collabs are on their way

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In other celebrity designer news, BLACKPINK’s Jennie has designed a limited edition capsule collection for Calvin Klein. Inspired by her own wardrobe, it comprises casual underwear sets, denim, T-shirts, bodysuits and knitwear in a soft pastel colour palette. Elsewhere, the whole of BLACKPINK have teased a collaboration. While nothing is confirmed as of yet, a recent image of the group in head-to-toe adidas has surfaced online leading to speculation over a new collaboration or campaign. Watch this space.

Vaquera’s AI-generated Met Gala produced this year’s best dressed

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If you found this year’s Met Gala a little dull – so much monochrome! – then Vaquera has a solution to satiate your fashion dreams. A voluminous plastic gown, space age silver inflatable dress, a gown made from bin bags and another dress covered in mud looked ethereal and otherworldly on the red carpet – only they didn’t really exist and neither did the celebs wearing them. New York-based label Vaquera used AI program Midjourney to create the show stopping looks that got Anna Wintour and Vogue’s stamp of approval. It’s the same program responsible for the viral fake images of the Pope dripped out in a long white puffer coat. Perhaps next year, Met Gala attendees will step up their fashion game, lest they be replaced by AI!

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