“Message to Michael”

It was reported in the Technology column of the Business Section of The New York Times on Friday, July 03, that there were “9.98 million queries for the terms “Michael” and “Jackson” across the top 25 search engines and news and social media sites in the week that ended June 27th” (Barack who?). In addition to the constant 24/7 coverage on the heels of Michael Jackson’s untimely passing, there have been countless debates as to whether the media has gone too far.

All too often, the fascination with celebrities (in life and in death) is undeserved and uncalled for. But in this case, I think the interest is completely understandable since the unique, one of a kind, philanthropic, gender bending record breaker, who constantly pushed the envelope, broke down barriers, and united us with his music, was unlike any other entertainer. I have found myself thinking about Michael a lot (it’s been impossible not to, after all)…and though I thought I was familiar with his accomplishments, upon hearing and reading about his enormous contributions, it began to really sink in just how talented, unique, and influential he was. Actually, ‘Thriller’, in addition to tracks of his other iconic recordings, has provided the perfect, energetic sound to accomany me on my morning runs.

The master showman was a true contradiction in terms: he was seemingly black and white, masculine and feminine (the original ‘metro sexual’?), strong and delicate, outgoing and shy, young and old (upon his passing, Paul McCartney referred to him as a “Man-Child”). And while he wanted to be a good will ambassador for the world through his philanthropy and good deeds, and yearned to reach billions through his music, he was eccentric, enigmatic, and remained private.

And let’s not forget about his extraordinary talent. He was not only a prolific songwriter, but an amazing performer, whose dance moves defied physics and gravity. He has been called “the greatest musician in generations”.

He was a bona fide fashion icon who was constantly being named as inspiration by designers; his look was always copied and was used as a point of reference. To wit, every time the 80’s come back (which is almost every season it seems), and a strong shouldered leather bomber comes down the runway, it is immediately dubbed “the Michael Jackson Thriller” jacket. Michael’s sense of fashion like everything else, was trailblazing, directional, and highly influential.

Long before Carine Roitfeld, and countless other fashionistas, pushed up the sleeves of their tailored blazers; long before Thom Browne shrunk and cropped his men’s’ pants; long before Kate Moss put skinny jeans on the fashion map; long before the market exploded with glittery hosiery; long before fall 2003, when so many designers showed statement making gloves, they became the must have accessory of the season; and long before Andre Leon Talley marched into fashion shows clad in highly ornamental and embellished military Sgt. Pepper inspired outerwear (looking as though he were the self professed Commander-in-Chief of the Global Fashion Armed Forces); there was Michael Jackson, putting his own indelible stamp on these trends, and many more.

And speaking of the military connection, military themes have always been popular with designers through the years, but perhaps even more so these days. While Michael notoriously changed his personal appearance through cosmetic surgery, he was highly consistent in his fashion persona. More often than not (especially in the later years), the basis for his look was predicated on the correct formality inherent in a military uniform and in fact, many of his most memorable, signature looks revolved around an extravagant, elaborate, lavishly decorated, embellished jacket (complete with armband no less), which took its cues from highly decorated military uniforms. If these rather over the top, customized pieces also resembled something one would expect to see on a member of the royal family, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since MJ was the self anointed ‘King of Pop’. He paid excruciating attention to every detail, no matter how small and he understood that his appearance, and of course, his clothing, played a large part in the image he was projecting. (Coincidentally, in celebration of the life and work of Michael Jackson, The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, http://www.grammymuseum.org/, is sharing a collection of Jackson’s most “iconic wardrobe pieces” including some of the aforementioned jackets, the famous jeweled glove, and the white Hugo Boss suit he wore on the cover of Thriller).

By the way, as I was watching images of the late MJ on TV recently, one jacket in particular immediately brought to mind Christophe Decarnin for Balmain’s ubiquitous creation for fall 2008 – you know the one, it was literally photographed in every magazine, was seen on many celebrities (fashion and entertainment), and was touted as being one of the must have pieces of the season. In her online review of Balmain for www.style.com, Sarah Mower described the “rock-chic fabulousness” of the collection, and gave special mention to the “Drummer-boy Michael Jackson jackets with the frogging picked out in crystal”.

Similarly, I couldn’t help but think how very ‘Michael’, 3.1Phillip Lim’s gold embroidered ivory vest, worn with white blouse and black cropped pants, (his first look out for spring 2008) was.

If you’re like me, and have a penchant for classic yet special pieces (which are decorated or embellished and as such can be considered as ‘Jacksonesque’, yet remain un costumey), you’re in luck because more than a few options abound. Some of my favorites are by Aimee Cho for Gryphon New York. The former Fashion Writer for Vogue Magazine, who has amassed quite a cult following and counts former boss Anna Wintour as one of her fans and clients, is known for her vintage inspired takes on military staples like trench coats, pea jackets, army parkas. Included is a double breasted navy wool pea jacket with gold dome buttons and gold bullion embroidered armbands, a short tan trench decorated with gold nail heads, and a black wool and cashmere boyfriend blazer with gold bullion embroidery. As for the latter, remember to push up the sleeves and you’re ready to go! Contact http://www.gryphon-ny.com/ for more information.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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