Styles and trends come and go, but style icons are forever. They influence and inspire designers, artists, photographers and anyone with their clothes, and their iconic looks. Timeless, effortless and bold, here are ten of the most influential style icons, from the 1920s all the way to 2016.
This American-born French singer, dancer and actress was one of the most influential stars of her time. The Roaring Twenties’ star, Josephine Baker was the first black woman to ever star in a major motion picture. Her music and dancing is still recognised today and so too is her most recognised outfit, the banana skirt and bra. Even now, Ms Baker’s style is a major influence. Her raunchy and risqué clothing choices have inspired many, including Rihanna. Josephine Baker’s dance and clothes were often inspired by her African heritage, which made her a spotlight on the world of fashion. Her appearance is easily recognised, and still mind-blowing and with her timeless style, she will forever be one of the greatest influences of style today.
Nina Simone’s style comes from a life of a fearless attitude. The extremely talented singer, musician and activist chose her wardrobe to reflect her African heritage. Nina Simone often wore African prints, head wraps and accessories to celebrate her culture in every way that she could. Boasting that she wanted to dress like a “rich black b****”, Nina Simone never failed to impress; her unapologetic and fearless wardrobe represented her power and her determination to become the best. And she was. Nina Simone’s style is still inspiring people today, and with every piece of clothing she wore, she taught others not to be afraid of who they are.
Eartha Kitt is considered one of the most entertaining and sexy actresses, singers and comedians of her time, and her style was the icing on the cake. The most iconic Catwoman of them all, Ms Kitt was always a fierce style icon; add leopard print, a sultry silhouette and a dash of sex appeal, and you’ve got the perfect recipe. Flaunting her curvy figure, she would often dress to match her “sex kitten” persona. Her style has influenced hundreds of stylists and designers around the world, as well as celebrities donning her much-loved leopard print. Eartha Kitt remains one of the most influential and timeless style icons of her time.
Beverly Johnson was the first black model to be on the cover of American Vogue in 1974, as well as Elle Magazine and Cosmopolitan. Beverly Johnson has been named the first black supermodel. Not only is she an amazing model, she is a major face for diversity in the fashion industry. She changed the face of the fashion industry, and that alone, is a major influence for the world of fashion. With her face being introduced to the fashion industry, she has helped influence other amazing black models such as Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Tyra Banks. Beverly Johnson has constantly been able to “wow” the fashion industry, with her passion to promote diversity in the fashion industry, as well as continuing to stun the world with her fashion choices. She remains one of the most influential women in fashion.
Grace Jones is a no-brainer for this list. Her iconic androgynous look has influenced so many since her first appearance, that it’s obvious she is one of the biggest style icons in the world. Born in Jamaica, Grace Jones captivated audiences with her unique and jaw-dropping clothes, makeup and hair. She has inspired hundreds of artists, fashion designers, photographers and musicians with her iconic style, including Annie Lennox, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lady Gaga, Santigold and Rihanna. Her revolutionary style and unapologetic clothing choices made her who she is, and made the fashion industry an entirely different world; donning tailored suits, body graffiti, skin-tight jumpsuits and sometimes, completely nude, her style was never second-guessed, and has been coined one of the most influential fashion icons in the fashion industry. Grace Jones has one of the most recognised and iconic looks of all time, and the fashion industry would be nothing without her as inspiration.
Iman is one of the most beautiful supermodels in the world. The Somalian beauty has influenced the fashion industry in so many ways, far from just her modelling. Her promotion of diversity in the cosmetic range inspired her to create her own cosmetic company, designed for women of colour who could not find a tone of makeup to match their skin. Noted for her incredible and iconic sense of style, Iman does not need to show off too much to get the attention she deserves. Her ageless style is an inspiration for hundreds all over the world. She is one of the most revered models of her time, and it does not look like she is slowing down any time soon.
This list would not be complete without the amazing talents of Naomi Campbell. One of the original supermodels, Naomi Campbell continues to amaze the fashion world as she struts down the catwalk effortlessly, and holds no fear when she states her opinion on the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. She and Iman signed the “Diversity Coalition” in 2013, demanding the naming and shaming of high fashion brands who failed to include models of colour in their runway shows. Naomi’s style is always changing; there is not a single style that she cannot rock. Ageless and effortless, Naomi Campbell remains one of the best models and style icons in the industry.
Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, is not just famous for being the President’s Wife. With her vibrant and eye-catching clothes, she never fails to make a statement. As the First Lady, she caught the audience’s attention in the best way, with her amazing outfit choices. She took risks with her outfits, whilst staying modest with her choices, assuring the world that her mind was on serious tasks, while still looking amazing. She was the First Lady of fashion, and it would be difficult for any other woman to match up to her style and grace.
Rihanna is without a doubt one of the most daring and well-dressed singers of her generation. She is fearless with her wardrobe, not following trends or sticking to a theme. Her outfits, although sometimes risqué and revealing, always catch the eye of the audience, and she always receives high praise. She has collaborated with multiple designers, including Puma, Manalo Blahnik and Armani, as well as being the first black girl as the face of Dior and becoming the face of Balmain, she isn’t holding back. Her look is never the same; with her constantly changing hairstyles and her unpredictable clothing choices switch from one genre to the next, everyone is surprised with her and no one could ever be bored. Her confidence is an added bonus to her wardrobe, being by far, her best accessory.
The British singer, FKA Twigs, has continued to wow the fashion industry. Proud of her Jamaican heritage, she flaunts and styles her baby hair across her face without the bat of an eye, influencing others to do the same. Her style is never two dimensional; choosing bold prints and bright colours instead of sticking to neutral colours really make her stand out from the crowd, and nothing is in her way. Her style is influenced by her music, and her clothing choices and beautiful features make her one of the most iconic dressers in the industry, influencing other artists and stylists to be a risk-taker, and try something new. There’s nothing boring about FKA Twigs, and this makes her one of the most influential style icons of her generation.
By Ally Feiam