Out of this world: The fashion of Björk
Björk is known for her beautiful, ethereal and innovative music but the fashions she chooses to wear on stage or for her album covers can be equally dramatic and extraordinary.
Both as a person and an artist she doesn’t look backwards – always to the future – seeking new ways to express herself through music and art. She is currently working on a ground-breaking virtual-reality project and she aims to use the proceeds from this auction to aid that research. A major deciding factor in choosing to sell some of the more historically important pieces in her collection is the realisation that others will be better able to preserve them than herself. Many of the garments in the auction were previously exhibited in the MOMA, New York last year and it seemed a shame for them to just go back into long term storage again.
Over the years Björk has collaborated and commissioned many young, innovative, (sometimes relatively unknown) designers who later went on to become famous. The collection offered for sale includes some early pieces which fans will instinctively recognise such as the Jeremy Scott white leather ‘Angel’ dress which she wore extensively for her 1997-98 ‘Homogenic’ world tour, below left.
Fashionistas will also recall the Jean Paul Gaultier stencilled suede tunic Björk modelled for his ‘Grand Voyage’ collection, A/W 1994 (lot 348, estimate £1000-1500, right). At the time Björk was a young, emerging singer herself and felt flattered that the great Parisien designer had even heard of her. It was the one and only time that she ever modelled in a catwalk show despite numerous requests.
Some of the most technically brilliant and other-worldly dresses are by the young Dutch designer Iris van Herpen. These couture gowns, some of which took up to four months to make individually, are formed from laser and hand-cut acrylic or leather, painstakingly layered and shaped and mounted onto tulle. Björk wore these gowns for her Biophilia and Vesperine tours (below left lot 350, below right lot 351).
The clothes Björk decides to wear on stage could not readily be described by most of us as ‘lightweight’ or ‘easy’. A fabulous dress by Danish designer Nikoline Liv Anderson is made from sweltering re-cycled mink fur and painted to resemble feathers. Björk said it reminded her of ‘a giant moth that had died and been re-born’. It is painted in lilac and acid yellow – the colours of her ‘Vulnicura’ album that dealt with the themes of death, mourning and joyous re-birth (see below, lot 345, estimate £2000-3000).
Of course some of the most historically important and significant pieces are those made by her close friend (Lee) Alexander McQueen.
For the cover of Björk’s 1997 ‘Homogenic’ album, she approached Lee, his ‘right hand’ Katy England and the renowned photographer Nick Knight. She told them that she wished to be depicted as a female warrior – ‘but a warrior using love as a weapon’. She liked the idea that elements of the ensemble came from different cultures, such as the Japanese kimono and the towering Masai style necklace made by Shaun Leane. At the time McQueen was working on his Givenchy couture ‘Eclect-Dissect’ collection, A/W 1997-8, presented in Paris in July 1997. That collection was also filled with multi-cultural references including Japonism elements with similar kimono dresses, oriental embroidery and elaborate hairstyles redolent of Björk’s photographic portrait. However, the dress for Björk was not made in Paris but as a special one-off in McQueen’s London studio. The hauntingly beautiful but unsettling image of Björk wearing the McQueen dress is surely one of the most instantly recognisable album covers of all time.
For Björk’s controversial ‘Pagan Poetry’ video of 2001, Björk again contacted Lee and told him that this time she would like him to make her a bridal gown. She had quite clear ideas of how it should look. She envisaged pearls being sewn through skin to form the dress itself. The result was a beautiful white lace gown with a corseted bodice below the neck, swathed in tangled ropes of pearls complete with nipple rings (lot 352, £8000-12,000).
Perhaps the most sculptural example of McQueen’s collaboration with Björk is the astonishing ‘Bell’ dress. In 2004 Björk decided to do a re-mix of her song ‘Who is it (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)’ from the ‘Medulla’ album,but this time with added bells. A video of the re-mixed song was to be specially filmed against the dramatic Icelandic scenery. She met with Lee in London and he did a quick, outline pencil sketch – which Björk approved. The dress was flown to her in Iceland with no further discussion or fittings. The dress itself is in the shape of a bell, semi-rigid and covered in thousands of tinkling bells in various sizes – all applied by hand (see below, lot 354, estimate £10,000-15,000).
Such was their close relationship that Björk felt confident and secure that the dress Lee made for her would be perfect – and it was.
‘Passion for Fashion’ Auction
Tuesday June 14th 2016