Love her or hate her, there’s no disputing that 2009 belonged to Lady Gaga. With a theatrical persona inspired by the likes of Madonna, Prince and Freddie Mercury, the name “Gaga”—taken from a song by the latter’s band, Queen—has acquired a meaning all its own, simultaneously evoking catchy pop music and avant-garde fashion (as well as a growing army of imitative fans). But Lady Gaga’s forward-pushing fad is not a fleeting one. Thanks to two back-to-back albums—the first aimed at the fans, the second aimed at the critics—she has shown that her music and revolutionary style are here to stay into the new decade and beyond.
Backed by designers like Alexander McQueen, Romain Kremer and Gareth Pugh, Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Germanotta) has helped lead a fashion transformation among today’s female artists. Everyone from Beyoncé to Rihanna has now recognized the marketing value of outlandish designer outfits, but they are all still dressing in Gaga’s shadow. Music and fashion have always gone hand in hand, but the classic creative pairing is now joined by a necessary business sense—even Forbes proclaimed that Lady Gaga is the music industry’s new business model.
These days, a budding diva can’t expect to just get by with good songs. Instead, the audience requires—at times even demands—a fascinating visual spectacle as well. And that is precisely what Lady Gaga both provides and inspires among them.
The lead single from her latest album The Fame Monster, “Bad Romance,” is a case in point. When the song’s video debuted as the soundtrack to Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer ’10 collection, her fans flooded and subsequently crashed the ShowStudio site due to the surge in interest. Meanwhile, The Business of Fashion reported at the end of 2009 that her videos had been watched more than 500 million times on YouTube (with 50 million “Bad Romance” views within the first month alone and now at just over 93 million) and those numbers have continued to rapidly rise into the new year.
Much of Lady Gaga’s style can be credited to the people she works with. It certainly doesn’t hurt, for instance, that her stylist, Dazed & Confused’s creative director Nicola Formichetti, is on a first name basis with underground designers throughout the world. Thanks to him, Lady Gaga’s wardrobe is full of head pieces by milliners Nasir Mazhar and Alex Noble, clothes by emerging artists like Benjamin Cho and outfits by more established masters such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Donatella Versace. Even with this stylistic headstart, it’s Lady Gaga’s unstoppable attitude that makes these clothes and outlandish outfits really stand out. But with a rabid following of copycat dressers who routinely appear at her concerts, it’s no wonder that the next thing on the busy artist’s agenda is her very own fashion line, Haus of Gaga, as well as an impressive gig as Polaroid’s new creative director. This is only the beginning.