Bjork and the Process of Reinvention

For my final post about reinvention I decided to talk about Bjork. Not just because she recently released her 8th studio album Vulnicura (a quietly devastating account of her break up with artist Matthew Barney) but also because no-one reinvents themselves quite like Bjork.

I could go into detail about her musical reinventions from string arrangements to microbeats and even Inuit choirs but let’s just focus on Bjork as a fashion icon because as far as I’m concerned she is the greatest unsung fashion hero of our times. Now I know it’s not to everyone’s taste but Lady Gaga wouldn’t be able to get away with half the stuff she does if Bjork hadn’t paved the way. 

In 1993 Bjork appeared on Top of the Pops wearing Hussein Chalayan’s degree work (paper clothes which had been buried with iron filings) a full 22 years before Gaga rolled up at the Grammy’s in Chalayan’s egg. Just in case you were in any doubt about who the real queen is here. It’s a testament to Bjork’s long standing devotion to nurturing design talent that pushes boundaries and supporting young creatives. 

She’s often featured in worst dressed lists, the kind of lists that are drawn up by normcore, conservative fashion imbeciles who decry anything that strays out of their cripplingly narrow views on style. I’m talking of course about the now legendary swan dress designed by Marjan Pejoski that Bjork wore to the Oscars in 2001. Pejoski is the Macedonian designer behind cult label KTZ and I always feel enraged when people criticise the dress on behalf of both him and Bjork. Does anyone remember what Julia Roberts wore to that same Oscar ceremony? No, they don’t. 

She’s collaborated extensively with some of the most important and interesting photographers, directors and designers of the past three decades, constantly reinventing herself in ever more fascinating ways. You could do a Phd in her album covers alone, but it’s the music video in which Bjork really excels. My personal favourite is the video to Pagan Poetry directed by Nick Knight. In it she has an Alexander McQueen dress literally sewn onto her body. 

A close friend of McQueen’s she sang at his funeral wearing a pair of wooden wings he designed for her. He also directed one of her music videos, Alarm Call from 1997’s Homogenic. In collaboration with  Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin,  Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham and Spike Jonze she’s created some of the greatest music videos of our time. This year sees a landmark in her career as New York’s illustrious MoMA holds a retrospective of Bjork as a composer, musician and artist and it’s about time. I’ll see you there. 

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