A brief history on fashion's music darlings.
Last night, sometime between Anna Sui’s 60s-themed catwalk presentation and Jeremy Scott’s shit-show afterparty, Jillian Banks, who records as BANKS, performed in the shadows at a packed Irving Plaza. The venue was filled with tipsy people swaying to her Shlomo-produced track “Brains” while double fisting whiskey sodas, but it wasn’t your basic sold-out show.
Sponsored by Coach, the private event (whose #Coachbackstage hashtag was splashed across the wall in neon lights, so you couldn’t forget it) was Banks’ third New York performance within six days. She’s this season’s Fashion Week music It Girl… and obviously the fact that her debut album came out on Tuesday is no coincidence.
Not to be confused with those actress It Girls who star in random CW series and inexplicably always end up front row, the musician is different. She’s the one who only attends a couple of shows and instead focuses on the sponsored events after. Banks skipped the presentations entirely and ended up performing at exclusive parties for Refinery29, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and Coach instead.
For brands, hiring musicians to represent them during Fashion Week gives them a coveted stamp of youth cred and a sense of legitimacy—like, “See? We listen to Hype Machine, too.” And as for the artists? They get tons of public exposure, fashion clout, and money.
Banks is the latest in a long list of industry-approved stars, all of whom share internet buzz and a decidedly safe but edgy sensibility: pretty girls with crazy colored hair, female rappers, and slinky R&B chanteuses are all shoe-ins. Everyone else, good luck.
Last season’s It Girl Angel Haze walked as a “real” model at DKNY and sat front row for designers like Alexander Wang. (She also performed in Milan at Phillip Plein).
For spring 2014, Iggy Azalea performed at DKNY’s party (with quintessential fashion darling Rita Ora) and attended Jeremy Scott’s show, before moving on to Paris for Viktor & Rolfe, Chloe, Vivienne Westwood, and more. (P.S. This was all pre-“Fancy,” so now the brands have bragging rights for knowing about Azalea earlier than others.)
Blame it on the massive blizzard that happened mid-week, but fall 2013 was pretty slow. St. Vincent performed at Diane von Furstenberg and attended 3.1 Phillip Lim, but was upstaged by (shocking) Miley Cyrus’ appearances at Rachel Zoe and Marc Jacobs.
Then of course, there are the two arguably biggest It Girls of all, whose music careers have been mostly made possible by the fashion community, and who both dominated the Fashion Week circuit around the same time: Azealia Banks and Lana Del Rey. The former has been tirelessly attending fashion parties since 2012 for Thierry Mugler, Just Cavalli, Topshop, Mulberry, and Kanye West back when his DONDA clothing line was in full swing. She has yet to release her debut album. Del Rey performed at Mulberry in London, got a bag named after her, and then mostly disappeared from Fashion Week aside from quietly attending the What Goes Around Comes Around party this season.
The lesson here? Being a Fashion Week It Girl might not necessarily get you another album or guarantee a radio single, but it will get you free designer clothes, more Instagram followers, and recognition from an industry that is absolutely obsessed with discovering the Next Big Thing. Just try and find a rising artist who’s going to say no to that.
Liza Darwin braved NYFW so you wouldn't have to. She's on Twitter - @lizadarwin.
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