As you may have heard by now, singer George Michael died yesterday at 53, from heart failure. As it happens in these cases messages of condolences started flooding the Internet, accompanied by iconic pictures of his best years.
Michael rose to fame as half of Wham! (with Andrew John Ridgeley) known for their hits "Club Tropicana" and "Last Christmas", and then had a successful solo career. Quite often we forget that fashion contributed to shape and promote the identity of a band. In the case of Wham! Katharine Hamnett played an influential role.
In the early '80s Hamnett produced simple oversized white T-shirts with political and ethical slogans printed in large big and bold black letters.
Wham! first opted for a "Number One" shirt, going for "Choose Life" in their video "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" (while vocalists Pepsi and Shirlie wore the "Go Go" slogan T-shirts). The slogan - originally directed at drug abuse and suicide (but later on used by the pro-life movement against abortion...) - was then transformed by the duo into "Choose Wham".
After George Michael went solo, he released in 1990 the track "Freedom '90". As a reaction to fame, Michael didn't want to appear in the video, but, inspired by Peter Lindbergh's portrait of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford for the January 1990 cover of the British edition of Vogue (View this photo), he asked the five models to star in it.Directed by David Fincher, the team for this video included clothes stylist Camilla Nickerson, who then became a Vogue contributing editor, hair stylist Guido and makeup artist Carol Brown.
At the end of his A/W 1991 runway show in Milan, designer Gianni Versace sent Crawford, Evangelista, Campbell and Turlington down the runway.
The four models stood in a huddle, mouthing along to "Freedom", this show became a pivotal moment in the supermodel era.
Evangelista was cast again in George Michael’s 1992 "Too Funky" video, this time she was joined by top models Nadja Auermann, Tyra Banks and Estelle Lefébure, plus iconic performers à la runway coach/
Michael hired fashion designer Thierry Mugler to shoot the video who injected in it all his passion for theatrical costume drama.
Check out Emma Sjöberg-Wiklund in Mugler's motorcycle outfit and robot costume; Julie Newmar as a midinette who goes mad; Evangelista as a superhuman alien in white and Joey Arias in the part of the crazy couturier inspired by Edith Head, wearing a pleated chiffon skirt with a pearl corset, a tight black knit sweater and fetish shoes. The video was made for charity (and the people involved worked for free).
As yesterday was 25th December, many fans paid homage in tweets reposting Wham's single "Last Christmas". In a way there was something about fashion in this video as well: the lack of pretentious clothes and luxury cases replaced by casual garments and anonymous sport bags. You can bet that, if it had been shot today, this video would be a great opportunity for product placement.
Michael's death sadly marked for his family, friends and fans his very last Christmas, but surely not the end of the fashion and music connection.