From WAP to K-Pop, the fashion trend power of music videos
Social distancing has made it difficult for music videos to be shot on location. The result has been an influx of self-filmed and self-directed work, increased use of green screens and off-the-charts creativity with clips offering viewers a sense of escapism.
Ahead of the upcoming MTV Video Music Video Awards on August 30th, we compile seven clips that have created waves and the standout fashion moments retailers should be taking note of.
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‘Dynamite’ – BTS
The latest single by K-Pop boy band BTS has broken YouTube records, becoming the first video to achieve 100 million views in one day. It is the first entirely-English song from BTS, who said they wanted the track to communicate “positive vibes, energy, hope, love, the purity, everything” – an important message to convey to fans during times of uncertainty.
This new record strengthens K-Pop’s already-undeniable global influence and the upbeat video is full of trends that resonate to its Gen-Z fandom. Set to a candy-colored backdrop, the boys don pastel shades furthering the case for softer hues in menswear. Normcore stands out as another trend to note communicated through double denim, cardigans and bucket hats. Accessories and jewelry are rife with chains, retro sunglasses and drop earrings that lend to the E-Boy aesthetic. BTS also embrace makeup for men, challenging Western beauty norms and push boundaries of traditional masculinity.
‘BROWN SKIN GIRL’ – Beyoncé
At the start of August, the video for ‘BROWN SKIN GIRL’ was revealed within ‘Black Is King.’ Once released on YouTube, it racked up 2.4m views in less than 24 hours. The clip is directed by Jenn Nkiru, the only female director outside of Beyoncé on the visual album, and is a celebration of sisterhood, femininity and Black characteristics, further disrupting the notion that White features define traditional beauty.
Set to a debutante theme, voluminous ball gowns in shimmery pastel hues feature – a nod to Disney Dressing. Beyoncé shares the screen with Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland. Her costume changes also include mini-me dressing with Blue Ivy, corsets, primary colors and dresses abundant with tulle. Throughout the clip, several Black hairstyles are showcased from cornrows, baby Afros, braids, Bantu knot and traditional sculptural styles.
‘WAP’ – Cardi B ft Megan Thee Stallion
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion reclaim female sexuality and celebrate pleasure in their hotly-discussed recent hit, an ode to a well-lubricated vagina. While the ‘WAP’ video has been met with criticism over its graphic nature, use of live exotic animals and a controversial Kylie Jenner cameo, overall reception has been positive. Fans have been quick to defend the song from mansplaining attempts from Russell Brand and Ben Shapiro. Shortly after, the internet rejoiced when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to Cardi B’s tweet suggesting the congresswoman run for president when she turns 35 with “Women Against Patriarchy (WAP) 2020,” further positioning the song as empowering.
The duo wade through a luxurious mansion and several doors open containing different eye-popping aesthetics signaling a costume change. Animal patterns predominantly feature with tiger, snake, snow leopard and cheetah prints outfits. Cardi and Megan do their own take on Disney dressing in pink and yellow corset bodysuits and capes. Green and purple feature and micro fashion moments appear with guest spots by Normani in houndstooth and Rubi Rose, Mulatto and Rosalía in latex.
‘Midnight Sky’ – Miley Cyrus
The self-directed video sees Cyrus turn the tables on her heavily publicized private life, articulating times of turmoil while also narrating a celebration of her independence – all to the tune of a catchy disco beat. Hitting number 1 in the UK’s Official Big Top 40, the video is awash with designer looks, opulent colors and infrequent flashes of nudity – a recipe for success. Icons Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett provided aesthetic and musical inspiration – the latter artist possibly providing the idea for Miley’s shaggy mullet hairstyle.
The standout bold red lipstick and glitter-ball purple eyeshadow combination worn by the star spurned a host of recreations from fans, with the singer reposting her favorites on social media. The list of high-fashion names featured in the video span Chanel, Saint Laurent, Gucci and Richard Quinn, with occasionwear direction for contemporary retailers pointing toward heavy sequins and layered accessories. Vibrancy and excess are key themes here – as is a major sense of nostalgia, with overarching references from the 70s and 80s.
‘Cardigan’ – Taylor Swift
At the end of July, Taylor Swift shocked fans with the surprise launch of her eighth studio album ‘Folklore.’ Inspired by isolation and rooted in fantasy, the video for the first single ‘Cardigan’ is directed and co-produced by Swift and serves as a moody parallel to the candy-hued videos from her Lover era.
The story follows Swift climbing into her piano, which glimmers with what appears to be gold pixie dust, and emerging in a rainforest and then in the middle of the ocean before she is able to find her way back to her cabin – serving as a metaphor for how music can transport you and even rescue you in troubled times.
Imagery for the ‘Folklore’ album incorporates Cottagecore dressing and Swift’s support of the trend has helped bring the aesthetic into the mainstream. Naturally, the cardigan is one of the standout pieces from the music video which has been added to TS merch. Swift did her own hair and makeup for the clip and wears a dress reminiscent of Wendy’s nightgown in Peter Pan, another reference within the song and video. This is in line with the trend made popular during the pandemic of wearing dresses that can double as night or daywear.
‘Toosie Slide’ – Drake
April 3rd 2020 marked almost two weeks in lockdown for millions and the beginning of a new reality. What better time than this to record and release one of the catchiest songs (and dances) of the pandemic period. Recorded in his $100 million Toronto mansion, the ‘Toosie Slide’ video features the rapper dancing his way around his palatial home. Tipped by Spotify as one of the most streamed songs of summer 2020, the popularity of this video is owed in majority to its viral dance, which quickly saw the accompanying TikTok challenge become the fastest music trend to read a billion views.
Dance aside, the significance of this video was in the apparel worn by the rapper, who chose to cover up with “black leather gloves” and a Nike face covering, drawing on the shift in demand for protective accessories over aesthetics. This being said, major streetwear influences were also present – a buckled Alyx vest and Raf Simons bomber were a more typical uniform that spoke to an aesthetic mixing sportswear and utility, while collaborations between the musician and Nike were teased.
‘Rooted’ – Ciara ft Ester Dean
The video for Ciara’s track ‘Rooted’ emerged mid-August, filmed while the singer was due to give birth to her third child. The song and accompanying clip is a Black pride anthem, celebrating excellence in Black culture. Visuals from the Black Lives Matter protests are also included with tributes paid to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a reminder justice has not yet been served with lyrics including “young Rosa, young Luther keep marchin’/Your life it matters, believe me” – a poignant message with the recent tragic death of Jacob Blake who was shot and killed by police.
Ciara’s wardrobe backs up the song and video’s cultural and political message with the singer wearing a leather jacket with her hair in an afro reminiscent of the Black Panther Party. Primary colors make an appearance while the backup dancers wear activewear, Ciara herself in black bike shorts for the dancing scenes. The all-Black supporting cast is predominantly dressed in streetwear – the go-to attire for championing social causes.
Contributions by Kayla Marci and Katherine Bailey.
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