By Margretta Sowah

A muse is someone or something of inspirational value. When I think of paintings I favour – The Kiss by Gustav Klimt – I can’t help but admire the beauty of his muse. Who is this woman and what is her story? What is so alluring about her (or him. Men can be muses too). Though it is true that anyone can be a muse, in the Fashion industry only a select few have been privy to this kind of exposure. To have or be a muse, the muser and muse must forge a relationship. Models are easily the closest people to designers in the frantic path to fashion week. When a designer is fascinated by a visual and viceral presence, a muse is born and the ready-to-wear/share story can truly begin.

The dictionary defines a muse as ‘a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.’ Audrey Hepburn, Kim Kardashian, Madonna and Courtney Love. What do all these women have in common? Influence. In the midst of InstaSuccess and Twitter-sphere, let’s be reminded of some original MVP in fashion, celebrity and Rockstardom long before ‘like’ and ‘follow’ meant anything more than a euphemism for having a good time.

Hubert de Givenchy / Audrey Hepburn

designer muse
designer muse
designer muse

When it comes to the hall of fame for style icons, nothing comes quicker to the seasoned fashion gal’s mind than Audrey Hepburn. You know, the (I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy #Qbey) little black dress for her zenith role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The late Mr. Givenchy worked closely with Hepburn to design gorgeous gowns for the Hollywood starlet.

This relationship of designer/muse was grounded in a fondness for one another, and Hubert’s sensitivity to Hepburn’s refined way of approach.

Givenchy, in a 2012 interview for the Wall Street Journal, shared his love for Audrey; “…wonderful. She was someone unique. She was real. She could do everything. She could do Shakespeare or other grand writers. She had it all. She was natural.” And his design alliance with the actress most certainly reflected that.”

Hedi Slimane for Yves Saint Laurent / The Woodstock Chick

designer muse
courtney love YSL

When I think of YSL, its always with a Pearl Jam mix/Janis Joplin/and if I knew any Courtney Love songs, her too. There is something to be said about a brand within a culture. YSL is not based on one particular person, but rather a movement – a language. An outlet. Former creative director Hedi Slimane is known for his love of portraying ‘Livin’ in the 70’s’ (Skyhooks reference. YouTube – ego is not a dirty word). His love for the charismatic, tortured artist ‘rock chick’; heroine chic, modern flower child who’s love for black and leather is a statement about an outlook on life. This independent warrior has always been the theme in his past collections.

With the catalog of innovation YSL was founded on, the grunge side of this woman can be seen as an evolution of the ‘power woman’. Sources have claimed Courtney Love’s heroine chic in the 90’s first sparked Hedi’s love of her as his muse. Sky Ferreira is also credited as a huge influence for Hedi’s more recent collections. YSL women is feminine yet masculine, heavy and light. Though Hedi loves a cooler colour palette in his collections (to symbolize practicality and edginess, I assume), his use of fabric and texture highlight the different moods of his rock queen.

What Hedi was successful in was cultivating a strong relationship with the music industry; providing credibility to his design aesthetic within the YSL vision and the demand for High Fashion collections targeted to Rockstars and Diva’s…

Olivier Rousteing / Kim Kardashian

designer muse


designer muse

I know Kim K West is not technically a model, or a staple in the world of High Fashion but there is no denying this woman knows how to pull herself together – effortlessly. Balmain is probably one of the more showy houses. Their use of colour and cut is better suited to a woman who loves to stand out whilst fitting in. Does that make sense? You can spot a Balmain dress like you can feel the first few drops of rain when the forecast said Sunny. You just know something is different.

Olivier, the youngest designer Balmain has had – ever, described KKW (I affectionately initial) as ‘the perfect muse for Balmain’. Rousteing once said, “I choose muses that are actually really different and modern — I chose them because they are contemporary, they are part of this new world. For example, Kim Kardashian. She’s my friend, she’s a woman that I love for different reasons.” Olivier is definitely a passionate craftsman who knows his customer inside and out.

Though KKW is Queen B in this house there are other #iSlay women who made the cut –  Rihanna, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and of course KKW’s model sister, Kendall Jenner. “Fashion had started to forget women in a way, and concentrate too much on the clothes. For me it made no sense. In fashion, the biggest moment was when the models were celebrities.”

Jean Paul Gaultier / Madonna


designer muse

designer muse

Does anyone remember Madonna’s cone bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier for her 1990 blond ambition tour? The eye-catching spiraled, almost 30cm cone shaped bra was one of the many magical and iconic creations JPG has showcased. At this particular time in fashion, the muse was a growing force – a precious commodity for the new wave of self expression.

Music, art and fashion banded together producing vivid visuals and unforgettable one-liners. It was all about the new. With the old. But mostly the new. And no one did it better than Madonna. Her music was honest. Her fashion was raw. Her attitude was fierce.

JPG, having an already established Haute Couture fashion house, was drawn to Madonna’s fearlessness in experimenting. This match will always be remembered as Couture magic. The two worked together for many of her later tours, and even a walk down his 1995 S/S collection. No doubt Madonna has been a style and lifestyle muse for many. But there is no denying the cosmic couture connection Jean Paul Gaultier shared with Madonna.

The muse is not only a source of inspiration but a sign of the times. A muses job is to present truth; the fashion fantasy we close our eyes and dive into each time we dream of other worlds of social culture.

If, by chance, there is are ever in a situation where you are the muse; take it all in. Be authentic. Who knows, you could be the vision for a new collection. Madonna and Courtney Love would perform with KKW as the stage manager, dressed in Givenchy’s little black Aubrey inspired outfit. Not a bad gig.