Who pumps up the volume on an artist? The imagemakers named here, as money today flows fast and furious between the two intertwined industries with Kanye cashing in on pop-ups, Bieber bringing bank at Barneys, Beyoncé launching her own brands and an “I never give a f— what people think” attitude at work both on and off the runways.
From Billboard’s 2016 Style Issue, here are the 25 most powerful people in music fashion. [The Sept. 17 issue of Billboard has a split-run cover, one starring St. Vincent and Marc Jacobs, the other starring Rae Sremmurd and Sofia Richie.]
THE COVER STARS
Marc Jacobs, St. Vincent and Hype Williams
Designer, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and director
Convention-flaunting fashion designer Marc Jacobs has a long-standing relationship with music, one that he and collaborator Hype Williams are putting on display with Jacobs’ first-ever music video. Tied to Jacobs’ fall campaign, the Williams-directed clip stars St. Vincent, Missy Elliott, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson and more recognizable iconoclasts. Billboard sat down with St. Vincent and Jacobs to talk about his “acid trip Fellini film” music video and much more for our new cover story. Watch the exclusive premiere of the video below and read the Billboard Style Issue cover story here.
Trend-setting hip-hop duo
Hip-hop’s go-to party duo represent the next wave in rap fashion with their willingness to meld high fashion brands (they love Gucci goggles) with their “country boy” roots. The brothers detail their eclectic, edgy fashion in Billboard’s Style Issue cover story, which you can read in full here. And watch them play “How Well Do You Know Your Brother?” below.
She’s Lionel’s daughter and Nicole’s sister, but you won’t find hints of either in Sofia Richie’s personal style. The model and aspiring designer is, according to her father, an “old soul,” but she’s setting the tone for fashion’s next wave, and her Billboard interview, she explains what informs her fiercely independent sense of fashion. Apart from reading the Billboard Style Issue cover star’s story, watch her explain how working with Madonna influenced her style below.
CEO/chief creative officer, Burberry
Why He Matters: No other designer is more dedicated to spotlighting British artists, from Elton John to James Bay.
Tech-Forward Approach: Since joining the British fashion house from Gucci in 2001, Bailey, 45, has defined it as a leader in music and technology. “From the live soundtracks to our runway shows to Burberry Acoustic [which promotes artists across Burberry channels], working with musicians makes our brand about more than the product,” says the designer.
Tour Score: In March, Burberry signed on to sponsor and dress Adele (her first and only brand partnership) for her sold-out world tour in support of 25, which spent 10 weeks atop the Billboard 200. Instead of quick changes, the show is defined by a single sequined gown. – Lauren Indvik
Creative director, Gucci
Why He Matters: Stars love him, and revenue is expected to top $4 billion this year.
Breathing New Life Into a Label: Plucked from the Gucci’s accessories team not quite two years ago, Michele, 43, says music and fashion are alike in their “ability to allow people to express themselves, to be part of a movement.” The approach has reversed Gucci’s long-running sales slump, with revenue up 5.4 percent to $2.1 billion in the first half of 2016.
Top Looks: Beyoncé and Blue Ivy have stirred a social media frenzy with their Mommy-and-me ensembles; brand ambassador Florence Welch’s iridescent, wolf-emblazoned Met Gala gown wasn’t just breathtaking, it complimented the tuxedo worn by Michelle, whose listening preferences range from Gregorian chants to The Cure. – Lauren Indvik
Creative director; Jeremy Scott, Moschino
Why He Matters: Best friends/muses like Miley Cyrus make their stages his runway.
Italian Job: On top of running his eponymous label (which marks its 20th year in 2017), Scott has revived Moschino since taking over in 2013: Parent company Aeffe reported a 20 percent rise in sales in the last year.
2016 Highlight: Katy Perry, whom Scott famously dressed for her 2015 Super Bowl performance, made one of his dreams come true when she introduced him to Dolly Parton at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April. Says Scott, 41: “She is the closest thing to God.”
Ultimate Collaborator: “I participate with musicians in all aspects, not just clothes,” says Scott. “Wale asked me to record with him; Kanye West has played music for me that’s not yet out.” – Adrienne Gaffney
Chief designer/vice president, Versace
Why She Matters: For the ultimate dose of sex appeal, pop stars opt for Versace.
An Institution: “Versace is part of pop culture,” says Donatella of the fashion house, which in 2015 had revenue of $720 million. “I love to hear hip-hop stars rap about Versace,” adds the 61-year-old, who has crafted some of the most daring looks of all time for Jennifer Lopez and Madonna (“one of the most famous Versace icons”) and more recently for Taylor Swift, who accepted the 2016 Grammy for best album in a color-blocked bandeau and floor-length silk skirt.
Honoring a Legend: A friend of Prince, the designer played never-before-heard songs from him at her menswear show this year, telling Billboard it was a way to share “incredible music from a dear and much missed friend.” – Carson Griffith
A pioneer of turning rock stars into campaign models, John Varvatos continued his namesake label’s deep association with music by releasing a buzzed-about Guns N’ Roses merchandise collection this year in addition to opening his 22nd store. But if the 62-year-old once operated adjacent to the music world, 2016 has proved him to be firmly entrenched. Since launching John Varvatos Records with Republic in 2014, the designer has co-signed Zac Brown Band, whose 2015 album Jekyll + Hyde debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and signed Hollywood Vampires (a venture involving Joe Perry, Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp) and folk-soul artist Amos Lee, who describes wearing Varvatos’ clothing in much the same way as working with him: “A good fit. Never like, I’m trying too hard or doing something that doesn’t feel right.” While new store openings in Asia and the Middle East are part of the Detroit native’s forecast for the upcoming year, so is a focus on bringing artists like Lee, who released the album Spirit in August, further into the spotlight. “I feel very blessed that I get to have my two biggest passions in life intertwined every day,” says Varvatos of doing double duty. “Every day I get to wake up and do something completely unique.” – Adrienne Gaffney
Creative director, Off-White; DJ
Why He Matters: The designer and longtime creative director to Kanye funnels youth culture into fashion.
Music’s Fashion Whisperer: “To the modern generation, music and fashion are not seen as separate works of art,” says Abloh, 35. As founder of Milan-based luxury/streetwear brand Off-White, a sought-after DJ and Kanye West’s creative director of 14 years, Abloh revolves around the nexus of the two.
Expansion: Fans of his mens and womenswear lines, both of which made Paris runway debuts in 2016 and were nominated for the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2015, include Karlie Kloss, Celine Dion and the ASAP Mob. But despite the accolades, Abloh says he’s driven by younger generations and the “shared creativity that’s happening — I’ve been fortunate to spur that along and be part of it.” – Ray Rogers
Why She Matters: She’s hailed as Queen for a reason: Every single fashion and music decision Bey makes sparks a conversation for her more than 83.9 million social media followers.
Game-Changing Year: With the help of her team of star stylists including Marni Senofonte and B. Åkerlund, the diverse and sexy outfits depicted in her Lemonade visual album weren’t simply eye candy, they played a direct role in shaping Beyoncé’s empowering feminist message. Sharing screen space were labels like Gucci and Roberto Cavalli and newer names like Maria Lucia Hohan and Yousef Al-Jasmi.
Growing (Style) Empire: This year the 35-year-old launched Ivy Park, her activewear line with Topshop and received the CFDA Fashion Icon Award. – Chuck Arnold
Why She Matters: While cultivating a strong aesthetic, Knowles has made a point of giving lesser-known creators their big break.
Fashion World Fans: “She has her own point of view, in fashion and in life,” says designer Michael Kors, who chose Knowles, 30, to star in his fall street-style-influenced handbag campaign. “She has a keen eye and an ability to mix and match various trends in a way that no one else can.” Among her stand-out moments of the year: an architectural look by David LaPort at this year’s Met Gala.
Retail Vision: After helping to open Exodus Goods, a New Orleans boutique, in 2014, Knowles launched the online shop of her creative collective Saint Heron this year, telling Billboard that its purpose is “supporting young emerging designers and designers of color.” – Chuck Arnold
Co-owner/head of imagination, G-Star Raw; artist-entrepreneur
Why He Matters: From hats to kicks, Williams’ self-styled looks have a way of going viral.
Midas Touch: The 11-time Grammy winner’s fashion résumé spans more than a decade, including collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Chanel and a long-term partnership with Adidas, for which his Superstar Supercolor 50-hue collection sold out in a weekend.
G-Star’s New Star: In February, G-Star Raw named the 43-year-old co-owner/head of imagination— a role that requires his oversight on collections, advertising and business strategy. “When he’s working on a project, he doesn’t get distracted by his phone, computer or even time,” says chief marketing officer Thecla Schaeffer. The fruits of his labor for the denim brand will be available in stores this fall. – Carson Griffith
Rapper with a celebrated, sometimes controversial sense of style
On the cover of his new mixtape, Jeffery — which recently debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 — Young Thug wears a ruffled periwinkle gown, an image that sums up the inventive rapper’s approach to fashion: “When it comes to swag,” he says, “there’s no gender involved.” He has worn a frock with trousers for Calvin Klein’s 2016 global campaign, a skinny tracksuit for Puma’s Classics collection, and, soon, he’ll don another statement gown, for his wedding to swimwear designer Jerrika Karlae (“There will be two brides,” he says). While his Jeffery look — geisha couture meets Mortal Kombat’s Raiden — isn’t exactly the get-up you’d expect on a face-tattooed Atlanta MC, it works on the 25-year-old rapper who’s known for barking and squawking between spitting lines about guns, sex and drugs. “When I seen that dress,” he says, “I felt like God gave it to me.” Sitting in a Los Angeles studio in tight jeans and chains wrapped around his neck like pearls, Young Thug recalls the seeds of his sartorial rebellion. “When I was 12, my feet were so small I wore my sisters’ glitter shoes. My dad would whoop me: ‘You’re not going to school now, you’ll embarrass us!’ But I never gave a f— what people think.” Now, he has more fans than critics (“People like, ‘Man, you changed my life’ ”), plus collaborators who understand his nonconformist vision — like Jeffery gown creator Alessandro Trincone. “Whoever he is, he ain’t regular,” says Young Thug of the designer. “The n—a reminds me of me.” – Chris Martins
Levi’s chief marketing officer
Elvis swiveled his hips in them. The Ramones rocked them on the cover of their landmark debut. Bruce Springsteen showed off his patriotic backside in them on the front of Born in the U.S.A. From Bing Crosby to Blake Shelton, the list of musicians who have been Levi’s lovers through the decades spans generations and genres. “Music chose us,” says Levi’s chief marketing officer Jennifer Sey, explaining her decision to strengthening the brand’s relationship with the music world since she stepped into her current role three years ago, after 14 years at the company. “Every type of musician that you can imagine has chosen Levi’s without us seeding the product to them.” She had the bright idea to capitalize on this legacy. Under her tenure as CMO, the $4.5 billion brand purchased the naming rights of Levi’s Stadium (at a cost of $220 million) in San Francisco (where brand headquarters are) and aligned with music artists for the Live in Levi’s marketing campaign. Rule No. 1? “They had to be authentic Levi’s fans,” says Sey, 47, who is expecting her fourth child. Haim, Kurt Vile, Ryn Weaver, Twin Shadow and Benjamin Booker, among many others, signed on. Sey picked a strong brand partner in Alicia Keys, who launched the Levi’s women’s collection in 2015 — the biggest push the 143-year-old company has done in marketing to women in 80 years — and the brand’s latest music activation, The Levi’s Music Project, kicking off Sept. 9, which enlists musicians to institute Levi’s-funded music education and community programs. “She’s there to continue to grow the brand, but it’s not just about the brand,” Keys says of Sey’s efforts. “It’s about people relating to each other — what builds us, what breaks us, what makes us start again. That’s what made us such great partners. We’re very similar in that way.” Keys, 35, a co-founder of Keep a Child Alive (which provides support to HIV and AIDS patients in Africa), helmed the pilot program, creating a music technology program for Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. – Ray Rogers
Chief marketing officer, Calvin Klein
Why She Matters: Calvin Klein underwear is no longer merely synonymous with Marky Mark.
Undress to Success: The brand’s chief marketing officer was the brains behind spring’s provocative and ubiquitous #mycalvins campaign, featuring a stripped-down Justin Bieber along with striking portraits of vanguard artists like FKA Twigs, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass and Young Thug. Instead of associating the brand with their parents, Goldie’s efforts have cemented the boxers, briefs and bras (which are worn to be seen) as part of millennial culture.
Next Bet: Raf Simons, Dior’s former creative director and a fashion visionary admired by music artists, is in place to helm the brand, which reported sales of $8.2 billion in 2015 with goals of $10 billion. – Carson Griffith
Why He Matters: He gave Rihanna her own line, now sneaker sales have spiked 40 percent stateside.
A Glam Gamble: When RiRi, who has no formal design training, was named women’s creative director in 2014 in a deal reportedly worth seven figures, there were skeptics. But the German sportswear brand’s bet, orchestrated by Gulden, 51, has more than paid off: Not only has the pop artist elevated Puma’s image with a street-goth-centric Fenty x Puma runway show in February, sales reached about $1.8 billion in the first half of the year, driven in part by the artist’s kicks and furry slides.
Next Bet: Gulden has more music ties lined up with Rae Sremmurd appearing in ads this fall. Says the duo’s Slim Jxmmi, “We rock Puma, [everyone’s] going to rock Puma.” – Lauren Indvik
Director of icon collaborations, Adidas
Why She Matters: The company’s star collaborations yield instant sellouts.
Record Breakers: 2016 is set to be another banner year for Adidas (the brand brought in $15.3 billion in gross revenue in 2015), thanks in large part to the continuation of industry-defining ties with Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Rita Ora, which helped drive up sales 25 percent to $8.6 billion in the first half. Working out of the company’s German headquarters for more than six years, Muscat, 34, brings music partnerships to market and ultimately off the shelves in a blink of the eye. Case in point: West’s Yeezy Boost 750s, which were gone in 60 seconds when they went on preorder in June.
More, Please: In June the brand announced a new Adidas/West line, expected in dedicated storefronts in 2017. – Lauren Indvik
Why He Matters: Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Kanye West don’t sell merch without his blessing.
Fashionistas’ New Fave: Joining music merchandiser Bravado from Sony in March, Vlasic, 37, has been a driving force in bringing fashion-forward concert merch to the masses. Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour inspired a Barneys New York capsule collection (with a 64 percent sell-through in its first week), while 21 simultaneous global pop-ups peddling West’s Life of Pablo line were launched by the Universal Music Group-owned company in August. “They’re all different people, so we want to find the product, the connection to fans and provide that,” says Vlasic.
Industry Roots: Vlasic’s mom is Marsha Vlasic, music agent for Neil Young and Iggy Pop, who attended Vlasic’s bar mitzvah. – Adrienne Gaffney
Grammy-winner rapper, designer and director
“If you’re going to be an artist, you got to do what’s in your heart: Fight for your dream,” declared Kanye West in February to an audience of 20,000 that included editors, fans, celebrities and a Balmain-clad row of Kardashians at Madison Square Garden in New York. The occasion was two-fold: part listening party for the 39-year-old’s seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo, and part fashion show for his Yeezy Season 3 collection for Adidas. The production not only proved to be one of Fashion Week’s largest-scale events (Season 4 debuted Sept. 7), it marked the first time laypeople, and not just industry insiders, could buy tickets for a fashion show (they started at $50).
Music and fashion have always had a symbiotic relationship for West, and his success in bringing fans into the equation led Adidas to double down on its investment, launching a new partnership in July called Adidas/West that the company says is “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a nonathlete.” Adidas plans to open new stores dedicated solely to the line, building on the success of cult favorite shoe the Yeezy Boost 750, which continues to garner four figures on secondary markets. “He really is a needle-mover at this point,” says Allison Kaye of Scooter Braun Projects, the management company that brokered the Adidas/West deal. And while some might call West’s claim as the “most impactful artist of our generation” arrogant, lines for the 21 international Life of Pablo merch pop-ups — where the photos on this page were taken — made the impact of his creative vision overwhelmingly apparent. – Adrienne Gaffney
Stylist; fashion director, 032c magazine
Why He Matters: He helps Rihanna live on fashion’s edge.
The Ultimate Trendsetter: A style icon can, with a single photograph, move a label’s entire inventory — as Rihanna did when she donned a pair of $8,895 Dolce & Gabbana headphones this year. No wonder, then, that brands from Dior to MAC Cosmetics to Puma want to work with the 28-year-old singer and her stylist of five years, whose biggest challenge is delivering new ideas. “Rihanna has a ravenous appetite for fashion,” says Ottenberg, 40, who counts her crystal Adam Selman dress from the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards and her looks at the MTV Video Music Awards in August as favorite style moments.
Good problem: “I try to push things forward, because this girl has already worn a million amazing outfits.” – Lauren Indvik
Julie Anne Quay
Why She Matters: Editor-turned-entrepreneur who knows what music stars — and the kids — want.
Starts With Music: For the founder of millennial-favorite multichannel fashion-retail platform VFiles, music has been a central tenet since the beginning, when ASAP Rocky performed at her company’s launch in 2012. Initially an online hub, VFiles now has a brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan and opened a showroom-meets-incubator space in 2015. Quay, a former magazine editor, has brought designs by Melitta Baumeister and Hyein Seo first to artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry (“our biggest customer,” she says).
Full Circle: This fall, Quay launches a record label. “The more we can enable kids to create music and fashion, to connect with each other — that’s our goal.” – Carson Griffith
Stylist to Justin Bieber, Hailee Steinfeld and more
Arguably one of the year’s biggest comebacks, Justin Bieber’s return to music was complemented by a new look carefully constructed by Welch. The stylist also took his aesthetic (think long tees and copious flannel) directly to consumers through blockbuster deals with Barneys New York and Forever 21, brokered by Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and Bravado’s Mat Vlasic (see story, page 43).
Working with Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo, Welch helped cultivate Bieber’s 30-piece capsule collection — a direct reflection of his Purpose Tour wardrobe — for Barneys in July. Signatures including tees emblazoned with Marilyn Manson’s face ($195) and drawstring-waist kilts ($840) marked the retailer’s first foray into music merchandise, and Welch sees it as an innovation not just in music style but in outreach to fans. “Jerry and I worked on all the tour clothes, and as a natural extension Justin wanted everything to trickle down to the show experience,” says Welch, 41. A more modestly priced Forever 21 line followed in August.
Despite having worked with an enviable roster of Hollywood talents (Olivia Wilde and Amy Poehler among them), the Laurel Canyon-based stylist maintains a steady presence in music: She dressed Lorde in Valentino for the Met Gala in May, Pink for her “Just Like Fire” video and co-directed Little Big Town for its “Girl Crush” clip with her husband, Matthew Welch.
But with Bieber, a fellow Canadian with whom Welch has worked for four years, she has found “a real, true muse,” she says. “He’s a real collaborator.” – Adrienne Gaffney