With as little authority as I hold in designating the world’s ‘Fashion Icons’, I still proceed to list the eleven (apparently I am an awful decision maker) people that inspire the many with their style and their lives. Of course, this list isn’t by any means exhaustive – nor is it hegemonic – and thus I can do nothing but apologise for not including the likes of the Kardashians, Jenners, and Hadids. I must also note that I made the decision not to include the wonderful Francoise Hardy or Jane Birkin or Twiggy or Audrey Hepburn (etc. etc.) merely because they are quite often the muses of the modern day style icon – their styles have been adopted and morphed into something new.
(If this list hadn’t have been so unnecessarily long already I would have hastened to include Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell also. But we all know they’re icons, I don’t need to remind you of that.)
And so, without further ado…
- CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Chimamanda is a writer, TEDx veteran, and one of the most renowned feminists of the twenty-first century. Her TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” was sampled in Beyoncé’s song ‘Flawless’ and one of her novels, Americanah, was featured in the New York Times‘ 10 Best Books of 2013. But Chimamanda isn’t just a literary hero – she’s a fashion icon too. Her outfits comprise of bold colours, prints and patterns, and unashamed pride. In her essay for ELLE, “Why Can’t a Smart Woman Love Fashion?”, Chimamanda writes that her Nigerian upbringing encouraged her to pay attention to her appearance as an extension of herself: “I like to think of this, a little fancifully, as going back to my roots. I grew up, after all, in a world in which a woman’s seriousness was not incompatible with an interest in appearance; if anything, an interest in appearance was expected of women who wanted to be taken seriously.”
Her full essay can be found here.
2. DAVID BOWIE
Bowie, Bowie, Bowie. Where do I begin? Famed for his music and celebrated for his influence on the fashion industry, we have a lot to owe to this late style icon. Bowie’s clothes were an art – an equally important asset to his performances as his music. He was a frontrunner, alongside the much beloved Prince, of androgynous dressing (Lilia writes a fab article on this here) and his array of styles all held a fearless demeanour of self expression. Amelia Diamond writes that Bowie proved that “glitter, glamour, sharp angles, shine, neck scarves, flares and patent leather, low-heed shoes are for people. All people.” As such, his legacy can still be found strolling along catwalks and runways…and I doubt it’ll be disappearing any time soon.
3. FKA TWIGS
Nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2014, FKA Twigs is an incredibly fluid artist. Her music sways between genres just as her style manages to combine experimental individuality with refined femininity. She’s cooler than cool and endorsed by the likes of Christopher Kane and Givenchy (whose AW15 show saw gelled baby hair curiously similar to that of Twigs’ signature look). Recently, Twigs has collaborated with Nike as a creative director for their Zonal Tights collection…exercising has never looked so good. If that’s not enough – she’s also dating fellow style expert Robert Pattinson. Dream team couple, am I right or am I right?
4. OLIVIA PALERMO
Olivia Palermo is an actress turned model turned designer turned Project Runway judge turned brand ambassador turned blogger. Basically, reading this girl’s C.V. must be a wild ride. With 4.5 million followers on Instagram, it’s hardly surprising that Olivia is one of the most trusted fashion icons for many clothes lovers out there. Her style is clean and classy and is full of chunky knits, structured shirts, and girly dresses. Even when she puts a bit of grunginess in her outfits she still manages to look a million dollars. Essentially, she’s the pristine lady of perfection that I so wish I could be.
5. PANDORA SYKES
Pandora Sykes is a British writer, stylist, and consultant. She’s the Fashion Features Editor at The Sunday Times Style and occasional writer for the likes of Man Repeller, i-D, and Cosmo. Her blog, pandorasykes.com, shows off some of the best of her witty and excellent writing, and of course her street style. Pandora is one of those Instagram girls that you should be following. Collating high fashion with vintage and high street brands, Pandora seems to nail her outfits on the head every, single, time. She’s collaborated with Chanel, Topshop, Lyst, and Selfridges (just to name a few), so yeah, you can trust her.
6. SOLANGE KNOWLES
The younger Miss Knowles found great acclaim in September of last year for her incredible album, A Seat at the Table. But she’s also been quite the style icon for some time now. Solange is another astounding woman who can pull off elegance, glamour, and boldness. She wears prints and bright colours, masculine and feminine shapes, and a whole array of hairstyles. As Vogue dubs her, Solange is a “beauty chameleon” – unafraid to experiment and seemingly, unafraid of anything.
7. ALEXA CHUNG
I bet you were all waiting for this one. Here she is, in all her glory. Alexa Chung was my very first fashion idol (that is, if you don’t count Avril Lavigne circa 2003) and boy, is she an important one. She was the first person to teach me that you can dress like a boy and still be feminine. She was the one who introduced me to my love-hate relationship with eyeliner. She’s my everyday hair inspiration and my nostalgic nod back to my teenage love of indie boy bands and festivals. And although my style has surely diversified from the stock-piece striped shirt, chelsea boots and blazer combo, Alexa’s style still remains timeless. She makes grandpa jumpers and overalls cool and her book IT reveals her coolness in full detail. Alexa is one of fashion’s greats. She’s always on the guest list, the best dressed list, and the muse list. She won the British Style Award in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and has collaborated on collections with J. Crew, Marks & Spencer, and AG Jeans.
8. SOPHIA AMORUSO
A certified #GirlBoss, Forbes has named Sophia Amoruso one of the richest self-made women in the world. Her story starts with a tiny eBay store (named Nasty Gal Vintage, after the 1975 Betty Davis album) which expanded into its own retail website. She’s monopolised both the business and the fashion industry as an entrepreneur that can make something out of nothing. Her style is edgy, fearless, and rooted in musical influences. In her second book, Nasty Galaxy, Sophia lists her ‘Pieces De Resistance’ as: a black leather jacket, a denim jacket, a white t-shirt, a vintage rock tee, high-waisted black jeans, shit-kicking ankle boots, black eyeliner, red lipstick, a sneer, and a smile.
9. MARGARET ZHANG
Margaret Zhang is a fashion blogger (for her own website, Shine By Three), photographer, stylist, writer, creative director, and consultant. She has a Bachelor of Commerce and is working towards a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney. She’s teamed up with the likes of Clinique, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Matches Fashion. A fashion week regular, Margaret can be found in the audiences of Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. And if all that weren’t enough, she has had a book of “visual essays” published by Eastland. At the fresh young age of 22. Margaret is a self-confessed tomboy and lover of layering and I find myself endlessly poring over her clothes, her motivation, and her job(s).
10. LEANDRA MEDINE COHEN
Leandra is a fashion blogger best known for Man Repeller – a website that approaches fashion, beauty and culture from a witty and comedic vantage point. She deserves to be on this list because she is a breath of fresh air. Leandra doesn’t take herself too seriously, she admits to being totally less than cool and she is evermore lovable because of it. A master of wacky sunglasses, long coats and a good old pair of jeans, she’s a style icon because she shows us that it’s okay to not be polished all of the time.
11. MARY KATE & ASHLEY OLSEN
I’m counting the Olsen twins as one, okay? Let me do it. I’m already over the ‘Top Ten’ thing. The Telegraph‘s Emma Spedding writes that the twins “are the anti-Kardashians, hiding behind bundles of cashmere and wearing quiet but luxe accessories by their label The Row.” Yes, they seem to hide from the paparazzi and look incredibly unapproachable but you have to admit, Mary Kate and Ashley have minimalism down to a T. I lust after their wardrobes of black sweaters, chunky statement coats, and huge sunglasses. They make me want a twin sister just so I could force her to wear collaborated outfits with me.