Way back in 1989, when I was 19, I vividly remember seeing the video for the Sugarcubes' Coldsweat on MTV's 120 Minutes and being completely mesmerized. Shortly afterwards I heard this song and it pretty much changed my life:
Though I wouldn't say I've ever actively tried to dress like Björk, she nevertheless has influenced my style tremendously because of her admirable penchant for taking risks. Though her infamous Oscars swan dress is widely acknowledged as a major fashion faux pas, I totally, totally got it. Sometimes it's not about dressing to fit in with a particular audience or even wearing what's considered to be flattering; sometimes it's just about doing something that brings you joy. And in many ways I think it was also Björk's acknowledgement that she really does not belong to the glamorous Hollywood world; she's an avant garde, musical innovator, and as such she's an outsider at the Oscars or any other celebrity function. I for one applauded her ability to celebrate the cheeky and ridiculous; what a refreshing change she is from artists, and people in general, who take themselves way too seriously.
Clearly it was also Björk who put Iceland on the map for me. I remember first hearing that the Sugarcubes were from there and thinking, "Whoa, people actually live in Iceland?" (remember, I was only 19). It wouldn't be until many years later that I would randomly come across a travel article about Iceland and, because of its connection with Björk, stop to read it. From that point on I was determined to go, and as of this writing I've been to Iceland 6 times and counting. Though I'd always loved Björk's music before, it really wasn't until I'd gone to Iceland, walked on the spongy moss-covered lava, examined the intricate and tiny plant life, listened to groaning glacial ice and seen bubbling mud pits and sulfur-spewing fumaroles, that I truly felt as though I was beginning to grasp it.
Björk has a flair for the minuscule, unexpected elements that are clearly influenced by her otherworldly land. Tiny, tinkling bells, whispering voices, and other ethereal sounds are all exactly the kinds of things you hear in the windy, desolate reaches of the Icelandic landscape. I remember an interview where she said of one of her albums (I believe it was Vespertine) that you almost need a microscope to listen to it, which is such a perfect way to put it.
I may not always love, or even quite understand, Björk's stylistic or musical choices; frankly, I find some of it too obtuse and inaccessible be either wearable or listenable out here in the real world. Much of what she does she can pull off simply because she's Björk, and I've learned to accept the fact that there are some things in life that you simply don't question. I'll always admire her unique talent and capacity for the bizarre; she has a childlike, mischievous quality as well as an almost futuristic wisdom, as if she's too far ahead of the rest of us to be truly appreciated now. No matter what she does, love it or hate it, it's almost certain to be interesting, and for that she continues to be an influence for me.
Who are your style icons? How do you feel about people like Björk, who push the stylistic boundaries? And finally, would you like to see further Style Icons features on the blog?
Björk with her son Sindri at Iceland's Blue Lagoon. Let's all say it together now: awwwww!