Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Style Icon: Björk

I thought today I'd do something a bit different by spotlighting someone who's been hugely influential for me: the incomparable Björk Guðmundsdóttir.




















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!

20 comments:

Penny said...

Bjork is not only a visionary but an amazing artist in every sense of the world. I love how she recreates nature in her sounds and how songs like 'All is full of love' emote such a strong sense of longing and togetherness that every day songs just don't. Another favorite song is Unravel...every time I hear that song I get a huge ball in my throat. Those lyrics and the way she exaggerates the notes detail a pain that I gather all humans carry at one time or another throughout the course of their lifetime. As for her fashion and creative choices I say...nothing else would suit her. Her image is in complete unison to her voice and thoughts. This is a great post!

Sal said...

I am not at all surprised to hear that Björk is a style icon of yours, Audi. I see all of the things you admire in her in you - playfulness, daring, mischief, detail.

kellyroy68@yahoo.gr said...

hi Audi ,
I'm 2 years older than you and I do remember to get a strong feeling when I first listened to Bjorg. For me it was the voice that stayed in my ears for ever.It was also strange for me that she was a single mum.
For some reason the song I really love to listen is a musical like song that goes something like "It's all so still,it's all so quiet '' and then she falls in love and everything changes. Do you know the song?I'm off to listen to it1!!! have a nice time

Diana said...

I love how Bjork is completely unafraid to take risks and mix art with fashion. She is stunning.

lsaspacey said...

kellyroy68,
"It's Oh So Quiet" is an old Big Band arrangement from 1951. I think you'd enjoy hearing how the original was here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=horRWtbAJoI and how Bjork added her own magic and made it her own.

j.p. said...

Hooray, Bjork stays confidently seated as no. 1 in many a category of mine. I didn't 'discover' her until after I lived in Iceland for a year (an outpost of the NATO base near Sandgerdi); perhaps my time breathing Iceland air and dodging its gulls tuned me up in advance. If I went on, I would simply be repeating 98.5% of your regard for her and I'd be preachin' to the choir, so I will stop...after tipping my hat in thanks for the great blog post.

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I love Bjork's music and her style is so friggin' amazing. It's not my own personal kind of style, but I love to look.

I'm not surprised that Bjork is one of your icons. And I for one would love to hear about other style icons who have influenced you, Audi.

Eyeliah said...

'Awwwwwww!'
Nice mix up today, she is fab. Ive' truly always wanted a swan dress of my own.

Sheila said...

I always admire people who take fashion risks, even if they aren't judged to be successful (I'm thinking about Uma Thurman's samurai-type gown that she wore to the Oscars one year). Bjork is not a musician that I'm that familiar with (I've seen a few videos), but like the other commenters, I'm totally not surprised that you like her - of course you do!

I don't really have a style icon - many women have influenced me over the years, from my mom to Audrey Hepburn to Katherine Hepburn.

Yes, I would love to see more of your Style Icons! Bring it on!

WendyB said...

I wanna go to the blue lagoon now!

elmendez said...

I listened to the youtube video as I read your post. Magical. And yes, more of these please.

Pammie said...

I love your blog; and I do love Iceland as well - I spent a week there 10 years ago and have wanted to go back every day since.

I don't have a single style icon (I don't believe!) - but am focusing on dressing more of "my style" versus some "professional" style with no soul. So that means more rock and roll! Or should I name my look, Rock N Roll librarian in the 70s?

Deborah said...

She is awesome and always always in my playlist.

I remember when I was dating (after a divorce several years ago) I had her on the CD player and the guy that was over was entranced. He had never heard her before.

Love her so much.

Your blog is brilliant!

shybiker said...

Bjork is an artist and not a mere celebrity so her choices must, as you note, be viewed in that light. I loved her swan outfit not only for what it was but for the implicit rebuke it posed to Hollywood glamour. People who criticized it just didn't get what she's doing. Great to see another Bjork admirer out there.

mbz said...

"And finally, would you like to see further Style Icons features on the blog?"

Absolutely yes. Along with travel, literature, food...whatever. The blog will then be elevated from occasional perusal status to RSS feed. Bjork is extraordinary, isn't she?

39th and Broadway said...

Not a huge fan of Bjork but I feel the same way about Lady Gaga often. It's a good remider to push the boundaries and step outside the box a bit in our everyday style choices.

By the way, just found your blog and Etsy shop, LOVE both!

anotheranon said...

Would love to see more of your style icons on the blog - Bjork is one of the great fashion eccentrics :)

My own inspiration since I knew who she was is Vivienne Westwood - she plays with historic costume in her designs and her personal style is emphatically her own.

Shallow Coffee said...

Our wedding recessional was a Bjork song.

jenn said...

Huge Sugarcube fan here. Takes me back. ;)

Kintster Beauty and Fashion said...

Bjork is a witty fashionista, too. I also noticed that her son is so cute. I'd like to feature them in my style icons of today blog soon.