Styling #001: Lana Del Rey

Textbook retro-chic and the world fashion record

At this stage of the game, writing something original about Elisabeth Grant seems practically impossible. This is the girl who went from scraping by in a trailer park on the outskirts of New Jersey to being lynched for her (almost) debut on the sacrosanct Saturday Night Live - after 20 million people watched “Videogames” on YouTube. Her story has been told so regularly - and spread so widely - that she is dangerously on the verge of saturation (thus, boredom). But what is it about Lana Del Rey that makes it so hard for the world to resist giving us their opinions on her? Whatever it is, it is true that she has reached the status of a pop product (that is: music is no longer the most important thing when she is talked about) in record time.

To start with, Lana has an image that has been studied down to the millimetre, one that could be described as a very skilfully-created post-modern femme fatale: she has a 50s look and wavy hair cut Lana Turner-style, mixed with a few “gangsta” details and a bit of that bizarre chic that David Lynch fans like. The best of yesterday and today mixed without complexes, like the images that she edited for the clip of “Videogames” (a bittersweet cocktail of 90s skaters, homemade Super 8 fragments and old cartoons). She has defined herself as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and “a Lolita lost in the forest”.

Her style: in her perfectly-handled appearances in the media, so far Lana has shown an obsessive predilection for white dresses (lace is another of her favourites), trainers (combined with big hoops, the subtle bling is already her trademark) and short tops (she has always been one more likely to show her navel than her cleavage; unlike the majority of the pop star system, she’s not one to show cleavage at the drop of a hat). To her passion for good-girl pastel dresses and flowers in general (Tavi Gevinson herself paid homage a few days ago to the crown of pink flowers that Lana often wears), she adds an aversion to high heels and an obsession with patriotic stars and stripes. All told, the disturbing (and apparently, given what we’ve seen, very exciting) look of a decent Republican who goes to church on Sunday and then does her evil deeds in secret, while continuing to look as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

The truth is that, seeing the photos that circulate on the internet from her pre-Lana Del Rey phase (where she looks more home-grown - less produced, without the XXL lips - with a slightly sordid air, like Elisabeth Shue a couple of decades ago), it’s impossible not to think that the Lana Del Rey we know is the product of a stylist specialised in drawing the interest of the world of the fashionista. Because if there is one thing that the author of Born To Die has achieved, it is having the red carpet rolled out for her in the fashion world. Next to her, Adele looks bland and Lady Gaga looks like a cheap imitation of Madonna. So far, Del Rey has allowed herself to be loved (and dressed) by Antonio Berardi and Ricardo Tisci - the genius who has returned the creative shine to Givenchy using a sophisticated Gothic touch, poetic, very clean, and not necessarily dark. At the last New York Fashion Week, Lana barely showed her face, but “ Videogames” was played at the fashion shows of companies like Prabal Gurung. Furthermore, news spread on the Internet a few days ago that Lana will appear at the Met Gala, organised by the Costume Institute (THE fashion event of the year) on the arm of designer Joseph Altuzarra, one of Anna Wintour’s golden boys.

There is a thermometer that shows the rise in popularity of Lana Del Rey; her meteoric career from the more underground and strictly musical circuit, to the more official mainstream. She has been on countless covers in recent months - from NME to the Russian Interview, to the English Vogue (and so on, and so on). In the blink of an eye, Lana has gone from being Pitchfork cannon fodder to a fake Prada advertisement that has spread like wildfire on the Internet (a fabulous photomontage that can be interpreted as a playful joke and even a self-parody of her fleshy lips); as well as being publicly defended by Tavi Gevinson and Alexandra Schulman, the director of the British Vogue. At times fashion likes to feed from exotic musical figures to earn authenticity points (for example M.I.A, Lily Allen and Beth Ditto, have all been picked up in recent years by fashion magazines), but the artist’s credibility and future will depend on the management of this new and blinding popularity (which is almost always completely unrelated to strictly musical merits).

The details speak for themselves: on the cover of the British edition of Vogue, Lana appears photographed by Mario Testino, wearing Louis Vuitton. Everyone knows that’s significant - that photographer, and that French brand don’t usually place themselves so easily at the service of newcomers. Will Lana crash and burn in this speeding car? Or has a star been born?

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