Prince Estate X Zara: Prince style hits the high street.

One of the world’s largest fashion retailers Zara has teamed up with the Prince Estate to release a capsule collection available online and instore across the UK and Europe.

The menswear collection consists of 5 garments – two t-shirts, two jumpers and one hoodie. The collection could definitely be viewed as unisex. The size ranges for the collection are disappointing – a very limiting S, M, L and XL. The company is known for having some of the smallest sizings on the high street so I’m not personally expecting to get into any of the collection easily. For fans of Prince’s eccentric wardrobe, filled with exquisite tailoring and embellishment, don’t hold your breath. As an activewear range, designs are mostly monochromatic with a hint of signature Prince glamour.

As mentioned this is an activewear range so the small collection is more geared to running errands or hitting the gym than a night of Princely decadence. The closet we get to His Royal Badness flamboyance is a matt bugle bead encrusted logo sweatshirt. A nice touch but how amazing could this design be if they brought out the Love Symbol paillette sequins Prince favoured in the mid-1990s? Perhaps a touch far for the everyday Zara shopper.

The garments are styled very minimally for the Zara website – the opposite of Prince’s personal style. Every separate is paired with a pair of jet black skinny jeans (no high waists/ no buttons/ no stretch flared yoga pants) and LOAFERS – yes LOAFERS! Of course, I don’t expect the models to be dressed up as the musician but styling could have been a bit more inspired.

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I’ve read many online comments about this latest release from the Estate – Prince wouldn’t wear that/ he wouldn’t want his face selling t-shirts/ why no Lovesexy pastels? Looking at the collection as a whole I can see a (heavily watered down) trace of Prince’s sartorial handwriting. The capsule collection is (mostly) monochromatic, clean and graphic. Attributes that could be seen in previous Prince design details such as the Nude tour and 3121 outfits. Unlike the majority of Prince’s clothing, these garments are not tailored but oversized and would not look out of place in your average high-street streetwear collection. Zara and the Estate have been clever here – this is what sells, not assless canary yellow pants.

The ‘Love Print’ sweatshirt initially seems the furthest away from signature Prince style but the graphics are lifted straight from a 1996 black leather design currently housed within the Paisley Park archives. Nice attention to detail guys! The bold collegiate style white and black letters are blown up and emblazoned across the plain sweatshirt in white and grey.

The Lovesexy hoodie seems to be getting a lot of love online – it’s a no brainer really – we all want that iconic Lovesexy font down on forearms. How I wish there were some matching leggings too! What is apparent throughout the capsule collection is Prince’s dynamic style cannot be easily transferred into highstreet fashion. In fact, Zara and The Estate have cleverly adapted iconic (and not so iconic) gems from Prince’s wardrobe and translated them into accessible activewear that even a non-Prince fan could enjoy.

Following the unnerving news that the Estate is severing ties with Graceland Holdings, could this collaboration be part of the funding plan to help manage Paisley Park? I wouldn’t be mad if selling some bog-standard Controversy t-shirts for accessible prices on the high street would safeguard the continuation of Prince’s wardrobe being accessioned, conserved and displayed for future purple fans for many years to come. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Dressing the Batdance

Prince’s relationship with the Batman franchise began in the late 1960s where a young Prince learned to tickle the ivories along to the Batman television series theme tune. Fast forward to 1989 – Prince had released Lovesexy the previous year, a euphoric album celebrating positivity after the last minute shelving of the ominous The Black Album.

On the surface the partnership of Prince and the Batman franchise seemed a bit of an odd pairing but Prince, a self professed atypical Gemini, held a personal affinity to duality of Bruce Wayne and was drawn to the dark underworld of Gotham City.

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Time has not been kind to the Batman record with some fans and critics writing it off as a kitschy puff piece. Historically however the album did well in sales and enjoyed six week’s at No. 1 in the Billboard charts in 1989. All in all I’ve got a mega soft spot for the Batman album…okay except The Arms of Orion – I can’t get off the couch fast enough to skip that song (sorry Sheena!). But I’m not here to discuss the music – let’s talk the looks – green jerry curls and all!  I’ll be looking at the following three music videos from the album; Batdance, Partyman and Scandalous.

This town needs an enema!

The album was oddly released before the film’s debut but go figure, that’s pretty much standard Prince. The first single Batdance is an erratic blend of funk, rock and the pioneering use of sound bites from the film with Prince answering back to the film throughout (‘Oh yeah I wanna bust that body right’).  The video is a kitsch love letter to Prince’s Gotham City with Gemini (one of Prince’s many alter egos) in a comic book inspired ensemble and a harem of doppelgänger Kim Basinger’s gyrating round the sound stage. Yes it is as marvellous and ridiculous as it sounds.

The video is directed by Albert Magnolia with costumes by Helen Hiatt and Susan Stella. The real Prince is behind the scenes, chilling in the studio, laying down the track in high waisted corseted genie pants and triumphant blow dry. It’s his own take of Bruce Wayne leisurewear and I’m very here for it. Side note – my Mum and I’s favourite part of this video is when Prince does a cheeky wee hair flip and smile when he sings ‘hey Jackie’ – even better when my Mum’s name is in fact Jackie. But in actual fact he’s saying ‘hey ducky’ and we only just realised this last week – devastating after all these years.

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Prince chilling in the studio in his jumpsuit, Batdance (1989)

I was lucky enough to see the Batdance suit in all it’s campy glory at the My Name is Prince touring exhibition at the 02, London last year. I remember vividly screaming in a tour guides face as I tried to barge past a blockage of visitors to get a closer look. The vertical divide suit complete with 1 PVC batwing was still as bright and jarring as it appeared in the video. Looking back on the costume now it’s very reminiscent of the ‘half and half’ costumes worn by burlesque dancers in the 1940s and 1950s. Each costume represented opposing characters such as bride/groom, devil/angel and the dancer utilised each persona throughout their number with clever choreography and design detail – just like Prince does in the music video.

The dichotomy of the costume goes hand in hand with Prince’s evil twin, Gemini, who appears in the video as a Paisley Park hybrid of the Joker/Batman. The attention to detail in the outfit is astounding with teeny tiny bat symbols on Prince’s signature cuban heeled boots, I’ve never wanted to steal a pair of shoes so much before! For the Joker side of the costumes there an huge nod to Jack Nicholson’s depiction of the Joker in the film.

All hail the new king in town!

Gemini returns in Partyman wearing a more traditional tailored suit (no PVC this time around) again in purple and orange. It’s a pinstriped number with sparkly thread running through as an accent detail with opposing fabric covered buttons. The sleeves of the jacket are adorned in Kanji writing – a foreshadow to the Grafitti Bridge premiere and Nude Japan tour looks to come in 1990.  My favourite thing about the suit has to the impeccable tailoring and clever use of buttons throughout. When Gemini spins round on his cuban heels you can see bright orange buttons acting as a cinch at the waist of the jacket. This is further tailored by the extreme cut of the closure of this jacket, again drawing the eye in to that tiny waist with clever use of button detailing – Gemini’s nod to the zoot suit. Costumes were designed by Helen Horatio & Sarah Daubney – ladies if you are out there I would love to see those dress patterns!

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Gemini’s version of a zoot suit – sparkly pinstripes included.

The interesting thing about Prince’s costuming throughout this music video is the emergence of the 1990s silhouette developed throughout the impeccable tailoring of the Paisley Park wardrobe department. With a heavily built up shoulder line with corseted and darted waist with flat fronted closures, Prince was building his ideal silhouette which in turn mimicked that of a hyper version of broad shouldered dames such as Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. There’s a real correlation between the two here seen below in the heavily tailored suit for the Violet the Organ Grinder video, 1991. We know Prince was a huge Old Hollywood buff so I like to think this was intentional.

Touch it and explode.

Lastly Scandalous sees Prince incredibly parred down with just over of 4 minutes of sensuous air humping, sashaying and spilting his way through the ballad. He’s really feeling himself in this video. He’s opted for an all red ensemble of high brow MC Hammer trousers with cinched waist and corsetry detailing on the centre seams and shoulder padded tank top with mandarin collar (of course). This look mimic the Batdance studio outfit and seems to be Prince’s idea of sweatpants and old band t-shirt you wear to watch Netflix in bed. The trousers in particular are in interesting mismatch of feminine lingerie detailing (the lace-ups) and zoot suit pleating to add volume and shape to Prince’s silhouette.

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Prince in the Scandalous music video, those baggy trousers making that spilt look seamless.

Overall the Batdance record provided us with a myriad of transitional looks from the 1980s to early 1990s…and my Mum’s most favourite hair flip in music video history.

His Royal Badness & Me

A lot of people are often surprised when they find out I’m a huge Prince fan mostly due to the way I dress. One fellow (immaculately dressed) Prince fan commented on how it’s very uncommon to see someone like myself, an active part of the vintage scene, to enjoy Prince. I had never really thought of it that way before and it got me thinking about my relationship with the vintage community and sub-cultures in general. My own personal taste in vintage clothing, ranging mostly from 1940s to early 1960s, can make dressing as a fan, at times, awkward. Yes I wear seamed stockings and obsess over finding affordable bakelite in Scotland (no chance!) but I am not strictly committed to ‘vintage’ music tastes as such. Don’t get me wrong I love Little Richard – without him there would be no Prince – but I’d much rather listen to the purple one than Gene Vincent.

With thanks to my parents who have admirable music tastes I grew up in a house where Prince would often be playing in the kitchen. The first time I put a face to the voice was watching Prince bare his (wonderful) ass at the MTV Music Awards in the now infamous canary yellow jumpsuit designed by Stacia Lang. I remember feeling the magnetic fuzz of the television as I pressed my face up close to the screen gawking at His Royal Badness. Looking back I think this introduction really set me off on my path for overt displays of glamour and style that I continue to love to this day as  a thirty year old woman. Things came full circle a few months ago in Minneapolis where I got to tell Lang just how much of an impact her creations had on me growing up and yes I did cry.

 

Fashion was incredibly important to me growing up. At the same time as I was discovering Lauren Bacall’s houndstooth suit in The Big Sleep I was also delving into charity shops for the first time and realising clothing didn’t have to just come out of Tammy Girl. Already a firm Prince fan it took me surprisingly 14 years to watch the film Purple Rain. I distinctly remembering staying up late to watch Prince writhe to Computer Blue through the bars of my (naturally) purple bed bunk and thinking to myself ‘why didn’t my parents tell me he did THIS too?’.

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Prince performing The Beautiful Ones. Purple Rain, 1984.

 

My first thought immediately went to the clothes in that film. Those clothes really spoke to me – all those rhinestones, lace, ruffles and high-octane glamour that mirrored my burgeoning interest in Old Hollywood. I vividly remember buying a pair of nylon lace gloves from a charity shop for 20p and a handful of tangled costume jewellery pearl necklaces in my first direct fashion ode to Prince in second year of high school. However I did not spending my teen years wearing high-rise nylon teddies from Marks and Spencers a’la Apollonia instead I spent a lot of time in my teens skanking away to bands like Reel Big Fish and Mad Caddies, wearing jumbo sky blue cords, two-tone anything and plastic jewellery (nothing changes there). I didn’t really feel like my side passion for Prince was relatable to my peers but I found my way of getting my purple freak on. One of the first nights of university, amongst a group of fashion students, I put on my beloved Prince box set and we all sat down to watch to Purple Rain. Previous to this we had all watched The Notebook on mass and the memory of watching my soon to be friends drop their jaws as Prince gleefully humps First Avenue’s floors is probably one of my most fondest memories. 

As I mentioned previously this year I did something I never thought I would – I visited Minneapolis, Prince’s beloved home city. I was accepted to speak at the Prince From Minneapolis conference at the University of Minnesota and with the help of credit cards, overtly generous friends, family and strangers I made it to my purple mecca. Prior to touch down I knew I needed the perfect fashion homage to Prince and felt it fitting to recreate my own version of 1950s circle skirt complete with Prince felt appliqués. Novelty skirts were incredibly popular in the 1950s where home dressmakers and the department stores alike created whimsical thematic designs focusing on kitsch themes such as poodles, vegetables and circus scenes. My Mommie Dearest and I had the best time gluing our fingers together to make rhinestone Love Symbols and 3D felt Prince effigies. I went for Third Eye Girl P and classic Purple Rain era after an ill-fated foray in fashioning a felt Gemini Prince from Partyman but at least I tried. This skirt still feels like the perfect marriage of my identity lovingly rounded up in one garment, super glue stains and all.

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At the Capri Theatre on April 21st, 2018 wearing my Prince themed novelty circle skirt.

Standing outside Paisley Park, the epicentre of all things Prince, I watched for 4 days as fans from all over the world jumped out of taxis, buses and  insane yellow sport cars decked out in their Prince finery. Nods to The Purple One ranged from the unassuming (there was A LOT of immaculate purple manicures) to the wonderfully outrageous. One fan I met outside the Target Centre at the controversial Prince: Live on Big Screen show had worked for months with a seamstress to recreate the Raspberry Beret suit from head to toe. Boots included. Creative fans customised denim jackets with hand-made appliqués, pins, embellishments and fabric with a special shout out to the women I saw in First Avenue in FULL Dirty Mind garb – bikini brief and all. 

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Customised Prince denim jacket outside Paisley Park, April 20th 2018.
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Lovesexy look – all handmade at Prince: Live on Big Screen, April 20th 2018. 

I think the thing I admire most about Prince is his sense of self, something he remained unapologetic for throughout his career –  ill-fated blue smurf suits and all. With every encounter I have with a Prince fan his style comes up with people remarking on how only Prince could pull off his eccentric ensembles. True there aren’t many people who can pull of the Gangsta Glam unitard and skates look but I love the fact that people do revel and rejoice in his clothing in their own individual way. Recently the EYE NO: Prince Lovesexy symposium at NYU filled my heart with such happiness as I saw scholars and fans alike decked out in polka dots in honour of the album’s iconic look.

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Prince for V Magazine. Photography – Inez & Vinoodh. Fall, 2014.

Prince’s true sense of self continues to inspire me every day and rings true of my other coveted weirdos who make me who I am – John Waters, Elsa Schiaparelli, Carmen Miranda to name a few. Prince himself was inspired by other like-minded eccentrics and I like to think that I’ll continue to spread the good purple word wherever I go in life, all whilst wearing a raspberry beret of course.

Long may this celebration of outrageous glamour, race, gender, sexuality and self reign!