The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

New York Times vs. New York Mag: Beyoncé "Fashion Icon" Debate Heats Up

Thursday, July 31: 2:54 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Last week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, unveiled a brand new exhibit featuring iconic fashions from Beyoncé's blockbuster career. From the white cotton tank-top with stones, J Brand Denim shorts and red Stuart Weitzman patent leather sling-back pumps from the "Crazy In Love" video all the way to the Rubin Singer leather and lace body suit, skirt and jacket from her 2013 Super Bowl performance, Beyoncé's fashions stands among a rock and roll pantheon in the Museum's Legends of Rock section, positioned beside the likes of David Bowie, James Brown, the Supremes, the Who and ZZ Top – artists who've made bold sartorial statements throughout their careers. Those unforgettable style cues – Bowie's Ziggy costumes, James Brown's jumpsuits, the Supremes' matching dresses, the Who's Mod sensibilities, the beards of ZZ Top – are arguably as recognizable as the music each created. At the very least, the fashion and the music is inextricably linked. So, is Beyoncé a fashion icon? New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman doesn't think so.

In a July 31, 2014, New York Times article titled "Beyoncé, a Legend of Rock, but Not Fashion," Friedman writes: "Because despite all the accolades that Beyoncé has garnered — most powerful celebrity in the world, according to Forbes; No. 1 on People’s Most Beautiful list; the artist behind the fastest selling iTunes album ever; a global juggernaut; subject of her own documentary — the one she does not seem to actually merit is “fashion icon. … Beyoncé hasn’t moved, or influenced, the direction of fashion writ large in the way that, say, Rihanna, the winner of this year’s CFDA Fashion Icon award, has." (Rihanna is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Right Here, Right Now exhibit.)

Judge for yourself and see the Beyoncé exhibit:

Writer Allison P. Davis of New York Magazine was quick with a rebuke of Friedman, writing in a piece titled "Why Would Fashion's Biggest Critic Slam Beyoncé?": "Beyoncé isn’t always 'fashion forward' or experimental or cutting edge — something we've come to expect from the Rihannas and the Gagas of the world — but to say she hasn’t influenced fashion is shortsighted. The definition of 'fashion icon' should stop being so narrow and as inaccessible as it is these days. It should be about more than just wearing the most avant-garde or fresh-off-the-runway looks. Because if you pay attention to the whole picture, not just the one painted with a rarefied brush, Beyoncé’s fashion truly matters to people."

Where do you stand? Is Beyoncé a "fashion icon?" Is Beyoncé a "legend of rock?"

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