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Few current artists, even in today’s Instagram-obsessed era, dress as fabulously as Duran Duran themselves. The new wave icons were at the forefront of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s fashion-focused New Romantic movement, and they developed their early style in the legendary dance club that gave the band its start, Birmingham, England’s Rum Runner. And they’ve been pop’s best-dressed boys on film ever since.
In honor of Duran Duran Appreciation Day (yes, that’s a real holiday, look it up), we asked Duran Duran bassist John Taylor to give us some weekend party inspo and share the stylish stories behind some of Duran Duran’s most iconic looks.
“It was this confluence of post-punk people, looking to experiment, to define themselves, to identify themselves through music and clothes,” Taylor tells Yahoo Entertainment, recalling the Rum Runner scene that had such an effect on his early style sense. “I loved walking in there and seeing the way kids were dressing, the way they were bleaching their hair, sweeping their hair back, wearing '40s suits and cocktail dresses and heels. It was very vintage-oriented, but there was also a modern, futurist thing going on. And the soundtrack was the beginning of electro — the end of punk, the end of glam. It was the first time I ever heard Kraftwerk or Japan in a nightclub, and it had a tremendous energy to it. And I think that for me, that’s why clothes and music are always going to be connected.”
Enjoy the careless fashion memories here, from John Taylor's famous fedora to Simon Le Bon's tucked-in tie.
Hats off to Duran Duran
Long before Pharrell Williams was wearing his Buffalo hat to the Grammys, trend-setter Taylor was known for a signature chapeau. “I stole that from [Duran Duran frontman] Simon Le Bon,” he says of his famous fedora. “We were making the ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ video and the director, Russell Mulcahy, was wearing it all the time. And he put it on Simon for that video. But somehow when we left Sri Lanka, it was on my head! And then it didn’t leave my head for, like, the entire Rio campaign.
"There was only one hat, a very particular piece of kit. It’s not so easy to just say, 'I want a hat like that,’ you know? It was a very particular one. Sometimes you have to be kind of conniving, you have to be sneaky to get that key piece.”
So, where is that key piece now? Sadly, it seems that the special, one-of-a-kind hat is lost forever. “God knows, I have no idea. I think it’s amazing that I even remember where it came from,” Taylor laughs.
Red and black and stylish all over
“I was into Russian constructivism in my teens, and that was all red, white, and black. It was a color scheme that the early '80s, I’m not quite sure why,” says Taylor. “I think a big influence of that look was the Kraftwerk Man Machine album. Ultimately, that’s where your White Stripes look came from!”
The Duran Duran army
“When I think about our fashion crimes, the one I really don’t like is the sort of pseudo-German military thing that we had going on, where we were all in matching uniforms. I really hate that look,” Taylor admits now.
Up to their necks in style
There is something fashion-minded Duran fans want to know: Why did the band members tuck their neckties into their shirts for the “Is There Something I Should Know” video?
“How I remember it — and you could get five different stories to this question — it was a reaction against having to come up with a lot of looks,” Taylor explains. “I think from 'Planet Earth’ on, we had to burn through looks. Every time we did a video, we had to come up with a new look. It was quite exhausting. And I think the idea was it was a way of simplifying. It was just to say, 'We’re going to take a break from styling.’ And I think also the song was a little Beatles-influenced, so maybe we were influenced by the Beatles’ sort of uniform.”
Wild boys, wild style
For the videos from the Seven and the Ragged Tiger era and Arena tour, Duran’s fashions took on a more ragged, or at least more rugged, Mad Max-like vibe. “I’m not quite sure how that happened,” Taylor chuckles. “I think it was because we’d been in Australia and we’d really been exposed to those films.”
Entering the house of Sprouse
“We’re always trying to find that mix of high/low. We’ve always been an aspirational brand, in a way, and we kind of dressed that way, but I also like it when it keeps its street roots, where it’s still got a nod towards a sort of punk-rock thing,” Taylor says. “I don’t like it when it gets all-over shiny; I like it when it’s mixed-up, you know?
"For me, punk rock really made me very clothes-conscious. That was my coming-of-age, when I began to assert my identity through clothes. It was a very DIY kind of moment, rummaging through my father’s closet and taking old shirts that he wasn’t wearing anymore and tearing the sleeves off and spray-painting them and stenciling them. That kind of personal statement was what punk rock was all about.”
So it made total sense that in 1989, Duran Duran teamed up with punk-rock designer Stephen Sprouse (who passed away in 2004) for their Big Thing tour and Decade album cover.
“I think [Duran Duran keyboardist] Nick [Rhodes] met Stephen through Andy Warhol. Stephen was an amazing guy; he was like a half-poet, half-punk,” Taylor recalls. “We were lucky to have hooked up with him at that time, because of what he was doing with his fluorescents and a lot of silver. He was really on his game at that point. It was probably around the time that his brand was as big as it was going to get. He didn’t ever cross over and become a first-division designer, but he had an amazing store in New York then, a four-story flagship that was just fantastic, with 12-foot screens running videos of the Sex Pistols.”
Girls on film
Duran Duran’s passion for fashion reached its artistic high point relatively recently, when the band recruited superstars from the golden era of supermodels to portray them in 2010’s gender-bending “Girl Panic!” music video. Glamour girls Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen, and Simon Le Bon’s own wife Yasmin Le Bon took on the roles of Simon, Nick, John, drummer Roger Taylor, and current guitarist Dominic Brown, respectively. “I think that’s one of the most iconic things that we’ve done,” John says proudly.
So how was it decided which model would play which Duran Duran member? “I think Naomi was like, 'I’ll do it — but I’m singing!” he laughs. “And she wasn’t wrong to say that. She was the perfect 'frontman.’ And then everybody else just sort of fell in.”
Still a view to a thrill, four decades later
“We’re all different. I’m the only band member that really likes to shop,” says Taylor (whose wife of 20 years is fashion designer and Juicy Couture co-founder Gela Nash-Taylor) when discussing his current style. “My wardrobe is updated fairly regularly. I think it sort of gets harder as you get older, because you’re a little more self-conscious about your body and you tend to play it safe a little bit. You tend to get into a groove: 'Oh, this is what works for me.’ But it’s good to get out of your comfort zone now and again.
"Whenever we work, whenever we perform live... what we’re going to wear, and how the things are going to look, is always going to be an important question for Duran Duran.”
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