BY JOSEPHINE AMAKYE
MMBC CO-PRESIDENT LEIA FRANKEL ON FASHION'S ROLE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Imagine some of the most iconic and talked about fashion moments you can think of. It’s no coincidence that many of them were brought to us by musicians. I bet money you thought of Lady Gaga’s meat dress for one of them; if not, you’re definitely wishing you did, and for good reason. That’s because central to the identity of an artist, beyond their words, are their clothes. Since both mediums are creative and highly expressive, musicians can utilize both forms of communication to amplify their image and, ultimately, their message.
Through the MASH x The Michigan Music Business Club collab, I was fortunate enough to interview Leia Frankel ‘23, the Co-President of MMBC, during which we talked about how integral fashion and music are to each other. MMBC is one of the fastest-growing student orgs on campus and engages those interested in pursuing careers in the business of music. They host various speaker events featuring the likes of Gary Gersh, President of Global Talent at AEG, which organizes Coachella, in addition to their annual Raise and Rave charity event at Necto for the American Cancer Society. Through organizing quality events like these, primarily in-house, members benefit from professional insight and real-world industry experience. They are planning to hold their first-ever Michigan Music Business Conference next semester, which intends to further illuminate the variety of career paths available in the music industry. This purpose is significant to Frankel because it reflects a major part of why MMBC is so special to her.
From playing violin in the 1st grade to later becoming a professional electro-pop violinist, a transition that has allowed her to perform for thousands and even open for John Legend, music has always been a priority to Frankel. She came to Michigan knowing it would remain a significant part of her life and career but, like many of us, was unsure of what pursuing that explicitly entailed. Thankfully, Frankel was able to join MMBC during her freshman year and, coincidentally, its first year as a club. The desire for a space like MMBC was not unique to Frankel, as the club received the highest number of applications for a new club ever at Ross. In the four years since, she moved from a part of the creative team to becoming Co-President, a role she expressed, “is hard work, but so rewarding. It’s [her] favorite role so far because it allows [her] to give back” by cultivating a clear space for students like her at the intersection of music and business. It was through MMBC that she gained a better understanding of all the paths she could take to a career in the music industry.
In exploring the exciting relationship between music and fashion, Frankel highlighted how “visuals are a huge thing in the music world, especially when it comes to each artist’s identity. It's a part of their brand as it makes up who they are and how they want to be perceived by their fans.” Every artist has a distinct look, like Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Gwen Stefani, or Tyler the Creator. Rihanna, we agreed, was the best example of this as she embodies the intersection between fashion and music. In addition to her unmatched talent and status in the music industry, she’s established her authority in the fashion world as the creator of Fenty, Savage x Fenty, a Co-Host of the Met Gala, and a recipient of various fashion awards.
Leia is right to idolize Rihanna, who she named her style icon and “the coolest person ever! She’s got so much sass, and you can see it through her clothes and performances. The attitude, the outfit, and the message she is trying to convey always work together to make it seem like she believes every word she’s singing. Her clothing compliments what she wants to say with her music. When you watch her perform, her outfits are aligned perfectly with what she is trying to convey with her songs.”
Every time we think about Rihanna’s style, no matter how long ago the last performance was (6 long years, but who’s counting), it is easy to visualize what song she is singing. For instance, the Hood Air, Tumblr pink chaps, crop top, and red sunglasses she wore to perform “Please Don’t Stop The Music”, “Only Girl”, and “We Found Love” or the champagne silk gown by Alexandre Vauthier she wore to perform “Stay” and “Love On The Brain” worked to amplify the essence of the songs. A dramatic haute couture gown is fitting for songs as graceful, smooth, and glamorous as “Stay”. In contrast, there is no better way to dance as fiercely as she does to more upbeat songs than in chaps. Tumblr pink also perfectly captures the playful femininity of songs like “Only Girl” while the street style silhouette of the fit maintains the strength and confidence Rihanna radiates on the daily.
Others like Rihanna include Lady Gaga and Madonna, who Leia described as, “boundary pushers, unapologetically themselves, and confident.” These words could just as easily apply to their music, and Leia believes, “it’s why they have been so successful. They have created a brand for themselves that is so believable; you become connected to them and feel like you know who they are as an artist. I think that’s why they’ve had such longevity in their careers.” In addition to many other musicians/designers like Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, and Victoria Beckham, they prove that the intersection between music and fashion creates the perfect environment for rule-breakers, game-changers, and disruptors.