Guerrilla pop provocateur M.I.A recently announced that she will soon launch an eponymous limited edition clothing line. An unlikely denizen of the fashion marketplace, Maya Arulpragasam has nonetheless emerged as a postmodern augur of both urban streetwear and high fashion trends, and has scored some high-profile fans along the way. It’s no secret that Marc Jacobs adores her – so much, in fact, that he featured her as his Spring 2008 Marc by Marc Jacobs poster girl. (Interestingly, Maya recently commented to WWD that she loves Marc Jacobs’ designs, but that they are are too nice to wear on tour!) Meanwhile, M.I.A.’s own line will likely be more streetwise than luxurious.
As evidenced through everyone she has worked with – including musician/protÃ©gÃ© Santogold and designer Jeremy Scott – the accidental style icon has quietly ushered a brazen day-glo aesthetic back into vogue. Two albums and several fashion seasons later, the M.I.A. trickle down effect into mainstream MTV culture is finally becoming apparent. Suddenly, neon palettes and ironic gaudiness are no longer merely the uniform of metropolitan hipsters, they comprise the de rigueur ideal for a new generation of junior rappers (including musical offspring Lil’ Mama, Lady Sovereign, and Kid Sister), as well as the color story of choice for cultish street brands such as House of Holland and Ksubi.
Maya’s gnomic appropriation of 80’s b-girl sensibilities, ikat prints, garish leggings, and sequined everything smacks of cultural tourism – both of the pop and ethnic variety. But look around you at the next time you pass American Apparel or simply peruse the latest copy of Nylon; the Arulpragasam influence speaks for itself. Whether the rainbow spandex movement inspires or repulses you, you must grant M.I.A. at least partial credit for letting “loud”, “bright”, and “clashing” become the operative style descriptives Ã la mode.
If not an originator, Maya is at the very least a master of reconceptualization.
With a distinct visual context, hardcore fan base, and subcultural legacy already working in her favor, Maya also realizes a little self-promotion never hurt anyone. Much like Gwen Stefani’s nonstop parade of L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers designs, M.I.A. reportedly has been wearing “nothing but” her own line as of late.
According to WWD, this range will include bomber jackets, leggings and T-shirts, all of which will feature – you guessed it – shocking hues and wild prints. And in case you fear Maya is starting to believe her own fashion hype or retread too-familiar grounds, she insists there is also a vivid practicality to her instantly recognizable threads; she jokes: “With my stuff, because everything is really bright, if you lose it or someone steals it, you can see it from miles away and you can be like, ‘Oy! Give me my shirt back!’ ”
The M.I.A. collection will hit stores some time in 2009; no word on potential retailers, but its distribution is rumored to be narrow and exclusive.
— Colleen Nika