Right now, I don’t think I could write about anything except Cher in the designer Marc Jacobs’ autumn/winter advertising campaign. It has registered in a way that few fashion events do, outside of the insular industry bubble. I wonder if more people know that Cher’s wearing MJ than that the designer changed at Pucci? I suspect so.
However, there’s something of a Cher moment generally happening across fashion. There has been for a while. This time last year, I penned a feature pithily titled “Cher and Cher Alike”, inspired by Jacobs’ final show as creative director of Louis Vuitton. He dedicated it, in part, to Cher, and every model sported a towering reincarnation of her infamous 1986 Academy Awards headgear. The cross between a toilet-brush head and the Ziegfeld Follies? That’s the one.
Despite that, Cher seems like an odd choice for Marc Jacobs: on the one hand because she’s still perceived as unfashionable – despite the above evidence to the contrary; on the other because she’s, well, old. And despite the spate of mature women currently appearing in advertising campaigns – Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, Joan Didion for Celine – Cher’s committed the cardinal fashion sin – honesty. She openly had plastic surgery. Quite a lot of it. She wears short skirts. She refuses to age gracefully. She’s unapologetic. Nevertheless, there’s something endearing about Cher – as opposed to, say, Madonna, another older woman who many feel (me not included) should put it away and act her age. Cher is a survivor, but isn’t superhuman, and doesn’t pretend to be (unlike Madge).
From Jacobs’ perspective, she’s also a rare living – and photogenic – link to his winter-collection muse Diana Vreeland. Vreeland discovered the then-Cherilyn Sarkisian at a party for Jackie Kennedy in 1967 and kicked off her modelling career with Richard Avedon. Before you curl your lip, she was on the cover of Vogue five times in the Seventies. So she was pretty successful.
And for anyone who doubts Cher’s fashion credentials, take a look back at, say, the red carpet of this year’s Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute gala. Jennifer Lopez exposed seven-eighths of her buttocks in a sheer Atelier Versace gown; Beyonce sported a dress that amounted to a cluster of boiled sweets over a pair of tights; and Kim Kardashian wore the first creation by that old Pucci designer Peter Dundas in his new role at Roberto Cavalli. It was, they retrospectively claimed, an homage to Cher’s outfit at the first-ever Met gala in 1974, but it was mostly composed of Kardashian’s flesh.
Maybe that’s Cher’s lasting fashion influence? Making the emperor’s new clothes le dernier cri? That’s perverse enough to give Jacobs a kick, for sure.