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Things I Have Learned

Bat For Lashes' Natasha Khan On Finding Her Style
Luke Turner , April 7th, 2009 05:42

Natasha Khan tells Luke Turner her fashion dictact, what gentlemen should be sporting this season, and how divine intervention can help a shopping trip

You can discover style by accident

I think for the very first album it was more my excitement at being let loose and free to be creative, and picking things out of the dressing up box, and swapping and changing things around that didn't necessarily fit together. I'd always had a love, more intellectually, of Native American folklore and I really liked strange photographers like Diane Arbus and all the beautiful drag queens of New York, and I really loved Nick Cave and his gothic dark things. I had a lot of love and obsessions I guess. When it came to people wanting to do press pictures early on I really delved into my inspirations and just picked out things that spoke to me in quite a spontaneous way. I feel like that's carried on, really. I've really developed my understanding of what I like to wear, and I've got more comfortable in my fashion and knowing what I like and don't like.

Accessories are everything to me

I think they're really important, especially if you're feeling you don't want to wear a massively smart thing, or a complicated dress or whatever, I quite like dressing down but I'll always accessorise with lots of jewellery, or strange kind of shoulder pieces or arm bands or things that I pick up. There are just lots of adornments that I can mix and match with, I like doing that.

I've always liked bands that have a more theatrical edge

I think innately the type of music that I'm attracted to means that the people who make it have this element of style or a real look about them, because they've got a real character and personality, or are naturally iconic.

People who think that dressing up means you're not authentic can shove it up their arse

There's so much weird politics and regulation about what's cool or authentic. And to me what's always been cool is not giving a shit what people think, that's the epitome of cool. If you have to dress a certain way to be cool or taken seriously then you're not being true to yourself, and that's quite sad really isn't it? I don't put any demands on anyone else, and I don't think anyone else should do the same.

Kurt Cobain was my pin up

When I was growing up he was my hero. I loved him and I loved the music, and I thought he was so cool because he wore ripped jeans and t-shirts and didn't care. I still think he's the coolest thing ever, but that's not so much my style. I like wearing ripped jeans, but I'll wear necklaces and feather things as well.

I've always liked aggressive visions of femininity

When I was a teenager I really liked Courtney Love's babydoll vintage phase. I like drag queens, or Patricia Arquette in Lost Highway. PJ Harvey was amazing in some of her get-ups, like that pink catsuit at Glastonbury. It was fairly disconcerting, because it was sexy in a weird way. That's a lot more interesting to me than the Britney Spears school of boobs and short skirts. I feel like women can be sexy in a powerful and unusual way, it doesn't have to be obvious.

Stylists always want me to do things that I consider to be a bit naff

When you come into stylists, they often have a very specific agenda and sometimes it doesn't really speak to me in any way. If they want that, they should get a model in rather than a musician. If you want someone to comply with your idea of style, then that's not really celebrating the individual. It happens less and less now, which is good. I think people trust my style and what I like to wear.

I have an aversion to glowsticky neon clothes

Not that I don't like them on other people, but they just don't suit me. I think my skin tone is a bit greeny and it makes me look like a slightly unwell lizard. I wouldn't go for the old latex bright green hot pants.

I'm a lover of beards

Not long ones, but I think facial hair is quite Viking-like and masculine. I like that. I like hair on men, i think that's quite hot. I was looking at Bruce Springsteen when he started out, I thought he was quite fit. I liked his rolled up shirt sleeves and jeans, the dirty, rugged messy look. Or Johnny Cash or Nick Cave. Don yourself in a black suit and hopefully have blue eyes and black hair and I'm yours.

Women are most attractive when they're feeling confident from within

I know it sounds cheesy. It's about knowing what you can and can't wear, and sticking to what you look good in and feeling confident about that. So many people worry about that, especially women worry about their body image and looking like somebody else tells them to, and I think just following your instincts about how you feel most comfortable and beautiful and bugger what anyone else says. I think it's really important not to care.

Divine guidance is my shopping tactic

Sometimes I have an obsession of something that I really want, and I send out a little prayer on the wind and hope that I find the thing that I'm looking for, and usually it turns up.

It's harder for men to find interesting clothes

But if you've got the inclination to be a little bit creative and customise second hand clothes you can do alright. But you can get wartime sort-of clothes; high-waisted trousers, brogues and nice hats. I like old fashion more than current stuff for men. I've noticed that the younger generation in Brighton are starting to look quite smart. Everyone looks like a poet or a writer, and I find that really sexy.

I can be found going for a pint of milk in my pyjamas

When I go to Waitrose I don't wear make-up or anything. I just go into town in my trainers, I'm not going to start worrying about that. I think the more you treat yourself as different, the more isolated you feel and I don't think that's very healthy. I just want to be able to live my normal life. I've seen Nick Cave around, and he does tend to be quite smartly dressed, but I have seen him in quite dress-down casual stuff, t-shirt and jeans I think maybe. He's not always the dark lord, and I'm not always the mystical, feather-wearing goddess.

Jack Faulkner
Apr 7, 2009 9:13pm

hm... I dress up for waitrose's deli counter.

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Jon Miller
Apr 8, 2009 6:50pm

If Natasha was true to herself she'd eschew stylists right ? Cobain, Harvey et al weren't styled. Also if there's an identifiable look going down in Brighton 'everyone looks like a poet' there's not much originality.

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John Doran
Apr 8, 2009 8:15pm

I'm sorry but that's rot. Well, partially rot. Cobain wasn't stylized, which is probably why he looked like shit most of the time.

PJ Harvey on the other hand is extremely clothes and image conscious. The only time she wasn't when she was rocking the undergraduate Carter fan at Glastonbury look in 1992, which wasn't, let's face it, very good. A year or so later she's got a pink catsuit and a veritable phalanx of stylists behind her. And so much the better.

They're rock stars not plasterers.

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Jon Miller
Apr 8, 2009 9:00pm

You want a rock star to idolize do you John and hope that the glamour rubs off on you? It's your opinion that Cobain looked like shit. I disagree. I doubt very much that there was a phalanx of stylists in Polly Harvey's service. If she consulted a stylist then fair enough .. if it's a My Fair Lady makeover whereby an 'expert' creates a look for you to 'rock' then that's all wrong.

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John Doran
Apr 8, 2009 9:50pm

No, of course not. I'm a music hack in my late 30s - I look like shit. But then it's not my job to look amazing - I've got the perfect sense of style for the written word.

Ok, Cobain didn't look like shit, let me rephrase that: he was so good looking that he could have worn anything and looked a million dollars. What I mean is he dressed like shit. Guy in rock band wears jeans and band T-shirt shock. Cobain, inspired a generation of guys to dress like they were on their way to Homebase which is shameful.

Whatever your thoughts on Nirvana, I don't think anyone with any sense is celebrating them for their amazing image.

As for Harvey, she absolutely and definitively has used top flight stylists, fashion photographers and haute couture clothing. In fact, I interviewed her a couple of months ago and she looked like she'd just stepped out of a salon. She looked a million dollars.

You'll have to explain why getting an image consultant, stylist or dresser in is all wrong. Because at the moment, in my corner I've got The Jimi Hendrix Experience, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Prince and you've got Cast.

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John Doran
Apr 8, 2009 9:51pm

And apparently Natasha K has a thing for hirsute, ursine men, so maybe my fashion sense isn't all bad . . .

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Jon Miller
Apr 9, 2009 10:00am

Cobain looked so bad that his look is said to have inspired designers such as Marc Jacobs. How did that happen ? You're not impressed by Cobain but I don't see that as a litmus test for the presence or absence of design awareness like you seem to.
I dare say that in the 60s and 70s when psychedelia and glam rock were at their height the queues at the equivalent of Homebase were visually as prosaic as they are today .. you seem to overestimate the influence of these people.
In your corner you have art students who are (gasp) visually literate. Hendrix was pointed in the direction of Granny Takes A Trip .. to me that's no great evidence of a commitment to style because it was on their doorstep. The journey from Bromley and North London to the Kings Rd is longer than Hendrix's.
As I indicated there's nothing wrong with consulting a stylist but I think people like Dylan, Patti Smith, Joy Division and The Smiths dressed themselves. None of these were 'showbiz' acts and maybe that's key to our divergence of opinion.

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John Doran
Apr 9, 2009 10:09am

Morrissey has used stylists. New Order, you are right, don't.

I think you're slumping into boring old 'authenticity' territory here. A stylist doesn't just 'dress' someone in the same way a guitar tech doesn't just plug in their guitar.

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Jon Miller
Apr 9, 2009 11:23am

I think you've been suckered by the 'smoke and mirrors' and bought into the perception that something is much more complex than it is. A guitar tech is dealing with a piece of technical equipment which interfaces with other pieces of technical equipment. A stylist is dealing with colours and shapes.

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John Doran
Apr 9, 2009 11:47am

Personally I don't care how complex something is. I'm not interested in authenticity. I'm only interested in the end product on that level. Any job could sound simplistic or unecessary even if described in the reductive terms you're using.

Does Natasha K look good for having used a stylist? Yes she does. Job done. It doesn't matter whether the 'dresser' broke into a sweat or even exerted herself.

At the end of the day, you're trying to prove that there's some kind of link between artistic integrity and how you decide to dress. But I just don't see that it's an either/or question.

Bat For Lashes would sound identical/have the same amount of musical integrity stylist or no stylist. Just this way, presumably, she looks better, which to everyone bar Levellers and Stereophonics fans, is a good thing. Or at least it should be.

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Jon Miller
Apr 9, 2009 11:56am

I'm not trying to prove anything. If you choose to be deceived by photoshop and autotune and the like that's your call but you'd accept that they're tools to misrepresent someone's appearance and ability right ?

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John Doran
Apr 9, 2009 3:08pm

You can't choose to be deceived by something.

Autotune and photoshop are not the same thing as a professional stylist. You're coming across as one of these Proper Rock dullards.

What effect does this have on their musical ability?

You're just pulling this stuff out of your arse as you go along.

Natasha has a stylist. How does this alter her music one way or the other? The ball is (firmly) in your court.

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Jon Miller
Apr 9, 2009 5:54pm

You're quick to cast me as 'old fashioned', while flattering yourself that you're ahead of the curve because you use terms like 'rocking'. How very 'Topman' of you.
I'm 'pulling stuff out of my arse' whereas you're presenting cogent arguments - in your view. I'm pleased you described yourself as a hack, and this assessment of your own abilities is the most perceptive observation you've made.

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John Doran
Apr 9, 2009 6:07pm

Piss poor.

Rocking as in wearing clothes is northern slang, and quite common where I come from. You can see the difference between rocking up wearing something or rocking a certain look and Status Quo's rocking all over the world can't you?

Fucking dimwit.

I don't think I'm ahead of much but I'm certainly ahead of you, Mr Musicians Union, 1975. Boo hoo, she's wearing a nice frock! It can't be proper rock music because she looks good! Boo hoo! Rock was so much better when it was proper because it was made by serious men who have no interest in clothes. Boo hoo!

Look I'm tired of you, why don't you fuck off over to Gigwise where they have 30 fittest women in indie phwoar! lists.

It's about your level you nob rash.

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Jon Miller
Apr 10, 2009 9:39am

John Doran appears to have privileges here which are such that content he disapproves of is removed. This amounts to censorship and can't be justified on the grounds that the post is personalized or offensive because Doran has been equally provocative in his posts.
Is Doran a Quietus contributor and you wish to promote a perception that he's competent and authoritative ? Personally, I don't think there's a need for editorial intervention.

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