5 Alternative Fashion Icons: Women Who Shaped the Scene

Written by: Ghoul RIP



Time to read 8 min

In the dynamic realm of fashion, the term "alternative" serves as a compelling deviation from the mainstream, an avenue for creative expression that thrives on nonconformity. Alternative fashion is not merely a choice of attire; it's a vibrant subculture, a bold declaration of individuality, and a realm where style transcends the ordinary. In this article, we embark on a captivating journey into the heart of alternative fashion, a domain where innovation and authenticity flourish, and where the boundaries of convention are delightfully pushed.

Our exploration today is not solely about fabrics, threads, or trends. Instead, we focus on the visionary women who have indelibly etched their names into the annals of alternative fashion history. These remarkable individuals have revolutionized the industry, challenging preconceptions and propelling the avant-garde to center stage. Their influence extends far beyond the hems and seams, touching upon matters of identity, creativity, and empowerment.

Join us as we traverse through time, from the pioneering days to the contemporary realm, to celebrate and honor the women who have shaped the alternative fashion scene. In this journey, you'll encounter punk pioneers, gothic goddesses, and avant-garde architects, each contributing their unique brushstrokes to a canvas of rebellion and reinvention.

Prepare to be inspired and captivated by the stories and styles of these iconic women who continue to serve as guiding lights in the ever-evolving landscape of alternative fashion. Their legacies are more than just fashionable; they are a testament to the power of personal style in influencing and transforming an entire industry.

5 Alternative Fashion Icons - Blog photo cover featuring a photograph of musician Bjork wearing an intricate pink headdress and ensemble from her Utopia world tour.
Photo by Santiago Felipe.


The Punk Princess: Vivienne Westwood

In the tumultuous landscape of 1970s London, amidst the fervent cries for change and rebellion, one name emerged as the defiant voice of a generation. Vivienne Westwood, often hailed as the "Queen of Punk," wielded her fashion prowess like a cudgel against the establishment. Her designs were bold, unapologetic, and screamed defiance in the face of convention.

A stunning photo of young Vivienne Westwood posed with two punks wearing a tartan bondage suit circa 1976.
Westwood wearing a tartan bondage suit circa 1976. Condé Nast Archive/Corbis.
Vivienne Westwood wearing a cherub print dress alongside models at London Fashion Week, 1991.
Westwood wearing a cherub print dress in 1991. Martyn Hayhow.

In the heart of the punk movement, Vivienne Westwood became synonymous with rebellion. Her daring creations adorned the punk rockers who roamed the streets of London, sending shockwaves through the fashion world. Among her most iconic pieces was the tartan pattern bondage suit, an emblem of the punk ethos, that served as a visual manifesto of anti-establishment fervor. Vivienne herself could often be seen donning this audacious creation, a vivid statement of her dedication to breaking free from the shackles of conformity.

Yet, Vivienne's artistry extended beyond the raw edges of punk. In a kaleidoscope of contrasts, she seamlessly transitioned from the anarchic fervor of the punk era to the ethereal elegance of her cherub print dress. This creation, adorned with delicate cherubs in flight, was a testament to Vivienne's ability to transcend boundaries. It was a garment that spoke of grace, yet retained the unmistakable edge that defined her signature style.

Vivienne Westwood's impact on alternative fashion was seismic. Her designs were more than just garments; they were manifestos, expressions of a cultural revolution. They dared wearers to challenge the norm, to be unapologetically bold, and to wear their identities with pride. Through her work, Westwood elevated fashion to a form of protest, a call to arms for those who refused to be silenced.

As the punk princess, Vivienne Westwood didn't merely design clothes; she engineered an attitude, an ethos, and an entire movement. Her legacy endures in every thread of alternative fashion, reminding us that rebellion and creativity are eternally intertwined, forever woven into the fabric of self-expression.


The Gothic Goddess: Siouxsie Sioux

In the dimly lit clubs of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a dark, haunting figure emerged from the shadows, captivating audiences with her mesmerizing voice and an aesthetic that would go on to define an entire subculture. Siouxsie Sioux, the enigmatic frontwoman of Siouxsie and the Banshees, wasn't just a music icon; she was also a fashion trailblazer who played a pivotal role in shaping the gothic subculture.

With her striking, otherworldly appearance, Siouxsie Sioux became a gothic goddess, a figure of admiration and emulation for countless fans. Her gothic style was a unique blend of dark romanticism, punk edge, and avant-garde theatrics. One of the most iconic elements of her look was the accessorization of fishnet stockings and sleeves. Siouxsie took these seemingly ordinary accessories and transformed them into symbols of rebellion and sensuality.

The gothic subculture found its muse in Siouxsie's ethereal yet edgy aesthetic. Her black makeup, dramatic eye shadow, and deep red lipstick, combined with the stark contrast of white face paint, created an arresting visage that embodied the gothic spirit. But it was the fishnet stockings and sleeves that truly set her apart. These seemingly simple garments were elevated to an art form, worn not just for practicality but as expressions of defiance and individuality. Siouxsie's combination of fishnets with her signature bold fashion choices, like shredded tulle and leather, painted a picture of rebellion, mystery, and sensuality that goths around the world would come to embrace.

Siouxsie Sioux's influence on alternative fashion is immeasurable. Her signature style inspired countless goth enthusiasts to embrace their darkness and turn it into a powerful form of self-expression. Through her music and fashion, she left an indelible mark on the gothic subculture, a legacy that continues to thrive and evolve to this day.

Siouxsie Sioux with Robert Smith. Oxford Road Show December 3, 1982.
Siouxsie Sioux with Robert Smith in 1982.


The Cyberpunk Queen: Rei Kawakubo

As we delve further into the world of alternative fashion, we encounter a designer whose avant-garde vision defies conventional norms and forges entirely new paths in the industry. Rei Kawakubo, the creative genius behind the celebrated brand Comme des Garçons, is a true trailblazer who has left an indelible mark on the alternative fashion world.

Comme des Garçons, the brainchild of Rei Kawakubo, is a fashion house that defies categorization. It's not merely a brand; it's a revolutionary concept. The name, which translates to "Like Boys" in French, embodies the gender-bending, androgynous approach that has become synonymous with Kawakubo's work. Her collections often blur the lines between masculine and feminine, challenging the very concept of gender in fashion.

The influence of Comme des Garçons extends beyond clothing; it's an exploration of art and fashion as a medium for self-expression and rebellion. Kawakubo's work has inspired other designers to push boundaries and create their own unique paths in the alternative fashion landscape.

Rei Kawakubo's impact is immeasurable, as her avant-garde designs continue to shape the way we perceive fashion. Her creative defiance of conventions serves as a testament to the boundless possibilities of self-expression through clothing. In the realm of alternative fashion, she reigns as the Cyberpunk Queen, ushering in an era of limitless creativity and embracing the unconventional.

Rei Kawakubo backstage at the Autumn/Winter 1986 Comme des Garçons fashion show.
Kawakubo backstage in 1986. 
Rei Kawakubo wearing a double breasted button down military style jacket with a skirt and black leather boots.
Rei Kawakubo by Steven Klein.


The Rebel Without a Cause: Debbie Harry

In the electric landscape of punk rock and new wave music, there emerged an icon who didn't just sing the songs of rebellion; she embodied them. Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the iconic band Blondie, was a force to be reckoned with, both in her musical talents and her influential fashion choices. Her unique style left an indelible mark on the punk and new wave scenes, defining an era of unapologetic individuality.

Debbie Harry, frontwoman of Blondie, wearing a distressed denim jacket in a portrait photograph from the 1970
Debbie in distressed denim vest by Chris Stein.
Debbie Harry, lead singer of the band blondie, on a rooftop wearing a red vest and red shorts in the 1970
Debbie in cropped waistcoat by Chris Stein.

Debbie Harry's fashion influence was as potent as her music. She was an early pioneer of the punk aesthetic, characterized by its gritty, DIY spirit. One of her signature looks was a distressed denim vest, adorned with patches, pins, and chains, a quintessential emblem of the punk ethos. Harry's fashion choices were an embodiment of rebellion, transforming everyday garments into symbols of non-conformity and defiance.

Beyond her more traditional punk-inspired attire, Debbie Harry's cropped waistcoat became a defining piece in her wardrobe, exuding an edgy yet sophisticated allure. Her fearless combination of elements, from leather to lace, showcased her ability to blend contrasting styles seamlessly. This sartorial mélange epitomized the new wave fashion movement, marked by its fusion of post-punk aesthetics with a touch of glamour.

Debbie Harry played a pivotal role in shaping the punk rock scene, both musically and fashionably. As the frontwoman of Blondie, she and the band's music provided a rebellious soundtrack for a generation that sought to challenge the norm. Her punk and new wave fashion choices resonated with a burgeoning subculture that was defined by its do-it-yourself attitude and a rejection of the establishment.

Debbie Harry's legacy in alternative fashion is that of a rebel without a cause, someone who effortlessly blurred the lines between punk's grit and new wave's glamour. Her fearless approach to fashion and her role in shaping the punk rock scene continue to inspire alternative fashion enthusiasts and musicians alike.


The Eclectic Enigma: Björk

Björk, the Icelandic songstress, is an artist whose music and fashion choices have defied categorization throughout her illustrious career. From ethereal melodies to boundary-pushing fashion statements, Björk's style is a mesmerizing blend of avant-garde and street-style sensibilities.

One iconic outfit featured a cartoon flower print dress that encapsulated Björk's playful yet visionary approach to fashion.  It's as if she's inviting the viewer to embrace the childlike wonder within themselves while staying firmly grounded in a fashion-forward adult world.

Icelandic artist Bjork wearing a yellow, pink, and white zipper front dress, standing next to another young woman.
Bjork and another woman in the 1980's. 

Another iconic street-style ensemble featured a cropped baby tee. This minimalist and seemingly casual piece was transformed by Björk into a statement of individuality. Paired with unconventional bottoms or layered with unexpected textures, it was clear that her fashion choices weren't bound by tradition. She redefined street style by adding her own brand of artistic eclecticism and whimsy.

Björk's influence on both music and fashion is undeniable, and her street-style-oriented approach in the 90s and 2000s showcased her ability to seamlessly blend the unconventional with the accessible. Her outfits encouraged a sense of playfulness and encouraged people to break free from the confines of typical fashion choices. Björk's legacy endures not only in her avant-garde creations but also in the lasting impact of her more approachable, everyday street style, which continues to inspire those who dare to embrace their unique individuality.

A photo of Bjork in a field wearing a yellow Moonin cartoon t-shirt.
Bjork wearing a Moonin t-shirt in a field. 


In the vibrant tapestry of alternative fashion, we've embarked on a captivating journey through the lives and styles of four iconic women who have undeniably left their mark on the industry. From the rebellious spirit of Vivienne Westwood to the gothic allure of Siouxsie Sioux, the avant-garde vision of Rei Kawakubo, and the eclectic enigma of Björk, we've witnessed the transformative power of self-expression through clothing.

Key takeaways from our exploration include the understanding that alternative fashion is a celebration of individuality, a declaration of rebellion, and a canvas for artistic expression. These women have shown that fashion is not merely about what you wear but a reflection of who you are and what you stand for.

As we close this chapter, we encourage you, our readers, to delve deeper into the realms of alternative fashion and to seek inspiration from the audacious and unconventional. These fashion icons have paved the way for a world where boundaries are meant to be challenged, and creativity knows no limits.

Whether you choose to don a tartan suit in defiance of convention, embrace the allure of gothic romance, experiment with avant-garde silhouettes, or simply play with eclectic street style, remember that fashion is a language of self-expression. It's a means to tell the world who you are, where you come from, and where you're going. In the realm of alternative fashion, your choices are your voice, and your style is your story. So, go ahead, make a statement, and let your fashion become the powerful emblem of your unique identity.