A blonde woman with colourful sunglasses stares up at the sky. She is wearing a red t-shirt and a black coat.

What makes a muse?

By Caitlin Kilpatrick

Julia Fox’s claim to the title has writer Caitlin Kilpatrick pondering the meaning of the muse in the fashion world today.

Every so often we are met with a quote so perplexing it immediately enters pop culture history. While most of us know Julia Fox from her whirlwind romance with Kanye West post-divorce,  she recently reminded us all that she was, in fact, “Josh Safdie’s muse when he wrote uncut gems”. Or as Fox infamously pronounced it “Uncuht Jams”. The pronunciation has circled the internet with over 4.5m views on TikTok. 

When thinking of the muse, admittedly, the musician comes to mind before anything else. Following this is the idea of a relationship so strong in its inspiration that it provides creativity in abundance – think Scorsese and DiCaprio or Irvine Welsh and Saturday nights in Edinburgh. What is needed to move a relationship from merely transactional to that of creative synergy? The more Julia Fox’s Uncut Gems soundbite entered the zeitgeist, the more I couldn’t help but wonder- what is a muse?

The muse originates in Greek mythology. They were seven goddesses who spent their days waiting at the foot of Mount Olympus to relay the lives of ancient Gods for those who passed by. Poets, artists, and writers all visited the muses for inspiration in their work.

From this, a muse became known as a person who is the source of inspiration for a creative or as Lee Barron (an expert in all things fashion psychology) has termed it “a mental mannequin”. Put simply, it is not just someone who advertises a product but someone who is a walking, talking mood board who embodies the essence of a brand. 

Whilst the Muse-style relationship is present in most creative fields, it is championed nowhere more than in fashion. In this $100bn industry, inspiration is key to keeping at the forefront of trends. Brands need someone who can serve as the face of their new campaigns while embodying the ethos of the company – like Cara Delevingne, whose quirky British personality helped to shed a youthful light on the heritage Burberry collections of the 2010s. 

The classic example of a muse is Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn served as the sole inspiration for Hubert De Givenchy’s collections for over a decade. The designer created each piece with the actress in mind and often modelled his collections on her roles. This is best exemplified in the costuming for Breakfast at Tiffany’s for which Givenchy provided the iconic little black dress Hepburn wears in the opening credits. 

Another favourite among fashion lovers is the Mackie-Cher muse relationship throughout the 70s and 80s. Bob Mackie was virtually unknown in the fashion world before he took the role of Cher’s costumier. What separated Mackie from the crowd of young designers for Cher was his willingness to accentuate her body with his nude allusion designs. For Cher and Mackie, the inspiration was a two-way street. Mackie listened to the music Cher would provide whilst Cher walked out on stage each night of her world tour in a different Mackie creation. 

The difference between a client-model relationship and those above is the active nature of the encounter. Muses are intended to inspire, critique, and live in the clothes. Models are much more transactionally required to advertise the clothes in specific, silenced roles. In a fashion world increasingly characterised by celebrity and pop culture, we can only expect more Julia Foxes, more muses. 


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