To support the return of its legendary Nineties show House of Style, MTV has created a documentary, House of Style: Music, Models, and MTV, that chronicles the creation and legacy of the pioneering music-meets-fashion series. It includes appearances from current top models Coco Rocha and Karlie Kloss and designers (and classic HoS correspondents) Todd Oldham and Anna Sui, as well as former host/supermodel Cindy Crawford. The film does a great job of establishing the fact that House of Style was once a generation’s ultimate destination for behind-the-scenes access to models, runway shows and musicians’ style – back when those things seemed bigger, better and arguably more crucial as cultural catalysts than they are now.
The original House of Style was a predecessor to the following decade of style-centric television. “This is before Project Runway with Heidi Klum, before [America’s Next Top Model] with Tyra [Banks],” David Sirulnick, House of Style’s executive producer, says in the film. MTV reigned supreme as the young generation’s media voice, and music was its fuel; as video budgets and airplay opportunities grew, a sharp visual style became valuable currency. Supermodel culture was at a new peak and Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell were bigger household names than any single designer – this represented a major reversal in power, the like of which we’d never witnessed before (or have since). The makers of House of Style sensed these sea changes and capitalized on them, fusing the new Nineties collision of aesthetics, models, music and youthful attitude. “They were willing to boldly go where no man had gone before in terms of bringing together music and fashion,” says producer Chad Hines. (Thread Count is forever grateful!)
Part of House of Style’s daring charm was its raw energy. The Midwest-born Crawford reflects now that she wasn’t the “coolest girl on the block” or privy to the latest musical slang (witness her referencing the “Humpty Dumpty” dance to an amused Will Smith), but those gaps in hipness made the glamorous supermodel relatable. (Approachability worked for its guests, too: see Naomi Campbell shamelessly applying zit cream). They became part of the show’s iconic fabric. The show thrived on the unexpected, on zippy extremes. As the documentary demonstrates, Crawford would explore the closets of Dave Navarro one week, go shopping with Dee Dee Ramone at Paul Smith the next, hang out with rawk legend Pat Smear, then hop on a Concorde to Paris to star in a Chanel show or shoot a candid interview with John Galliano. It was the ultimate synergy of rock grit and couture, high and low, trashy and elegant and, of course, “sexy” fun. But it was also educational, as Oldham notes. Where else on TV were you going to learn about a “bias cut” at age 15?
As Music, Models, and MTV lays out the contextual framework for a new generation of potential House of Style viewers, it’s hard not to wonder if they feel a bit gypped. When bona fide rock stars and supermodels are an endangered species in our vast but fractured common culture, can a show that once fueled a young nation’s obsession with both hold as much clout? That remains to be seen in October, when the series is officially revived – and we’ll be sharing more thoughts on how we think this might pan out. Until then, we’ll let Kloss, arguably the world’s most in-demand model of 2012, ruminate over the obvious for us: “I don’t know if the world has changed, the fashion industry has changed, or the characters have changed, but it’s not the way it was during that time.”
Watch House of Style: Music, Models, and MTV here: