x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

When it comes to style, Sade is one smooth operator

As it was in 1984 it remains in 2010 - the singer Sade is a genuine style icon.

By the time you read this, the autumn/winter 2010/2011 ready-to-wear shows will be into their third day in New York. I can't begin to speculate about clothes or trends at this point, but I'd hazard a guess as to what the definitive soundtrack of this show season will be: Soldier of Love by Sade. Possibly you have heard of her? Sade, the Nigerian/British singer - she of the slicked-back hair, hoop earrings and backless tops -cracked not just Europe, but Africa, the Far East, Middle East, Asia and America with her first single, Your Love Is King, in 1984.

Besides having a talent for songwriting, a deep, velvety voice and supermodel looks, what truly put her on the map was her style. Music wasn't her first love. She studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and was her band's stylist before they asked her to throw in a few lyrics and come up with an "image". (And oh what an image!) Her new album, after a 10-year hiatus, is not merely destined as background music in Starbucks; it's catwalk fodder if ever I heard it. Blending untypical but very current martial arts beats with more familiar Sade-sounding loungy sounds, it unfolds dramatically rather like a James Bond anthem. Wait until you see the video. This features the effortlessly stylish, beautiful 51-year-old glammed up (in Balmain?), working that military-meets-glamping (glamorous camping) look and putting mutton-dressed-as-lamb Madonna or, for that matter, Lady Gaga to shame. She changes from tough bondage trousers into glittering boiler suit (to ride a white horse), then dances with soldiers and finally, appears in a signature backless top, all of which tick numerous boxes for seasonal trends.

When Sade conquered the music charts in the 1980s, the link between fashion and music was inseparable. Back then, pop and rock stars were trailblazers, kick-starting and dictating trends. In contrast, singers and groups today are too often at the mercy of stylists, record company executives and, ultimately, fashion designers whose inspirations can and do come from pretty much anything. Extinct animals inspired Giles Deacon to come up with his triceratops dinosaur handbag, which is now being feted as a must-have despite looking like it belongs in a toy shop.

Jeremy Scott saluted the American cartoon The Flintstones, which is 50 years old this year, in his new range. (Er, why?) Other nods to things all-American include Alexander Wang's homage to Super Bowl Sunday, inspired by the sport that grinds the US to a halt whenever a game is on TV (I did love the way all his outfits were worn with high heels and jock socks with cut-out calves, though). Barn dancing appeared to be a theme at both Christopher Kane and Chanel, making "pretty" - or should that be "purty" - the buzzword of fashion. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren's latest range is a tribute to dust-bowl America and denim, from its roots as the uniform of the Midwest farmer to right about now.

There are the usual smatterings of art references, such as Picasso at 3.1 Phillip Lim, Eduardo Paolozzi's Wittgenstein in New York by the newcomer Holly Fulton and Stella McCartney's frilly dresses, which look like they'd been run up from motel curtains but are in fact inspired by the work of Trey Speegle, who does painting by numbers. I'm not sure if Marc Jacobs was paying respect to the late Michael Jackson with his Jackson 5 Afro wigs at Louis Vuitton (which took the hairdressing guru Guido Palau two hours per model to tease into place). Or, whether Miuccia Prada had chandeliers on the brain when she came up with her latest clear plastic shoes, which tinkle with each step. Or if Kate and Laura Mulleavy were inspired by David Beckham's Maori tattoos in their Rodarte show.

All inspirations, although fascinating, pale into insignificance when a style icon comes along. As it was in 1984 it remains in 2010. I don't even care who designed what she's wearing. Right now I want to look like Sade. What an inspiration.