Three years after she burst onto the scene and took the music world by storm, Lady Gaga is today known as much for her wild and wacky fashion choices as her hit tunes. And for a pop icon with such global appeal, it was only a matter of time before her fans, "Little Monsters" as she calls them, adopted her trendsetting looks.
The fashion-loving UAE is no different. The emirates may seem an odd place for Gaga's style to flourish. After all, she infamously wore the meat dress and made statements in shredded fishnet stockings, skin-tight leotards and leather bustiers. But fashion-forward youngsters, eager to give their styles a touch of originality amidst the monotony of the mainstream fashion scene here, are sprucing up their wardrobes with edgy Gaga-esque glamour.
Emirati marketing student Nadya Hassan, 21, whose wardrobe is cluttered with clothes embellished with sequins, big-shouldered blazers, asymmetrical skirts and leotards, says Gaga's daring fashion risks and her disregard for people's reactions makes her an icon. "Most of my friends tell me that the shoes I wear must come out of Lady Gaga's closet," she says.
Zubaida Ali, also 21, is a dental student and fashion blogger. She admits that while Gaga's looks are not easy to pull off, especially in the region, she picks out certain pieces to create her unique looks. "I'm inspired by individual items she wears, like her spiked shoes and vintage Chanel earrings," she says.
Ali recently published a tutorial on how to re-create the singer's iconic "hair bow" hairdo on her blog at ButterHotShoes.com.
Kristen Duff, an Australian fashion management student in London who is from Dubai, says: "She has made the world a lot safer for wearing odd, futuristic garments and accessories."
The 20-year-old says that prior to the release of the singer's Paparazzi video in 2009, she almost bought the same Jeremy Scott sunglasses worn by her. "I hesitated, because I thought it would just be too bizarre for the people of Dubai to handle.
"A month later, the video came out, and I was kicking myself for not jumping on the trend before Lady Gaga spiked it into a new stratosphere," she says.
The "Mother Monster" began her trendsetting stint with subtle strokes of eccentricity like tying her hair in an enormous bow, or drawing a metallic lightning bolt on her face. What started off as sheer shock value has, however, taken an avant-garde turn, thanks mostly to her involvement with various fashion houses, in turn winning her cover slots on renowned fashion magazines worldwide.
Gaga's biggest validation as a fashion trendsetter came at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards earlier this year when she was honoured with the title Fashion Icon of the Year. Past recipients of the award include models Iman and Kate Moss and actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Gaga's recognition can be seen as the industry's acceptance of the fact that fashion has become more alternative.
But not everyone is convinced. Ana Simonovic, founder of shoe blog ShoeRA.com, believes that only women who crave attention draw inspiration from the Gaga phenomenon. "Personally, those crazy shoes are the only thing about her style that I like. Let's adopt that trend and move on," she says.
Melina Mitri, the marketing and PR head for S*uce boutique, says there's no denying Gaga's iconic status.
"Everyone seems to want to know what she's wearing or what she's going to wear next, and that is pretty much what defines a fashion icon," she says.
Mitri forecasts that hints of the singer's vintage Versace outfit in her Edge of Glory video will do the rounds here soon. "I'm not expecting ladies in the UAE to gyrate in leather hot-pants, but I do expect some sort of black leather revival and glamorous gold studs," she says.
You may not find women decorating their abayas with meat just yet, or sporting green hair. But look closely and you are bound to find circle-shaped sunnies, studded tote bags and bold make-up aplenty. So has Gaga made her mark on her Little Monsters in the Middle East?
Dubai-based social blogger Clare Geeves says she has noticed women in the Middle East playing into the Gaga phenomenon by donning "over-the-top accessories" and "scene-stealing sunglasses". "Lady Gaga isn't afraid to push the boundaries of what society deems appropriate, and the Middle East is starting to see the same boundaries being pushed," she says.
"Obviously, not to the same extreme, but take abayas with jewels and neon colours — a few years ago, this would have been inappropriate."
Hafsa Lodi is a Dubai-based writer.
When she designed it, the last thing on her mind was for none other than Lady Gaga to pick it up. But as 21-year-old Palestinian fashion design student Lina Mustafa found out, the queen of high fashion has her eye on the latest trends, wherever they may come from.
Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Lina left the UAE for London to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer.
For her end-of-school show, her teacher at Istituto Marangoni, the fashion design school she was attending, asked the future graduates to create three outfits related to a theme. "I started researching for the collection months earlier and chose the oppression of women as my topic. I wanted to show women's subjugation in my design," Lina said.
"I was ecstatic when I got a call from my teacher, Massimo, telling me that Lady Gaga was interested in wearing one of my outfits."
The pop icon's stylist had apparently seen pictures from the online fashion show. "She wore my design in New York for a media interview," Lina said about her stretch lace creation with eel skin, suede and plastic. "The lace leotard as face mask attached to a collar reflects oppression.
"My interest in opening my own boutique is now replaced with a yearning for continued education in fashion design. I am looking into taking courses at the London College of Fashion," she said.
— Iman Sherif, Staff Reporter