www.ambiente.us  DECEMBER | DICIEMBRE 2008

Designs on ‘Sticky & Sweet’ | Madonna on Tour
By JC Alvarez

It’s the musical event that everyone has been talking about!  But isn't
that always the case every time that the Queen of Pop embarks on a
world tour?  Madonna went on the road with her latest stage antics
aptly enough entitled The ‘Sticky & Sweet’ Tour.  The goal of course
of this venture is to promote her 11h studio album Hard
Candy which features collaborations with the likes of pop
superstars Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and uber-producers
Pharrell Williams and Timbaland, but if these names are rather
vague to you or you can’t pull a reference, let’s shift focus to
some other notables that may be a more appropriate fit into
the gay lexicon.

Let’s see…Givenchy maybe…or perhaps Keith Haring.  Both
names may mean more to the gay audience than those of
other timely pop stars, perhaps because they are timeless
inspirations of fashion and art design, and Madonna has
always infused the media of art, music and film into her
stage extravaganzas!  ‘Sticky & Sweet’, directed by Jamie
King (her ‘partner in crime’ for her last four tour outings)
brilliantly brings all these worlds together for an amazing
homage to past, present and the future of fashion and art!

Since 1990’s ‘Blond Ambition’ Tour Madonna has made it her
priority to raise the stakes of the pop artist as a stage performer
and brought more Broadway, and even some Vegas vaudeville to her fans, combing high fashion, exquisite
stage design and modern art as her inspirattions.  That now classic tour brought high-fashion designer Jean-
Paul Gaultier into the public eye: Gaultier was responsible for dressing and adorning the Queen of Pop and
her cadre of dancers for the full on dance spectacle, thus forever imprinting the famous cone bra into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Fashion!  

This was among one of the first time that a prominent designer was asked to dress a mega-star for a world
tour.  Of course I’m not accounting for the classic work of designer Bob Mackie who has dressed Cher,
another gay icon for her live appearances.  We can all agree (or we can all debate), Madonna has always
been different.  She has since paved the way for pop music and fashion to come together and has worked
with Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Tom Ford, Stella McCartney as well as other fashion notables, and teamed
up again with Gaultier to push the envelope of her on-stage presence.

                                                                                                So one could only imagine who the fashion
                                                                                                 maven would draft to dress her for ‘Sticky
                                                                                                 & Sweet’.  Madonna’s fans are after all a
                                                                                                 fickle lot and expect only the best from
                                                                                                 their icon.  She rarely (if ever) disappoints.

                                                                                                French fashion house Givenchy won the
                                                                                                bid, and Givenchy designer Riccardo
Tisci                                                                                                        was tasked with designing some
original                                                                                                 concepts for the four-act, two-
hour                                                                                                       cardio-vascular marathon that is the
                                                                                                Madonna concert tour of 2008.  The task at
                                                                                                hand of course is to make the designs and
                                                                                                elaborate staging and choreography King
                                                                                                and Madonna will birth to tell the ‘S&S’

Tisci certainly seemed up to the task – giving Madonna up to eight different looks for her act and combining
elements and layers to each outfit giving the star the ability to switch looks on-stage in front of her audience
and put on display her impressively muscular frame…something Madonna has never shied away from!

Bringing to life Madonna’s pimped-out Candy Shop connoisseur for the opening act took some myriad
adapting of Madonna’s past looks – think the dominatrix from the 90’s and you’ll get the idea.  Poised on her
throne, Madonna looks more black widow spider and less ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ with a coifed
ruffled collar that wraps her tightly as a tootsie roll.  That look then gives way to the top-hat pimped out fetish
underwear and black masks that are very much in vogue and in-line with the stream lined look of Madonna’s
taunt physique.

It’s no wonder that these designs evoke an image of Madonna past, but certainly pushed into a more modern
frame of mind.  The show is wrought with images that pay tribute to Madonna’s fashion past.

As the second act opens, Madonna takes her fans back in time…back to her roots in the urban art scene of
New York City’s Village.  It was here that Madonna immersed herself in the pop-art life and befriended Keith
Haring.  The innovative artist became very well known for his simple graffiti art which peppered the city with
the now infamous “nuclear baby”.  Haring’s work became the symbol for tolerance for those individuals living
with or stricken with HIV/AIDS in the early 80’s and through to the 90’s.  It seems only appropriate that to pay
homage to her friend, Madonna’s stage and dancers are bathed in Keith Haring’s animated images as his
works of art come to life on the multi-colored video monitors that make up the entirety of the scenery.

Keith Haring’s work has so become relevant once more that in celebrating of his spirit and good will, this
year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature one of his designs on one of the famous balloons that
will make their way down Broadway for the world to see!

For Madonna’s romp through the 80’s, the tour’s stylist Arianne Phillips (who has been dressing Madonna
for nearly a decade now) chose to go with comfortable clothes reflective of the diva’s own influence and
sought out original looks and fashions from the 80’s hip-hop/street era and reinforced them and distressed
them for the grueling regiment of the two-hour show.  Phillips goal was always to enhance Madonna’s own
personality through the story told by the costumes, and whether she is jumping rope or beat popping to the
rhythms, the outfits had to survive multiple shows and endure as much as it’s star.

That’s why Phillips has guaranteed that Madonna and dresser Tony Villenueva have enough in stock of each
look for each act in case some thing goes wrong or goes missing during Madonna’s eight costume
changes.  It may look like work out shorts and knee-high striped socks, but it’s all perfectly calculated and
prepared to Madonna’s specifications.

For the third act of the tour the silhouette turns dark and daring as Madonna turns the stage into a Gypsy
cabaret.  Haloed by her own blond and cascading locks, the black skirted and revealing one-piece Madonna
wears is perhaps the most feminine ensemble she has ever worn on stage, giving her a warmly accessible
appeal that she has been criticized to rarely displaying as a performer.  But you can’t conceal Madonna’s
enthusiasm to perform even in the dramatic cape and cowl she first appears in for this act – it is by far one of
her most beautiful stage appearances and performances she has ever given.

The very romantic and at the same time very somber looking ensemble is
beautifully set against her dancers, who all wear brightly hued colored shirts
set against black pants for a very convincing contrast to the mega-star’s
own appearance.

And then there’s finally the fourth and final act, which takes Madonna and  
her fans into a future rave without parallel!  She has after all proclaimed we
only have 4 minutes to save the world and this is how she intends to prove it.  
The look is aggressive and foreboding.  Arianne Phillips has said it’s
Madonna’s take on Joan of Arc, as if this messenger of God was thrust
into a hapless future and was forced to bring her message to the
masses…and that message is to dance.  To achieve the look, Madonna
is adorned in shoulder pads and a metal bodice that depending on what
city your in is either laced in silver or bathed in black.  Either way, she
looks prepared to take on the world – a future warrior ready to defend
her people!

And it’s in the aggressive frenzy of the show’s climax that the pure muscle
of the outfit’s keen design comes to life.  Phillips has proclaimed this
segment was the hardest for her to style…the concept of the future
whenever presented in a present tense is terse and risky at best, but
with Madonna and her team at the reigns, it’s meant to be
memorable and even as she commands her fans to give it 2 her
the spectacle that is Madonna’s ‘Sticky & Sweet’ tour is alive and
very fashion forward.

Like it’s progenitor, it’s a feast for the senses, full of inspiration for
fashion and iconoclastic impressions past, present and future…
undeniably Madonna.

Footnote: Madonna worked with fashion photographer Tom Munro for some of the promotional pictures used
in support of the world tour, including the highly stylized program that feature all new pictures of the icon. The
look was inspired by model and fashion icon Twiggy with a tinge of Bob Fosse’s class and appeal.  
Madonna’s “STICKY & SWEET” Tour is the ultimate culmination of when art and design meet mixed media,
inspired by music and movement – and a testament to the pure drive and ambition of a mega-star connected
and driven to continually inspire the world around her.

Copyright © AMBIENTE MAGAZINE.   Do not reproduce without citing this source.


A native New Yorker fortunate enough to have been nurtured in both
spectrums of the cultural melting pot: born on the isle of Manhattan and
raised in the heart of Little Havana in Miami, JC Alvarez is solidifying his
place on the pop-culture radar as a voice on the Here! Networks pod cast
BENT celebrating everything from entertainment to politics, to the myriad
dimensions of our diverse community!  With an approach that is always
accessible and full of a sense of humor, Alvarez has also interviewed such
notable personalities as Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, Antonio Banderas
and America Ferrera, and aspires to one day write the next great
Gay-American screen play.

JC Alvarez is a contributing writer for Ambiente.

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