By Mao Shan Wang
A guy on a cover of Vogue (any issue in the world) is so uncommon that when one appears, he beckons. Vogue Korea celebrates its 20th Anniversary with not one but three covers of G Dragon for its August issue, all shot by Karl Lagerfeld. The most arresting is this with Kwon Ji-Yong’s back, exposed like a Tang courtesan’s.
To be honest, I didn’t know at first that he is Big Bang’s lead singer. I couldn’t tell since he is not facing me, not beaming a smile. At a quick look, his side profile with the slicked-down hair (in black instead of his usual dyed brights) reminded me of the late Tina Chow. There’s something gamine about his face here, just like that of Ms Chow’s. And the pose with the partially bared shoulder and back is rather similar to how Andy Warhol and Antonio Lopez photographed her.
When Karl Lagerfeld shot this picture, perhaps he too saw in the viewfinder what I now see on the Vogue Korea cover. Mr Lagerfeld knew Ms Chow, and he must have remembered how striking she looked. It’s highly possible that he was feeling nostalgic. And it, too, is possible he was channelling Degas. But this isn’t the 1800s, and G Dragon was not caught After a Bath, so he was clothed in a Chanel cardigan, worn front-to-rear, unbutton to almost the small of the back.
The exposure reveals three of GD’s not-outrageous tattoos. On the nape, the archangel Michael spreading his wings, inked by Anil Gupta, a New York-based Indian tattooist dubbed “the most expensive tattoo artists in the world”. It was rumoured that GD forked USD1,000 an hour to get this piece of skin art. Admittedly, it looks better than Justin Beiber’s pair of mere wings. At a glance, it looks like GD has worn a crochet necklace, like the cardigan, the wrong way round.
Further down, just below the right side of his shoulder, is the partially blocked line of “too fast to live too young to die”. Whether this refers to the book on Sid Vicious or the Malcolm McLaren store that came after Let It Rock, before Sex, it isn’t certain. Further south on the spine, there’s the word ‘GET’, which, according to GD watchers, is part of a trio of words—including ‘TO’ on the left arm, above the elbow, and ‘HER’ on the right side. Whether it’s to form ‘TO GET HER’ or ‘TOGETHER’, I, like you, are none the wiser.
Then there is the curious glove. Seeing it, I thought of Philippe Pottier’s photos for 1950s Christian Dior, as well as the illustrations of Pierre Mourgue, both often showing Dior models with gloves. GD is considered the epitome of modern K-Pop style, yet here, he has on a vestige of elegance that has little following after the New Look faded. There seems to be a deliberate playing down of GD’s own sensational hip-hop togs. Perhaps, an old-world accessory for hands, used not to protect against the cold, can amplify the wearer’s glamour, never mind that the regular front-row seats in Paris Fashion Week already do.
With Big Bang hot on the Forbes list of the highest-paid celebrities (at no. 54), GD probably does not need to strengthen his allure by playing androgyne on the cover of the Vogue of his homeland. But to sit for Karl Lagerfeld is consistent with the unceasing coming together of hip-hop and fashion. G Dragon is clearly in fine form.
Photo: Vogue Korea/Karl Lagerfeld