If there’s one overarching theme to Dua Lipa’s music, it’s that girl power knows no volume, no rules, and no excuses — and she’ll tell you that through her lyrics. Starting with YouTube covers back in 2009, Lipa would eventually branch out into original material, land herself a record deal, and hit gold with a self-titled debut album. So far, her entire discography can be summed up as a punch that packs electricity and sensitivity, from start to finish — think: less bubblegum, more lipstick wrapped around a cigarette.
Her personal style journey seems to be taking a similar path. While her current aesthetic feels borrowed from the pop icons who came before her (a power bra here, a man’s trouser there), you can see hints of what Lipa’s fashion evolution might look like as she comes into her own. Like rule breakers Madonna or Kylie Minogue, she believes in the liberation of young women, the power in a pair of killer heels, and the significance in making your own wardrobe choices.
"Everyone is allowed to wear whatever the fuck they want, and it’s so important that they do," Lipa tells me over the phone. She’s currently writing material for her next album. "This is the way we move forward in the world. We have to break the norms. If women wearing womenswear is deemed normal, women wearing menswear should be normal, too. But normality is a tricky one. It's putting things in a box, and it shouldn’t be like that. Because what is normal, anyway?"
For Lipa, normal is buying her "dream pair" of shoes: Vetements boots, with flames crawling up from their chunky platform, which are already a hit on her Instagram. "Obviously, I can’t wear them every day, or as much as I want to. But my dream boots are always something I could never wear every day; just something I want to put in a glass box and keep forever." Though she tends prefers shoes she can move in for performing her more upbeat hits like "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" and "New Rules" (the song that arguably put Lipa on the fashion industry’s radar), when it comes to her off-stage style, the louder, the better.
In terms of growth, her place in the pop zeitgeist may not be as clearly defined as fellow It Brits, such as Charli XCX or Lily Allen. But it’s worth noting that not since the days of Melanie C has pop music seen a newcomer who’s managed to come stateside without ruffling any feathers. The aforementioned pop-rap hybrids are deliciously brash in their lyrics. Lipa’s lines are often more melancholic and raw, possessing a more nuanced stance on things like love and heartache. You could argue that this differentiator is why her debut, self-titled album was so successful, and is backed by over one billion views of her female-dominated music videos on YouTube to prove it.
Since breaking through stateside with "Be The One" — a certified synth-pop bop that went straight to number one on the Billboard Dance chart — Lipa has practically been on a never-ending tour. Developing her sense of style on the global stage involves experimentation and an open mind. "I always try to find designers that are up and coming, especially when I’m in a certain city," she says. "If I was in Berlin, for example, I’d try to wear designers from there. It’s important to explore and try new things, and grow with those designers that are up and coming since I’m an up-and-coming artist, too. This way, we can grow and change together."
Lipa doesn’t rule out luxury labels when marrying today’s trends with ‘90s streetwear style tropes. Her list of favorites include, but are not limited to: Calvin Klein 250W39NYC, Alexander Wang, Loewe, J.W. Anderson, Marc Jacobs, and more. That being said, she’s aware that certain sectors of the industry have some catching up to do when it comes to dressing real women with real talent. "More often than not, I’m not sample size. So, sometimes when you go to a shoot and you don’t fit in the clothes, you’re like, Damn it," she admits.
"But you can’t really let it get to you. It’s ridiculous to think everyone will fit into those sizes, really. And if it doesn’t work for you, you just have to learn to get up and try something different and make it work for you so you feel comfortable. There’ve definitely been things that I’ve loved from the runway but then tried on myself and realized it wasn’t going to work on me. You can’t expect everything to work for your body type."
Still, Lipa has been able to craft her stage and red carpet-ready looks, and, perhaps unknowingly so, the beginnings of what could be her signature look: that bra and pants combo. In fact, it’s near impossible not to catch her baring midriff on a daily basis — and for some damn good, body positive measure. Still, she maintains her ensembles aren’t always connected and that her look is still evolving, whether that’s from album to album, on a case by case basis, or merely for this shoot.
"I’ve never really wanted to put myself in a box and say, This is my style and these are my style staples. I love to experiment and play around," she explains. "It’s kind of like music: The sound doesn’t just include the face of the artist. And the artist should wear the clothes, not the other way around. Fashion can’t be forced."
For Lipa’s shoot in Los Angeles, photographer Alexandra Gavillet captured Lipa in clothes that played to a range of her style strengths. Like the fact that she makes innerwear look just as fly as outerwear, and that a newsboy cap still has yet to go out of style. Much like her music, she’s got an innate appreciation for fashion that hits high notes — that’s the Brit in her — but a sensitive side, too. But, above style, comfortability is key. And, whether she means for it to or not, fashion has become Lipa’s secondary creative outlet.
"It’s an extension of who I am," Lipa says. "And even though I’m sometimes more extravagant than others" — see: her getups from the ASCAP awards or The Brits — "it’s how I express myself." That no-boundaries type of throwing looks at the wall and seeing what sticks, coupled with a more headstrong type of confidence, is half of the fun: "You’re allowed to be whatever you choose to be and whatever you want to put out into the world. And I don’t think anybody’s really allowed to tell you can and can’t wear.
Before hanging up, she manages to get the last word in: "Occasionally, fashion can make you feel invincible. I don’t know if it’s ever saved me, but it’s felt like a shield at times. I think it’s been a tool to finding myself, and expressing myself, in a way that I could never do in words."