Last week it was announced that the 2019 CFDA Fashion Icon of the Year will be Jennifer Lopez, and I can’t believe anyone is arguing over this. Let’s back up a bit. The CFDA is the Council of Fashion Designers of America. It is the governing body of American fashion designers and every year they host an awards ceremony for the best in, you guessed it, American fashion. One of the most coveted awards of the night is the Fashion Icon of the Year Award. Past winners include Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Naomi Campbell to name a few.
What makes an icon and icon?
To be an icon in fashion doesn’t mean you’re always the best dressed or even the most fashion forward. It means that your celebrity style has enough gravitas and cultural impact that your look is a reference point for others. For example, when we see a young female rapper in multi-colored wigs, we assume she is referencing Lil Kim. Not that Lil Kim is currently the best dressed on a red carpet, but she has iconic looks such that people can recognizably dress up as her for Halloween. Or a drag performer can emulate her look, and an audience can easily clock who she’s supposed to be. Beyoncé’s performance bodysuits, the wide-brimmed hat from the “Formation” video, and even the Southern gothic aesthetic are a part of Beyoncé’s iconography.
What makes J. Lo an icon?
J. Lo’s status as a fashion icon began with that infamous green jungle print Versace dress worn to the 2000 Grammy Awards. That dress was literally the catalyst for creating Google image searches because at the time, it was the most popular search query but the good folks over at Google had no way to ensure people could get the image as opposed to just the text. Thus Google image search was born. If that’s not culturally iconic, then I don’t know what is. Have you gone a single day of your life without doing a Google image search? Need I remind you of the white Sean John ensemble from the MTV Video Music Awards? Or the pink velour outfit from the “I’m Real” video? People were wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits for years after that. Even her makeup look is known as the “J. Lo Glow.”
J. Lo may not be the most fashion-forward risk-taker on the red carpet, but her current style is always fresh, and quite simply pretty. Honestly, her icon status may be overdue.