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On Didion: Fashion is Starved for Icons

A writer for Vogue could barely contain her jubilation on Celine Creative Director Phoebe Philo's decision. Headlines exuded a sigh of relief. Was this the first time a talented woman (or man) of substance became the face of a coveted fashion label? No. But it sure feels like a rare and distant concept.
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The internet was broken again. This time, by the reaction to Joan Didion for Celine.

Shortly after seeing the photo of the literary icon posing as the muse for the French fashion house on Tuesday, every social media platform exploded with her unpolished image, tucked behind dark glasses.

A writer for Vogue could barely contain her jubilation on Celine Creative Director Phoebe Philo's decision. Headlines exuded a sigh of relief.

Was this the first time a talented woman (or man) of substance became the face of a coveted fashion label?

No. But it sure feels like a rare and distant concept.

Fashion has always been a reflection of the current state of things and those on the front lines -- leaders and their families, pop culture icons, screen sirens, artists & designers and models & muses with originality and guts.

Skim through Time's All-Time 100 Fashion Icons and you will see legends like Coco Chanel, Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, James Dean, Jackie O., Madonna, The Beatles and Lady Gaga. All with a distinct style representative of the era they were born into, or one in which they unconsciously created.

Idolize or hate them, these folk had (and have) talent and grit -- Uncalculated, unfiltered spine. Yes, everyone has a stylist, but these innovators dominated their industry and their wardrobe.

Even Jackie O., the more privileged, stiffer of the bunch, became known as an advocate of the arts and foreign relations and as a figure of grace and humility alongside the world's most loved philandering president-husband and his untimely assassination. When my mother fell in love with wearing shift dresses and tying scarves around her head, it stood for something.

And any time Coco Chanel, Madonna or Gaga influenced a trend or style decision, I wore it proudly. These were and are brave, creative women -- rebels of their time.

Enter, 2015. Trying to maneuver through the once avant-garde fashion bibles without stumbling upon a vapidly polished pop star or member of the ubiquitous Kardashian clan is as difficult as finding your false eyelash in your teddy bear coat.

All lovely individuals, I'm sure, it's tough to decipher their style contributions, talents and perspectives, if any.

Taylor Swift, America's sweetheart, appears to a have a stylist line up different (but similar) crop top duos for every day of the week. She's always smiling, behaving and her idea of taking a stand doesn't seem to stretch further than an eye roll. Yet, I've frequently seen her on best dressed lists.

And as the saying goes, Kim K. was sporting bandage dresses until Kanye showed up. Now she's on the style radar, but so packaged -- the excessive makeup, that expressionless face. Her life is an Instagram filter. She seems to simply exist. I'm bored to tears.

Cate Blanchett and Emma Watson are also applauded by fashionistas and belong on the list of intelligent, talented beings. But when I sift through my social media news feeds or pages in a glossy, it's not their faces that I'm seeing.

By now, most of us know it's about money. Swift and Kardashian-types get the clicks, the followers, the designer partnerships and supermodel BFFs. In an industry where publications are either dying or needing to reinvent themselves, millions of new followers, readers and subscribers are a welcomed life vest.

When Anna "Nuclear" Wintour allowed Kim K. on the cover of Vogue, I thought for sure my field was dead. These celebrities have no doubt impacted our culture, but labeling them fashion icons is pushing it.

Is anyone else bored yet?

What I wouldn't give to see Naomi Campbell tell someone off in the middle of the Meatpacking District in thigh-high boots or witness Mick and Bianca Jagger stumble out of the old Studio 54, glamorous and disheveled.

Kate Moss rushing down the street in a vintage formal dress and combat boots or some other random but perfect concoction is a sight to behold -- messy hair and makeup-free. She's completely flawed and unapologetic. Moss is personality and drama and she dresses herself. That's a fashion legend.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's Michelle Obama. Classic, unpretentious and a major fan of J.Crew, she's the extroverted first lady to the first African-American president. A successful lawyer and advocate for youth fitness, she possesses brains and confidence -- most certainly an icon.

And Joan Didion -- the award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction who has greatly influenced new styles of journalism. Once an editor at Vogue, she also became known for her oversized glasses and meticulous packing lists that she would quickly reference when she needed to travel. Talented, cool and a bit elusive -- she's a fashion lover's dream.

These are the women I want as my style idols -- smart, sexy and inimitable.

It's no surprise that Philo chose Didion. Celine is considered a leader in setting the tone of fashion and trends. Successful from the start, Philo has breezed through any criticism with a continued eagerness to create, and has boldly done so.

Why she chose Didion may or may not be revealed in the next few days, but I'm hoping it was to make a statement about the return of the substantial fashion icon. If anyone can bring back a fading concept, Philo can, and from the reaction of the Internet it seems we are all hungry for it.