Sade, in a 1988 conversation with Interview, commented on her position as a fashion icon, saying, “I don’t really like the fashion industry, to be honest with you.” And yet, the singer who turned 60 today (Happy birthday, mystical queen!) is maybe fashion’s favorite non-fashion person.
Sade is someone who’s held to her signature look just tightly enough for it to be iconic, and yet there is virtually no one else whose outfit in 1988 would not look remotely out of step in 2019. The first time I heard Diamond Life was in my third-grade classroom, with my very beautiful, very hip, recently divorced teacher. Even at 9, watching my teacher with her long, perfectly straight hair sing along to Smooth Operator, I made a mental note of feminine cool.
And that is very much what Sade is—the picture of feminine mystique and cool. There are the crimson lips, the low ponytail, the gold hoops, the tied-at-the-hips blouses. In spite of her disdain for the fashion industry, Sade did, in fact, attend Central Saint Martins and reportedly made extra money selling clothes at Camden Street Market. It is perhaps someone who worked in fashion who would have specific disdain for the industry.
It is the singer’s complete sophistication and sleek simplicity—mixed with her private, quiet, VHS-hued existence—that makes her influence so strong. Sade is “more responsible for the popularizing of gold hoop earrings than an entire industry of jewelry executives,” a 2017 New York Times article noted. “She did not so much wear polka dots as single-handedly rescue them from the dustbin of Upper West Side frumpiness.”
She’s been a muse for countless magazine editorials, like Vogue Mexico’s April issue with Adwoa Aboah, who recreated Sade’s iconic denim-on-denim outfit. It’s also likely that without Sade, we wouldn’t have our current cool-girl uniform of high-waisted pants, red lips, and simple gold jewelry. She’s a singular force.
What also stands out about her style is that, in spite of its minimalism, it’s compelling and sensual. This photo of her wearing cornflower blue gloves, for instance, is a short story unto itself. As Drake, owner of two Sade tattoos, calls the feeling, it’s a “Sade moment”.
“Sade not only embodies a lot of class, her brand is so strong and she’s such an amazing woman, but the melody she chooses to use and her voice has that dark, sexy feel that a lot of So Far Gone has,” Drake told MTV News.” ‘Lust for Life,’ the ‘Houstatlantavegas,’ ‘The Calm’ — those all remind me of ‘Sade moments.’ I’ll call them ‘Sade moments,’ where you hear it, it hits you, and you feel something.”