M.I.A can pull absolutely anything off. Whether we love or hate it, whether we’re perplexed by it or understand it, she does bizarre and striking, fashion-forward quirk like no other. Probably the youngest subject we’ve taken a look at yet, this week’s Style Icon foray delves into the Bring The Noize artist’s style files ahead of her autumn full-length release, Matangi.

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The early noughties saw M.I.A (aka Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam) emerge with a distinct and bold impression. Her style – a hyper-fusion of Western and Asian culture, influences and tastes – was and still is just as eccentric as her music.

I think I’m the edge finder”

She first stepped out in bright, laid-back streetwear-influenced ensembles. Usually making the pieces herself, the preeminent characteristic of M.I.A’s dress is her ‘give no fucks’ stance, a driving factor of her style presence. Whether she’s donning a tee with political undertones or head to toe in a burka with a little middle finger action added into the mix, she flirts with controversy.

Got to give it to M.I.A and her penchant for prints. Whether she’s head to toe in a floral print skirt-suit or wonderfully (some have said hideously, boo!) clashing busy prints, she’s all about patterns and motifs in her get-ups. Throw in a bit of tie-dye, some neon and metallic and you’ve got a few of the Arular artist’s favourite things.

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Maya definitely favoured looser fits early on in her career. Casual, low-maintenance yet equally attention-grabbing and idiosyncratic to what has become the M.I.A brand. Wearing graphic tees with mini, sportwear jumpsuits, mini denim skirts, metallic leggings, shorts and other casual items, she was experimental with how she pulled each look off.

Hailing M.I.A for her style prowess and panache would fall short without a nod (probably the millionth) to the Boyz musician’s pregnancy threads. Particularly her Henry Holland polka piece from the Grammys. She didn’t skimp on trendy or avant garde to opt for comfy and demure. No. M.I.A’s all about hard to miss ensembles no matter the weather. Especially when on stage or in her music videos. Take for instance her 2010 Scream Awards costume. I mean that’s what it was – hard-to-miss. Slightly offensive colour-blocking – with a wild wig and pretty funky sandle-sneaker thingy on, M.I.A displayed her crazy, blasé stage attitude. One not necessarily exhibited in her day to day fashions.

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She’s one for cute accessories, like her globe clutch, her beaded blue and gold gloves or even the numerous conductor-style hats she favours. Whilst she’s definitely been one to play around with numerous hair colours and cuts – she’s done blonde severally as well as pinks, blue and an orange/ dip-dyed yellow job to name a few – M.I.A also really loves her headwear.

As up in the air as her style is, you can always find her donning a bit of bling here and there. Well actually a lot of bling. From the gold crown with ruby embellishments in her shoot with Jalouse and other regal hair adornments. Intricate gold neck pieces as well as long chain variations and chunky bangles, M.I.A makes a point to accessorise with gold and lots of it. Remember her LBD covered in gold crochet over the top from the 2010 MET Ball?

Maya’s core aesthetics have remained as she has progressed both artistically and sartorially. A quality that’s made her a muse among notable designers. Take for instance her super chic street-style snap from earlier this year outside Kenzo. She’s still about the mismatching prints, though a little more refined, she’s still about the loud colours and the layering, the tribal patterns and bomber jackets. What has changed perhaps is her beauty choices. Usually one for creative nail art, bright eyeshadow and bold lip colour – pinks, purples greens oranges, you name it. M.I.A has in recent outings leaned more towards a more natural, accentuating look.

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M.I.A loves statement pieces. Her blue, white and orange Jean-Charles De Castelbajac shark ‘fit from a few years back is one of many examples. Taking influence from her southeast Asian heritage as well as street art aesthetic, catching on to emerging trends before they’re overdone and always including a striking element to her outfits. M.I.A’s hybrid compositions walk a fine line between brilliant yet sometimes confusing. Thing is she doesn’t care and that’s why we love her. She keeps us guessing and anticipating just what ‘cool’ will look like next. Coupled with her badass persona and outspoken opinions, this is what makes her a style icon.


The Fader
MTV Hive
Dazed & Confused

Words: Laura Arowolo

Previously – Style Icon: Nas

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