Style in Profile: Roisin Murphy

Painting by Simon Henwood; video still from “Overpowered” by Jamie Thraves

Somewhere along the line—perhaps after playing muse to painter Simon Henwood or emerging as a red-carpet emissary for Gareth Pugh—Irish electropop singer Róisín Murphy became an accidental style icon, known more for her imaginative ensembles than her (equally charismatic) music. Serving as musical ambassador to the fashion-forward set has its perks: In January, Róisín will upgrade her role from front-row fixture to catwalk queen when she walks the runway as the guest-of-honor at French designer Alexandre Vauthier’s debut couture show.

Vauthier, who helms the small, elusive French label Lillian and has worked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler, represents the outlier of cutting-edge designs synonymous with Róisín’s style legacy. In videos, on stage, and even on London’s High Street, the singer is a fearless, skilled interpreter of the complicated fashions most only experience through editorials. Cindy Sherman’s Centerfolds inspired last year’s “You Know Me Better” video; in turn, Róisín uses cosmetic and sartorial artifice to manipulate her identity. And like Sherman’s characters, Róisín’s extreme wardrobe runs the gamut from arch couture to campy nostalgia-whether she’s tempering her Margiela statement pieces with Topshop or vintage Courrèges, or wearing Christophe Coppens’s customized diamante suits and Marc Jacobs’s cantilevered footwear onstage every night

Róisín’s collaboration with Vauthier promises to intensify interest in his debut couture collection: In 2007, she transformed whimsical Stephen Jones millinery and Poltock & Walsh ruffles into Pierrot-era chic; in doing so, she presaged the veritable harlequin craze. Mainstream stars have started to shadow Róisín’s every move, as most recently, Beyoncé appeared in Gareth Pugh’s Spring 2009 sculptural “Vent” dress to the EMAs. Róisín wore the same outfit (with considerable more success) to a Dior event six weeks earlier.