By: Haley Albert
I don’t know that it is possible to think of California without thinking of Joni Mitchell’s California: a place you’ve never stopped longing for, not even while strolling a Grecian Isle, or sitting in a park in Paris. This California is the one our vintage denim once inhabited, and where our rock stars sought refuge. When Laurel Canyon was a pastoral paradise for the Mama’s and the Papa’s and Carole King, and the blossoming singer-songwriter scene. And at the center of all this was Joni, the folk-rock-jazz-country-uncategorizable composer-poet whose lyrical elegance was matched by her sophisticated song design. Her song “Ladies of the Canyon” set the 1970’s scene perfectly- wampum beads, secondhand coats, tie dye tapestries and all. Her music defined California in the sixties, making Joni a music legend on top of style icon.
From bell-bottom jeans, to flowing maxi dresses, and plenty of colorful kaftans in between, Joni epitomized the earth goddess hippie aesthetic, and was the clear influence for designers like Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent’s recent collections, the latter of which recently made her the face of the brand. First came Joan, then came Joni: both legends in their respective fields, both high fashion ad campaign stars. I don’t know that there’s been a more exciting and unexpected face to grace a Saint Laurent campaign than the bohemian goddess herself, who once said that after she gave up the “hippie thing” she started wearing Yves Saint Laurent- as it was once called. For these brands to recognize women who embody both intelligence and beauty, and who function at the highest level of creativity, felt like a beautiful and long overdue paradigm shift.
Joni lived the fantasy that was California in the sixties, and did as well as anyone tucked away in that magical canyon at the time. Her sonic legacy shines through newer talents like James Blake and Marika Hackman, while her impact on style can be seen on just about any California resident, or music festival attendee. My most favorite Joni moment of all, however, is her BBC performance of California — just her and her dulcimer, and her long blonde locks, and beautiful pink dress, and hauntingly beautiful vocal. After watching it, it is impossible to listen to California any other way than Joni’s.