Celebrity Style

The Deeper Meaning Behind Madonna’s Celebration Tour Jewellery

Kevin Mazur

As well as her back catalogue of monster hits, Madonna’s Celebration Tour honours the instantly recognisable accessories that defined her style and made waves in fashion and popular culture. In the early days of her career, the Material Girl famously wore religious symbols, turning their meanings upside down. Take the cross: usually associated with devout piety, it became a cry for sexual freedom as it dangled upon Madonna’s chest while she sang “Like A Virgin”.

The Halo headpiece by Malakai

As she emerges onto the barely-lit stage wearing an oversized, priest-like black kimono-robe, Madonna’s halo jewellery headpiece shines, setting the tone for more giant religious symbols to follow, and underlining the spiritual message of “Nothing Really Matters”, the first song she performs.

A sketch of the halo headpiece by Malakai for Madonna.

“For the opening, we wanted to show her in all her glory, and together with jewellery designer Malakai, we immediately thought of a halo because it harks back to the iconography of the Madonna and Child and religious symbolism, which is a big part of Madonna’s style,” says Eyob Yohannes, Madonna’s stylist, who orchestrated all the looks for the tour.

Berlin-based designer Malakai also worked on Madonna’s accessories for the 2018 Met Gala, when the theme of the Costume Institute exhibition was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and The Catholic Imagination”. The artist fashioned her halo in sterling silver, a light material that allows her to move freely on stage. It is adorned with 25 large Swarovski crystals and paved with micro-crystals. “It was made specifically for Madonna’s head,” says Malakai. “I knew all the necessary measurements of her head, I knew about how she was going to style her hair. So the piece considered all the tiny details to ensure it was light but still made an impact.”

It surely did, evoking a profoundly spiritual moment in the dim light of the show’s opening. “Knowing that ‘Nothing Really Matters’ was the song chosen to open the show. I thought about Madonna’s iconography and what she stands for. The halo became the obvious choice as the song carries a beautiful message of love. I thought it linked with the mother-bearing theme, as she released the song after the birth of her daughter,” says Malakai.

The Necklace Of Tears by Vetements and Swarovski

“Live to Tell”, the song of silent suffering released in 1986, is performed by Madonna against a backdrop of images of artists including the American painter Keith Haring, the photographer Herb Ritts and the singer Freddy Mercury, all of whom died of health complications related to AIDS. “It is a sombre moment in the show,” says Yohannes. “It is a time of mourning, but we also want to celebrate their creative talent and their contribution.”

Vetements came up with the solution to convey these two contradictory sentiments: a necklace made of a multitude of tear-drop-shaped gems fashioned from dazzling Swarovski crystals that evoke the sparkle of the artists’ creativity.

In an emotional post on Instagram, Giovanna Engelbert, global creative director at Swarovski, expressed her gratitude to Vetements creative director Demna Gvasalia for the commission, and to the members of her team across Paris, Stockholm, Switzerland and Austria. Madonna wears the piece to sing “Like a Prayer”, Engelbert’s favourite track by the artist. “You can imagine the emotion when I saw her singing wearing this necklace,” she said.

The Vogue Cross by Almarow

A “gothic cross” was the succinct brief Marta Oriani, a former gemologist at Sotheby’s and the founder of Almarow, was given when tasked with creating a piece for Madonna’s tour. “I thought of regal jewellery, which is part of Almarow’s aesthetic — particularly the elaborately adorned Victorian crosses that seemed perfect for Madonna,” says Oriani, who had just two weeks to produce it.

A sketch of the Vogue Cross by Marta Oriani at Almarow for Madonna.

“I literally sketched it on the back of one of my kid’s workbooks!” Oriani says. The Almarow atelier in Italy used a mix of crystal shapes – pear, marquise, round, and square – to accentuate the Victorian inspiration,and give it a contemporary touch. “I decided to name it the Vogue Cross,” Oriani says, “as ‘Vogue’ is one of my favourite songs.”

On stage, Madonna wears the piece with a petrol-blue bodysuit over black fishnet tights, a look which, in recent performances, was completed with a knee brace on the left leg. Combined with her choice to expose the knee brace and to include Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive” in her set, the Vogue Cross now also conveys the 65-year-old singer’s formidable staying power.

Crystal rosaries by the House of Emmanuele

“Designing for Madonna’s latest Celebration Tour was a journey that whisked me back to my earliest Madonna memory – a moment when she perfectly embodied her namesake in the iconic ‘Like A Virgin’ music video,” says Emmanuel Tsakiris at the House of Emmanuele. In the video that accompanied her 1984 hit, Madonna provocatively prowls around Venice, adorned with a bewildering array of crucifixes and amulets.

The memory of this “legendary” look inspired the creation of the House of Emmanuele’s La Croix Dynasty collection, which includes crystal rosaries with a mix of crystal and coloured gemstones in various cuts, resulting in a modern reinterpretation of Madonna’s iconic ’80s aesthetic. “Seeing Madonna wear these crucifixes on stage is not just a career highlight but also a surreal manifestation of dreams that have been in the making since I was a wide-eyed six-year-old, buying my very first Madonna single and falling headlong into my obsession.”

A sketch of the rosaries made by Emmanuel Tsakiris at the House of Emmanuele for Madonna.
Two crystal rosary necklaces by the the House of Emmanuele for Madonna, with a sketch and Madonna’s pictures in the background.

This article was originally published on British Vogue.

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