Music and fashion are natural bedfellows that have been perpetually intertwined. Jazz is synonymous with the flapper mode of the ’20s as much as much as rock ‘n’ roll music and looks are banded together. And in the current zeitgeist, hip-hop and K-pop have etched out their own signature sounds and styles. At seasonal runway presentations, music plays a central role as fashion regulars know so well. Waiting for a show to start during fashion week can be an unpredictable affair, but as the first note of music wafts out, a blanket of silence immediately descends on the show space as the opening model strides out on cue.
With the exception for a mere handful of shows where music is non-existent—think Marc Jacobs F/W 2017 where models walked down a wooden runway in a bare set to an absence of music—the idea of that just seems incomplete. Together with the set design of show spaces, the runway soundtrack is just as instrumental in setting the scene for the collection, as Rene Arsenault stated, “[with fashion], music and clothes are your whole plot.” Arsenault along with other highly sought-after sound designers such as Michel Gaubert and Frédéric Sanchez, this elite unit is responsible for the music you hear at high-profile shows: Prada, Chanel, Miu Miu, Hermès, Versace, Emporio Armani, Jil Sander and others.
In the contemporary fashion age, the runway relationship between fashion and music can be a study in contrast or directly correlated. Whichever way, they both share a common goal, and that is to evoke the mood, calibrate the tone and create the ambience of a multi-sensorial encounter of a collection. More often than not, creative directors use different music genres to express their inspirations and themes by handpicking the artistes or musicians to perform live on the runway, or alternatively book DJs, specialists or sound/music designers to curate and re-mix a unique soundtrack for the show.
In fact, brands often take the next step by leveraging on celebrity wattage by extrapolating their liaisons with these chart-topping artistes. Beyond just tapping on their music, they engage them as brand ambassadors for official brand campaigns, and collaborate with them for capsule collections or even standalone lines. Dressing these influential singers for their music videos is impactful, akin to subtle “product placement” that synergises the image of the brand and the artiste. In a pandemic setting where red-carpet and runway events offer fewer opportunities for brands to showcase celebrity fashion, music videos have become the alternate runway, serving as aspiration and escapism in bleak times.
As the digital revolution tightens its hold, a new relationship between fashion and music is also fast emerging. Brands are recycling their runway tracks, directing them into curated playlists populating the brand’s streaming channels on Apple Music, SoundCloud or Spotify. This innovative way to channel the brand’s ethos and vibe by way of a musical immersion leads to a deeper experience. The added value of cross-industry creative collaborations and partnerships is priceless beyond what is in the line of sight—they makes the clothes and accessories of the collections sing.
A creative director who channels his music head sensibility through fashion is none other than the free-spirited Alessandro Michele. It is not hard to see why and how he has endeared dreamers and creatives to his eclectic vision at Gucci, where music is an intrinsic member. There is a method to the madness in the mish-mash of his irreverent glam rock-meets-retro chic ensembles that resonate with the unique individualism of the music industry’s diverse talents. From iconic artistes such as Florence Welch, Sir Elton John, Lana Del Rey and Jared Leto to their new talented comrades, Gucci’s collaborations are as prolific and eclectic as Michele’s fashion oeuvre.
For last year’s launch of the #GucciGig project, which reached out and connected to the wider digital creative community, 12 musicians and artists were roped in from around the world to share their personal experiences of live performances in partnership with illustrators, photographers, videomakers and graphic designers while showcasing Gucci eyewear with a rock ‘n’ roll bent. The exclusive shoots, videos or artwork were synchronised with the debut of Gucci’s Spotify account, where each artist including band Amyl and the Sniffers (with Jamie Wdziekonski) and French singer-songwriter Lou Doillon created their own playlist for the channel.
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