Music and Fashion

...collaborations allow creative industries to survive commercially

by Emma Segal
Music and fashion. Like love and marriage, if Sinatra is to be believed, they are inseparable. And, like any creative industry, they find innovative ways of surviving, and thriving, through collaboration. The most obvious manifestation of the collaborative spirit can be found in Catwalk shows. Musical accompaniment to collections is nothing new. In most instances, the perfect song has the power to convey the aesthetic of a designer’s work in ways which presenting the collection on its own cannot. Speaking to the New York Times, Prabal Gurung highlighted the importance of music to his shows, saying ‘each season we want to tell a story for 10 minutes…the perfect harmony between clothes and music allows [this]’.

In recent years, however, the tradition has been, literally, amplified. Live music is adding to the glamour and spectacle of runway. The shows of many major fashion houses now seem like concerts. However, there is a danger in pushing the connection too far. Chanel’s presentation of Florence Welch last season, for example, made one forget for a brief moment that it was clothing which was the main attraction. By contrast, Dior Homme’s use of indie outfit These New Puritans provided a lesson in ‘Collaboration 101’. Producing a new song and accompanying score for Dior’s A/W 2007 collection (titled ‘Navigate, Navigate), the marriage of The Puritans’ work and Hedi Slimane’s designs received countless positive reviews.

The use of so-called ‘super DJs’ has also become a prevailing trend in recent years. Take Leigh Lezark, for example. Not only an ambassador and muse for Chanel (brought in under Lagerfeld), the model is also part of acclaimed DJ trio ‘The Misshapes’. If you are in need of another example, who could forget Yves Saint Laurent’s use of James Murphy (aka LCD Soundsystem) in its A/W 2010 collection?

The relationship between fashion and music is further cemented by members of each respective community ‘job hopping’ to the other’s. The term model-slash-[insert actor or singer], far from being seen as derogatory, is now something to be celebrated. It is not surprising that such transitions occur. In essence, both fashion and music celebrate and encourage creativity and the expression of the self. Furthermore, in today’s world of celebrity, the ability to multi-task is considered noble. This is the reason why, despite achieving ‘supermodel’ status, models such as Agyness Deyn, Carla Bruni and Kate Moss all strive to appear as guest vocalists (or indeed, solo artists in the case of Bruni) on artists’ albums. Kate’s choice was Primal Scream whilst in the case of Agyness, it was the 5 O’Clock Heroes. If singing is not a model’s strong point, there’s always the time honoured tradition of appearing in music videos. One incredible contemporary example of this is Agyness’ cameo in Woodkid’s video for ‘Iron’. (NB: If you’ve yet to see the video, type ‘Iron’ to Youtube immediately!)

Conversely, in a world of pop and indie musicians being seen as celebrities and icons, it makes commercial sense for musicians to explore their designing and modeling talents. Like models-turned-musicians, it appears that the degree of success depends on the individual concerned. Far be it for a reputable fashion e-commerce site such as ours to commend the works of (say) Jessica Simpson. Yet, few could deny the success of Victoria Beckham’s critically lauded collections (created with advice from the likes of Mouret and Jacobs, but for the most part by herself).

Similarly, artists such as Lana Del Ray, JLS’ Marvin Humes and One Night Only’s George Craig turning to modeling has enabled them to work with some great fashion houses. Not every attempt made by models or musicians to carve a name for themselves in the other field will be successful. But we should not be overly and immediately critical of such moves either, when they can sometimes produce great art.

The muse has been in fashion for as long as music has been played on catwalks. In this field too, musicians have greatly influenced designers. This extends from the inheritors of rock royalty, such as Frances Bean Cobain (one time muse of Slimane), to bonifide pop royalty. Lady Gaga’s influence on, and collaboration with, Mugler’s Nicola Formichetti has produced some undeniably controversial and interesting works of fashion. In addition, Prabal Gurung cites rapper Rye Rye as one of his muses, and Alexander Wang has previously used Santigold in his campaigns.

Finally, in the digital age, the connection between fashion and music becomes increasingly important in the context of fashion film. Extending the principles of the use of music in catwalk collections, the fashion film further allows a designer to express their aesthetic and influences. Jordan Askill’s holistic design approach (a remnant of his sculpture design background) created one of the most exciting animated virals last year, in a video that ostensibly advertised a silver cuff. In collaboration with These New Puritans, the video for ‘Horse Wave’ is again a must see. Another fine example is Nick Knight’s collaborative work with the likes of Lady Gaga and Gareth Pugh. It is in this avenue that the collaboration between designers, filmmakers, set designers and musicians is newest and most exciting.

No doubt countless examples can be drawn to demonstrate the existence and importance of a connection between the worlds of fashion and music. In these difficult economic times, the developing of such a connection is vital. It allows the creative industries to survive commercially, rather than stagnate. This is undeniably why initiatives such as the 2012 Fashion Music Week Showcase (which encourages members of both industries to network and foster relationships which are mutually beneficial) are becoming increasingly prevalent.