These guys turn fashion visions into sound



By Su Fen Tan

These guys turn fashion visions into sound

We can only imagine what it is like to prepare for a show at fashion week. Think about it, everything—the clothes, makeup, set design, music—has to come together seamlessly to convey the designer’s vision to the discerning spectator. And a fashion show without sound, while not impossible, is a rare spectacle. One would likely feel something is amiss if the models strutted down the runway in complete silence. 


Producer and DJ Rene Arsenault, who has worked with the likes of Tom Ford, Diane Von Furstenberg and Tommy Hilfiger on soundscapes for their runways, tells BOF: “In a movie, you have someone who can push the plot along verbally. But [with fashion], music and clothes are your whole plot.”


That pretty much signifies the special relationship between fashion and music. There is a lot more to fashion show soundtracks than meets the eye—it is not just about putting together a bunch of stellar tracks that fits the theme; rather, it is quite an intricate process of laying the soundscape to communicate a statement or vision.


Frédéric Sanchez, one of fashion’s most sought-after sound designers, weighs in: “What I like is at the end of the show, they say the show is great. I don’t like when they say that the music was great. I consider that [to mean] I didn’t really do my job. It’s very important when the whole thing comes together. If the music has been too important to the show, it’s not good.”


The process of laying a fashion show soundtrack starts from anywhere between a few days to months before the show, depending on the designer. For Sanchez, the whole process typically takes about 40 hours in total. It sometimes requires work beyond the recording studio, too—Jeremy Healy once went up mountains to record gypsies for Dior’s momentous 60th anniversary show back in 2007.

In a movie, you have someone who can push the plot along verbally. But [with fashion], music and clothes are your whole plot.”

Like a movie score, the soundscape is integral to a fashion show, setting the mood and ambience for it from the start. The designers communicate their vision and references to the sound experts, and the latter builds from thereon. “Sometimes it’ll be a musical reference, sometimes it’ll be a film reference, or I’ve been shown [something] more abstract, like art or sculpture,” says Arsenault.


The key is to get the main idea or theme of the show. From there, the sound designers then translate the vision into sound. This is not necessarily done literally. Creating the soundscape is approached like a movie soundtrack, where the themed is varied a little. For example, when Rei Kawakubo shared the word ‘Opera’ with Sanchez, he doesn’t just turn up the next day with an opera track, but what he did was work with the idea of opera, and gave her music that is capable of illustrating a variety of operas all at once.


Here, get a glimpse behind the scenes of Loewe’s SS18 show with Michel Gaubert, known for his expertise in reworking and mixing sounds into unexpected pieces:

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