Of course, matching a singer’s front-row presence to the beat that rocks the runway is easier with advance warning. Since he knew hip hop’s Nicki Minaj would be at the Betsey Johnson show, Bones created what he called “a real one-off original.” Call it a couture mix: He overlaid Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” with Minaj’s a cappella vocals. This way, said Bones, celebrities “feel special, but you’re not just putting on a track.”
Fashion shows are all about emotion, and the music plays a big part in drumming up feeling. Behind some of the best shows at Fashion Week, which ended Thursday, were imaginative DJs, though they will tell you that crafting the right musical mix for harried creative types is no easy task. It takes a little mind reading — and a large CD collection.
Decoding a vision
Typically, top designers meet with their DJs a month or more ahead of time to convey the collection’s theme. Then it’s up to the DJ to translate into music the inspiration behind, say, a silk chiffon maxi skirt in charcoal.
To go with his James Dean theme — red canvas windbreakers, polo sweaters, high-waisted pants — designer Michael Bastian, known for classic updated sportswear, wanted songs that evoked “that emotional meatiness of James Dean, the whole fragileness of him.” He chose a song by Boy George and a slow, sultry cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
But not all designers know what they want. Worst-case scenario: The designer who once told Bones, “This is our theory: It’s Japanese American, and here’s a picture of a mountain.” Bones was exasperated. “What can I do with this picture of a mountain?”
Best case: a time, a place and a persona. When Mark Badgley and James Mischka met with DJ Javier Peral, they told him they had in mind an eccentric woman from the 1960s, like a starlet in one of jet-set photographer Slim Aarons’s books. “Palm Springs, beachy glamour, pools,” Peral said. That gave him a starting point.
But Peral, 47, also knows that designers “don’t want to take it too literal. Everyone wants to go on the modern side and make the clothes look young and appealing.” So at the Badgley Mischka show Tuesday, he led off with “Add Ends,” a dreamy song with a sparkling pulse by the Danish pop band When Saints Go Machine.
“I liked the sound,” said Peral, who studied law in his native Spain before moving to New York, where he’s been mixing for fashion shows for 15 years. “There’s a quirkiness, it’s a little odd — their voices are choirlike without being too churchy. It’s something eccentric, but at the same time very lyrical and beautiful.”