Minimalist Sounds at Fashion Week

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Haider Ackermann S/S15
Haider Ackermann S/S15Photography by Jérémy Barniaud

It has become the norm for designers’ collections to be shown to a thumping soundtrack. Here, AnOther examines how some designers are embracing minimalist sounds

A celebrity-studded front row, the clicks of a thousand cameras, an upbeat soundtrack. Fashion shows are often noisy places, where attention is directed everywhere but at the clothes. Tim Blanks, editor-in-chief of and senior contributing editor of Another Man, whose show reports are famous for their music-focused comment, is an advocate of the role music plays in live shows. He told AnOther in 2011, “I get the odd sarcastic comment about reviewing the music more than the show, but to me, the role of music in a show is to amplify – or clarify – the designer’s vision.” But in the S/S15 collections, there seemed to be an affirmation of a different approach to show music, with designers using sound in a more considered way.

"Silence is equally as powerful as music – especially in a catwalk show setting. With music and shows, both elements should work together in strengthening the mood" — Craig Green

Menswear designer Craig Green made a startling debut at London Collections: Men in June, delivering an accomplished collection to Caribbean Blue by Enya. "It suited the mood of the collection and the emotion that we wanted to portray," Green told AnOther. The designer sent models down the runway in layered fabrics and bare feet, covered wooden structures balanced behind their heads. The purity and poeticism of the collection, tempered with the serene sounds, created a highly emotional atmosphere. "I was trying to create a melancholic feeling, but also positive new beginning," the designer furthers. "Silence is equally as powerful as music – especially in a catwalk show setting. With music and shows, both elements should work together in strengthening the mood."

When used thoughtfully, a soundtrack can help to tell the story of a collection, evoking the mood of the clothes, proclaiming the muses who inspired them. In seasons past, fashion houses have moved beyond the convention of music. For A/W12 womenswear, Comme des Garçons' Rei Kawakubo carpeted her catwalk with velvet and added no sound, the models parading the collection only to the muffled clomps of their shoes, before a swell of electronica announced the finale. And at the recent round of S/S15 shows, playing with the traditional MO has become more prominent, with houses tempering their musical soundtracks with noise or silence. Rick Owens turned down the volume on his classical soundtrack to draw attention to the serrated wooden clogs cracking down the marble runway, while at Haider Ackermann, a thundering beat crescendoed into a whirring symphony of non-musical sounds.

“We are incessantly surrounded by noise in modern day life,” says Paula Gerbase of the label 1205. “When imagining a show, when most brands bombard our senses with their vision, it felt natural to negate all of the preconceived ideas of what show music should be, and to highlight in an absolute way that there is an alternative, one that allows us to refocus.” Having trained in menswear tailoring on Savile Row, Gerbase’s focus is on fine fabrics, to which she draws attention by using sound and silence in a way that allows the clothes to speak for themselves. The background to her S/S15 collection was a deconstruction of a 1984 piece by Moebius & Beerbohm, matching her minimalist aesthetics. “The sound environment should not fight with those ideals, but rather highlight them and allow them to breathe.”

Fashion shows have always sought to present alternative environments to echo the personality of their collections, be they the conventional playlist, challenging cacophonies of noise or eerie silence. This thread of quiet that has hummed through the S/S15 collections is not new but it is an intriguing trend in a fashion world that is louder than ever, brief respites from the sensory bombardment that is the catwalk and its surrounding whirlwind. In these quieter moments, a collection can speak for itself, in the rustle of fabric and the clunk of a heel.