Sensuous black-and-white portraits provide a poetic metaphor for acoustic violins in “Armed Venus,” the soundtrack to today’s multidisciplinary mash-up from artist-turned-musician Matthew Stone. Originally composed as the accompaniment for friend and frequent collaborator Gareth Pugh’s womenswear show last month in Paris, the ten-minute orchestral meditation punctuated an acclaimed collection of floor-sweeping tribal gowns made from garbage bags found around the designer’s east London studio. The track, produced by Joe Ashworth and featuring Jordan Hunt on the violin, joins Stone’s ever-growing repertoire of musical crossovers into fashion; he has already spun works for Adam Kimmel, Prada and Rick Owens. “I always try to push Gareth to go in a certain direction but intuitively, before even speaking, we are often on the same page,” explains Stone, who combined classical instruments with electronic synths for the latest composition—the result of a relationship they’ve cultivated over the past six years. “He could only come as far as my studio in Dalston but would never be able to see the pieces being made in the factory in Italy,” adds Pugh, who was applauded backstage by the likes of Cher. “After all, it’s a longtime creative partnership.”
Matthew Stone: I had always wanted to make music, but if it wasn’t for working with you I would never have been this productive—you gave me the push and the deadlines.
Gareth Pugh: When we started collaborating, I sent you the same references that I sent to the hair and makeup people; it’s always abstract and working from a mood board that loosely reflects how I feel.
MS: We always made electronic music in the beginning, working with found materials and remixing existing music. Then for the collection after the black-and-white Spring 2009 show we decided to compose our own music and record with real instruments.
GP: For this season I took a lot of inspiration from this Asgarda tribe of strong women in Carpathian Mountains––they arm themselves, train themselves and fend off the men. They are totally independent yet live in a contemporary tribal environment. The use of violin here reflects that: it’s something very romantic and beautiful but can also be very violent. Layered on top of that there are effects reminiscent of the tribal sound, and a lot of the gypsy motifs.
MS: I do think there are musical trends reflected in fashion, and some designers are collectively using hit musical elements. But for you it’s more about creating a personal, non-linear world. For instance there is always such a contrast between the catwalk music and the finale music, because I don’t have any input in the finale. It creates a sense of elevation and relief at the end, in a way.
GP: The finale should be upbeat, with a sense of humor. Long before I started designing the collection, I had found this early live recording of Dolly Parton singing “Little Sparrow.” When I heard it I knew I wanted to use it for the show! I want to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience for the audience—I want to control what people see and what people hear. Music is always very integral to that.
MS: I think even without looking at the imagery, people can form some level of visual resemblance of the collection. This track was created for the show, but if you take it away it will still feel bespoke. It’s abstract, but it carries the feelings of the collection—it’s cinematic.