Two Maverick Creatives Free Associate On Synaesthesia, Collaboration and Dolly Parton
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.
Benjamin Millepied Directs a Kabuki-Inspired Collaboration with the Dark Pop Duo
A lone kabuki dancer performs against an urban tableau wearing full kumadori makeup in choreographer Benjamin Millepied's video for the Io Echo track “Eye Father.” Since meeting at a party and bonding over masochism and The Velvet Underground, Washington D.C.-native Ioanna Gika and her London-born partner in crime Leopold Ross have scored films for Harmony Korine, toured with Florence and the Machine and opened for Nine Inch Nails’ last-ever show. In “Eye Father,” Io Echo’s koto harp, hazy guitars and ethereal vocals are visualized in the vivid palette of classical Japanese theater. “Kabuki sets are so beautiful and rich in color, I wanted to find urban spaces with that quality,” explains director Millepied, who shot the film at a number of scenic Hollywood spots, including Los Angeles Harbor and a SoCal supermarket. “It looked like we were in rural China, but we were in this all-American urban landscape.” The cultural mash-up resonates well with Io Echo’s own penchant for mixing musical influences. “We’re interested in the sound and aesthetic of Asian cultures, but we’re not trying to emulate it literally,” Gika explains. “You can listen to our songs and imagine a Far Eastern forest, but ours is infused with purple smoke and twisted willows.” Currently in the finishing stages of Io Echo’s debut album, Gika shares the dreams that inspire the work, and a custom haiku.
What was on the stereo when you were growing up?
Ioanna Gika: Enya, Vangelis, chant, classical and new age.
Favorite new band?
IG: Haleek Maul, a teenage rapper from Barbados.
Dreams: black and white or Technicolor?
IG: Technicolor. Once the sky was so blue I was terrified.
IG: Kofi Annan or Philip Glass.
Favorite Japanese restaurant in LA?
IG: Sushi Ike––they do a great fresh octopus.
Write us a haiku?
IG: Wrote haikus all day
and apparently I am
still writing haikus.
Click here for Io Echo and Benjamin Millepied's second video collaboration, plus a chat with Leopold Ross.
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Director Brennan Stasiewicz Captures Fashion’s Enigma At Home and On Display
Documentary filmmaker Brennan Stasiewicz infiltrates the cosseted world of Daphne Guinness in Daphne’s Window. Featuring intimate footage of the icon at her Fifth Avenue apartment, the short follows the eccentric fashion patron and socialite as she prepares for her recent installation in the windows of Barneys New York. The storefront showcased her collection of pieces by designer Lee Alexander McQueen and a selection from the archive of fashion editor Isabella Blow, which Guinness purchased in its entirety last year. The display culminated in a performance art piece in which Guinness dressed for the Met ball in one of the flagship’s windows, modeling a lilac feathered gown designed by McQueen’s Sarah Burton. “She appears to me as someone always in a window,” says Stasiewicz. “Someone you can approach and see, but you remain on the other side.” This year brings a multitude of projects for the heiress: her sculptural armored glove collaboration with jeweler Shaun Leane (pictured in today’s film) will be exhibited by Jay Jopling in a private viewing in London later this month; and in September a retrospective at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology will pay homage to her style. “Daphne is someone to take pleasure in, and in many ways, someone who incites moments of wonder,” says Stasiewicz.