NEW YORK – The carpets have been rolled up and the racks of clothes have disappeared, leaving only a few stray feathers and sequins behind, but some New York Fashion Week guests may still be humming the tunes they heard on the runways for days to come.
That’s actually a goal for many designers when they choose the precious few songs played as models strut the runway, wearing their latest lines.
“It’s a quick movie that we’re doing when we put a fashion show together,” Michael Kors told The Associated Press in an interview this week at his fall/winter show. “The soundtrack is so important.”
Kors’ latest collection featured some bohemian flair: miniskirts, big belts and high boots, made of suede, and fringe accents with a modern sensibility. It was an ode to strong women who influenced him in his early life, like Tina Turner, Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, who sat in the front row.
In a nod to them, Kors’ team created an all-female soundtrack, much of it played by a live string orchestra in the center of the runway.
”You’re going to hear Joan Baez, a little Stevie Nicks, and then Grace Slick," Kors said, adding that his anthem was “always” Jefferson Airplane's “Somebody to Love.” “I always think what hits me emotionally in the gut, but then I always find a different way to do it. Jefferson Airplane done orchestrally is definitely a spin on things.”
Designer David Blond of The Blonds brand agrees that he and his partner Phillipe Blond are inspired by film and music and see their shows as pieces of art.
“All of our soundtracks are cinematic in scope and they really do … support the show. And it wouldn’t be the same without it, not just the visual, but the sound is really important,” David Blond said.
For Wes Gordon, the creative director for Carolina Herrera, this season’s playlist was personal. Models walked the runway at The Plaza Hotel to “Georgia on My Mind,” among other songs.
“'Georgia' was a nod to my newborn daughter. Her name is Georgia. She’s far too young to know or appreciate it but someday I’ll tell her,” Gordon said as his eyes lit up.
There are many elements competing for attention at fashion shows — the clothes, hair and makeup, celebrity and industry guests in the front row, and often dramatic venues. But the music can set a tone or underscore a theme the designer is trying to convey.
Many of the Herrera designs had a feminine, romantic essence.
“I kind of did a love theme because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day,” Gordon said on Monday. “The opening was ‘Say a Little Prayer.’ We did Rihanna of course because, Rihanna is Rihanna! And the finale was Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’"
Tory Burch is a longtime women's empowerment advocate and chose her playlist to include iconic female voices.
“I wanted to think about women vocalists and singers … starting with Tammy Wynette,” Burch said after her show. “The idea of ‘Stand by Your Man’ and clearly, you know, I believe in women’s empowerment, so it’s a bit ironic, although I think Tammy Wynette was an amazing, strong woman.”
Models at her show also walked to opera and the Eurythmics, and ended with Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” When asked why that song, Burch smiled and — much like Simon’s reluctance to fully divulge the song's inspiration — Burch said she wanted her choice to use it to be “left to interpretation.”
Many designers were eager to discuss their music choices, seeing it as part of their message when putting out a new collection.
“Fashion and music, there’s a blur where one leaves off and one begins,” Mark Badgley of Badgley Mischka said. “There’s a lot of designers whose soundtracks inspire every detail on the runway. It definitely has an influence over what we do.”
James Mischka takes the lead on choosing music for their shows and this season was influenced by travel to Italy and a film the two liked.
“We started off with a lot of retro ‘60s Italian music," Mischka said. "We used a little bit of the music from ‘The Menu’ … which is one of our favorite movies and the music is entrancing and hypnotic to give a sort of hypnotic feeling to the whole show.”
Much like designing clothes, music is subjective so designers can’t always please their audience with the songs they choose.
“Some people are more judgmental about the music than they are about the clothes,” Badgley says with a laugh. “We’re up against that all the time.”
The fashion week schedule is typically jampacked with several shows happening each day, so music is one way to remain memorable. That’s one of Gordon’s objectives when scoring his shows.
“My hope is always that you leave and by the end of the day, you hate me so much because the song is stuck in your head and you can’t get it out!” he said.
Associated Press journalist John Carucci contributed to this report.