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What Fashion Designers Listen To While They’re Working

Music

Here’s what songs are playing while your favorite look is being made

Music and fashion are perfect bedfellows. You can't have a fashion show without a soundtrack to set the vibe, right? Right. The same can be said for a designer's studio atmosphere. Chances are, the sounds and melodies pumping through a designer's house will be stitched, embroidered, and folded into a collection. Perhaps the music is even where the collection began.

Here's what some of today's most provocative, forward-thinking, and exciting designers press play on when they're in studio mode. Hey, who knows, perhaps you'll find a new favorite that'll bring the designer out of you, too.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

The Blonds
Our favorite type of music is the late '70s and early '80s because that period of fashion is also what informs the DNA of our brand. The Blonds are a clash of hard-edged glamour versus the freedom and creativity of nightlife with a punk edge. Specific artists that inspire us are Madonna, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Donna Summer, Cher, Talking Heads, and Elton John.

Photo by Dan Lecca

GREEDILOUS's Younhee Park
Recently, one of my favorite pieces of music I've been listening to is Les Choristes' "Ave Maria," performed in January 2005 at the Palais des Congrès de Paris. As a fashion designer, I believe and feel certain inspiration when all my senses are opened and satisfied. Listening to music is an important part of that; each rhythm of music I listen to day-to-day gives me a different working atmosphere. Every moment is an opportunity for me to communicate and imagine within myself. Through that conversation, I design. As a matter of fact, the music that inspires me also informs the runway music I use each season. Music is just another form of my unseen, emotional language I speak with as a designer.

Photo by Dan Lecca

LIE's Chung Chung Lee
I usually listen to original soundtracks when I am working on a collection. Humming melodies and tapping my feet to the beat helps me to remember particular scenes from the movies that I loved. It also brings back memories. The ones that I've been listening to the most recently are songs from La La Land. When listing to that soundtrack, the colorful sets, clothes, and props remind me of upbeat hearts and innocent feelings, which, I think, makes the scenes even more surreal. I have been listening to it over and over again.

Photo via @karen_walker/Instagram

Karen Walker
Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s The Goldberg Variations does it for me every time. What I love about this recording is that, whilst typical of Baroque music, it calms the mind into a slightly meditative state; the virtuosity of the composer and the performer astound and thrill. I love anything by Bach and by Gould, but their coming together in this recording is my favorite of all their work, and it puts my mind and my heart in the right space for creativity.

Photo courtesy of Skin Onion

Skin Onion's Aris Mejias
To understand this list you need to know that I am Caribbean, that my culture has always been a mesh of European, black, and Taino. Most recently, I am a product of 100 years of U.S. colonization, and I live in the melting pot of NYC, where many of my fellow Puerto Ricans have cycled through during the last 100 years.
I am a Puerto Rican-Caribbean actor and designer. What I listen to ranges from my ancestors to new cityscapes and whatever movie or fabric I am working with.

I will call these City Sounds: This group belongs to a sensibility that grew upon me after many years in New York City. They are almost like voids of space.
- Miles Davis' Ascenseur pour l'echafaud soundtrack
- Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt
- Glassworks or Koyaanisqatsi by Phillip Glass

This group is a very small selection of my nostalgia music. They remind me of specific people back home.
- Con un Poco de Songo by Batacumbele
- Mima and El Pozo by Mima
- The artist Residente Calle 13
- The original version of Homenaje a los Santos Vol 2. by Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera

This is the melting pot with both my love for my Caribbean ancestry and NYC heritage.
- Concepts in Unity by Grupo Folklórico and Experimental Nuevayorkino.  
- El Barrio: Sounds from the Spanish Harlem Streets by La Fania
- Power-Fuerza by Ghetto Brothers

Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Hardeman's Sophie Hardeman
Music has always played a great influence in my life. I listen to all sorts of music from classic and metal to punk. Eviscerating and empathic in equal measure, these songs—like Nina Hagen's "Unbeschreiblich Weiblich," X-Ray Spex's “Identity,” and Raw Sewage's "Walk This Way"—challenge the system's boundaries and binaries; they're anthems that have manifested into my designs as well.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

Eugenia Kim
The music of the '80s has always inspired me because it reflects the high energy, optimism, and creativeness of that decade, which in turn is reflected in my designs. My SS18 collection was inspired by the visual artist Patrick Nagel, who famously illustrated the cover for Duran Duran's album Rio. For our FW18 presentation, we assembled a soundtrack of Madonna, George Michael, Deee-Lite, and Janet Jackson that perfectly complemented the collection. I’m always inspired by my environment, so what I’m listening to will always feed into that as well.

Photo by Soojin Park

SYRO's Henry Bae
In the privacy of my headphones, I will often play the same jam on repeat. I have obsessive tendencies and like to coast on the same vibe for hours on end. I appreciate monotony because my ears stay happy while my mind conveniently drowns out the cyclical noise. When I'm focused on a creative endeavor, I prefer to put my favorite K-pop on repeat. K-pop, especially from the early 2000s, takes me back to my roots as a feminine boy who loved sugary Korean girl-pop in the safety of his own bedroom. Yesterday, I designed a new shoe and replayed "Milky Way" by BoA about 30 times. It feels so good to be transported back to my childhood while working in the present day.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Collina Strada's Hillary Taymour
I am inspired by Ethiopian jazz from the '70s, like Mulatu Astatke's "Yekermo Sew" and "Ené Alantchie Alnorem." It's fun and light-hearted—great studio tunes to get you thinking outside the box. I hate listening to songs where I know all the words while I'm working, it becomes a distraction.

Photo courtesy of Slashed by Tia

Slashed by Tia's Teni Adeola
I start off listening to very calm, soothing songs that lift my entire mood, like D'Angelo's “Untitled (How Does It Feel)" and FKJ's "Vibin' Out." Then I switch gears and listen to something more upbeat, like Sheck Wes' “Live SheckWes Die SheckWes." It really gets me going and gets me right into a motivated, fearless mindset while also taking away any doubt.

Photo courtesy of Sybergurl

SYBERGURL's Randijah Simmons
My playlist when I work is all over the place! I always need a little bit of everything to keep me going. I usually listen to Kid Cudi for confidence, Nipsey for motivation, YG to have fun, and SZA for all of the vibes.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

LIBERTINE's Johnson Hartig
I usually find that a mix works best for me; everything from Puccini, Felt, Steven Reich, Miles Davis, to The Cramps all mixed up. It keeps me alert and I like the surprise of some incongruous juxtaposition.