Driven by the same cultural and social factors, fashion and music have shared an inextricable bond since the 1950s, when the first rumblings of malaise and discontent rippled among the youth of America and the United Kingdom. More than a diversion, the way you dressed (and what you listened to) became both a medium of communication and a weapon of subversion. As much as style has influenced music (“Fashion” by David Bowie, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Change Clothes” by Jay-Z), so has the identity-shaping appeal of the anthems of the day informed apparel design. Here are nine examples of how the music industry has struck a chord with fashion.
Every season, New York designer Gretchen Jones bases her collection on a book and a music album. For her darkly romantic Fall/Winter 2012 lineup, Jones tapped into Desertshore, a gothic “medieval dirge” by the late German singer-actress Nico, who first achieved notoriety as one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars” in the 1960s.
Few brands embody “rocker chic” quite like EDUN. The ethical apparel label was founded by U2 frontman Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, after all. EDUN’s New York Fashion Week shows are often star-studded affairs: recent Grammy winners spotted in the front row include Alicia Keys, Michael Stipe, and Gavin Rossdale.
Cassette tape? How positively antiquarian! Conceptual artist Alyce Santoro brings the mix-tape mainstay into the 21st century, not only by spinning it into fabric, but also by rendering it “playable” when you run a tape head across its surface. Santoro’s limited-edition neckties, made in collaboration with Julio Cesar from 50 percent recorded audio-cassette tape and 50 percent colored polyester, are a testament to Sonic Fabric’s versatility—as well as its ability to transform even the stuffiest of suits into what Santoro dubs stealth “superhero garb.”
Trikoton, a Berlin-based knitwear company lets you personalize a sweater, scarf, legging, or vest with your or someone you love’s unique vocal pattern. A built-in web application converts the frequency bands of an audio message into binary codes that are woven directly into the fabric of the garment.
DEVO x MACBETH
In 2011, the shoemakers at Macbeth collaborated with ’80s throwback band Devo to “whip up” a vegan sneaker to coincide with the release of its comeback album, Something for Everybody. The limited-edition slip-on, which came in highlighter red or blue, featured reflective uppers, fluorescent outsoles, and Devo’s signature “energy dome” logo.
At England’s famed Glastonbury Festival in 2011, British telecommunications firm Orange teamed up with the renewable-energy experts at GotWind to launch a T-shirt the turned sound into electricity. Over the course of the weekend, each shirt generated about 6 watt-hours of electricity, enough to charge two standard mobile phones or one smartphone.
When Lisa Våglund, a recent graduate of the Danish Design School, realized how much trash music festivals created, she pitched a solution: turn castoff tents from the Roskilde Festival—one of the six biggest annual music festivals in Europe—into stage costumes for singer and festival staple Kissey Asplund. “[The garbage] has become a bigger and bigger problem for the festival because they spend a lot of money on cleaning up the area,” she told Ecouterre in October. “It usually takes them three months every year!”
Rainbow Winters puts the “high tech” in “technicolor.” The emerging London fashion label, designed by the loquaciously named Amy Konstanze Mercedes Rainbow Winters, offers a collection of interactive garments that change color in response to water, sunlight, or sound. Printed with specialty thermochromic and hydrochromic inks, Winters’ bespoke pieces turn the act of dressing up into a multisensory experience, subtly or not-so-subtly shifting appearance as the fabric prints interact with the great outdoors.
Playbutton is a wearable mix tape you can carry on your sleeve—literally. Made in New York City, each MP3-player-in-a-button comes preloaded with a complete album, along with a rechargeable lithium battery and toggles to pause, skip, and adjust the volume. Jamming out with the device, which is stealthier than an iPod Shuffle and just as tiny, couldn’t be easier: Simply attach the button on your person using the included safety pin, plug in your earbuds, and hit play.