Sonic Youth: Three Area Designers Share Their Musical Inspirations
While working back of house at this year’s Lexus Nashville Fashion Week (NFW), I realized how important music is in telling the story behind each collection — music brings all those beautiful garments to life. I spent some time with three very talented Nashville-based designers — who had three of my favorite collections from NFW — to learn what music inspired their current lines: Amanda Valentine, Shea Steele and Maria Silver.
Here’s a rundown on the music they listened to while making their collections and how they chose their songs for their runway shows.
Maria Silver of Black by Maria Silver
Music that inspired the collection: “My design influence comes mainly from visuals. [Maria is the drummer of rock band The Ettes.] For this collection, I looked at a lot of photos of matadors for inspiration, and I was influenced by the color-blocking of Hungarian artist, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. And I’m always inspired by the ’70s. For this collection, I found myself listening to a lot of Velvet Underground, Blur and the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack.”
How she chose her runway music: “I wanted this late-1960s psychedelic atmosphere, so I created the ‘after, after-party,’ like the place you end up after a long night out. I didn’t want to include anything with too much of a beat. I ended up making a playlist that included songs like “Nightclubbing” by Iggy Pop, “Baby’s on Fire” from the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, some Fabienne Delsol and some slower T. Rex songs.
Amanda Valentine of Valentine Valentine
Music that inspired the collection: “My main inspirations every season are musicians. Leave dressing actresses to other designers; I want to dress Lykke Li, Rihanna or Karen O. My latest collection started with David Bowie. I saw a photo spread shot by Hedi Slimane that had a heavy Ziggy Stardust thing I wanted to explore. I brought in the metallics and tight pants he was known for. It ended up taking a darker, medieval turn, and to keep it trendy I threw in a dash of the ’90s. The more pieces I designed, the more it felt a little hip-hop, so I gladly turned on A Tribe Called Quest and it fleshed out the collection. I call it ‘French Medieval Fly Girl.’”
How she chose her runway music: “Choosing music for the actual runway show is daunting. I want the energy high, but I don’t want to rely on a monster beat to get people’s blood pumping. I always aim for fresh, new and super vibey tracks. This season I chose songs from Chairlift, Little Dragon, and Washed Out.”
Shea Steele of White Rabbit
Music that inspired the collection: “Music dictates how you feel, and so do clothes. I worked in my studio with my headphones on the entire time, listening to a mix of new inspirational and comfort jam from the ’80s & ’90s. You need songs you know the words to so you can sing along — Queens of the Stone Age, Simple Minds, Pearl Jam, Depeche Mode and Washed Out were some of the bands I listened to.”
How she chose her runway music: “Choosing music for a show is not about someone’s taste in music; it’s about the attitude of the collection. I wanted a track with a strong, arty female vocal that had an unusual edge. This was a punchy and quirky collection that needed a punchy and quirky song. I chose a remix of “Organized Scenery” by Au Revoir Simone.”
Photos by Eric England and Michael W. Bunch
“I was putting up my Christmas tree when I got the phone call,” says Teri Johnson-Hiett, referring to the moment she found out she had breast cancer. It was right around Thanksgiving in 2005, eight short months after losing her mother at age 51 to the same disease. Teri was only 29.
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