Fashion Month Behind the Music: A Conversation with Frédéric Sanchez Style.com
“One of the most aurally stupendous soundtracks to ever bend these ears at a fashion thing,” is how our own Tim Blanks described Frédéric Sanchez’s score for the Thomas Tait Fall 2015 show. The mix included “Holy Land Explosion” by Francis Kuipers, “Le Saint Guidon” by Monolithe Noir, and “Red Sex” by Vessel—a strange combination of experimental rhythms, electronica, and grinding industrial beats if there ever was one.
The first thing to know about Sanchez is that he’s highly organized and dedicated, with his thousands of albums categorized to the nth detail, from engineer to art director to producer—something his 25 show clients this season, from Alexander Wang and Calvin Klein in New York to Comme des Garçons and Miu Miu in Paris, surely appreciate. But more than just a good set of ears and a hyper-organized discography, the thing that keeps brands like Prada interested in him is his undying sense of fantasy. “Sometimes I get ideas like I don’t know how,” he began over the phone. “It’s like a moment of life in a way, and it’s what I bring to the people I work for. When I arrive in front of the person I work with—and you really need to know the person really well—I bring all my thoughts and what I’ve dreamt about and my ideas from the last two months. For example, with the Prada soundtrack, I had listened to this artist called Alice Coltrane, and I was listening to that for two months and I brought that to Prada. I had the same process with Thomas Tait and with all my clients: I listened to his story and I mixed it with my own story and my own fantasy in a way.”
Among Sanchez’s Fall 2015 fantasies were several that were covered in our reviews. Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” got first mention at Calvin Klein; the thumping sounds he crafted for Thomas Tait came up in London; and his Fantasia samples at Prada, “My Funny Valentine” covers at Jil Sander, use of Max Richter’s Blue Notebooks at Comme des Garçons, and quirky ad mash-ups at Miu Miu cemented him as the aural experimenter to watch—or listen to—this season. While such prowess might allude to a systematic approach to creating a soundtrack, Sanchez’s methods are much more surreal in their efforts, emphasizing a holistic method over a pragmatic one. “To be very precise, it takes me three or four appointments and maybe 40 hours [to create a soundtrack],” he explained of the process as a whole, adding, “But what takes longer is to get the idea of things.”
The few hard-set rules he sticks to are: Don’t use music that’s been in other shows and don’t overdo it. He explains his process of mixing music for a soundtrack as something akin to mixing perfumes, combining the strange with the familiar in unexpected ways. “It’s a little like when you smell perfume and you don’t know really what it is, but at the same time you can understand where some elements come from and have some mental images that it calls to mind. That’s always the way I’m working.”
There’s also a deep sense of the personal in his work. “I like the idea of [the soundtrack] being made-to-measure,” he explained. “I think that fashion is so, in a way, mainstream. Everybody is talking about fashion and all that, and maybe the show soundtrack is the thing that gets special-er and more exclusive,” he said with a laugh, in reference to the fact that many of his soundtracks are not heard outside of the show environments they accompany. “It makes it a little bit like what was haute couture in a certain time—it feeds the fantasy of the people who don’t have access to this.”