Michel Gaubert on going wild in the aisles

The instagram phenom and soundtrack master for Chanel and Dior's catwalks shares his experience behind the decks

Fashion Q+A
Michel Gaubert
Michel Gaubert Photography by Charlie Engman

Taken from the summer 2014 issue of Dazed:

“I like to be anonymous. It’s cooler,” shrugs Michel Gaubert. For a man so essential to the fashion industry – twice a year, he races through New York, London, Milan and Paris overseeing the music direction of shows for the likes of Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga and J.W.Anderson – the 55-year-old Parisian is surprisingly inconspicuous. Once the DJ of  the legendarily hedonistic club Le Palace, the French capital’s answer to Studio 54, he now lives in the bourgeois 16th arrondissement, dresses almost exclusively in black and spends substantial amounts of time ritualistically uploading images on Instagram, probably the only place where he doesn’t keep a low profile.

You created the soundtrack for Chanel’s AW14 show. What did you make of the ensuing ‘shopping centre’ riot?

Michel Gaubert: I was shocked when the show ended and everyone started grabbing things. I found that incredibly rude – all those people taking stuff simply because it was there. And the greediest ones were the wealthiest! Deep down I think the whole riot thing was part of the concept,
just to see what was going to happen afterwards. In retrospect, my announcement – saying we were giving away the fruits and candy – may have sounded ambiguous. Oh well. I must admit, the whole thing really made me laugh!

The product names were great, especially the Paris Dallas ketchup!

Michel Gaubert: We all came up with names for each of the products – especially Karl. For the soundtrack, I mixed songs by Elton John and Rihanna with actual radio shows I had recorded and Chanel slogans that fashion filmmaker Loïc Prigent and TV presenter Mademoiselle Agnès had written. 

The soundtrack pushed people’s senses into overload. 

Michel Gaubert: That’s what I wanted it to be. It was a reflection of fashion, which is a sensory overload in itself. Everything happens so fast – there are so many things to look at and so many different crafts involved in the creation of a show that only lasts ten minutes. I find it all really exciting. All this energy thrown into something so ephemeral yet so crucial is magical. It’s like a creative orgy!

Do you ever get overwhelmed by it all? 

Michel Gaubert: Nowadays I do. You know, all the meetings, shows, presentations, cocktails, aftershow parties… There’s more and more. Every season after Paris fashion week I take a three-day break just to digest everything I’ve seen.

You survived Le Palace in the 80s. You must be used to craziness!

Michel Gaubert: I think I met Karl at the Palace! Everyone went to the Palace. The funniest time was when Devo played there. I was in my DJ cabin and all these old bourgeois ladies were there looking at them. When the gig finished and everyone left, all that remained on the dancefloor were dead rats! All those ladies were screaming, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Dead rats!’ I found that fun, the mix of the BCBG (‘bon chic, bon genre’) society ladies and dead rats. It was very expressive of that era. Everyone mixed with everyone.

How do you feel the Parisian party scene has changed since then?

Michel Gaubert: Today’s parties feel like corporate events. Back then we didn’t give a fuck. At Le Palace everyone was welcome. Even when there were private parties, the uninvited could still get in. That mix inspired certain behaviour. Today everything is self-contained and controlled. Also, there was a lot less fear and anxiety about the future. Things were so different before Aids, not just in terms of sex but a certain open-mindedness and carefree spirit. There wasn’t that menace in the air. Now everyone compares themselves to others, and that’s partly the effect 
of social media.

Can you tell us about your Instagram obsessions?

Michel Gaubert: I got started about a year and a half ago. Sometimes I find myself just laughing alone while I’m posting stuff! It’s become a big part of my day-to-day life and my inspirations. I want to show that there is more to my world than music. I have almost 50,000 followers! 

You’re about to leave for LA. Where else do you like to be?

Michel Gaubert: I love Tokyo for its weirdness and for the Japanese appreciation of punk, which is really funny. I also love Moscow. I buy Soviet rockets at the space museum every time I’m there. 

What’s the music scene like there?

Michel Gaubert: Fun! Once you manage to get into a club, you almost wonder whether you’re going to get out of there alive. (laughs) It’s pretty incredible and extreme – those Russians are crazy! I’ve seen a lot of far-out things there.

When it comes to music, is there anything you never get tired of?

Michel Gaubert: David BowieKraftwerk, early Rolling Stones, Bauhaus… There are lots of things I can listen to over and over again. Especially classical music, which was my first passion. I love all the early 20th-century composers: Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Shostakovich. And Bach – I like how mathematical, rhythmic and precise his work feels. But I also never get tired of discovering new music. I buy albums whenever I’m abroad, especially in London and Berlin.

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