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Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Gold Label SS16
Backstage at Vivienne Westwood Gold Label SS16Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Meet the man behind Vivienne Westwood’s insane runway music

Dominik Emrich has been soundtracking Westwood’s shows for nearly 3 years – listen to an exclusive stream of his latest here

From the tumbleweed opener, to the deranged, operatic choir build-up, to the fanatical drumbeats, stabbing piano and half-shouted phrases, the soundtrack to Vivienne Westwood’s SS16 Gold Label show was a free-flying, shape-shifting musical explosion. Much like the collection itself, there was nothing minimal or subtle about the soundtrack – it was extravagant, uninhibited and glitteringly fun from start to finish. It wasn’t the first of Vivienne Westwood’s show-stopping show soundtracks this season, either. During the punk designer’s anti-austerity Red Label show at London Fashion Week, her gang of freedom fighters marched to the sound of jabbering voices (“blog everyday” “get obsessed” “go crazy”) and thudding bass. So what exactly are these intense, fantastical creations all about? To find out more, we spoke to Dominik Emrich, the Paris-based composer who makes them. Listen to an exclusive stream of Vivienne Westwood's SS16 Gold Label runway soundtrack below.

So how long have you and Vivienne Westwood worked together for? You’ve done so many of her soundtracks.

Dominik Emrich: It will be three years next season. We met through the designer Bernhard Willhelm. I would have dedicated this season’s London show to Bernhard actually. He is a great inspiration and a good friend. I was doing Bernhard Willhelm’s show soundtracks years ago and Vivenne’s people asked him if he knew someone in his circle who could make music and he said ‘of course’ and sent them to me.

What is the creative process between you and Vivienne Westwood?

Dominik Emrich: Vivienne is very pictorial in how she describes things to me, but at the same time she completely trusts me in what I’m doing, which is great. It’s also hard because you have to take responsibility for what you do.

Tell me a about the soundtrack you composed for Vivienne Westwood’s Gold Label show in Paris. It was full of voices. Did you use any samples?

Dominik Emrich: It’s not sampled. It was all recorded and it was all completely conceptual. It was a collection of phrases that I was putting back into the world. It wasn’t a critique and it’s not at all political – it was just a collection of words. I would never put political statements in what I do – I don’t like that. It’s a curation of sounds. I’m not telling people what they should do.

All this work is done for a fifteen minute show and then it’s over. It goes so fast and it’s a whole production. And then you’re in this room, this huge hall, and some people might not get the point of it. It’s sometimes quite depressing. I thought the show should be a remake of this emptiness of emotion – that is why it began with silence. I wondered whether I was going too far with the phrase “fashion refugees”. It’s not taking the refugee subject as such but it’s talking about the place of those subjects in an official event. The soundtrack plays around with words and situations in order to create something new. It’s not pointing fingers. 

It’s interesting that you mention that your soundtracks avoid political ideas because Vivienne Westwood has increasingly been using the catwalk to raise awareness of political issues. 

Dominik Emrich: I wouldn’t say I don’t reflect them, but I push them back into another environment. I take the subject of her shows and put them differently together and it makes a different sense. It’s a new collage from putting these things together differently. If there’s a message at all, it’s maybe this idea of never shutting up, of never keeping silent. My soundtracks combine the immortal Westwood dream with its contemporary teenage shout outs.