Janelle Monaé Shuts Down Ralph Lauren, Christian Siriano Goes Pop & More of NYFW's Best Music Moments

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Janelle Monae performs at the Ralph Lauren Fall 2019 Collection at William and Wall on Sept. 7, 2019 in New York City

Music and style always had a tight connection, and this year's New York Fashion Week continued to embrace that star-studded relationship. In celebration of the week's lively festivities (which wrapped on Sept. 11), Billboard caught up with eight American fashion houses about their latest collections.

Ralph Lauren, Christian Siriano, LaQuan Smith, Rebecca Minkoff and more reveal the songs that informed their creative process and played during their respective shows -- from Dolly Parton's "9 To 5" to Tame Impala's "Let It Happen."

Ralph Lauren

Celebrity Fans: Madonna, Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas, Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross 

Janelle Monáe and tuxedos reigned supreme during Ralph Lauren's Art Deco-inspired show. The Great Gatsby-esque extravaganza was held at Ralph's Club. A$AP Ferg, Jidenna, Mandy Moore, DJ Harley Viera Newton and Anna Wintour all took in the spectacle that paid homage to the refined opulence of old-school New York City. 

This season, Lauren sent models clad in velvet suiting, floor-length satin gowns, tuxedos with bow-ties, and dress shirts down the runway. "I've always loved the way a woman looks in a tuxedo, from my first women's collection until now. My Fall 2019 Women's Collection celebrates that timeless style, more relevant than ever, for the modern woman who is both independent and glamorously contemporary," the designer told Billboard

The climax of the show was Monaé's spectacular performance, as the fashion-forward artist sported a black-and-white (her signature color palette) tuxedo-inspired halter gown with detached wrist cuffs from the collection. She briefly serenaded birthday boy and NBA star Kevin Love, and jumped on a table while holding a guest's wine glass while singing jazz classics. After belting out Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon," Nat King Cole's "Smile," and Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" with an accompanying live band, the artist was met with an enthusiastic standing ovation. 

Christian Siriano

Celebrity Fans: Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry 

Designer and Project Runway alum Christian Siriano was inspired by modern pop artists -- including painter Ashley Longshore, whose colorful paintings caught Siriano's eye. "Her women empowerment statements also inspire the silhouettes in the collection to celebrate the body and the women wearing them. I wanted the collection to feel playful, colorful, bright, and romantic, but still strong and exciting," he explained. 

Canvas paintings of Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Frida Kahlo (!) dressed in Siriano's latest designs were at the epicenter of the catwalk held at Gotham Hall. When Longshore began painting, a diverse group of models walked out wearing his latest fashions -- metallic green, hot pink, and elevated black dresses -- while a tracklist curated by singer/producer Alicia Solo played in the background. "Dangerous (Remix)" by Big Data, a remix of Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy," and "Violence" by Grimes & i_o all made the cut. The set continued with Sofi Tukker's "Déjà Vu Affair," "Let It Happen" by Tame Impala, and the first half of "41 Strings" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner.

"I think music, similar to clothes, [is] emotional. They both make us feel something. They are both forms of art where we get to express ourselves in a valuable way for the world to see and judge. I sometimes feel like singers can really relate to designers, and the feeling is mutual," said Siriano. "I wanted this tracklist to take the audience into another world and escape for 20 minutes and just feel the beauty happening. I think that is what music does -- it helps us escape and dream."

LaQuan Smith

Celebrity Fans: Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Scherzinger, Christian Combs, Saweetie and Quavo 

LaQuan Smith consistently serves up curve-enhancing opulence with hood-rich sensibilities, and it's why music's biggest stars love his work. When Smith says "yee,” top models like Danielle Herrington and Slick Woods say "haw" in sensual sheer latex, cowboy chaps and plenty of animal print. 

Matthew Mazur, better known as MAZURBATE, DJ'ed the fete and gave Billboard the exclusive scoop on the high-energy playlist. "We wanted to still stay true to who to the LaQuan Smith woman is: unapologetically glamorous," he explained. "LaQuan had personal favorites going into this season such as Lil Nas X and Cardi B’s ‘Rodeo,’ which just makes you feel strong, rough and sexy." 

The set closed with "How Many Ways" by Toni Braxton, a favorite of both Smith and creative director Kyle Bryan. "They wanted to change the usual uptempo beat to something that felt ‘wet’. The word we used to describe the feeling of this collection, which I think without a doubt we achieved," the DJ continued. Mazur notes they traditionally add sound bytes to their playlists, and for this show he incorporated Vivica A. Fox’s character Shanté Smith from Two Can Play That Game and Laura Dern's character Renata in Big Little Lies.



Celebrity Fans: Hannah Bronfman, Kendall Jenner, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Camila Mendes

STAUD, the buzzy womenswear and accessories label favored by L.A.’s cool girls, is basking in a well-deserved moment of recognition this year. In June, the label co-founded by designer Sarah Staudinger and her creative partner George Augusto received a nomination for the Emerging Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). And it's easy to see why the brand is gaining traction with fashion editors and artists like Selena Gomez and DJ Hannah Bronfman. The brand eschews trendy pieces in favor of timeless must-haves: breezy dresses with strategic cutouts in an attention-grabbing color palette, covetable leather bucket bags, and nostalgic shoe designs. 

Augusto, who also photographs each campaign, incorporated '90s rock into the playlist. "There’s a confident swagger to it that always attracted me. Guitar-driven dance music performed by bands felt so exciting at that time. 'Loaded' [by Primal Scream] is the perfect intro to a STAUD show," he said. The designer also incorporated the Rolling Stones’ "Emotional Rescue" into the playlist. For the show's finale, Carol Douglas’ “Doctor’s Orders” played while confetti exploded inside the venue. "We wanted something jubilant and feminine for the finale," Augusto added. 

When asked about the relationship between music and fashion, Augusto understands the two are closely intertwined. "Music invades everything we do. From the playlist that plays throughout the office every day to inspiration for a collection to the design of one of our pop-ups. The feeling from one song can establish a creative path otherwise lost in overthinking."

The Blonds 

Celebrity Fans: Beyoncé, Lil Kim, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani

How do you top Lil Kim strutting down the catwalk of your last show, where the legendary hip-hop artist gave a surprise performance of "Go Awff" and "The Jump Off?" Five words: Moulin Rouge! The Musical, baby!

"We are so inspired by the iconic film, so when they invited us to team up with the creators of the stage adaptation, we were thrilled to accept," The Blonds' Phillipe Blond said. "We utilized symbols of love like the heart and roses to create the treatments and embroideries seen throughout the collection. Our shows are an experience, and to put on a show inspired by theatre just feels so natural for us, it was the perfect partnership."

This over-the-top visual experience combined dancers and singers from the Baz Luhrmann-adapted musical, as well as models all dressed in jaw-dropping fashion. A surprise appearance from Paris Hilton, who alluringly posed on the side of the Eiffel Tower in a crystal-encrusted bodysuit, was the talk of social media. 

David Blond walked Billboard through the design duo's creative process and how music is an extension of their creativity: "We start with the theme or vibe of the collection, and mix that with what we are listening to at the time. Then we send any ideas, whether its music, visuals, sketches, and pictures of the materials, anything to inspire what the soundtrack will eventually become.”

The duo paid their respects by having the cast members perform music from the original play and added a modern touch with artists they are "obsessed with" including Lizzo, Rosalía, J Balvin, Anitta and Billy Porter, who performed his single "Love Yourself!" "Madonna is also included along with some J. Lo. It’s an eclectic mix, and we worked to create something that layered genres in a way that pushed the boundaries," David continued.


Laurence & Chico

Celebrity Fans: Lady Gaga. Enough said.

Design duo Laurence Li and Chico Wang’s newest collection is a "love letter to the Big Apple." The two creatives paid homage to the city where they met as students at Parsons School of Design and launched their ready-to-wear line in 2016.

Li and Wang incorporated motifs of the Empire State Building and 917 (one of three NYC area codes) throughout their collection. The pair focused on songs about style and would make the models feel "sexy" such as Chicks on Speed’s "Fashion Rules!”, "Sex Bombs" by Tom Jones and Mousse T, and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." 

Guests included Rico Nasty, Ezinma, KATIE and America's Next Top Model's Miss Jay Alexander. Lady Gaga recently transformed herself into a punk ballerina for her Haus of Gaga exhibit in Vegas when she paired a coral Laurence & Chico tulle skirt with combat boots and a graphic tee. And we can envision Mother Monster donning the attention-grabbing hooded red tulle gown for an upcoming event.

"Music is very much an important part of our show for every season. It is all part of the experience for us to bring our guests into the Laurence & Chico world," added Li. "We want our guests to enjoy our show and have fun. Our music is always upbeat and full of energy to get everyone excited for our show. We want to see people dance to the beats in their seats as we bring them into our world with fashion and music." 

Christopher John Rogers

Celebrity Fans: Although this is Rogers NYFW debut, Lizzo, Kacey Musgraves, SZA and Lion Babe have all rocked the emerging talent's designs.

"It's all about emotion and honesty. Musicians who are attracted to our work are very open and transparent about their feelings, and that same energy is present in our clothes," explains Christopher John Rogers. This season he looked to pierrots, a 17th-century French character in plays that wore baggy white clothing. He also referenced comedy, Gaugain paintings of Tahitian locals, 1920s fashion illustrator Erté and 20th-century French designer Paul Poiret.

Rogers collaborated with DJ Skype Williams for the show’s set list. "We began the show with Yma Sumac’s 'Malambo No. 1' for an alarming and intriguing start, and then quickly transitioned to 'Lover Chanting' by Little Dragon for a song with a bit more ambiance and walkability, but the same amount of quirk," said Rogers. Next up was "Walk, Talk, Dance, Sing" by Crazy P and then a remix of SOPHIE’s "Faceshopping.” Rim Kwaku Obeng’s "'Love Me For Real” and "I Need Your Lovin'" by Teena Marie "added a celebratory mood in the middle of the show and alluded to my love of disco," he continued. For the finale, Goldilox’s "I Love You" and Armando Young’s "Loved Ones" were played, because both are "songs that yearn and feel sentimental, earnest and emotional," Rogers added. 

Baja East

Celebrity Fans: Celine Dion and Noah Cyrus 

After taking a three-season break, Scott Studenberg -- the co-founder and creative director of Baja East -- has returned to NYFW after spending some time at Joshua Tree National Park. "I wanted to start with a clean, fresh palette and rebirth," says Studenberg, who introduced an all-white capsule collection ahead of spring. Baja East's favorite silhouettes -- harem and palazzo pants, oversized sweatshirts, and raglan t-shirts -- still reign supreme in their latest offering that heavily features coral, blue and fringe detailing. 

An industrial space at Milk Studios in Chelsea was transformed into Studenberg's living room back in Los Angeles, where a string quartet performed popular tracks inspired by the golden state. They opened the show with "California Love," Tupac's enduring hit, and transitioned to The Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ "Californication” and Fergie’s “L.A. Love.”

Studenberg was inspired to incorporate the string quartet during his sixth Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas. “They started playing and she walked out towards us in between them and began to sing. I knew at that moment that I wanted to have a quartet moment for my relaunch salon shows,” he said. “I wanted to bring a bit of California love to a group of overworked and exhausted New York editors and stylists who I thought could use a dose of storytelling, fun, honesty -- and of course, Cali sunshine.” Mission accomplished.

Rebecca Minkoff

Celebrity Fans: Hilary Duff, Carrie Underwood, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Sofia Richie

Rebecca Minkoff celebrated size inclusivity with a colorful Fall-Winter presentation held at Pier 59 Studios. She partnered with Stitch Fix to create a collection that offers pieces ranging from size 00-24 and XXS-3X. 

The designer (who has been at the forefront of providing accessible luxury ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear) helped curate the presentation’s music with DJ Pamela Tick. They opened with Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" to elevate the collection’s working women inspiration. "But obviously, you don't want to hear the whole song, so I was like, 'Fuck it up, make it cool,’” said Minkoff. “And then Pamela Tick put her spin on it." The set list also included Tame Impala, Grimes, Donna Summer and Sofi Tukker.

When she's at the studio designing, Minkoff listens to an eclectic mix of music including disco, Beyoncé, and music her husband introduces her to. “I think [music and fashion] are inseparable. They have a lifelong relationship and they both inspire each other,” she added.


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