It’s no secret that SHOWstudio has a keen interest in exploring the ever-evolving relationship between fashion and music (we have a whole podcast dedicated to it, after all). Well, it appears that Balenciaga shares the sentiments because, for the second wave of their very own sonic project, creative director Demna has tasked London-based band Archive to not only curate a playlist but mix an exclusive track.
First taking shape in 2020, Balenciaga Music launched as a collaborative project with Apple Music. Rooted in Demna’s personal passion for music — just look at his creative circle that includes previous Balenciaga Music collaborators Rupaul, Pink Martini, and Aya Nakamura, or the visionary behind the maison's runway soundtracks, BFRND as proof — Balenciaga Music debuted with a series of playlists curated by Demna’s creative network, with the first one coming from the Georgian-designer himself. Of course, it was more than just playlists, with limited edition capsule collections being released in tandem with each playlist.
'Balenciaga Music was created to share my favourite musical artists and their personal tastes and influences. We have now expanded this project to give a more personal and complete music experience with exclusive content and interactive technology,' explained Demna in today's press release.
To kick off the second wave of Balenciaga Music, Demna has sought the help of one of his favourite bands, Archive. Throughout the London band’s 28-year history, they’ve released 12 studio albums and have cultivated a loyal fanbase with their genre-defying sound that ranges from trip-hop to electronic and post-rock. Speaking with founding member Darius Keeler, the musician told me the band was first approached back in 2020, but the project was put on pause due to the pandemic. ‘Beginning of this year, they contacted us again and asked if we were still interested’. And, of course, they were.
‘Balenciaga has always been a company that pushes boundaries. They’re artistic, you know?’ Keeler says. The partnership between Balenciaga and Archive was initially slated to be a curated playlist by the band. ‘We had so much fun doing that. Sitting there for hours putting songs on. Stuff that’s influenced us, even some guilty pleasures.' Originally meant to be three hours more than doubled to seven hours of tunes selected by Archive.
Still, that wasn’t enough for Archive, who offered to create an exclusive track for the maison. ‘Patterns’, an 8.5-minute track, that Keeler worked on during his downtown while recording other projects in Paris. ‘When we had conversations with Balenciaga they told us that Demna really loved Archive, and he wanted to do something more than just the playlist’. The result? ‘It’s more old school Archive. Like our first record. A very trip-hop, down-beat style’.
Keeler tells me the entire collaboration felt like an organic dialogue between the band and the brand. ‘When you write your own album, you write for yourself. It’s beautiful, you dream, you do your stuff. When someone else asks you to do something, you have the pressure to do it as well as you can. To make it right, for that person or that project,’ he explains. ‘Balenciaga is so rock’n’roll... but it’s always beautiful. It’s a very beautiful thing and we wanted to explore that with space and atmosphere. Really capture that mood. We wanted to create an emotional experience’.
As the band’s first-ever collaboration with a fashion brand, it becomes apparent throughout our conversation that Archive, Balenciaga, and Demna found a real synchronicity in their collaboration.‘We’re exactly the same as the brand. It’s not an easy listen. It’s something you have to explore in your head and have the time to reflect on it’.
Just like the first wave of Balenciaga Music, there will be a dedicated capsule collection featuring Archive's discography stamped on sartorial staples, including T-shirts and hoodies. This time around, the luxe merch will be embedded with NFC (Near Field Communication) tags that will give owners exclusive access to Archive's new track. Once purchased, wearers will be able to scan the chip on their phones to unlock a personal listening event.
‘At the end of the day if you don't collaborate and try different things... you’re never going to expand. You stay niche. I don’t think that’s what we’re about.'
To discover Archive's playlist and collection for Balenciaga Music head to balenciaga.com.