Benji B On Tapping Dev Hynes to Soundtrack Virgil Abloh’s Latest Louis Vuitton Collection
As foreshadowed by his interview with Young Thug in our December cover story, Virgil Abloh’s much-anticipated sophomore collection for Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2019, which debuted this afternoon, was a subtle homage to Michael Jackson featuring billowing cuts anad oversized puffers in monochromatic combinations. The show featured a surprise performance by musicians Dev Hynes and Ian Isiah, who performed an original score orchestrated by BBC radio host and Louis Vuitton Music Director Benji B. While the role of “music director” is not filled by every fashion house, Benji’s ongoing collaboration with Abloh has been crucial to realizing his operatic approach to menswear presentations for the French house. In his emotional summer premiere for Louis Vuitton, the British DJ orchestrated a tear-jerking performance by the Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD. Over the phone from Paris, Benji spoke to Interview’s Thom Bettridge about the performance at today’s show.
THOM BETTRIDGE: When Virgil and Young Thug did their interview for our December cover story, Virgil said that Michael Jackson was going to be the inspiration for the collection. I’m surprised that your surprise music guest for the show wasn’t a Tupac-style hologram of MJ.
BENJI B: The important thing about Virgil’s work is that it’s celebratory, and it’s referential, but it’s not literal in that sense. He looks at the halo of things and the atmosphere around things. So toward the end of last year, Virgil and I went back and forth as we always do, having a musical conversation about different possibilities musically. And after a long discussion, we felt that Dev Hynes and Ian Isiah were the ones to work with on this. Dev is part of the extended family of what Virgil does, he walked in his first show for Louis Vuitton. And as a musician, he’s evocative, and emotional, and sometimes sings in that falsetto range, but he’s also very cutting edge and future.
BETTRIDGE: So even though Michael is a reference from the past, it’s about extending deeply into the future and the past simultaneously.
BENJI B: Exactly. This is much more about our role in history together, of incorporating musical people in Virgil’s field of vision. We started this with Toronto band BADBADNOTGOOD, who played live in the last Louis Vuitton menswear presentation, and who Virgil and I both are fanboys of. The same is true of Dev. The music for the show is a 100 percent original composition that was arranged by Dev in the last couple of days. We went to see the actual set on Monday night, and that helped Dev hone certain ideas of what should happen in the music. Then, we spent Monday and Tuesday working from morning to midnight on the idea.
It’s been an absolute blessing to witness how much work and logistical planning can go into a 10-minute experience. And the amazing thing about working with Dev and Ian is that they really understand. They go to these shows, and they understand. They are consumers and fans of [fashion] as well as creatives, which is, in a way, the most powerful position to be in: to create for an idea that you already are reverent about it.