Photography by Cyrille George Jerusalmi
Putting together a memorable fashion show is not unlike creating a film— it requires solid production, good casting, costume design in the form of ready-to-wear (or couture), and a kick-ass soundtrack. The latter is where 55-year-old French sound director Michel Gaubert comes in. Those who are unfamiliar with the scope of his work might be quick to call him a deejay, but his reach goes far beyond just picking a song and pressing play.
Gaubert, a native of Paris, admits to having a love for music from a young age, using whatever pocket money he had to buy records. By the time the late ’70s and early ’80s came around, he spent heady nights deejaying at Le Palace (aka Paris’s version of Studio 54). After being asked to work on sound accompaniments for installations at the club, he began helping out young designers by supplying the tracks to their shows. Eventually he caught the ears and eyes of several designers, including Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Kenzo, and Karl Lagerfeld, the latter of whom he has been working with ever since. “I was playing for lots of underground designers in the ’80s, and I started to work for bigger names in the early ’90s,” Gaubert told Yahoo Style. “I can’t really say who the first one was. But, you know, in the ’90s when it started to be happening.”
Fast-forward to 2015 and Gaubert can lay claim to creating the soundtracks not only for both Lagerfeld’s Chanel and Fendi labels but also for roughly 25 other designers. And that’s just in one season, mind you. He hits all four of the fashion capitals plus whatever destination extravaganzas might pop up over the course of the year (like the recent resort shows in Cannes, France, and Palm Springs, Calif., for Dior and Louis Vuitton, respectively). With vast musical knowledge (“I really can’t explain my process,” he says. “It’s almost like a secret”), he gets the brief from each designer, checks out the clothes and the height of the heels (seriously!), and goes to work.
The resulting tunes are as varied as the collections themselves, which is not surprising for someone whose previous side gig was making mix compilations for Paris style emporium Colette. A sampling of his soundtracks from Spring 2016 includes tunes from ’70s Britpop band Electric Light Orchestra for Rodarte, electronic music pioneers Massive Attack for Chloé, classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz for Chanel, and the obscure techno trio Moderat for Louis Vuitton. “Everyone has a different way of saying things and issues for their shows,” Gaubert says about being the industry’s go-to source. “I still have to be myself, but I’m in a different mood every time I have to go a different place … but I like it.”
“With Karl, it’s quite organic,” he continues. “We exchange ideas. For example, with the airport, we didn’t want any airport sounds for the spring show. No announcements, nothing. We wanted it to be a more friendly airport.” (Truth be told, it was the chicest airport we’ve ever been to.)
Gaubert’s home base is in the 16th Arrondissement, which he shares with partner in both life and business, the dashing Ryan Aguilar. (The two are rarely seen without the other.) The “Batcave,” as Gaubert calls it, serves as command central for his collection of 60,000 CDs, 20,000 vinyl records, and nearly half a million digitally stored songs. But when he’s not jamming out, he finds solace in practicing that time-honored tradition of Instagramming. “It’s my needlepoint,” he jokes about his obsession, which has amassed him 143,000 followers and counting. His curatorial process is not unlike that of Fuck Jerry or the Fat Jewish in that he scours Pinterest and Tumblr for images or memes and pairs them with his own clever captions. “What I think is the most incredible is what people put up,” Gaubert says about his discoveries. “People want to share so much stuff. I think it’s cool, you know, there’s stuff coming from all over the place. I like it. Plus, it’s a fun thing to do.”
Gaubert admits to leading an intentionally chill lifestyle when the shows have wrapped. “I try to take it easy, because half of the year it is crazy all the time,” he says. “The fashion weeks are, like, four months a year, then there’s all the stuff that I have to do on the side. We also like to travel and see places and people.” He’s also a fan of shopping, hitting up vintage stores all over the world, plus Dover Street Market in New York, Bon Marché in Paris, and if the mood strikes, the curiosities shop Deyrolle.
Despite his easygoing nature, when asked to pick songs that would best represent his own life’s soundtrack, Gaubert doesn’t miss a beat. “I would say ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ by Lou Reed and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones,” he says with a laugh. “I like those kinds of things.”
See what else Gaubert likes as he takes us through a busy day of shows during Paris Fashion Week.