What’s the Secret to Creating the Perfect Fashion Show Soundtrack?

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Emiliano Zelada, composer, artist and tutor, reveals the art of crafting unforgettable fashion show soundtracks. At The Witness runway show, an unexpected collaboration with fashion design students ignited a creative spark that’s begging to be unveiled

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By Rebecca Ceccatelli and Giulia Piceni.

The soundtrack of a fashion show can make a collection unforgettable and help amplify the identity of a fashion designer, especially when it comes to emerging talents.
Emiliano Zelada, sound designer, composer and tutor, has an innovative approach to sound design for fashion shows that reflects a childhood immersed in music and a career blending art with all kinds of interests. From collaborations with NASA to installations at Tate Modern, his work intertwines sound as both material and narrative, shaping immersive experiences.
What is the secret to creating an unforgettable fashion show soundtrack? We asked Zelada about his creative process, emphasising his role in orchestrating diverse voices of young designers into the soundtracks at the final fashion show The Witness, by Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

Emiliano Zelada. Courtesy: the artist.

What is your first memory regarding sound?

My earliest memory linked to music is from when I spread out my father’s records on the floor. Watching him play them sparked my curiosity. In first grade, while others played the flute, my violinist grandfather suggested piano lessons. With no piano available, I ended up with a melodica, a small, portable piano I blew into. In a class full of flutes, I was the only one with a melodica, starting my hands-on musical journey with scales and all sorts of music.

From radio to soundtrack making, what experiences shaped your passion for sound?

I started playing music at the age of six and was already part of bands by the time I was fourteen or fifteen. My first piano concert took place when I was nine, igniting my passion for sound early on. In college, studying art and filmmaking, I became known for my skills in sound editing. It was during this time, when DAWs – Digital Audio Workstations were becoming more common both in Windows and Macs, that I had my my first professional experiences with sound beyond music creation.

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Matilde Tasselli

Could you share insights into your art-related experiences and how they help you grasp sound?

My background in contemporary art and film, including video art, informs my view of sound as a medium akin to a painter’s canvas or a sculptor’s metal. I approach sound as both matter and subject, integral to my narrative-driven installations. From collaborating with NASA on the Kepler mission to integrating whale sounds into exhibitions at Tate Modern, my work blends art with science. I identify as both an artist and composer, showcasing this synergy at festivals like Mutek or Sonar in Barcelona. For me, art and sound intertwine, mutually enriching each other’s expression.

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Greta Peccia

When you begin your creative process in creating a fashion show soundtrack, what is usually the starting point?

Inspiration usually comes from extensive research, including newspapers, scientific journals, and thematic insights curated by others. I am deeply influenced by nature, shaped by Rio de Janeiro’s ocean and tropical forest surroundings. Additionally, my background in architecture informs my fascination with public spaces and architectural environments. Crafting spatial experiences through sound is central to my creative process, allowing me to actively shape and use space.

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Anna Gervasi

AI is a tool that many creatives are looking at. How did you relate to it in the making of a soundtrack for a fashion show?

AI has gained attention across various fields, from engineers to database programmers and beyond. It’s crucial to recognise AI as a tool, not a replacement for the creative process. Professionals with extensive industry experience understand this well. While AI can offer near-final outputs, it requires refinement to meet professional standards and convey the intended message with a personal style. In my case, I used AI to generate the lyrics for a specific collection’s soundtrack, leveraging its ability to stimulate creativity and explore new ideas. As a non-musician, AI has helped me transform thematic concepts into cohesive lyrical content through speech-to-text technology. This process was followed by studio work to refine, apply vocoders, and enhance the material, resulting in a satisfying final piece used effectively in the show.

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Sophia Cuomo

What were the most challenging aspects of collaborating with Fashion Design students in the making of the fashion show soundtrack?

Collaborating on the fashion show soundtrack posed intriguing challenges. While creating music for each student’s collection wasn’t the main hurdle, integrating diverse styles—from orchestral piano to electronic and even elements of trap and metal—into a cohesive journey was definitely challenging. The live performance added complexity, requiring dynamic synchronisation with the runway’s unpredictable flow. This real-time orchestration ensured each collection shined amid the diverse lineup, enhancing the event’s narrative and fluid spectacle.

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Sergio Catania

During the fashion show, the final track should encapsulate the diverse perspectives of the young designers. How did you picture this sound?

Regarding the fashion show’s final track, when all the designers appeared, it featured an AI-generated track with lyrics themed “the Witness”, just like the Fashion Show—this choice aimed to highlight the collective essence of the designers involved.

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Yanni Malhotra
Fields of Study

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