At one moment in your life, it is likely that you have been moved by the work of Max Richter, even if you do not recognize his name. The British composer and pianist has soundtracked over 50 television and movie projects, from blockbusters like Shutter Island to hit Netflix shows like Black Mirror.
Since releasing his debut album “Memoryhouse” in 2002, Richter has proven that the collaborative limits of a composer can truly be boundless. That’s to say he fleets fluidly between ballets, TV shows, and fashion, with his latest move being Saturday’s dramatic pre-Fall 2023 Dior show in Cairo, staged in the Giza desert.
Creative director Kim Jones has now worked with Richter on four of his Dior catwalks, inviting the talent to carve a vivacious setting for each collection while enhancing the concepts through deeply eclectic, orchestral music. Though, this is the first time that the French luxury house has staged one in Egypt.
It’s an ongoing partnership that has positioned Richter solidly in the industry. Teaming up with one of China’s, and the rest of the world’s, most popular designer labels — Dior’s Media Impact Value in China rose by 24 percent in 2021, according to Launchmetrics — naturally connects him to the Chinese market and cements his position within the wider public conscience of luxury fashion.
Prior to Saturday’s Dior show, Jing Daily sat down with the esteemed composer to talk about what music brings to fashion and to discover whether he has any more plans to expand within the space.
How would you describe your identity as a composer?
My world is really classical music in the 21st century. There is a classicism, and engagement with tradition, and historical music culture. But then I also use electronic music. In addition to writing for instruments and writing symphonies, I also write ballets, as I’m doing at the moment. I also work in cinema, and movies, and work with electronic music. Well, I have a very broad-ranging career. But it’s rooted in very authentic and historical musical values. It’s all about bringing those things into the 21st century.
What do you think music brings to fashion?
Well, both music and fashion are human creative adventures. They are ways of expressing ourselves. Ways of investigating the world, and finding out how we relate to the world and how we relate to one another. They’re also both very emotional, actually, in their different ways. Music is a way to express feelings. And we express feelings and a sense of our place in the world through fashion. So I think it’s very connected.
How did you first start working with Kim Jones at Dior and were you expecting this long-term collaborative relationship to bloom?
Kim originally asked me for some music for a show during the pandemic. Once we got talking, we immediately discovered a shared love of all kinds of literature and culture, and we just got on really well. So it’s always been fun to have that connection. And just to kind of take it forward in new directions.
How do you find working with Jones?
Kim is an incredibly bright and thoughtful person. And I think you can see that in the work he does for Dior. He’s a very 360-degree artist, actually. It’s always very exciting to work with him.
Does working with a fashion brand influence how you express yourself as a composer?
Every project has its own dynamics. Whether that’s a piece of concert music or a record or a piece of cinema or a ballet or an opera. They all have their own properties and as an artist, one of the interesting things is to discover ways to make authentic creative responses within the specific properties and constraints that every medium has. And that’s a very enjoyable kind of puzzle-solving process. The things that I’ve done together with Kim have been really satisfying creatively. And I see them as just different ways to be musical.
I’ve read that you’re into literature. Does what you’re reading at the time influence what you create?
Yeah. I read all the time and it always informs the sorts of things I’m doing for work. I’ve made a ballet all about the work of Virginia Woolf. And I’m working on a ballet right now in Toronto, which is based around three novels of Margaret Atwood. So, it’s very much part of my world. And I think also, obviously, a big part of Kim’s as well.
I love the fact that in literature, there are no limits. There’s the beautiful quote by Patti Smith, where she says, ‘In dreams and art, you may proceed with abandon’ — you know, you can go anywhere.
As there are no limits to literature, do you think that informs how you work as a composer?
Yes, I really value that in collaboration. Because obviously, a lot of my work is kind of solitary. It’s just me having ideas, doing my thing, and then working on it. But collaborative projects are fundamentally conversational. They’re about pushing ideas back and forth and discovering things collectively, which I really enjoy. I really enjoy that shared puzzle-solving experience.
Do you have plans to evolve further as a fashion collaborator? Any more fashion collabs on the horizon?
Nothing concrete, no. But I’m always interested in surprises. Which sort of drives me on, you know, the new ideas, new potential unexpected things. I’m very open to it. But there’s nothing concrete out there.
Why do you recommend against taking the career path of a composer?
Being an artist takes a lot out of your life. You have to be committed, you have to spend a lot of time and a lot of energy on it. And that can take a toll. It’s something which needs to be handled carefully. Because if you’re somebody who’s sitting in a room for 14 hours a day for six months, working on a big project, that’s not a balanced life. You have to be prepared to make that sacrifice.
Creativity is a huge privilege. It also asks a lot of you as a person. I think it needs to be handled, handled with care.
Do you ever find working with brands pressurizing or restrictive?
I didn’t think of it in that way, to be honest. Being involved with music is the greatest thrill of my life. I was thinking about music nonstop when I was a tiny kid. And I still do. Finding new ways to connect to people is incredibly satisfying and rewarding. For me, any opportunity I get to sort of be musical and make music and be creative musically, is, you know, that’s a good day.
Obviously, I’ve done a lot of things over the years, and there are a lot of doorways into my work. Some people come through classical music. Some people come through, say, for example, seeing a ballet or an opera, or some people have seen a TV show or a movie. So those are all different doorways into the work. So you know, some people call me a film composer or a ballet composer or whatever. That’s to do with them meeting me at a point within my work, but I’m always sort of moving to the next thing. And I’m interested in the next thing. So I didn’t really see that as any sort of a restriction.
This interview has been edited for clarity.