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Live performances always make the runway memorable but for the fall 2012 shows, most designers kept the focus on their collections, playing soundtracks that were meant to complement, not clash.

In New York, Betsey Johnson had a fun mix of mash-ups and remixes. A few that stood out were Dr. Dre’s remix of “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” mixed with 50 Cent’s “If I Can’t” (a cappella), “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim mixed with “I Am the Walrus” (a cappella) by The Beatles and LCD Soundsystem and The Beatles “Get Back” mash-up. Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and Richard Chai had similar ideas, playing different versions of the same song. Kors followed “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” by Coldplay with versions by Vitamin String Quartet and Robyn. Jacobs chose the song “Who Will Buy?” from the musical Oliver, playing versions by composer Max Roach, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and an instrumental piece. And Chai had “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths, followed with a cover by Mike Viola. At Ralph Lauren, film soundtracks set the mood, featuring “Did I Make the Most of Loving You” by Mary-Jess from the PBS television series Downton Abbey and “I Will Follow You” and “Dance For Me Wallis” by Abel Korzeniowski from Madonna’s directorial debut W.E. At Rag & Bone, Thom Yorke once again produced a track, “Bonefire Version 7,” especially for the show.

Among the live performances, pianist Aku Orraca-Tetteh entertained guests at Nahm while actress Alia Shawkat sang Billie Holiday covers at Rachel Antonoff. Erin by Erin Fetherston featured harpist Ashley Jackson playing over a soundtrack of tunes by artists like Goblin, Nancy Sinatra, Donovan and David Bowie. Donna Karan had a tribute to Whitney Houston at both of her shows: “I’m Every Woman” closed Donna Karan Collection and “Million Dollar Bill” closed DKNY.

London Fashion Week bubbled over with a variety of music styles, from the sounds of Italian composer Ennio Morricone at Mario Schwab to contemporary British band Marina and the Diamonds at Temperley and Burberry. For some labels, the designs had a direct impact on the music. Christopher Raeburn’s sound designers, Toot, put together a composition that mirrored the collection using the sounds of garments, arctic winds and crackling sugar crystals, called “Freeze.” The most played band at the shows was up-and-coming British psychedelic quartet Django Django, heard at Aquascutum, Temperley and Clements Ribeiro.

A highlight in Milan was Dolce & Gabbana’s selection of Neapolitan songs such as “O Sole Mio” and “Funiculi, Funicula” sung by Luciano Pavarotti. Ferragamo went classical with Schubert’s “Piano Trio in E-Flat” and Kate Bush’s “Army Dreamers.” Giorgio Armani was solidly electronic, while Missoni went back to the Seventies with Annette Peacock. Emilio Pucci opened with Zbigniew Preisner’s “Bolero” before moving into the electronic sounds of Gina X’s “No GDM” Versace’s dark show moved to a pulsating beat that culminated in Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” while Raf Simons’ last show at Jil Sander featured alternative rock tunes “Superstar” by Sonic Youth and “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins.

The music at Paris shows was at times too loud (Viktor & Rolf, Giambattista Valli) or mind-numbingly repetitive (Dries Van Noten, Rochas). At its best, runway soundtracks cast melancholic or ethereal moods, underscoring the dark romance of the season. There were epic tracks like “The Photographer” by Philip Glass at Louis Vuitton or spooky songs like “Black Candles” by Umberto at Alexander McQueen. Two live performances stood out: Issey Miyake had Open Reel Ensemble mix live sounds like the steam of an iron into an electronic composition, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac opened with a performance by French music video director and indie musician Yoann Lemoine, who goes by the stage name Woodkid.

WWD Fall 2012 Fashion Week Top 20 Playlist:

“Amanaemonesia” by Chairlift (Cynthia Rowley)

“I’m His Girl” by Friends (DKNY)

“National Anthem” by Lana Del Rey (Tommy Hilfiger Women’s)

“Love Interruption” by Jack White (Billy Reid)

“Bumper” by Cults (Nanette Lepore)

“S–tlist” by L7 (Vivienne Westwood)

“This Is Love” by PJ Harvey (Paul Smith)

“Friend Crush” by Friends (Topshop Unique)

“212” by Azealia Banks (Topshop Unique, House of Holland)

“Bad Girls” by M.I.A. (Topshop Unique, House of Holland)

“Default” by Django Django (Temperley, Aquascutum)

“Blue Jeans” by Lana Del Rey (Penguin Prison remix) (Jo No Fui)

“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell (Versace)

“Superstar” by Sonic Youth (Jil Sander)

“Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins (Jil Sander)

“Paper Bag” by Fiona Apple (Limi Feu)

“Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode (Balmain)

“Before the Light Takes Us” by Darkness Falls (Isabel Marant)

“I Fink U Freeky” by Die Antwoord (Stella McCartney)

“Violently Happy” by Björk (Miu Miu)

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