Musician & Balenciaga Muse BFRND on Translating Clothes Into Music

Written by Alex Hawgood
Photographs by Tess Petronio
Styled by Suzanne Koller

BFRND wears a Balenciaga top, pants, sunglasses, and gloves.
BFRND wears a Balenciaga top, pants, sunglasses, and gloves.

You met Demna, the artistic director of Balenciaga, in 2016. A year later, the two of you were married in Switzerland and you created your first soundtrack for a Balenciaga runway show—a musical collaboration that has continued for each of the label’s presentations since. How has your life-work balance evolved over time?

Because I work hand in hand with him, it has pretty much stayed the same. The music is an extension of his own creative expression. My job at Balenciaga is to translate clothes into music. What has evolved is our relationship. You can feel this evolution in our confidence in ourselves; you can feel it in the music; you can feel it in the collections and in the shows.

The soundtrack for Balenciaga’s spring-summer 2024 presentation was a dense tapestry of sounds—­including, but not limited to, experimental techno, orchestral arrangements, and a voiceover of Isabelle Huppert reading instructions on how to sew a ­tailored jacket.

The funny thing was that I hadn’t heard the voiceover with the music until probably a week before the show. I don’t know why, but I knew how it would sound. We discovered that we didn’t have to edit Isabelle’s voice because the tempo and everything was perfect. It was something almost cosmic. She never heard the music until the show, so she didn’t know what to expect. That was quite fun.

You are also a model. You are featured in Balenciaga’s latest ad ­campaign; you wore a look made from seven vintage wedding dresses to close out the show in October; and, on the ­Balenciaga mini episode of The ­Simpsons in 2021, your animated avatar wore a Balenciaga x Sony ­PlayStation 5 oversize hoodie.

Every character in the Simpsons episode is an employee of Balenciaga. It was amazing to see all of those known faces in a show that I have loved since I was a boy. Even though I had basically two words to say, I went into a recording studio with the Simpsons team and had the creators directing me on Zoom. If someone had told me that would happen when I was 10 years old, I just wouldn’t have believed it. I am such a huge fan that I even have multiple Simpsons tattoos.

Which Springfield residents live permanently on your body?

I have Bart Simpson; I have Krusty; and I have my dogs as Simpsons characters made by Matt Groening, since my dogs were in the Balenciaga episode too.

Did animation inspire the side-scrolling video game you released as a companion to your new Balenciaga Music series?

It’s more in the spirit of Super Mario, except every level is a Balenciaga show and has the show’s soundtrack. You have to fight against different scary animals and stuff as you collect Balenciaga items. The top players will receive a gift. The photo campaign for the series is funny, because it’s a family picture. The family is very conservative, and I’m the only goth one in the picture.

The Balenciaga Music BFRND Series campaign was inspired by retro family portraits.

Photographed by Melchior Tersen; Courtesy of Balenciaga.

Were you into the goth scene as a kid?

I grew up in the South of France. For many years, I worked at a small concert venue that was the only place for goth and metal concerts. Live music was the best way to experience that kind of sound. It was like an epiphany: I had to rapidly become a death-metal singer. In a way, that’s how I started music. It became serious when I had a band at, like, 14 years old.

How did a budding death-metal singer transform into a runway-music muse for Balenciaga who goes by the alias BFRND?

When I met Demna, my stage name was Boyfriend. But at that time, I hadn’t officially released anything on any of the streaming platforms, so my name was not definitive. When we met, Demna would always misspell Boyfriend because he was convinced that it was BFRND, pronounced like B-F-R-N-D, not “boyfriend.” BFRND resonated much more with me. It was much more stylish.

So when Demna became your boyfriend, you stopped going by ­Boyfriend?

For me, it just made perfect sense. Before we met, I was seeking love. And then we met, and I wasn’t seeking love anymore.

Fashion Assistant: Léo BoyÈre.