Katy Perry dropped her new music video “Chain to the Rhythm,” featuring Skip Marley (grandson of Bob Marley), on Tuesday morning, and much like her politically charged Grammys performance, the piece alludes to today’s current political climate.
The Matthew Cullen-helmed video sees Perry entering the colorful Oblivia amusement park, where cheery park goers are enjoying rides named “The Great American Dream Drop” and “No Place Like Home.” The latter sees a couple being launched into the air over a white picket fence. While everyone in the dystopian park wears shades of pastel, Perry arrives in white — and that was no accident.
Costume designer and self-described “fashion activist” B. Akerlund, who has worked on styling the music videos of Beyonce’s “Hold Up” and Fergie’s “M.I.L.F. $,” collaborated with Perry on the custom, futuristic looks. Here, we chat with Akerlund about dressing Perry as “a futuristic Marilyn Monroe.”
Tell us about the pieces Katy is wearing in the music video.
[The white ensemble] was something that was created together with a French fashion label called On Aura Tout Vu, who is represented in my showroom that I curate in L.A. Whenever I do a job, I really try to get into the character that I’m trying to portray and then I always choose a designer I think will best fit the bill. I accessorized it with a leather harness by YVY and clear boots by Rinaldy [Yunardi].
I had a lot of obstacles to deal with when [Perry] was running in that wheel. She needed something that she could move in, so I designed a look with this New York designer called Miodrag Guberinic. He’s an incredible costume maker. I was really drawn to this interesting fabric that would read on film for how I see the future, so to me, it was this futuristic workout look. It was just really incredibly crafted. If you look at it in detail, it had all these elements of tailoring.
For the last look, that was another custom piece I did with Christopher Bu. She’s wearing a Latex catsuit under it. Originally there was only one look allocated for the video, but I was like, “Oh, no way.”
I usually like to create a formula when I’m working, and for this world, it was very pastel and plastic. I just felt like that instantly took you to the future. I was referring back to the ‘50s a bit, too, because it was so stylized. Every piece of fabric had a sheen or plastic on it.
We saw on your Instagram that you describe Katy as a futuristic Marilyn Monroe when she’s dressed in white.
It’s funny because when I designed the look, I wasn’t thinking that, but then when she came out, [I thought] that’s exactly what she is. I was so excited when that clicked in my head. I worked really hard on details and colors — there was no red or black allowed. From day one, I was like, she needs to be in white. I wanted her to stand out from the crowd.
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Did Katy have any specific style requests for the music video?
She said to me, “I want to see what you come up with.” So I created the mood board and the direction. She had some favorite things she was referencing and I tried to stay in that world.
How did you approach Skip’s look to show he was different from everyone at the amusement park?
I had the same idea there. She’s in white, he’s in white — there’s no other white color in the whole video, that’s why they’d stand out from the 150 extras. These two people from the same world, they understand this wheel we’re stuck in and everyone else is just happy and they haven’t caught on. It was interesting because when I first got a memo from his team, they said, “He likes to wear black,” but I was really stuck on him wearing white. He wore a Zaldy coat, Charli Cohen tee, Comme des Garcons jeans and Dr. Marten boots.
You mentioned earlier about working with a lot of colors, which almost gave the video a Pleasantville vibe. Can you tell us a bit more about what you had on your mood board?
Yeah, but I wanted to push the envelope, so really, I created a formula and I would say 60 percent of the people in the video have some sort of plastic on them. Each character, if you were green, you were green all the way. I didn’t mix pastels. I only mixed the people, which is why I think it reads quite clean on film because I kept to a color palette. I didn’t want it to feel busy. I also stayed away from a lot of patterns; there’s only a few people with patterns.
Katy recently described “Chained to the Rhythm” as “purposeful pop.” How did that affect the way you approach this project?
I feel like her whole purpose for this video was to open people’s eyes to how we’re all chained to this rhythm — our life, social media and what other people think. I worked with a lot of restriction within the costumes. You can’t see it, but there’s a lot of hard bodices. I was trying to restrict the talent because that was the reality. We don’t live a perfect world and we have a lot of restrictions. I tried to use that in my styling to reflect the tone of the video. A lot of people were not comfortable, but I said, “Look, this is what we gotta do.”