tracing robyn’s most iconic music video looks, in her own words
From ‘Show Me Love’ to ‘Honey’, we asked Robyn to discuss her evolving style via her best music videos.
Countless musicians claim to resist stereotypes, but only a tiny handful manage to actually do so. Robyn is one of those few. The pop behemoth has stayed relevant for more than two decades in a notoriously fickle industry by always keeping things on her own terms. Following the universal acclaim of her most recent album Honey, her first solo record in eight years, she’s branching into fashion, with her stylist Naomi Itkes. “We had a shared interest in the signals that people send with their clothes, and we both grew up using them to criss-cross between streetwear and fashion,” Naomi explains.
The pair had long-discussed designing sportswear together. So when Naomi began working for Björn Borg, the pair began work on a slick, futuristic capsule collection -- RBN. Naturally, there’s more than a hint of Robyn’s own distinctive aesthetic to the collection. “I think I always tried to escape the labels that might be put on me because of my gender, or because of my looks,” she says candidly of her ever-changing personal style. “I always like to play with those labels. Sometimes it was for fun, but sometimes it was a more complicated process to help me figure out who I am. I dress in a softer way now, although I still want things to feel comfortable on my body.”
This close relationship to clothing is evident in her music videos, which have spawned some truly iconic looks over the last few decades. From bodycon dresses and buffalo boots to comedy costumes and lingerie as outerwear, the star works closely with stylists to pull outfits that concisely convey the mood of each song. She sees fashion as a medium, an ethos which she attributes to a childhood spent following her parents (joint leaders of an independent theatre group) on tour. “I used to watch my mom get ready for stage as a kid, and my grandfather was a priest, so that idea of working with costumes made its way into my world at an early age,” she recalls. “Everything is a costume -- even what looks like nothing is a decision.”
In celebration of her capsule collection we took a trip down memory lane by tracing the fashion stories behind her most memorable music videos -- in her own words.
Show Me Love (1997)
The world’s first exposure to Robyn as a pop star came way back in 1997 with the decidedly wholesome video for global smash hit Show Me Love. “I still have the blue top I wore in this video somewhere,” she recalls. “It’s from Versace -- I was actually in Miami the same week that Gianni Versace was killed. I remember just going with what the stylist wanted [at the time] and not really understanding the references. It was all so new for me then, but I think it still works.”
Konichiwa Bitches (2007)
The next decade was more turbulent for the emerging star, who has expressed frustration in the past at being coerced into certain boxes by record labels. When execs disliked a demo she created with Swedish electronica icons The Knife, (Who’s That Girl?) she took matters into her own hands and founded her own label, Konichiwa Records. Her self-titled album spawned career-defining hits like Be Mine! and With Every Heartbeat, but the brilliantly tongue-in-cheek Konichiwa Bitches video served as an introduction to a new, more playful Robyn. “The costumes in this video were made by Elinor Eklund over the course of many months,” she says. “I actually still have some of them in my attic -- they usually come in handy around Halloween!”
Dancing On My Own (2010)
The term ‘sad banger’ has basically become synonymous with Robyn, and it’s all because of Dancing on My Own. “Naomi actually styled this video,” she explains. “I love that Wang dress -- we made it shorter, and I wore Sandra Backlund knitted armour too. I also LOVE what I wore in the club scene with the Philip Van De Roq jewellery, but you can’t really see it in the video.” But she wasn’t so fond of everything: “My hair is ridiculous though,” she laughs. “I’m not sure what we were thinking there!”
Although she took a long solo hiatus, Robyn spent years crafting collaborative projects with some of her favourite artists, including Röyksopp. “The pants I wore in this video were made by Denise Östholm, who also styled it,” she says, explaining that she loved them so much she recreated them. “We made a new version of those pants for the RBN collection and named them after her! I’m also wearing a terrycloth sweater by Anders Haal, which is funny because he collaborated on RBN with Naomi and I too!”
Love Is Free (2015)
2015 brought another collaborative project, this time with La Bagatelle Magique -- a collective made up of keyboardist Markus Jågerstedt and Robyn’s late, longtime friend, producer Christian Falk. The resulting Love Is Free EP was a relentless burst of energy, as demonstrated in the title track’s ebullient, carefree video. According to Robyn, the aesthetic of it mirrors the spontaneous atmosphere on set: “[The stylist] Klarkson brought so much stuff to the video shoot that me and Maluca went through together with her on the day, so it was kind of like we were playing dress up!”
Robyn formally ended her solo hiatus last year with Honey, a critically-acclaimed nine-track wonder sprinkled liberally with references to funk and disco. The structures were looser, more experimental and deliberately sensuous, its title track an aural equivalent of sticky, sweet honey slowly enveloping flesh. These elements combine with its video, created alongside stylist Tamara Rothstein. “I really just wanted to feel sexy and loose, so that’s an old Alaïa skirt that I’m wearing,” explains Robyn. Despite the polished result, not everything was so glamorous on set. “Those boots gave me the craziest rash,” she recalls. “But they’re still probably the best boots I’ve ever had.”
Send to Robin Immediately (2019)
When longtime collaborator Max Vitali began shooting campaign footage for the RBN capsule collection, nobody had any plans to make a music video. “The material just turned out so beautifully,” says Robyn of the decision to turn the results of the shoot into a video for Send to Robin Immediately. “These kids had this amazing energy and there was plenty of it, so Max just kept working; he actually made the song choice himself while he was editing. We’ve tried to involve the kids as much as possible in the campaign. They are so inspiring to be around; they’re just lovely, caring people.”
Robyn x Bjorn Borg is available to order here.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.