Local Color

Michael Cepress Dresses the Seattle Symphony

When they perform the newly Pulitizer Prized John Luther Adams piece with Ludovic Morlot at Carnegie Hall in New York City, 100 musicians will be wearing Seattle blue.

By Laura Cassidy May 6, 2014

If you've been to see and hear the Seattle Symphony, you know one thing always, always happens: the musicians wear black.

But as they take the award-winning Become Ocean to New York tonight, Tuesday, May 6, they'll be wearing Michael Cepress-designed scarves, neckties and pocket squares in brilliant shades of Seattle blue. We talked to the local designer about this colorful coup.

Image: Nate Gowdy

"The Spring For Music Festival at Carnegie Hall asks symphonies to not wear their traditional formalwear on stage, so Seattle Symphony Orchestra saw this as an opportunity to use wardrobe in a new and special way," Cepress told us.

"The creative challenge for me was quite focused, but no less vibrant: How can I embellish and highlight a special piece of music and the talent of the musicians through clothing? What unique wardrobe items or color scheme could wash over the stage to reinforce the piece and put a new sort of spotlight on the look of Seattle Symphony?"

Cepress's accents would need to correspond with the John Luther Adams piece and, he told us, correspond with three distinct groupings of musicians. The textile and fiber guru is a lover of color, too, so he chose "a palette of water-tones that would be strong against the black garments" and devised an ombre-like wash—"a subtle shift from one shade to another as one's eyes pan the stage."

All well and good—lovely, really—for professionals Carnegie Hall, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to have one fine artist speak on behalf of others. That is, I wanted Cepress to address that thing that Seattle can never quite shake: that we don't know how to dress for the performing arts.

"I think one way of showing respect and offering a less audible 'round of applause' and gesture of support for performances you attend is to do so through how you dress," said Cepress. "I think it is time we not think of wearing something nice as a chore or requirement, but an opportunity to further enjoy a night on the town. For a show at Carnegie or Benaroya, I say treat yourself and encourage meaningful style and culture in Seattle by wearing your very best!" 


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