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Meet the SoulCycle Instructor Who DJ’s Fashion Shows On the Side

“How I hear is how [designers] see."

Fashion Week
models backstage
Photo: Steven Yatsko

“I think the fantasy goes hand in hand,” DJ Parker Radcliffe says of fashion and music. “When the fashion designer shows me what they've created, my mind just goes so crazy with ideas because it's [about] creating a feeling.” For designer Sandy Liang’s Spring ‘23 runway show, he fashioned a set that alludes to the image of ‘90s New York that commonly seduces today's youth. The two spent hours in conversation about the energy of this season's collection—one that juxtaposes minimal tailored separates with flouncy ruffled skirts. In the Schimmel Center at Pace University, models opened the show to the synthetic beats of Breathe by Télépopmusik and Angela McCluskey. Audience members rode Radcliffe's sonic wave with the music of Caroline Polachek, Purity Ring, and Frou Frou. A Euphoria-like musical explosion from Purity Ring's fineshrine set the backdrop for the collection's finale procession. The whole thing lasted maybe 12 minutes.

"I used to always start things by [slowly] building up into an energetic part, but Kelly taught me that we're starting hard," says Radcliffe. "We can get down in the middle." He's referring to fashion mogul Kelly Cutrone, founder of PR agency People's Revolution, who discovered her auditory protege by chance. Radcliffe originally moved to New York to work in fashion, as so many of us do. To support his styling dreams, he started working the front desk at a SoulCycle. Drawn to the music component of the class (and the captive downtown clientele), he eventually began teaching on his own. More importantly, the burgeoning DJ started mixing the music for these endeavors. One of said playlists attracted the attention of Cutrone, who had taken a class before his and heard the music leaking into the lobby. "She pulled me aside and she was like, I'm a witch and I think you're going to be a famous DJ,'" he says. (He also met Liang through a SoulCycle class.)

Cutrone "took [Radcliffe] under her wing," and they did shows together for five years. Amidst all of this, Radcliffe attended RunDMC's DJ school, Scratch Academy. The stylist-assistant-turned-DJ explained to me that this was essentially a six-week course where he learned to mix on vinyl records. He then had a residency at East Village club, Bedlam, where he experimented with electronic DJ kits—this is the point when he began to mix his own class at SoulCycle, as well. Now, he describes his class as the "perfect fusion between the fashion or the New York nitty gritty and the fun party release, without going to a club."

Despite all those endeavors, Radcliffe still music's role loves the fashion world. “My dream was to do fashion shows," he says. "I really look up to Michel Gaubert and I have so many heroes that were musicians but [specifically] within the fashion world. To be doing it and making [my own] choices feels so exciting.” He first tasted this sort of ecstasy at a men’s fashion show a few years ago. He entered into a room of tired editors, buyers, and general industry folk. Radcliffe was no stranger to the dreariness the industry feels during fashion week, but suddenly it struck him. “It was my job to lift the energy or create one so that you could live inside of it.” Discover more about Radcliffe's career trajectory, creative process, and general obsession with music below.

What is it about a fashion show when you look at it through the lens of music that excites you so much?

“I think the first time I realized it, I was doing a men's show—which a lot of times is just a presentation—and it had the worst energy. When I got there, I was like, ‘Oh, I'm used to this. I worked in styling, people are stressed, whatever.’ All of a sudden I realized it was my job to lift the energy or create one so that you could live inside of it. [I love] fashion, but I'm more into style. So I wasn't following every little thing. The stylist I worked for was like, ‘It seems like your natural talent is within music, but you respond visually to the clothes.’ And I like how you work so long on such a short mix and then finally you put it out there and it ends within 12 minutes. That huge rush is just what I live for.”

Tell me the story of you and Sandy. I'd love to hear how you guys got connected and then what it looks like to conceptualize an event and pair this brand identity with a playlist.

“Sandy had been taking my class for a little bit, but I didn't know who she was. And I'm friends with Danny Bowien who runs Mission Chinese. I went to go see him and she was at the restaurant, as well. So we finally got to connect and then she started taking my class and we just connected over music. And then her show that she did on Canal Street—the fleeces that all went crazy—we made a playlist together for the runway. I also walked in the show, which was a dream to do both at the same time. And that's how it all began.”

What are the conversations you two have when you are conceptualizing the sound of a collection?

“It was really interesting this time. I know how she creates and how she sees the clothes. It's a mix between who her girl is and what the clothes are and somehow finding, especially with Sandy, classic references that feel like a throwback fantasy, but also pushing us forward in a modern way.”

DJ Parker Radcliffe at Sandy Liang's Shoe and Jewelry Party;

Photo: Steven Yatsko

Can you describe for me what will be playing at the event?

Sandy's initial idea was she wanted the fantasy of New York that our age group didn't get to have that we watched in the nineties. So, mixing that with a modern pop, almost upbeat-ness—I don't actually know the word to use. But she definitely wants people to exhale, to leave feeling relaxed but at the same time upbeat and inspired.”

When you prepare for an event or a show, what are the boxes you look to check and how do you do that? Are there certain emotions you're looking to play into? Are there any big red flags that you steer away from?

“I think when you DJ things like this, the room expects you to know a lot about every genre so that if they give suggestions, you can kind of ping pong back and forth. [You have to be] open to the fact that there are so many different ways it could go. I always like to see the collection and give input from someone that wasn't there creating it. What does it make me feel? Do you feel the same way? And it's a lot of communication. For Sandy and me, it's been two months of those conversations and it took our playlist from one thing to a completely different thing that now we're both super excited about. It grew as we collaborated.”

What does your actual day to day work look like? Are you still working at SoulCycle? Are you doing a lot of other DJ projects? What do you do?

“In the past year, I really started refocusing on my class because it's so good right now. A lot of SoulCycles have shut down, but I feel like what I have going is good and it's at a place where I can just do what I want. I've been steering clear of clubs. Now I'm thinking about all the ways I can take my soundtracking knowledge into my future. But New York for sure still works for me because of the fashion stuff. I love to create with all types of designers and brands and pop artists and include all my ideas here. I'm excited about that.”

Obviously you are more of a music person, but do fashion and music spark similar reactions in you emotionally, visually?

“I think the fantasy goes hand in hand. I'm so inspired by the visual. I love photographers and I love television and cinematography because it's like how I hear is how they see. So when the fashion designer shows me what they've created, my mind just goes so crazy with ideas because it's [about] creating a feeling. You can elevate the matter in front of you and there's so many ways to go about it."

If you're putting together your own playlist, say you're doing one from one of your classes, what does the inspiration process look like? Are you only listening to things or do other areas leak over into a playlist that you create?

“Gosh, that is such a good question. Honestly, I moved to the East Village five years ago. I left a relationship to do what I'm doing now. So I spend tons of time attaching my music to my self evolution. I'm into a lot of philosophy and things like that. And that's why at the same time, my class is kind of a perfect fusion between the fashion or the New York nitty gritty and the release [aspect of a] fun party without going to a club. The nuance of that has made me pay attention to music in a different way where I just want to one up what we did last time and make it even more applicable to a post Gen Z era where things are changing versus the millennial way of thinking about it.”

Tell me about your music knowledge. Is it really expansive everywhere? Are there certain subsets that you specialize in or do you listen to everything across the board?

“It’s had waves throughout my life. As a kid, I was really, really into hip hop. My other siblings—I'm the youngest of five—were into Nirvana and the grunge stuff. Then I came up loving Emo and getting into more of the Indie 2000s. I feel like Robyn branched me back out into the pop world through my Emo lens. But I just feel like, especially in a class, you [try to] reach every person with a song and make the genres work together, even if they're so vast, so that someone that likes this might also like that and commercialize it enough so that people don't feel alienated. I treat it like a fashion show and it also forces me to expand my music knowledge.”

How are you creating a desired energy through things like tempo and lyrics?

“I would say it just depends on the feeling I'm trying to create. I used to always start things by building up into an energetic part, but Kelly taught me that we're starting hard. We can get down in the middle. The way she treated the fashion show made me [approach] my class differently. Not always changing it up but making it feel like your brand and your voice, that's the game for me, as well.”

How often do you listen to music?

“Constantly. It's so nice when I can just listen and enjoy it. But, I'm just psycho about it all. I'm Shazaming whenever I hear something because I love to throw back to my actual life when I'm creating stuff and make it real. I'll have everything ready and then I'll just put together a vibe from there.”

In your off time, what do you enjoy listening to the most?

“I wanted the summer to be chill but still party-girl type fives. Always Charlie XCX ever since her Pop 2 album—so good—but especially her new stuff. And I'm loving Eartheater. It's where we're going next, but it's also comedic in a way, which I also feel is kind of where we're at. 100 Gecs does that a lot, as well. Those are some of the ones that are speaking to the future, but it's fun and hilarious, too."

Do you have a favorite song of all time?

“As a kid it was always TLC, any of it. The CrazySexyCool album—that was it for me. So I just stay true to my girl sometimes.”

And then do you have a dream fashion client?

"Oh, I've always wanted to work for Demna. That would be everything."

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