Since its rise in the early aughts as a cool mall-alternative, Free People has created an identity so immediately recognizable that their name practically holds up as an adjective—one that’s synonymous with boho style. At least that’s exactly how it’s used in sentences by the company’s Art Director Lauren Cohan when talking about the music of Oh Land, the Danish dream-pop artist that just teamed up with Free People on their first shoppable music video.
The brand tapped the Brooklyn-based musician, aka Nanna Øland, for their first music video-slash-lookbook, a gorgeously shot visual for Oh Land’s Earth Sick standout “Nothing Is Over,” which also shows off their holiday collection. It’s a pretty perfect marriage between music and style, and a good example of how the two worlds have been increasingly merging for their mutual benefit over the past few years.
We caught up with Lauren to talk about the concept behind the video, who got to eat all of those delicious-looking cookies in it, and how the brand is making moves to work closer with musicians.
Check out the interview below, as well as some behind-the-scenes snaps from the set, and head over to Free People’s website where you can shop all of Oh Land’s looks.
MTV: How did this collaboration with Oh Land come about?
Lauren Cohan: I went to one of her shows and was super inspired by her. She’s a great live performer. After that, we started discussing a new idea of collaborating with musicians and creating a narrative short film/music video for the brand. We thought she was a perfect person to start collaborating with. She’s so magical and ethereal and the song “Nothing Is Over” was perfect for featuring the holiday collection. It’s a good marriage between her and the brand.
MTV: What’s the treatment of the video?
Cohan: It follows the narrative of the song which is about love and relationships and how nothing is over. It’s about someone imagining what it’d be like to rekindle a romance. So we merged the idea of holiday spirit and Nanna bringing happiness to people through her music but at the same time going through her relationship woes. We cut back and forth between her making cookies and flashes back to this nostalgia for someone she loves who comes back at the end, and nothing is over.
MTV: Do you see it as a holiday video?
Cohan: There’s a holiday theme within the video, but it’s more about love and relationships as the song goes.
MTV: What were some of the challenges of styling it?
Cohan: It was a really, really cold day in October and everybody was hanging out on the sidewalk and working outdoors. Our stylist collaborated with Nanna and they picked out the outfits together based on the themes.
MTV: Aside from the cold, what are other things viewers might not pick up on from watching the video?
Cohan: Nanna and Brett, her video vixen and leading man, met an hour before the shoot, but it looks like they were very much in love in the video—you wouldn’t know that. The cookies were made by a company called Sugarbuilt, and she spent 70 hours baking them. They’re pretty elaborate.
MTV: Did you eat all of them after the shoot?
Cohan: [Laughs] Yeah, the cookies slowly started disappearing and, at the end of the day, everyone was in a sugar coma.
MTV: As far as the cinematography and art direction, were there any points of references you thought of when you were brainstorming, or did you just improvise?
Cohan: Some of the references were the movie Chocolat and Amélie. Our cinematographer Carlos Veron shot our “Roshambo” series for us too, which featured a lot of great bands like Youth Lagoon and Lord Huron. We tend to find up-and-coming artists and composers—and that’s something we’re looking more to do in the future for branded music videos.
MTV: When I think of Free People, I think of this bohemian, free-spirited vibe. Is that something that you look for in artists?
Cohan: Absolutely, free-spirited, raw talent, and someone who genuinely loves the process of collaborating. Creativity is such a strong fabric of who the brand is. When we sat down with Nanna [Øland], she had as much creative freedom as she wanted, which is a great way to work because everyone ends up feeling really comfortable with the process.
MTV: Free People belongs to the same company as Urban Outfitters, and music is also at the core of their DNA. How does your approach to music differ from theirs?
Cohan: I think the talent we elect to work with is slightly different, but there’s absolutely room for both brands to be involved in music without stepping on each other’s toes. We don’t really communicate with them about which musicians we’re working with. In general, the brands have different tastes so there’s not often overlap.
MTV: What are your channels for discovering new music?
Cohan: I go anywhere from Spotify to Bandcamp and all around the city. There’s so many great bands coming out of Brooklyn. There’s a lot of word of mouth as well.
MTV: Do you have any dream collaborations in mind?
Cohan: First Aid Kit I think would be a great brand collaboration. They’re super Free People.
MTV: Why do you think musicians are being increasingly tapped to represent brands?
Cohan: Free People is an all-encompassing lifestyle brand and musicians are another way to connect. Everyone listens to music, and as artists have more direct connection to their audiences via social media, there’s a direct connection between brands, artists, and their audience. It’s another way of getting out there and being visible. I think the relationship between brands and music will become more integrated. It benefits everyone: musicians who get to have their voice heard and brands who want to showcase their clothing creatively. Everything comes to life when you have this kind of experience with a beautiful fairy like Nanna.