For starters, no cat dress is involved. Åkerlund retained the idea of an animal, but chose the phoenix as being representative of the group’s re-emergence. “I chose Manish [Arora] because he does heavy beadwork, and I really wanted the opening costumes to be really elaborate…[and] super embellished. There are thousands and thousands of Swarovski crystals mixed in with embroidery to achieve this.
Erevos Aether, Greek designers working in London, are responsible for the band’s “ABBAtron” light-up costumes. “I thought they understood the concept of the future, and they work a lot with plexi and neoprene, [which] are very good materials because you can dance [in them]. They allowed another additional element besides just lighting up the costume. Michael Schmidt, who once made a dress for Debbie Harry from razor blades and has a knack for wire mesh, was Åkerlund’s choice, using the material to make costumes “that looked like disco, but modern”. For the finale, Åkerlund says she wanted to make the band members “larger than life, a bit like Greek gods”. Remembering that Dolce & Gabbana had worked on this theme before, she turned to them for elaborately embellished pieces. “They have the know-how and they know what I’m looking for.”
There are around 20 costume changes in Voyage, but none of the clothes have been adapted for Benny, Agnetha, Anna-Frid, or Björn. Åkerlund worked with body doubles. The sketches were approved by ABBA, then the actual garments were scanned. ABBA gave the concert in green costumes, so it’s their movement and their voices that the audience will enjoy. Because she wanted everything to “seem as real as possible,” each finished garment was scanned to capture every physical detail. The band’s dance shoes, for the record, are from platform specialist Terry de Havilland.
ABBA’s Voyage costumes are, to some extent, “a homage to the 70s”, but in many ways they are not tied to the timeline because ABBA as a cultural phenomenon is bigger than its own era. “I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t know an ABBA song or doesn’t dance when the music starts,” says Åkerlund, adding that the band “represented everything in my childhood.” Music can create a shared, borderless and intangible experience. Can digital fashion follow?