Dutch dance music producer and DJ Sunnery James regularly hypnotizes hordes of thousands worldwide, from the throbbing dance floors of super clubs to the muddy festival fields. But it’s his latest gig, done practically by accident, that’s launching him -– and more of dance music -– to a even larger audience. And it’s also in a way bringing him closer to his wife, supermodel Doutzen Kroes.
Look up on New York’s Fifth Avenue –- or in malls across America –- and you’ll find James’ sculpted, striking face gracing H&M’s new fall campaign. The whole thing showcases men’s basics like blazers and sweaters, and got shot during a quick in-and-out trip to New York while James was in Miami playing this past Winter Music Conference. In fact the whole shoot was such a sleep-deprived blur, he says, that he didn’t realize it was for a major campaign.
“I’m really happy and proud that I’m in the campaign, but I was thinking about the music and stuff, and WMC. I didn’t even know what the shoot was for. I just slept, went to the barber, and worked out a little bit,” James recalls, laughing. “It’s funny because I’m next to my wife in stores, and it’s really strange, actually.”
Produced by Creative Chaos and shot by Daniel Jackson, the series of ads and billboards teams up James, wife Kroues, and fellow male model Roch Barbot for simple portraits showcasing fall basics against a gray backdrop. James' ensembles and shots don't reference his DJing or even very specific music subculture at all, outfitting him instead in minimalist, fitted dark knits and denim.
James, however, says this perfectly fits his personal style. “It’s simple – I don’t like real colors. I like black. And it has to fit right,” he says. And when he performs, things get even more utilitarian. “I go for a T-shirt and that’s it. I have to sweat in it and jump in it.”
In the meantime, if three of anything makes a trend, the fashion world is officially in EDM superstars-as-models swing. Last year, fellow Dutchman and DJ god Tiesto announced his own capsule collection for Guess, and has also starred in its ads. Last year, Swedish wunderkind Avicii posed for Ralph Lauren's Denim & Supply. Spritely and unconventional-looking Skrillex even starred in spreads for G Star Raw.
James’ campaign, perhaps, marks a slightly new direction for the DJ/model trope – one who’s not quite the overblown superstar. James, alongside regular musical partner Ryan Marciano, regularly plays the main stage at huge festivals like Ultra and Tomorrowland in the States. But rather than just play the big confetti-house hits, James has kept one foot in relatively deeper, track-oriented sounds.
He also might not be immediately recognizable by face like the Tiestos and Skrillexes of the world – which means, by a roundabout way, that the H&M campaign could drive some deeper dance music discovery. “. It can help you get to a different market, you know? People see you and say, ‘Who’s this guy?’” James says. “Someone like my mom, if you ask him who Avicii is, she won’t know, but she’ll see [his ad] campaign and maybe listen to the music.”
Check out the rest of the campaign here on the H&M site.