Fashion Chat: Nicola Formichetti

fashion chat, lady gaga, nicola formichetti, designers interviews, fashion chatI wasn’t sure what to expect when meeting Nicola Formicetti. The superstar stylist and creative director of Mugler came to The Bay for a public appearance, which included a mini-exhibition of vintage Thierry Mugler couture. While I was very excited to see the couture, I didn’t know where the conversation would go. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that his latest celebrity “muse” is a trashy reality TV star (read on, to find out who!), it was really interesting to hear how he worked, and how his styling background made him tackle design with a very different approach than a traditional designer.

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Images of the pieces on display at The Bay. This is from fall winter 97, made from “monster fur” and feathers.

Alexandra Suhner Isenberg: It can often happen that when a new Creative Director comes in to revive a brand, they sometimes try and separate themselves from the archive. For example, when McQueen took over at Givenchy, he said horrible things about Givenchy (which upset me.) I think it is interesting that the archive is still playing a big role in the collections at Mugler.

Nicola Formichetti: We were very lucky to have amazing archives, we were like kids and playful, enjoying the past. But it is a balance, there are only a few types of women who can wear that type of clothing now, we want to do something much more contemporary. For next season, we are going much more street and urban, and that has never been seen from a Mugler collection before. That is a fresh direction.

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Spring summer 1997, from the “Insectes” collection.

ASI: Will this be a diffusion line?

NF: It is the main line, but it is less red carpet. We want to do those things for special projects, like movie stars and singers. We don’t want to shut the archive off, we love it, every season we play around. It is always a starting point for us.

ASI: A lot of the archive shapes could really easily be translated into more commercial pieces. There is so much there, in the angles.

NF: Totally. You can always re-interpret the 80’s shoulder pad. Mugler was amazing with that. How many times can you do a shoulder pad?

Sébastien Peigné (Design Director at Mugler): For winter we created 23 shoulder pads, it depended on the fabrics and the shapes. There was a round shape, pointy, the atelier was going crazy.

ASI: I love the idea of a Mugler shoulder pad archive. Just to see them all in a row.

NF: It is a piece of contemporary art.

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“Cow=Boy” collection from spring summer 92, featuring parts of a Harley Davidson.

ASI: One of the things I explore on this blog is celebrity fashion and how I don’t like how celebrities decide to become designers. I thought it was quite interesting how you worked with Lady Gaga, because it was a muse and spokesperson role, done in a way that I felt was more refreshing than what we see with a lot of the other celebrities. Do you think that is a way to move forward with celebrity desiger collabaoraionts?

NF: She is very creative, she loves fashion, and she is really into what we do. For us, she is just part of the team. She uses her body to express. She is a performance artist. I don’t consider her as a celebrity, last time she just did the music for us. It is very organic. It is difficult to come by (this kind of relationship.)

At the moment I am really into working with Kim Kardashian. I think she is so fucking hot, she represents this sensual, new body in fashion, almost retro. She isn’t just a pin, she is much more sexy. I want to see her interpret what we do. We are doing a project together, we will see. She is already a big supporter of the collection. We work with her in a completely different way than Gaga. Celebrities are important, women should have heroines, someone to look up to. Movie stars, reality shows, I think it is something you can dream about, you can see yourself in. Kim represents a very important woman now, she is multicultural, and we know everything about her. I know what her pussy looks like, we know her problems, she is so great. I am really into her. And she is completely different to Gaga. Before that, we were working with Azzelia Banks, a cool New York Harlem girl, and she was working with us with the music, giving us this attitutde. It is kind of a give and take, we inspire each other. We use celebrities that way, and I think that is fine.

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The dress Jerry Hall wore for one of the original Angel perfume campaign.

ASI: So you feed off them?

NF: Totally. I NEED people like Gaga and Kim, they could be models too, or our friends. That is the correct word.

ASI: Maybe that’s more where the styling background appears, because you are used to that, working with a model or celebrity and dressing them. A lot of designers might have a muse, but this approach sounds very organic and quite unique and most likely differs you from the traditional approach.

NF: Yes, normal fashion brands just take the collection from the runway and give it, exactly how it was styled, to an actress so that people don’t get confused about the images, blah, blah… Also, we are smaller than other brands, we want to experiment a bit more, give a new way of expressing and marketing a brand.

While I disagree that women need heroines like Kim Kardashian or any other reality TV star to look up to, I do think it is interesting how Formichetti uses feeds off his muses for creativity. Now if only I could see some of those shoulder pads…

Portrait of Nicola Formichetti from here.

  • Briana

    It’s very interesting hearing his opinions on celebrities. Quite different from the usual more snobby ideals regarding pop stars and the like (admittedly something I am often guilty of).

    I think there’s a little typo in the first paragraph, second sentence.

  • MEME

    This interview makes me more adamant that I want to see Thierry Mugler back in charge of this line. Some of the Nicola Formichetti’s designs for the line have been good like the Massaro and Louboutin shoes, but the line does not have the essence that Thierry Mugler brand had in it’s prime. Thierry Mugler was a true couturier and a true genius, and his runway shows were the best in the business, he didn’t just give you a show, he gave you an experience. I don’t want to see this line be dumbed down to dribble celebrity culture. That’s like turning VOGUE Italia into Entertainment Weekly. I want to see lines modeled after REAL muses like Grace Jones, not desperate for fame pornstars like Kim Kardashian.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I understand your point, but Mugler is not coming back. And I think, given what COULD have happened, that it is great Formichetti is there. He respects the archive, which is not usually the case when they bring young talent into an old house. And I agree that the Kim Kardashian thing is nausea-inducing, but when you think about it, things could be MUCH worse. The collections are pretty nice, regardless of who is wearing them.

  • MEME

    What is much worst than adding Kim K to your line??? I think that’s as low as you could go. I would like to see somebody like Iris Van Herpen take that line to a new level, or at least see some of the classic silhouettes back into the line. That last collection was horrible.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Thanks for the typo mention!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Maybe I should have phrased things differently. Yes, I think Kim K is incredibly tacky, but as far as I know, she won’t be designing anything, she’ll just be a muse. Which is not nearly as bad as having her design something, since she’s not a designer. Given the relationship and collaboration he did with Gaga, is seems like it is Formichetti’s MO to “work” with celebrities in non-traditional ways (ie. not just use them in an ad campaign, as a brad ambassador, or as a “guest” designer.) I’m STILL not a fan of brands courting celebs, but if they are going to do it (clearly he DOES do it) then I’d prefer it in a Mugler way, rather than the way most brands use celebs. Anyway, let’s not judge this too much until we actually see what he is doing. No doubt it is going to be tacky, but the level of tackiness is yet to be seen.

    And yes, Iris Van Herpen would be AMAZING but let’s face it, big brands want big names so they can be super commercial. It is the way of the fashion world now, and it is sad.

  • MEME

    Oh I know she won’t be designing anything, for she has no talent, I just think it’s a bad idea to associate her with the brand in any type of way. I mean if you want to court celebs, don’t court the trashy ones who don’t represent the image of the brand. Formichetti still has to bring it up a notch at Mugler though.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yeah, I guess he is trying NOT to bring it up a notch by associating the brand with people like her. Which may be part of her brand strategy… who knows. I’m excited to see what happens!

  • MEME

    Yeah, I think that would be a major downgrade for the brand. His main focus should be on the clothing, and not which celebrity the line is catering to, because at the end of the day women who are spending their dollars on these brands could care less which celebrity is wearing them especially when they don’t pay a dime for the clothes.

  • anya

    “Despite the fact that his latest celebrity “muse” is a trashy reality TV star.” Yeah, other than that, I’m really impressed with the direction Mugler is taking. I very much enjoyed talking to Nicola and Sebastien, as well.

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