PARIS — “We have to have security backstage so the girls don’t steal all the clothes, Gaga being one,” Nicola Formichetti, Mugler’s new creative director, said of his debut women’s show tonight, letting slip that the music superstar — and fearless fashion plate — may indeed be in the house.
“That’s a surprise. I don’t want to say,” he backtracked a few minutes later.
But make no mistake: Lady Gaga — a woman who might don fresh meat one day, pointy alien shoulders and rubber the next — is Formichetti’s muse for the revival of one of the Eighties’ most iconic fashion labels, and she has already worn a slew of custom-made getups for the Grammy Awards, television appearances and yet-to-be seen album art and videos for her new album “Born This Way,” due out May 23.
Gaga is listed as the official music director for the show, as she was for Formichetti’s men’s wear debut in January, and he characterized her as a sounding board, “not only for the look, but the brain as well.”
Indeed, their collaboration on Mugler women’s wear preceded Formichetti’s work on the men’s collection he showed in January, which was paraded on a cast of tattooed zombie boys and ignited online curiosity about the brand, owned by France’s Groupe Clarins.
The flesh-tone palette and black latex that Gaga wore in recent weeks figure in what will hit the runway tonight at Gymnase Japy, “but the collection is much, much more wearable and more luxury-based, rather than [stage] wear,” Formichetti stressed.
In an interview Monday, the globe-trotting, half-Japanese, half-Italian superstylist — to Gaga, Uniqlo, Vogue Homme Japan and other magazines —talked excitedly about bringing “a little bit of fantasy” back to Mugler, whose founding designer, Thierry Mugler, became a byword for extraterrestrial, superhuman style.
“It’s that side of fashion we are missing — not only a bag and a shoe or a logo,” Formichetti mused. “I think people are waiting for something new to buy into.”
He said the collection would have “all the DNA of Mugler,” including segments devoted to “animalistic and spy” elements and goddesses, all telegraphed in a minimalist, sexy way, and “a little more street-y and punky.”
Working in concert with his women’s wear design director, Sébastien Peigné, a 10-year veteran of Balenciaga, Formichetti described “supertight” silhouettes, both short and calf-length, to elongate the body. “It feels really contemporary,” he enthused. “If you look at the finishings, the proportions, it’s so hot.”
As reported, Formichetti has plans to flick on six roving cameras at the venue 30 minutes before showtime for an unedited live stream on Mugler’s Facebook page, tapping into fashion fans, his own followers and Gaga’s gargantuan fan base eager to hear a never-heard track.
Gifs and short videos he created from his men’s wear show in Paris in January — where he unveiled Rick Genest, a bald young man paved with tattoos to make him resemble a skeleton — generated millions of page views, Formichetti said.
Genest’s X-ray-like body decorations influenced one segment of the show devoted to more “classic” suits and dresses. Formichetti said Genest, his muse for Mugler men’s, would model in the women’s show — though he may well be unrecognizable, as he is slated to receive extensive hair and makeup.
Subsequent segments are devoted to the animal kingdom, replete with “aggressive patterns” and raccoon fur, and a finale of robotic goddesses, Formichetti said. He noted the show would be “less brutal” than his men’s wear outing, which had a forbidding, Gothic energy.
To be sure, Formichetti plans to tap into the concepts of futurism and power dressing that Mugler exemplifies: demonstrative shoulders, corsets and structured silhouettes.
“I still like that attitude,” he said. “We’re in this world where we all have to be strong and go for it. You need to be strong and confident. That’s still the feeling that we need in this crazy world.”
Frenetic online — with his blog, Twitter, Facebook and now Tumblr — Formichetti confessed that the torrent of information he puts out and gets back is as overwhelming as it is exhilarating. He compared the digital world to video games: absorbing and addictive.
“I learned it in a way from Gaga. She is always in contact with her fans through Twitter, YouTube and Facebook,” he said. “It’s all open. It’s great to have a superclose relationship with the people who are really into your things.”
Formichetti has 38,000 followers on Twitter, and has populated his Tumblr page with an eclectic mix of images and gifs, from adorable panda snaps and a spooky rotating skeleton to an “Ab Fab” clip and Gaga video stills — with detailed fashion credits.
“Now you get to talk to and listen to your followers. I get inspired from this all the time,” said Formichetti, noting this spills over into the Mugler project.
“You feel like you’re designing it together,” he said. “I want to be very active in keeping up with them. They get to see me and how I work and stuff I like.”
Although he still shoots for many magazines, Formichetti said he does less and less because “it’s not instant enough for me.”
Joël Palix, president of Clarins Fragrance Group and director general of the Mugler company, said the collection would be produced in-house, in France and in Italy, with prices retailing from about 1,000 euros to 10,000 euros, or $1,375 to $13,750 at current exchange rates.
Palix said he is seeking select distribution in about 100 department and speciality stores. About 50 stores picked up the men’s collection, including Colette and l’Eclaireur in France; Harvey Nichols and Dover Street Market in London; Barneys New York, Maxfield, Jeffrey and Opening Ceremony in the U.S.; Corso Como in Japan, and IT in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.
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