In two runway seasons, Jeremy Scott has made Moschino his Dreamhouse. Love it or hate it, chances are you don’t just ‘like’ Scott’s Pop antics. But he doesn’t care what fashion thinks—he’s having too much fun.
This story first appeared in the November 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WWD: Barbie. How did you choose her?
Jeremy Scott: Honestly, I was just starting to think about the summer collection, and started thinking about beach and that led me to Barbie. How do I make beach and daywear and eveningwear and all these things together? She was the perfect muse because she goes day-to-evening, she’s had every job there is imaginable. She obviously is famous for being on the beach but she’s also known to don red-carpet evening attire from time to time. She developed into the perfect muse for the collection because it encompassed all the aspects of what I wanted to do for the show.
So there was a practicality to it?
Absolutely! Because it’s hard to find something she hasn’t done, hasn’t worn, a trend she hasn’t been a part of.
A lot of the clothes seemed like actual Barbie clothes that I remember from when I was little and playing with Barbies. Did you re-create some things that were part of her wardrobe?
There’s a tiny bit in the finale that’s reminiscent of iconic dolls. Everything still has been really reworked, but I wanted to give that effect that you would feel like, “Oh! I had that doll.” I’ve seen some people post pictures and be like, “I had that doll.” And I’m like, “No, you didn’t because that didn’t exist.” But I wanted that effect.
I wanted to confuse people in a way, too. Some of the other pieces that were signature in the show, I had Mattel make those items for [Barbie] and photograph her so we could post those on Instagram and put them on social media because I thought it would blur the lines. I knew that there would be a lot of people who looked at it and thought, “Oh my God, I had that,” and remember it and it’s heartwarming. And there are other people who are like “Ehhh, he just copied some Barbie clothes.”
It’s much more than that. Even though there’s humor in the whole thing, I take my job very seriously. I wanted to kind of blur all those lines with the actual photos of Barbie in capsule pieces, and very meta—Barbie wearing a T-shirt with Barbie on it.
To that point, your mantra is that fashion is supposed to be fun, but you’re saying you take it very seriously. Is the collection meant as a joke to some extent?
I think it should be fun. I work very hard. I do take my work very seriously, but I don’t look at it as flippant. I do enjoy it and I think it should be enjoyable. That’s the fine line, the difference between it being serious and a joke. It’s not a joke in the sense that I think it’s like, “bahahahaha.” It’s more like it should have humor. The gift of laughter is one of the best gifts that you can give to people. I love that when people come into my show they are smiling. That’s an important element that I think is lacking in a lot of fashion, much less in pop culture in general. There are just far too many serious things in the world and I choose not to be one of them.
Your two runway collections for Moschino have been polarizing. Do you feel like they deserve critical analysis?
I accept that’s part of the world and people will come to shows, they’ll do critiques of it. I think that some people are better suited to critique it. I think a lot of times that with humor, people don’t know how to handle it. So they slag it off. I’m an easy target for that. Like, “Oh it’s just a bunch of Barbie dolls redone.” Instead of digging deeper. I like to look at it like pop culturally, in the sense of if you go to a museum and see an abstract painting, one person might be like, “Oh my god, my five-year-old kid can do this” and someone else can go, “I love the emotion that’s going on in the stroke.”
In my opinion, it’s for each person to pull out their own decision and feelings from it. That’s why I don’t really try to do a dissertation about my work personally. It can seem a little frivolous and silly for me to talk intellectually about something like McDonald’s or Barbie or SpongeBob or food packaging. Those who want to look at it like, maybe those dresses are a thought about recycling and how we’re so wasteful as a society and there are so many landfills…or, how can you take something that’s seen as ugly and render something beautiful; put it at the highest level of haute couture and make these evening gowns that are fit to going to La Scala? Or you can just be like, “That looks fun!” I’m totally cool either way.
The first part, the deeper thoughts about recycling—was that the message you were trying to convey?
There are tons of thoughts behind my stuff, but I don’t want to ram a message down anyone’s throat. It should be something that you see and you enjoy it. Those who want to look into it deeper are welcome to. I’m going on 18 years or 17 years of designing and I think I’ve pretty much established my voice in this industry. I don’t need to explain it so much. There’s always going to be people who don’t like it and don’t understand it. I could never have the love that I get from the fans who are so enthusiastic about what I do without having people not like it, too. Of course, there are times when people say things that are completely wrong. I’ve had [times] when people wrote things that were not facts and then they’re placing them as facts.
Once, someone talked about me doing all this stuff with the Eiffel Tower. I’ve never done anything with the Eiffel Tower in anything, ever. It’s like in The New York-f–kin’ Times. OK, where did you see this work of mine? You are obviously speaking incorrectly. Even with Moschino, people not being astute enough to understand what Franco [Moschino] did. There’s 30 years of history—there’s 10 of Franco. There’s 20 of a team that worked to continue a vision, but you should know the DNA of the house and that lies with Franco. It doesn’t lie with two seasons ago.
When people are kind of saying it’s very kitsch or very cartoon-y, it’s like, are you talking about the person who used Olive Oyl as an icon for a fragrance and had sent models down the runway looking like Olive Oyl, or are you talking about two seasons ago that looked a lot more conservative? You should really know what you’re talking about…but ultimately, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s like, honestly, I do my work for a lot of my own pleasure and that of my fans and I’ve had so much love. Moschino alone has been extremely successful, not only financially and commercially, but also pop culturally. So that’s what I do my work for. I do it to touch people’s lives, to talk to people—it’s my way of communicating.
There was a bona fide frenzy outside the show in Milan. I was almost crushed by a man in a SpongeBob sweater. You’ve been doing this for a long time. Why do you think everyone is so intrigued in the context of Moschino?
I have very passionate fans. That’s just part of my DNA. I have fans tattoo my face, my prints, my designs, my shoes on their bodies. I’ve been stopped on the street, I’ve seen them post them on Instagram and send them to me on Twitter. That’s a serious loyal love. I wasn’t really surprised that they followed me to Moschino. And it’s crossing over. I think it’s exciting for Milan. It’s great that there’s new energy there, and I’m so happy and pleased to be an instigator.
You’ve been doing your thing consistently for a long time. It’s always cartoons and toys and plastic bags and garbage bags and superheroes. When you put it in the context of Moschino, you’re getting the attention of fashion. Do you think that’s because of the cultural moment we’re in right now? It’s Instagram, it’s iPhones, it’s the culture of immediacy. You’re selling the collection right after the show. There’s a Nineties rave thing going on, which was very much your scene. And the athletic obsession. You’ve had the collaboration with Adidas.
When you put it in those terms, it is. I’ve done all the work to be there. Sometimes I was way ahead of myself and my time and everything has caught up with me and everything makes a little more sense. I have been speaking for youth culture and pop culture in fashion terms for quite some time. Maybe now, in fashion’s eyes, I’m doing that, too. Maybe that’s the difference.
Is working with a new pop icon every season your strategy at Moschino?
My work has always been about icons and iconography. Even a stop sign is an icon. It’s just part of my DNA and my process of working, so it will always be part of things I do and I assume. It’s also very indicative of Franco’s work, too. That’s what makes it make sense so much at Moschino.
Have you spent a lot of time studying up on Franco and his archive?
I honestly didn’t really need to. There’s a lot more to him than I’m even aware of; I don’t dispute that at all. But I’ve looked through old runway pictures and I’ve watched some shows and I’ve seen some archives. I feel like I just get it, and I pretty much have the understanding of what his sensibility and sense of humor and approach was.
Working for Aeffe is the first time you’ve worked with a major parent company, correct?
Well, Adidas, which is a different thing. But in terms of fashion houses, no, I have not—I chose not to, and I chose to keep my own brand independent and have my own autonomy this whole time, which is quite rare.
What’s it like to have a big boss to answer to?
Oh, I don’t really feel like I have a boss to answer to, to be truthful. And I don’t even mean it in any way arrogant. They’ve been nothing but supportive of any idea and have bent over backwards to make them possible. I feel like I’m leading a ship.
I imagine they have a lot of resources.
It’s wonderful to not think about how things are going to get made. That’s something that we would have to think about often with [my own collection]. Sometimes we’re not really sure who’s going to be able to manufacture or even make a prototype. I’ve had a heyday, going wild, especially with the accessories. From the biker bag to the plastic hanger bag this season for Barbie and the giant boom box. It’s so much fun to be able to bring dreams to reality and especially in such wonderful quality. The quality of their workmanship is outrageous. It just blows my mind.
In terms of working with all of these big brands—McDonald’s and Mattel—is that a trademark nightmare?
No, it’s not any kind of nightmare. With McDonald’s we didn’t actually use their logo or their font. I created something that looks similar and obviously we’re not trying to make food. I don’t think there’s a real issue. They got the humor of it and immediately posted something on Facebook and Twitter about Milan Fashion Week never looking better. With Mattel, we worked together because I created the Barbie, so it was not a surprise to them. They were along for the ride and nothing but sweethearts and thrilled about my love letter to Barbie.
What or whom do you find interesting in fashion right now?
I love what Hedi [Slimane] is doing at Saint Laurent. I feel like he really hits the nail on the head and he’s really carved out his niche and his clientele. The people that love his work are the people that listen to that music. It’s the full-package deal. That’s what I love about it. You can see who those kids are that want to wear it, what music they listen to, the places they go. I think that’s a total success.
When people can kind of create their own world, I always admire that. That’s the goal as a designer, as far as I’m concerned. So much of fashion has become homogenized. It makes me sad for fashion. It makes me sad for culture. There used to be different codes—things that were only done at Saint Laurent and things that would only be done at Givenchy. It’s gotten a lot more homogenized. So I love when I see something that becomes so singular and distinct. Plus, I just think that Hedi has kind of got it going on.
Do you feel like L.A. fashion is being taken more seriously?
I think people in L.A. spend a lot of money on fashion. People wear it very emblematically because of the attachment to Hollywood. I feel like L.A. has always been a very potent element in fashion, even when fashion itself wanted to snub its nose at L.A. I live here and I’m happy here, and I also like being a little bit to the left side of the fashion nucleus. It’s something that’s very healthy because I can just do my work and concentrate on it. I’m like a little farmer. I grow my vegetables and bring them to the market and go back to my farm for another season.