For Jeremy Scott, the Eighties isn’t a cyclical trend to be recalled every few years. The decade shaped his colorful, flamboyant aesthetic beginning in elementary school, while breaking down gender and social mores in a way that he says is especially relevant today. For the designer, being “obsessed” means living the dream: “My fashion sketches as a kid were always of pop stars wearing the designers I was excited about. Lo and behold, that’s still where I am today.” Here, he talks about the decade that keeps on giving:
WWD: Who were your biggest Eighties idols?
Jeremy Scott: My icons were Lisa Bonet and what she was wearing on “The Cosby Show.” I still think she is the most beautiful girl in the world. Another one to whom I attribute a lot of my persona and how I wanted to look was Cyndi Lauper. The fact she was using thrift store clothes in such a brash, fun and unapologetic way really opened my mind at such a young age.
WWD: In what ways did the pop stars of the Eighties influence you?
J.S.: They mixed gender stereotypes in a way that was mainstream. You had Boy George looking like a woman, Annie Lennox dressing like a man, and Madonna flaunting her feminine sexuality in a way that turned the tables on objectifying women from a man’s point of view. It was a really significant time because that pushed fashion so far forward culturally. We needed these icons to make us feel like it’s OK — to give us approval. Also, the fact that Tina Turner made a comeback at what was then considered an advanced age, I feel like you saw a really big breadth of the music scene. And don’t even get me started on the rise of female rappers and all that elevated sportswear.
WWD: Did you feel the same with Hollywood?
J.S.: “Dynasty” was huge for me. These glam, beautiful, seductive women like Linda Evans and Joan Collins were also becoming stars at an older age. [“Dynasty” costume designer] Nolan Miller did so much to shape the way the latter half of the Eighties look. I would attribute more to him than to Claude Montana or Thierry Mugler for pushing shoulder pads. I think about how “Empire” today is doing that same niche. I am always thrilled when they put Taraji P. Henson in my pieces because it’s a totem of our time.
WWD: Were all your icons women?
J.S.: I also think about Pee-wee Herman. I got him on both levels. It was on the one hand so juvenile and colorful but his aesthetic was really the Memphis Group, post-modern look that burst onto the design scene in Italy in 1982. You were also seeing it with Esprit, who worked with designers like Nathalie du Pasquier and George J. Sowden. I think nothing anyone does stands solely alone. When you look back these were all movements. It’s a push and pull, a reaction of design and culture in general at large.
WWD: What years specifically defined the Eighties for you?
J.S.: I don’t think decades end in 0 and 9. It’s more skewed. In 1980, we still had a very Olivia Newton-John “Xanadu” Seventies vibe, but by 1982-83, it was changing and in 1984 it was this big slap. Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” (1989) was also such a defining moment for me. I remember rushing home from school to catch the video. There is no one you can say did more for that movement of underwear as outerwear than her.
WWD: What are some of your other favorite fashion trends from the decade?
J.S.: Men’s suits on a woman, in that context seems very Eighties, particularly the pinstripe suits worn by Annie Lennox and Madonna.
WWD: Why do you think the look of the decade still works today?
J.S.: It was such a rich moment culturally, there was so much diversity and creativity going on, that it made a really strong cocktail. The well is constantly here for us to draw upon.