LONDON — It is 48 hours before the Rolling Stones kick off their “50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live” tour and a fiercely focused, articulate Mick Jagger is talking about clothes in an exclusive interview with WWD. So, too, is Jagger’s longtime paramour, L’Wren Scott. After a decade together, it is the first time they’ve ever done a joint sit-down for publication.
Jagger — whose serpentine silhouette put a whole new spin on masculinity — is in full flow about the dramatic impact of 18th century French riding coats; the pleasure — and pain — that came with wearing an Ossie Clark jumpsuit, and the cheesecloth trousers that used to keep him cool onstage.
Yet while he has very clear ideas about how he wants to look onstage, he’s like many other men when it comes to one aspect of dressing. “Men aren’t interested in clothes that look amazing but are fantastically uncomfortable to wear. We’re not into pain — we’re into comfort,” says Jagger with his big grin.
He and Scott are in the thick of final fittings at her King’s Road studio not far from their home in Chelsea and a short walk from Edith Grove, where Jagger once shared a grimy flat with Brian Jones and Keith Richards.
Dressed today in a pair of gray, private-label trousers from the London specialty store Browns, a dark plaid shirt and black Nike trainers, Jagger is disarmingly calm. Sunday night may be fast approaching, but the mood in the room is easy. Scott and Jagger are so clearly comfortable with each other, and so mutually gracious with visitors, they could teach the legions of highly strung, puffed-up celebrities a lesson.
For the moment, both are intensely focused on the tour’s sartorial side. Conversation ranges from a debate over the merits of two Stephen Jones hats, and exactly how roomy a black-and-white patterned jacket needs to be for the famously athletic Jagger to move properly onstage. “When you’re onstage [the costumes] have to fit, and they have to be — for me —glamorous,” Jagger says. “They have to fit in with the show. If you’re doing a small club like we did the other week [in Paris], you don’t want to dress up like a popinjay. If you’re playing in a really big stadium, you want to be in superbright colors, otherwise you just get lost. But if you’re in an arena that’s really well-lit, like we’re going to be in the next few shows, you don’t have to be looking like a Day-Glo.”
Jagger says silhouette and the different shapes he cuts onstage have always been important: “I’ve always done a kind of skinny silhouette because I am skinny; I don’t have to worry about covering up fat bits! So you’ve got to emphasize your silhouette. But then sometimes you want, on top of that, clothes that have movement. So I’ve always done a lot of coats influenced by riding coats of the 18th or early 19th centuries — what the French call ‘red in gote.’ I do those with a small tail. Obviously I’ve done other more mad things. I’ve done capes and things,” he says.
“I think about parts of the show. The show has a beginning, so it’s very important to make an entrance. If there’s a second act where the lights or the scene changes, it’s good to have a different [look]. I don’t get time to change my pants really. So the pants stay. So they’ve got to be supercomfy, and not cause me problems. I might change my coat or shirts,” Jagger adds.
Costume design for maximum impact is just the sort of challenge that fires up Scott, who, before launching her ready-to-wear collection, was a celebrity stylist known for her consummate discretion — and for using clothing to empower her high-profile clients. She is famous for her lean, elegant silhouettes, bold colors and celebrity clientele that includes Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penélope Cruz.
“In a way, when you’re designing for this, you are designing for the stage persona,” Scott says in her studio earlier in the day, before Jagger’s arrival. “So it’s so great when you see [the clothes] come to life and moving — it’s amazing! I’ve worked with lots of musicians — like Tina Turner — and I love when they go in front of the fitting mirror and do their thing, pose, dance. I love that moment! As you know, when Mick performs he takes things off, goes into this other world.”
The statuesque Scott, a Utah native with a major mane of jet-black hair, says working with friends — not to mention one’s living-legend companion — can be a double-edged experience. “The fact that you’re close with someone or friends with them can be good and bad. It’s good that you know their comfort levels, and how far you can push. But, at the same time, you need to avoid having too many emotions and feelings because you have to listen very carefully to their ideas. You have to make sure that your creation, your vision [is in tune with theirs],” she says. “Mick really has his own style, and he is quite opinionated about how he wants to look. At the end of the day, [the performer] has to feel good in it. It’s not you or I dancing and prancing out there.”
Scott, who has designed costumes for Jagger in the past (an entirely separate team, unrelated to her, takes care of the rest of the band), is dressed head-to-toe in her own designs — lace shirt, black skinny jeans, a sweater with gold sequins, a black suede jacket. The only thing that’s not Scott are the Martin Margiela brogues. Her small studio, meanwhile, is overrun with sequins, teal feathers and sparkly jackets, while the storyboards feature images of Jagger throughout the decades — all sweat and vocal chords, messy hair and lips. On a mannequin in one corner, there’s a floor-length, black coat lush with hand-embroidered ostrich feathers and lined in metallic bordeaux lace — a reference to the Walton Ford gorilla design on the band’s latest album cover.
A still-unfinished, floor-length tailcoat with dégradé sequined beading rests on a piece of tissue paper on the floor, while on hangers nearby there’s a long row of shirts: red satin with caviar beading; rose taffeta with gold sequins, purple silk lamé; one with a tromp l’oeil necktie stitched in sequins down the front. Scott is excited about so many of the pieces, from the feather embellishments to the caviar beading to the dishy leather jacket. “It’s got a subtle metallic sheen put on the leather so in the lights it will look really glam rock ’n’ roll. It won’t be sad — I don’t like anything that’s too flat,” she says. She gushes about one of the morning’s latest arrivals — “a short little frock coat with a little bit of tail movement” — and points to another embroidered jacket. “It’s quite fun, like a peacock. He’s sort of like a great peacock, really,” she says.
To a large degree, color inspired the costumes. “I have my teal palette; I have my purple-violet one, I have my dark, my black-and-white,” Scott says. “You can kind of work in your moods, and then you know you’re going to have three or four acts in your show, and it’s going to change, the lighting’s going to change, the vibe’s going to change. I wanted to make a hyper-tailored, glam look that deconstructs as he performs, meaning he keeps taking clothes off, and then maybe throws on some gorilla cape made of feathers — for fun — over a T-shirt. An artist needs his options to tell his story when he is onstage. I just think you’ve got to give choices. That’s how you approach it — the artist needs options.”
Jagger certainly has options galore: Some of the pieces will never be worn, many of the decisions will be made at the last minute, and the costumes will most certainly vary from show to show. He’ll maybe don the gorilla coat for two or three minutes, says Scott, adding that he’ll probably end up wearing three or four jackets and between five and seven shirts during the two-hour show. The outfit that Jagger wore to open the show is what Scott refers to as the black-and-white “zigzag swag” jacket. The silk number takes its cue from the matching houndstooth jackets the Rolling Stones were asked to wear for a TV gig in England in 1964. Jones made the fully zigzagged hat that went with the look. Scott says Jagger wanted a “nod” to one of the band’s earliest performances, but the mood is definitely “modern and now.”
And, back to Jagger’s assertion, comfort matters. He is famous for racing around the stage, swapping a guitar for a harmonica, and changing costumes in a matter of seconds. “He is onstage for two hours. When things are too tight or scratchy, forget about it,” Scott says. With allowing for maximum movement a primary goal, she constructs the clothes meticulously, often with seaming inside the underarm and across the back. “Architecture’s a big part of our design — how to make heavily constructed things that are comfortable,” she says.
The same goes for the brands with which she’s working. J Brand made the jeans to order after Scott whittled 20 styles down to six. “They’re making specific jeans for the show. They have a lot of stretch and are incredibly lightweight. They have to be lightweight. Once we get the fit right we make multiples.” The T-shirts are from Scott’s old friend Rick Owens. They are, she says, “superrefined, soft, and just sit on the body perfectly. They are just beautiful.”
In his 50 years performing, Jagger didn’t always have so many options. Examining the mood boards, he recalls wearing a pair of Giorgio Sant’Angelo cheesecloth trousers from the Seventies. “They were supercomfy pants,” he remembers. “It was boiling. It was really superhot on stage in the old days because the lights were very hot. These days the lights are not so hot.” He also names some of his favorite onstage outfits. “The simple Ossie Clark jumpsuit was very comfortable. But then, there were some that were super-uncomfortable because they had metal holes, and they would scar my skin! So I had to adapt those. The jumpsuit is a very comfortable garment. You zip it up, and don’t have to think about separates, and ‘Does that go with that?’” He points to a picture from a 1969 concert in Hyde Park, where he’s dressed in a billowy shirt that looks like an extra’s outfit from Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet.” “It was like a shirt-waistcoat with big puffy sleeves — very comfortable. I took it off, and I was wearing a singlet.”
Jagger’s offstage style is more low-key: He rehearses for concerts in Nike sweats (his pre-concert workouts run for five days, and he alternates between dancing and the gym). When not sweating it out onstage, he wears jeans “but not denim,” and labels including Lanvin, Rick Owens and Dries Van Noten. And while many may remember him in the three-piece Tommy Nutter suit the day he married Bianca Jagger back in 1971, he’s moved on. Timothy Everest makes his bespoke suits now — as does Scott.
“Shirts, suits, jackets — sometimes I’ll see great fabrics and I’ll just buy them for him and say: ‘I’ve got these beautiful fabrics to make great little jackets or suits for you,’” says Scott.
More than two decades younger than Jagger (she wasn’t even born when the Rolling Stones staged their first concert in 1962 at London’s Marquee Jazz Club), Scott says she hasn’t let herself dwell too much on images of the band through the years, including those in the new book “The Rolling Stones: 50” (Thames & Hudson).
“It’s better that you don’t think about it,” she explains. “But it’s quite fun to be shown the pictures. I really didn’t see them before. As I wasn’t really listening to that music — I didn’t listen to rock ’n’ roll. I do now. I grew up listening to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and lots of blues, R&B and Motown. I was happy to see Mick play with Buddy Guy and BB King [in February at the White House].”
The clock is ticking, and Jagger says he’s “quietly optimistic” about Sunday night. Scott notes that she will watch all the shows from her favorite place — the light booth. “It’s fun — and I’m there just in case a sequin needs sewing, or feathers need replenishing.”