An eye for surprise

Updated: 2012-08-05 08:03

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

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An eye for surprise

Lady Gaga's stylist still sees the world with the eyes of a child, he tells Xu Junqian.

He went from being one of thousands of fans barred from an Alexander McQueen fashion show to become the creative director of French fashion house Thierry Mugler. Nicola Formichetti says it took a "childish heart" to walk through the trajectory.

"I am always that little boy looking at everything like a little kid. I try not to think too much and go with my gut feeling," says the 35-year-old fashion director and stylist.

For the past decade, the "childish heart" has earned the half-Italian-and-half-Japanese fashioniasta a CV that includes fashion director of Vogue Hommes Japan, creative consultant of clothing company Uniqlo, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, and perhaps, most notably, the stylist that dresses Lady Gaga, if not defines the world's most controversial fashion diva.

"For me, she's such a good friend and inspiration," he tells China Daily from backstage at the debut show of Mugler in Asia at the Audi Fashion Festival in Singapore.

The son of an Italian pilot and a Japanese stewardess, he inherited "his fashion DNA" from his mother. Formichetti started as a shop assistant in a boutique store in London, thrilled to have moved to the city of his favorite fashion designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivien Westwood. He reached his breakpoint when he was invited to write a monthly column called "Eye Spy" by the Dazed and Confused magazine in his early 20s.

But it wasn't until his collaboration with Lady Gaga in 2009, first at a photo shoot for V magazine, that his name became widely known in the crowded industry.

"When I first met Gaga, she was still outside (the mainstream), and so was I. But there was an instant love between us," he says.

"She's fabulous, you know, she's great, I mean, thank God for her, thank God that someone is taking risks and trying to make us dream and fantasize. I think she represents the kind of bad kids that we all have inside and the representation of that punk, couture woman that we all wanna aspire to."

But apparently, that kind of "aspiration" wasn't universal before the name of Lady Gaga meant something in the musical world. Formichetti recalls that he had to lie about whom he was borrowing the clothes for because those big brands didn't want their attire on the "vulgar club singer".

With the surprise success of her albums and those avant- garde music videos, the duo became more and more "adventurous", making dresses out of everything you can think of. Raw beef, for instance, which is commonly referred to as the "meat dress" and probably the most jaw-dropping look of Lady Gaga.

"Everything inspires me, the people I work with, the people I chat with online," Formichetti says. "And with Gaga, the weird thing is we can always understand each other, sometimes even without words. It's just natural and comfortable, and I like working with creative people like her to always make something the world has never seen."

After taking over the house of Mugler in 2010, "the big fan" of the founder of the house continued his mix-and-match "boundlessly creative style". He changed the brand name from "Thierry Mugler" into a simpler "Mugler", introduced a men's collection and worked with Sebastien Peigne for the women's wear.

In Mugler's fall/winter 2012 collection showed in Singapore, for example, Formichetti and Peigne introduced a range of one-piece dresses with strong but simple architectural lines and bright colors, partly an homage to Mugler's insect-inspired collection in 1997 and partly a tip of the hat to Formichetti's Asian origin.

"I mix more meaning inside this time, which is Asia, it's the aspect of Asia," he says, noting he used the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto's music as background for his show.

"The collection we just did is different from the one we did in Paris. We made it simpler and a bit cooler, and we also put on few more dresses that we didn't show in Paris," he adds.

Although the Mugler line is yet to be sold in the Chinese mainland, Formichetti has eyed it as an important market, planning to do more exclusive events in China.

For himself, the "big boy" has already has his finger in the pie of China with his "Nicopanda".

"I love panda - people used to call me bear. Since I am an Asian bear, I am a panda. So there is the Nicopanda," he says excitedly as he shows the black-and-white panda ring from his own young fashion line, with a panda tattoo on his arm.

In May, Formichetti launched the "panda line" in the Lane Crawford store in Hong Kong, and one month later, he brought it to Beijing.

Contact the writer at

Wu Danli contributed to the story.

An eye for surprise

(China Daily 08/05/2012 page13)