Shop With Nicola Formichetti, Buy From Zombie Boy
Published September 12, 2011
The young stylist-turned-designer Nicola Formichetti has a Uniqlo campaign, a creative directorship at Mugler, and of course, a direct hand in the rise of Lady Gaga, the world’s largest pop icon. What he doesn’t have (yet) is a store; so when the non-profit Boffo approached him to open a pop-up, where Formichetti could showcase his bespoke creations, Armani archive collection, beloved pandas rendered in cotton and spikes, and mass-produced knickknacks for Little Monsters, he jumped at the challenge.
The idea behind Boffo’s “Building Fashion” initiative is to give young designers without a stand-alone store the opportunity to create their own installation. The program pairs a designer with an emerging architect who creates the interior. Formichetti’s store is much like his aesthetic: jagged, bright, reflective and reminiscent of a ’90s technofetish club. He’s got video games and Gaga collectibles, but leaves room for emerging designers he adores—and space for his frequent collaborator (and now shop-boy), Rico the Zombie. Interview brought him some panda paraphernalia and got a look inside his shop.
LEILA BRILLSON: Okay, would you rather have a bunch of miniature pandas to keep around, or one giant panda?
NICOLA FORMICHETTI: Miniature pandas. Because I can bring them to the different places I can go to and keep them there. I travel so much. I have lots of houses, and hotel rooms.BRILLSON: So it would be better to have a pocket panda?
FORMICHETTI: Yeah! I always have crystals with me. It makes me feel… cooler? I always have crystals, and Japanese charms I buy in shrines in Japan. I have those, and the pandas could be a part of it. But I keep losing them! So I have to have lots of charms. But you are supposed to lose them. They take negative energy and go.
BRILLSON: Why did you choose to work with the architects, Gage/Clemenceau, who built the space?
FORMICHETTI: I’ve been exploring the medium and thinking about the material of the store. I was imagining what it could be, and I kind of had this idea of something reflective…but I wasn’t really sure, because I didn’t know how I wanted to represent it. I have so many ideas. I saw one picture of the Gage/Clemenceau renderings, I instantly got it. I didn’t need to see inside: They were the ones. They spoke to me.
BRILLSON: How was working with them?
FORMICHETTI: I cannot work without them anymore. I’ve asked to work with them on outfits. They’ve completely opened up a new world. Materials… and math and physics. That is so useful to me, as I’m always interested in new things. Computer games, stuff with new technology—they know all that. We are actually working on an outfit together. I told them, “I’m working on this new thing, but I don’t know how to make it,” and they say, “You can use this and this and this!” I’m just like, “Wow.”
BRILLSON: It’s a nice way to combine your cultural knowledge with architecture and physics.
FORMICHETTI: They have good taste. They get it. I was looking for architects for a long, long time. I wanted to find people for Mugler, but I didn’t know where to look. I know where to find young designers, kind of, but I don’t know where young architects are. So when Boffo approached me, they showed me there are young architects around.
BRILLSON: You create these very handcrafted, one-off pieces. What is it like to open up your own store and think about commerce?
FORMICHETTI: Well, I’m not doing this to make money. For me, it was about Boffo and the idea. I know it’s like two weeks before the show, but I have to do it. There are so many young designers who need stock this year, who need my push. With the commerce, the one thing I knew is that I wanted to have things that were affordable. That’s why I did a collaboration with Gizmobies—the phones with the zombie pandas. They are 20 bucks! I was always one of those customers that would go to an amazing store and be like, “Um, what’s the least expensive thing?” That was the most important thing. But lots of easy things, like t-shirts and dresses. It’s not here yet, but we have a printed meat T-shirt. It looks real. It’s printed, and it’s on a really thin tee. I hope people come!
BRILLSON: I think they will! Simply just to see the archive stuff, right?
FORMICHETTI: Yeah, because I want people to just see and touch it. And think it exists, and it’s real. It’s not just a digital thing. I also want to meet my followers on Twitter and Facebook. I really connect with them. It’s crazy. I never connect with them, unless they go to Gaga concerts.
BRILLSON: You have a great Tumblr. I follow it religiously.
FORMCHETTI: I’m launching a new website Sunday—nicolaformichetti.com—it’s going to be very visual and showcase Mugler and all the work I’ve done.
BRILLSON: What can you tell me about new Mugler?
FORMICHETTI: Well, not to let you down, but we really want to show off the clothes. It was important to show the clothes, and we’re ready. Because of the spectacular show last season (with Lady Gaga) people didn’t really see that we actually had clothes. So it is more subdued. I know it’s boring, but it’s more about the clothes.
BRILLSON: Maybe that’ll be more shocking?
FORMICHETTI: Maybe. I don’t actually want to shock people though. I mean, yes, of course. I made a gun bra. Yeah, there’s a boy covered in tattoos. But I really believe in it. It’s not like I’m doing anything for the sake of it. I’m not really into S&M personally, I don’t really do it in my personal life, but I think it’s so beautiful. I love the idea of bondage and leather.