Jumping from interview to interview, show rehearsals for the Mugler Autumn Winter 2012 runway show and presumably getting a bit of sleep and something to eat, Nicola Formichetti is a somewhat of a “bright spark” despite his rather rumpled features.
As the opening show for Audi Fashion Festival Singapore 2012, Mugler is the hottest ticket in town, more for its creative director’s connection to pop superstar Lady Gaga than for its super-structural modernist take of sexy dressing.
An animated man: Creative director of Mugler, Nicola Formichetti, in conversation before his show at Audi Fashion Festival 2012. Images: Wesley Kow
Still, as the creative director of the brand Nicola is an engaging, and engaged, individual. He’s interested in just about everything and anything and brings a unique take to the world of fashion, particularly Asian fashion, with his “global citizen” background.
Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and an Italian father, Nicola is the epitome of the new multilingual, multi-talented, interdisciplinary generation of 30-somethings that currently seem to be running the creative worlds of fashion, music and art.
After a childhood in Japan, high school in Italy and a vague attempt to study architecture in London, Nicola took a job at edgy store Pineal Eye, where he ended up doing everything from cleaning the windows to doing displays and serving customers. This was his “fashion school” and he doesn’t shy away from admitting he has no formal “fashion” training; what he does have is an appreciation for good construction, good fabrics and innovative technology.
Although Nicola has been interviewed by just about half the world’s fashion press – a good third of them currently in Singapore for AFF2012 – he still has something interesting to say.
We grabbed a quick 15 minutes with the man of the moment right before the Mugler show and asked a few questions. We didn’t get answers to all of them, but Nicola’s tangential thoughts proved to be just as interesting.
What’s your opinion on the real impact of Asia on the European fashion industry? Is the current interest just a token one, or motivated by economics?
Finally! This is the Asian century; the interest is real but it’s more about a new sensibility [regarding] Asia. It’s not too full on like in the 80s [referring here to the wholesale use of “Orientalist” motifs].
I’m working with Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto [famous Japanese composer, record producer and actor who starred in Madonna’s Rain video and has worked with Iggy Pop, David Byrne and David Bowie – Sakamoto created the Mugler AW2012 show soundtrack] … and although his stuff was composed in the 80s it sounds so modern, so now. It’s like the 80s was too early [for the times].
Why do you think designers are often still looking to the past for inspiration, recreating similar shapes?
You need to see where you’ve been so you can move into the future. Sure, we don’t wear spacesuits now like [we thought we would] but that’s because what we thought the future would be; isn’t. Our now, our future is more about the “inside”, it’s a bit Buddhist. People are more interested in something that’s very centred, more spiritual. The future will come from things like fabrics that don’t need to be stitched, from technology.
I do wonder about there not being a single defining look for this century, though. Maybe it’s more like a graphic, like a Tumblr page or something like the iPhone, not really about a fashion look. Oh, all those designs, like Apple, are all Japanese – more Asian influence.
How can young fashion designers, in fact all fashion designers, convince people to be more adventurous in their fashion choices?
I’m one of these people who are always looking at everything, it doesn’t matter where it comes from – the US, China, Japan, Brazil. [Designers] have to just keep putting [their work] out there. That’s why the internet and social media, Twitter, Instagram, are so important. I find amazing things for Gaga from all over the world just by searching for “funny dresses” – I found this guy in Rome who does amazing couture, he’s been doing it for 30 years and it’s just crazy.
What’s the one fashion innovation you’d really like to see in the next five years?
Fabrics. And the way pattern-making is done. We have to invent new ways of [cutting] patterns for new looks. And I want technical, new types of fabrics. I’ve approached a few companies to talk about doing some creative work on new concepts; and they seem very interested.
With the last question partially answered, and a few more random asides about fashion, Asia and Singapore – Nicola thinks that Singapore is a bit like the city in the movie Blade Runner: “It’s so perfect, it’s like watching Blade Runner” and that it’s wonderful that there’s lots of money in the region and people seem to love shopping – he was whisked away to his next, upteenth interview. But he left with a quick hug, a photo and a great smile on his face.
The Mugler Autumn Winter 2012 show opened the Audi Fashion Festival on Wednesday, May 16, at the Tent @ Orchard. For more information about the Audi Fashion Festival go to audifashionfestival.com.