Remember the 1984 quote from Madonna to Dick Clark on American Bandstand? Many of you weren’t born then, so here’s a reminder. Madonna had just recorded her first album and performed for the first time on American Bandstand when Dick Clark asked “What are your dreams? What’s next?” Madonna smirked coyly and replied, “To rule the world.”
By all accounts, Lady GaGa is the new Madonna. No, wait… GaGa is the new Grace Jones. No, wait…Gaga is the new…well, whatever you like, really.
But there is no question that she has at least taken some cues from these female pop icons who paved the way and basically wrote the book on how to rule the pop and fashion worlds simultaneously.
The very first step is, ‘Get a great look’. And the very best way to do this is to go directly to the source. Find the right fashion people to work with and create that look. And then hire an actual fashion photographer to shoot your album/cd covers.
The list of fashion photographers with whom Madonna has worked over the years includes such industry giants as Mario Testino, the late Herb Ritts and the very brilliant Steven Meisel. Grace Jones worked regularly with Jean Paul Goude (who also happened to be her boyfriend at the time). Together they created some of the first ever music videos, which were, in essence, short art films. These ladies set the bar and, they set it HIGH.
GaGa’s choice of photographer is an interesting one. Hedi Slimane is responsible for the lovely, iconic black and white portait of the singer peeking out from behind the collar of a slick patent coat, among others. Fashionphiles will recognize this name instantly. Hedi Slimane is not just any old photographer, but an actual, bona-fide, in-the-flesh fashion designer turned photographer. Slimane was originally appointed to design the Yves Saint Laurent menswear collection when YSL himself stepped down. (Subsequently, Tom Ford took over and ousted Slimane).
Not down for long, Slimane was soon hired to design menswear at Christian Dior. Under his brilliant creative direction, the new look of Dior Homme revolutionized men’s fashion, and instantly became the most coveted menswear brand in the entire universe – with bands like Franz Ferdinand sporting his signature skinny suits on stage and in music videos and Hollywood starlets like Nicole Kidman modeling a slimmed down version of said suit in the pages of American Vogue. Dior Homme was simply the epitome of COOL. And so was Slimane himself. At one point, Karl Lagerfeld even proclaimed that the reason he had been motivated to lose so much weight was in order to be able to wear Dior Homme.
The legions of fans became a clan, the clan became a cult, and the cult grew, until all that really existed in the world of men’s fashion was Dior Homme by Hedi Slimane. The world has Slimane to thank for the whole skinny jeans phenomenon and post-grunge/neo-grunge thing. Essentially, the whole hipster scene evolved out of the Dior Homme look. Slimane’s work has helped to define a generation of young men. Defining the look of a pop star would be a piece of cake in comparison. Since his departure from his post at Dior in 2007, Slimane has occupied himself with various creative endeavours, including designing furniture, guest editing magazines and – yes – taking pictures. He has published a book of his photos of musicians, who he always said inspired his work.
Check! We’ve got a great fashion photographer on board. Now we need access to all the greatest fashions of the world. Who can get us access to everything and pick out the coolest, most interesting pieces…even having stuff made, if necessary? Enter Nicola Formichetti, fashion stylist extraordinaire.
Born to a Japanese father and an Italian mother, and usually referred to as Nic by his associates, Formichetti is the man behind the curtain, pulling it all together. Some of Nic’s prior projects have been runway shows for Gareth Pugh, cashmere ‘monsters’ for Uniqlo, and he is a regular contributor to V Man, I-D mag, and creative director of Dazed and Confused. A very busy man, he also works regularly on shoots with Hedi Slimane (quelle coincidence, no?).
Thanks to Formichetti, Lady Gaga’s wardrobe is full of pieces from major fashion houses, as well as up and coming or little known designers, ranging from Prada, Margiela, and the late, great McQueen, to people who push the boundaries like Gareth Pugh, French designer Romain Kremer, and hat designer Nasir Mazhar. Going even beyond the album cover, they work together on editorial shoots for magazines, on music videos, live performances, and wardrobe for award shows and public appearances.
Acccording to an interview with the UK Times, the two “fell in love”, as he puts it. “I became part of Haus of Gaga, the group of creative people around her. Together, we create her outfits for everything. We come up with tour ideas and music videos. We just shot the Bad Romance video. I put all the fashion credits on my blog, then Gaga twitters about it. It’s like a living fashion magazine.”
*Detailed fashion credits for all of Gaga’s clothing and accessories can be found on Nicola Formichetti’s personal blog – http://nicolaformichetti.blogspot.com/.
Currently in the works, a fashion label, aptly called ‘Haus of GaGa’. It will be interesting to see who she collaborates with for that project.