Catching Up With: Nicola Formichetti

11.17.2011

By Adam Rathe

Fashion designer and editor Nicola Formichetti doesn't really mind playing with meat.

Fashion designer and editor Nicola Formichetti’s photo for the Out 100 features plenty of flesh -- and not all of it is his. The 34-year-old fashion director of Uniqlo and creative director of MUGLER, who designed Lady Gaga's already legendary meat dress for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, posed with raw meat in homage to Francis Bacon's 1954 "Figure With Meat" and John Deakin's 1962 Vogue portraits of him. Here, Formichetti talks about his working relationship with meat, making clothes from vegetables and why he’s hoping to bring back the digital pet.

So, you posed with some gigantic sides of lamb for this photo. What was it like to work with so much raw meat?
I didn't really mind the fact that I was touching meat because the experience I've had with meat outside the kitchen was at the [2010] VMAs. Everyone was like, it will be so smelly, but when you actually work with meat, it doesn’' smell. I was fine about that, but it was more the weight.

What about the weight?
It was so heavy! Basically I could lift it for about 10 seconds and then while I was holding it, the photographer would take pictures. So we had to do that a couple of times. Still, I thought it was nice because I love Francis Bacon and it was homage to Gaga, but in a darker way.

You're a big Bacon fan?
Yeah, I used to go to the French House pub in Soho in London where Bacon used to go have a drink. I would go with my friends and be like, oh my God, Bacon used to drink here. I love his work. And I love to whole concept of this project.

Ever since the meat dress you designed for Lady Gaga became infamous, have you been inundated with offers to work with flesh?
No, never. It was the first time that I was asked to work with meat.

Would you entertain other offers to create culinary couture?
Why not. For me, it’s not just one thing; We should move on from the way that we make clothes with fabric -- it hasn't changed for a long, long time. I always want to try unconventional materials: meat, fish, and vegetables, whatever. That's what I am developing with Uniqlo in Japan.

What are you working on for Uniqlo?
Materials that can be warm in different types of weather, that can be waterproof or go into very cold spaces.

I'm actually going to Japan in a few days to work on the next collections. With Uniqlo it's very different, the way I work. We do basics and we don't really change products; a jacket is a jacket, a shirt is a shirt, we just refine and refine it. We're very interested in using new materials that we're developing so I've been working with scientists, which is really interesting. It might not look like anything exciting, it can look like normal denim, but with denim we use heat-protective materials.

I'm also working with MUGLER on the men's and women's collections, and I’m touring my pop-up store. We're finalizing the cities that we're going to do; we're talking to people in Tokyo, London, Moscow and China.

I've also been working with a digital company, creating fashion for avatars -- I'm really into that whole digital [world.] I want to do something like a Tamagotchi.

Like those digital pets from the ’90s?
I haven't got one, that's why I want to create it. I collect toys from Japan and I play with Barbie dolls and Hello Kitty, and I also play computer games on the iPhone so I thought it would be great. You do everything on your phone now, so it would be great if you could play with your toys on the phone now.

What's your favorite iPhone game?
It's so stupid. I like the Zombie Booth, but that's not really a game.

During your photo shoot you said that you're not an elitist. How does that jive with being a fashion guy?
I try not to think about it too much because for me it's really simple: I work with my team on a project and I share things with everyone and, in the end, end up much happier. People I respected when I was younger and the people I worked with were very much like that. If you're very open and you want to learn more… I know it's not a fashion thing to do, but I'm just not like that.

Tags: OUT100 2011