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How Nicola Formichetti Created a Museum of Lady Gaga’s Iconic Looks
Little Monsters flocking to Las Vegas for Lady Gaga's residency Enigma now have another reason to stan. The Park MGM, where Gaga performs her career-spanning spectacle, will open the Haus of Gaga on Thursday, an immersive collection of Mother Monster's most iconic looks. Curated by Gaga's longtime creative director Nicola Formichetti, the exhibit follows the trajectory of the pop icon's 11-year career, with pieces pulled from her personal archive. Inside, fans will get to see the turquoise "Poker Face" bodysuit, the cigarette glasses from the "Telephone" music video, costumes from the Born This Way Ball tour, Ally's "Shallow" performance outfit from A Star Is Born, and even Gaga's iconic hair bow, bobby pins still attached.
During an exclusive preview of the space, Out chatted with Formichetti about the emotional experience of digging through the archives to build this exhibit and why he's excited for Little Monsters to experience pop history up close.
How do you even begin to pick pieces for something like this, when Gaga has so many iconic looks?
It was very hard. We -- collectively at the Haus of Gaga -- were choosing our favorites, fan's favorites and then had this idea of contacting a couple of Little Monsters. So I DM'ed them all and we've been working together with her fans. They're so creative, and actually they keep all the data, the dates, designer. It's all been taken care of for us, so we just ask them, and they would fact check for us. We made this for her fans, collaborating with her fans. For her, and for us too, it's very emotional.
Did any of the looks require any maintenance? A lot of the tour looks, you can tell that they've been worn.
We tried to keep it however it was. That's why we left all the holes and all the worn out things as it is. And then we take that and we tried to keep it as real as possible in the archive. So it's pretty much as it was. Maybe we made the hair look more beautiful, but all the outfits are pretty much how it was.
Tell me about the archive. Is it total chaos in there or is everything very organized?
It's very, very big. Because there are so many items that she's worn and then for some of the tour pieces, we make five of them. Every tour needs a couple of outfits each. Plus all the monsters and disco sticks. We keep everything. It has to be organized. Number organized and room temperature, like amazing temperature for different materials. Of course the meat dress is difficult, but latex is very difficult to preserve. Latex disappears after a few years so we kept them in a very neutral temperature.
What is it like for you revisiting all these looks?
It was very emotional because, of course. It's an amazing art piece, her outfits were so iconic, but we were also doing it backstage and there is a whole story, there is always something going on. The pressure and the excitement. When you put them on a mannequin with a wig on, suddenly, it completes the whole thing and it really brings back the old memories, and yeah we were very emotional yesterday creating it.
Do you have a favorite look in the museum?
No. Of course there are styles that I love which are much more avant garde, but then when you see more comfortable pieces next to it like a Brandon Maxwell piece, it's still her and I think that's her beauty that she can change and evolve in so many different ways. Initially, you wouldn't put an Ally A Star Is Born piece look next to that, but then you'd do it and it makes sense because it's all her. I love that. She has so many different sides and it's always Gaga.
Doing a Vegas show all about an established artist revisiting their career, and bringing it all together in one big show, how does Haus of Gaga fit it with the show itself?
Enigma itself, she's actually talking about her past and the future but in a kind of a digital, computer simulation way. So its her, but glitched and digitized. So that's about her future, past, present. And I wanted to create a bit of an Enigma feeling in this space even though we talk about the past, we wanted to show it in a new way. The neon and the multi-colors, and the rainbows, and the disco, its all kind of built together.
What kind of personal history do some of these pieces have for you?
I love the cigarette sunglasses that we made on the "Telephone" video. Gaga had this idea of cigarette sunglasses and we were like "lets just make it," and we just took someone's cigarettes and we taped it and she wore it. It was a moment, and it's not a proper garment, and it was just made on the spot, and it's falling apart, but I love that.
That's the beauty about entertainment like music. We can capture that moment on the music video we sometimes can't in fashion. It's a completely different process. Today, compared to ten years ago, the music industry and fashion are much more merged together. At that time, when we started, it was actually very unusual to work very closely with fashion and musicians. There were artists like Bjork and Cher and Madonna who were very, very into fashion. But when Gaga came on the scene, a lot of designers were not interested at the beginning to collaborate with us. That's why we wore a lot of McQueen, because McQueen was one of the only people that was like "Sure, we love you." We love McQueen.
Do you ever have moments where you realize that something that you put together on the set of a music video has become an indelible part of pop culture?
Yeah, there were so many. The "Bad Romance" video is the first music video that I ever worked on. When I came in, I was like, "This is very innocent. Like, of course you need a McQueen Armadillo outfit and of course you have to make an outfit covered in cheap diamonds." But then we worked with Frances Lawrence, who's this incredible director. When that thing came out, I was like, "Wow." We merged all these things together and we created something new and it was very impactful. I'd worked on creating avant garde fashion before, but it was on a model and it was for a photo shoot. Gaga made it alive, made it cultural, and that was very incredible. She still keeps doing that. She's incredible.
What do you see for the future of her career and her impact on pop culture?
We've been together for ten years and of course I've done my own thing. She's done her own thing, and we keep evolving. But I was with her last week working on a project and we were like, "We'd never change," we're always like, "Take your scissors, cut the latex, put some safety pins, and just let's go." We're like kids, just trying to do fun stuff. She hasn't changed and I think she's going to keep doing that 'til she's dead. And she likes to surprise people. We have so many incredible projects coming up this year and it's very exciting.
What part of this specific project are you most excited about to have it be open to the public? Is it the Little Monsters being able to come see it?
Yeah, of course. From day one she was always about her fans and I've kind of become very close to them too over the years. And it's so beautiful when people see me or message me online like, "Hey, you know, what you did changed my life." For us, it was very normal to always support the young people or minorities or the people who are confused and encourage them, giving them power. But when they actually tell me that we actually changed their life -- that's so special for me. So yes, I want them to have fun and experience what we created.