23 Jun Director Vlad Yudin speaks on JEREMY SCOTT: THE PEOPLE’S DESIGNER in The New York Times!
FLORENCE, Italy — “He’s the funniest man in the fashion industry,” Katy Perry said backstage at the Moschino show Thursday, held in a series of frescoed salons of the fabled Palazzo Corsini here alongside the Arno. She was talking about her old pal, the designer Jeremy Scott.
“Actually, Jeremy’s one of the only ones in fashion with a sense of humor,” she said, adding that since no one in fashion is charged with curing cancer or plotting a Mars exploration, it wouldn’t hurt to stop every once in a while for a some yuks: “Lighten up!”
All around Ms. Perry, a collection of shirtless muscular male models were loafing. Smooth as statuary, they were adorned with the hairdresser Paul Hanlon’s interpretation of 18th century coiffures, to which the makeup artist Tom Pecheux had added carmined lips and Casanova-style domino beauty spots.
“The inspiration is varied,” Mr. Scott had said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles a week earlier, referring to his debut men’s wear collection for a label that, since it named him designer in 2014, he has rescued from the commercial doldrums and put into turnaround. “It’s, like, from baroque to rococo to Louis XIV to professional cyclists to Jimi Hendrix, with maybe a nod to Prince in there, and a little bit of ‘Staying Alive.’ ”
Ever the Pop maximalist, Mr. Scott put on a show that mixed court shoes with knee breeches, added punning patches to motocross jackets, and offered bikini bottoms and trousers emblazoned with cartoonish motifs, as well as a selection of women’s clothes that were the runway equivalent of cartoon thought balloons.
If it was not a triumph, exactly, it was a wittily commercial collection that served to alert his detractors that Mr. Scott, a perennial next big thing, has definitively arrived.
“A lot of designers approve the wedding of Moschino and Jeremy,” said Michel Gaubert, the superstar D.J. who has provided the music for Mr. Scott’s shows since 1998. The reasons are clear, said Mr. Gaubert: “It’s his way of doing things, his perceptions of the pop culture phenomenon, the fact that he is not afraid of doing irony.”
Michelle Stein, the United States president of Aeffe, the Italian holding company that counts Moschino among the labels in its portfolio, put the sentiment in more starkly commercial terms. “Jeremy has worked out very well, obviously,” Ms. Stein said following the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center gala, fashion’s Super Bowl, for which Mr. Scott dressed Ms. Perry (he also designed her costumes for the actual Super Bowl), as well as Madonna.
“He was the ideal choice in retrospect, since he possessed many of the characteristics that Franco possessed,” Ms. Stein added, referring to the label’s wittily rebellious founder, Franco Moschino, who died of AIDS in 1994. “Jeremy has a tongue-in-cheek approach to pop culture and his ear to the ground unlike anyone else’s,” she said, adding flatly: “We’re also doing 10 times what we did before the hire in terms of sales.”
To a certain extent that owes to Mr. Scott’s shrewd exploitation of social media, an arena in which, like Ms. Perry, he cultivated a huge international base of followers. When Ms. Stein said soon after Mr. Scott’s appointment that she had hired him less for his design skills than for his Instagram presence in developing markets, she was only half-joking.
“He may be an underdog that is finally getting his proper respect from the fashion world, but he has full respect from the pop world, “ said Vlad Yudin, director of “The People’s Designer,” a documentary about Mr. Scott set for theatrical release later this year. “Kids gravitate to something in him. It’s almost like a movement. Teenagers really follow him.”
The justice of that is not lost on the designer, who was born in 1974 and raised on a farm outside Kansas City, Mo., and who was, by all accounts, a born eccentric.
Long before he attended Pratt Institute for fashion design, showed a first collection in Paris based on paper hospital gowns that brought him to the attention of Karl Lagerfeld and the fashion establishment (which alternately embraced and derided him) and set out on a career that either delighted or rankled the critical and commercial establishment with controversial collections full of pop referents and cultural critique, he was the archetypal flamboyant high school loner. Bullies victimized him every day.
“There was not a week in high school that I was not attacked physically or verbally,” Mr. Scott said Thursday following a dress rehearsal for his show. “Someone was hitting, or punching, or throwing something at me based on how I looked. But it’s not like I think about it anymore.”
Still, when Mr. Scott learned last March of Morgan Ball, another Missouri high school student who had been summoned to the assistant principal’s office for questioning about “gender identity issues” because he wore tiger print blazers, sparkly ties and gloves to school, Mr. Scott contacted the 17-year-old to express his support. He also alerted his friend, Ms. Perry, to a controversy that soon developed its own hashtag and a viral audience: #ClothingHasNoGender
Tweeting about the incident to her 71.2 million followers (“Saw your story @MogonoloBall and wanted you to know that I’m standing with you in spirit on Monday. Also lemme borrow that shawl!”) as much out of solidarity with Mr. Scott as anything else, Ms. Perry added her endorsement of Morgan Ball to the that of classmates and teachers who were near unanimous in supporting his officially unacceptable expressions of identity.
“Jeremy and I have the same rules for life: equality, acceptance and empathy,” Ms. Perry said Thursday, as a crowd that included the designer Alberta Ferretti, the rapper ASAP Rocky, the artist Francesco Vezzoli and hundreds of the fashion faithful filed into the frescoed salons of the Corsini palace and took their places in gilt ballroom chairs. “He is completely truthful, and when I need to ask a real question, I ask him,” she said.
He also shares with her a sunny pop sensibility, said Ms. Perry, who as the new advertising face of Moschino obligingly posed for photographers wearing a Moschino billboard dress and holding a Scott-designed handbag in the shape of a stiletto heeled shoe.
Dressed in the embroidered sweatpant knickers and sequined pumps that practically count as Normcore on a designer who once went around New York wearing cornrows and kimonos and with rapper grills on his teeth, Mr. Scott seemed startlingly unruffled for a designer making an important debut.
“You know, Karl once said to me, ‘There was a world before pop,’ and I was, like, ‘Wow, pop is the only world I’ve ever known,’ ” said Mr. Scott before Thursday’s show, referring to his former mentor, Mr. Lagerfeld. “I want people to see humor in my designs. There are so many serious things happening that if I can leave people laughing at a tennis shoe sprouting wings or a perfume bottle that looks like a Teddy bears, I’ve done my job.”