When I arrive at Nicola Formichetti’s New York studio, located on a quiet street in the no man’s land between Tribeca and Chinatown, I’m greeted by a chaotic production scene and a whole lot of very stylish, very busy-looking Chinese people. Photographers are zigzagging around the space, women with clipboards are running after them, everyone’s iPhones are out and ablaze. Apparently, Chinese pop star Momo Wu (and her extensive entourage) is here filming a segment with Formichetti, whom I spot patiently posing for pictures while being shouted at in Mandarin. I’m quickly ushered into the metallic calm of a waiting elevator and whisked up to the designer’s fourth-floor loft.
When the elevator doors open, I find myself face to face with a different kind of frenzy. Compared to the clean-lined studio downstairs, which calls to mind a Tokyo gallery with its minimal decor and silver sculptures on display, Formichetti’s private space is an unexpected explosion of youthful exuberance and unadulterated kawaii. Seeing this wonderland of tropical plants, fuzzy shag rugs and colourful plush toys, I can’t help but smile, despite the sensory overload. I don’t know what I expected of the radical former Mugler designer’s New York pad (a sinister-looking crown on the mantel perhaps? A lace and latex settee?), but a rainbow-coloured cartoon fantasy was not it.
When Formichetti appears a few minutes later, he is equal parts bemused and bewildered. “It’s crazy down there!” he proclaims. “Did you see all those people? I must have had 10 cameras facing me!” Momo Wu has come to woo him, he explains as he collapses onto a pink and purple sofa upholstered in a whimsical Japanese fruit and flower print. He settles in between a stuffed Tarepanda doll and a Rilakkuma pillow. “She wants to work with me,” he shrugs. “Apparently, she’s
the Lady Gaga of China.”
Formichetti may be best known as the former stylist (and still bestie) of Lady Gaga, but these days he’s got more on his mind than meat gowns, feather headdresses and bubble-machine minis. As fashion director at Uniqlo and recently appointed artistic director at Diesel, it seems the boundary-pushing designer is going back to basics. “I’m very interested in the fantasy side of fashion, but at the same time I’ve always been into street culture,” he says. “Diesel is in between »