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Nicola Formichetti: “There will be a backlash”

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Nicola Formichetti
Short Profile

Name: Nicola Formichetti
DOB: 31 May 1977
Place of birth: Tokyo, Japan
Occupation: Fashion designer

Nicola, you once said that fashion is boring to you. Is that still the case?

Yes. I mean, I love fashion but the fashion system is something that I really detest. It’s something I’m trying to go against because I feel like so many people in the industry are just slaves to the system. We have so many collections to make, so many products, products that people don’t need; it’s just all about sell, sell, sell. And that’s not why I wanted to be in fashion in the first place. More and more there’s this idea of just creating for money... Fashion for me was never like that. Before I started working in fashion I loved the fantasy, the dream, the positivity. I loved how fashion could make you stronger. I loved looking at beautiful images, I loved that beautiful clothes could move you. Today the fashion system is just boring.

I think a lot of people think the same thing, even the consumers.

The consumers are like, “What is going on?!” I mean pre-collection, main collection — they can only buy winter in the summertime and summer in the wintertime, and then the holiday collection that they start seeing in October… If it’s really confusing for the people that are actually making it, how confusing is it for the customers, you know? And it’s because of the way we live, because of digital and social media. People’s attention spans are so short that we have to provide new ideas and new clothes and lots of posts, but at the same time, the level of creativity is getting lower and lower and lower.

“Your personal point of view doesn’t matter anymore. That’s why I kind of stepped away from the whole luxury side of fashion.”

It seems to be very difficult to sustain a creative lifestyle when you have to reinvent yourself every couple of months.

Even the most creative person cannot do that! So now, many of my friends are leaving big luxury companies to do their own thing in their own way. Before it was all about the designer, now it’s become more about the brand. It’s about the brand having something new to talk about every day, it’s like content, creating, swapping designers really quickly, not letting designers do their own thing. Your personal point of view doesn’t matter anymore. It’s really, really insane. In a way that’s why I kind of stepped away from the whole luxury side of fashion — I wasn’t in love with it anymore.

Even though you got to explore and push your creativity quite far with your designs?

For me, it was just about making these beautiful and crazy creations. Mugler was really incredible, but I didn’t really think about the business. And that’s kind of my fault too! I didn’t have time or room to grow, so I left. I started thinking, “Okay, I want to start making things that people can actually wear,” — kind of the opposite of what I was doing. So when Renzo approached me to start working at Diesel, it sort of clicked. It’s a huge company but it actually didn’t have much of a digital department when I joined. Now it’s growing, you know, we’re always like geeking online; who’s doing this, always looking at the new technology even though I’m actually not a technology expert at all.

Really?

People think that I am but I just use social media like you, like anyone else, I’m just not scared to say that we should do it, I’m not scared of doing new things. At Mugler, we were the first ones to work with Twitter, we made the whole backstage completely live. Even before that I did casting for Uniqlo on Facebook and before that, I did the McQ casting on Myspace. For me, it was just a great tool and that’s it.

“Bloggers don’t really know anything, the only thing they know is how to take a selfie!”

Are you concerned with how social media is being used these days? It can definitely no longer just be considered just a tool.

It’s really terrible! The people that I work with are mostly millennials — 16, 17, 18 — the younger the better! I love working with young people, of course, but I look at them and sometimes it’s a little too much, it’s like their life is based on that square of Instagram: how many likes they can get, how many followers they can get. People are actually saying, “That photo got less likes than the other photo so this photo must be worse than the other one.” Even when I work with casting agencies they send me models with their number of Instagram followers and I’m like, “What the fuck, I don’t care!” Like, if they have similar girls next to each other, if one of them has more followers is she a better model?

From a business perspective, sadly yes…

That’s ridiculous! That is so ridiculous. At the very beginning I loved it when bloggers started integrating into the fashion, when I saw them sitting in the front rows at Fashion Week, I was so excited, like “Yes! All the young kids, they’re going to change this industry.” A few years later they’re just dead, they’re so easily bought by the companies. Of course, there are a few great bloggers but overall it’s just flat. They don’t really know anything, the only thing they know is how to take a selfie! I think it’s a bit ridiculous, you know, I was always more of a backstage person anyway, a behind the camera person. Then the whole Gaga thing happened and everything changed.

In terms of attention?

Suddenly people were commenting on my work or criticize how I looked. It’s literally like going back to school, it’s like cyberbullying, it’s terrible and it puts you in fear of something you don’t have and you want something better. I got so depressed and so upset and then I started writing back like, “Who the fuck are you? You’re some fucking kid in Mexico! Fuck you, what do you know about fashion?” I had a moment of craziness for a bit! But then I started thinking more clearly, and I realized that at the same time, I’m still getting lots of positive reactions. So I started meeting my fans and followers. That was beautiful. I got over it. Gaga helped me a lot with that. These days I’m like, “I don’t fucking care!” They’re nothing, just numbers. But I still think, like, if I was feeling that, imagine the younger generation who are less experienced? They must feel terrible.

“I remember in the early days fashion gave me strength, and that was so powerful. Fashion doesn’t have that weight anymore.”

That’s true but the positive side is that the younger generation seems to be getting more and more of a voice in the industry like you initially predicted.

Well, the good thing — I probably shouldn’t say this as a person making clothes, but today because of Instagram and social media we are much more educated in how to create an image, how to create an amazing photo, how to make something look great using filters. And I feel like that is changing the way we shop. We don’t want to spend so much money on this one piece because you just want to do one selfie and move on.

Are you concerned about the repercussions of fast fashion?

Sure, I do feel like there will be a backlash towards all of this disposable and meaningless stuff. I think that fashion is going to go more towards — I don’t want to say exclusive because that’s a horrible word — something more special. It has to maintain the dream and the fantasy. If anyone can see everything for free then there will be no fashion, and I want to protect that. I remember in the early days fashion gave me strength, and that was so powerful. Fashion doesn’t have that weight anymore. And that’s why I think it’s very important to do something meaningful, from the messaging to advertisement to actual products.