Nicola Formichetti has been on a roll lately. He just opened his pop-up shop, Nicola’s, on Walker Street in Tribeca to great fanfare (and a bangin’ party), selling everything from stuffed pandas to Gaga memorabilia to, now, Uniqlo. Today, Nicola’s became host to Formichetti’s new collaboration line with the Japanese mega-brand (for whom he’s the fashion director), a sportswear line called The Innovation Project that uses Uniqlo’s highly developed fabrics to make basic, easily wearable clothing.
It’s quite a departure from Formichetti’s usual robots-in-bondage type stuff; cranberry puffy nylon winter parkas, lime green HeatTech fleece pullovers and snowy white windbreakers don’t exactly scream the kind of stuff he’s been doing for Thierry Mugler. The attention to detail does, however, like the zippers which can pull apart Hulk-style to make shedding layers easier on athletes. The price point is fitting for the pop-up as well; prices don’t rise above $200, even for the parkas.
I got the chance to chat with Formichetti about his partnership with Uniqlo, his store, and what he has planned for the future (hint: he’s working on his own brand!).
Tell me a bit about this Uniqlo line; it’s very different for you. Why did you decide to do it?
Well we had three main people–I’m the style director, Naoki Takizawa is the designer and Kashi Wasato is the creative director– all controlling the vision. I was really interested in it because normally I do crazy stuff and this is so much sportier. It wasn’t about silhouettes, it was about how can we push this fabric. Functional fabric. I’m interested in that as much as Gaga’s shoulder pads. I love street wear and casual wear. Also, it keeps me fresh, to go from one extreme to another. I’m in Japan all the time and get to see the power of Uniqlo there. It’s so loved in Japan and I want to show that in America. They care about people. It’s not expensive but it’s very good quality, and they’re always about pushing the new technology in fabric. So this is a first glimpse of what we want to do on a bigger scale.
Where do you see this going from here?
Definitely working more with the Innovation Project. Now I’m thinking I want to make a classic suit but with this fabric, so you can actually go under the snow but still be fabulous. Or maybe a beautiful dress.
So you don’t always have to look like a puffball?
Exactly, yeah, who wants to look like a big puffy Sumo? You want to be stylish when you’re doing sports, too. This is an introduction and I’m really excited. And they’re opening the store next month [the Uniqlo Fifth Ave flagship] which is where this will be sold.
How is it going so far with your store–are people coming in?
Well we were really worried no one would come! But it’s been so successful. BOFFO is a non-profit so it’s great to do something that is more than just fashion; to have these events where you can meet people, or where we invite people to have breakfast with me. We did it because it’s a pop-up store–if it we were here a whole year we’d have to think about merchandising, and we don’t really care about what’s selling. It’s just for fun. And I think that’s why it’s working—because we have no agenda, because we’re not about making money. We’re actually thinking, now, of doing more with this: other cities, other places have made offers. And we’re starting the online shopping tomorrow, at Nicolaspopupshop.com.
I heard you had something digital in the works. Can you tell me about that?
Basically, I was working on my first idea for my own collection, my own brand under my name, and I want to launch it next year. And I thought, “What is it?” Because I do so many different things and this is so special to me, and I always want to push and move forward. When I met the people from the computer company I was completely fascinated by the sophisticated technology and I was like, “That’s it.” I want to make a collection virtually that you can only buy virtually.
Only online. I don’t know how it’s going to work out yet. You know, I’m learning, still. I set a time for next year when I’ll launch my label. It took the programmers three weeks to work on one outfit–20 people on just one outfit! I worked with a virtual pattern cutter, a virtual designer, a virtual programmer. It’s very very complicated and very expensive. But now they know how to do it, so it’s ‘click’ and change colors, or whatever.
Was Rick [Genest, Zombie Boy] a part of this as well?
Totally! People always said to me, from the beginning, “Oh yeah he’s just a one-hit wonder, what else are you going to do with him, he’s just one look.” And I’m like, “What?” Same for Gaga. When you’re creating for an artist, from one album to another, you change your look, right? But when we were working on the new Born This Way we thought how she loves her hair, her shoulder pads. We’re not going to change anything—just evolve. My point is, he’s part of my vision, so we wanted to create something that was him just a little…pushed. So we created this avatar. And it was so cute when he was playing with himself, you know, in the game! [Ed. note: Formichetti is talking about an interactive video that he collaborated on with CCP Games for his pop-up featuring Genest walking down a space shuttle runway.]
It’s so interesting the way you make your projects interactive.
Yes, imagine if you could make your avatar in that kind of sophisticated way. I’m not talking about Nintendo. I mean something sleek, really sophisticated, but then mixed with the idea of Tamagachi, so that you could have your avatar in your phone. And then a new collection comes out and you go ‘click’ and pay and it goes to you on your phone. I think people will be really into that. It’s like Clueless!
Like the revolving electronic closet?
Yes! For me it’s Clueless, Tamagachi and a virtual world. That’s my collection.
We still don’t get it–but we’re sure it will be awesome.