“He was one of the reasons I moved to London,” Formichetti remembers. McQueen’s designs had already appeared in The Face and i-D, and the young expat was determined to move closer to his orbit. “One day I was walking with my friends in Shoreditch, East London, when they pointed at a building and said, 'Hey, that’s where that famous designer Alexander McQueen works'. There was a bin bag sitting outside, which we opened to see what we could find.” (There was nothing of note). Formichetti supported himself by dressing the windows at The Pineal Eye, which The Independent described as “crammed with one-off fashion items from cutting-edge designers, second-hand Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto sourced from Japan, cult accessories and magazines”. There, Formichetti met the stylist Katy England from Dazed and Confused, who offered him a monthly style page in the magazine, which he called Eye Spy. Ten years later, he became the magazine’s creative director. The supreme allegorical truth of being a misfit—as Disney has discovered—is that dissent is heroic, and storming the kingdom is the final triumph of the baseborn. “The idea of luxury is very old-fashioned, very snobbish,” Formichetti reflects, “and I don’t come from that”. He is most often noted as the stylist and conspirator to Lady Gaga, whose delirious costumes transformed her into a holy terror with seismic cultural power. Seemingly original and singular, her style in fact drew from a long feminine tradition that made fashion seem deific and authority seem blasé. Disney’s sugar-spun leading ladies, like Cinderella; its changelings, like Ariel; and its heroines, like Mulan, all refused to submit to overarching powers and, when threatened with reproof, sustained themselves with fearless self-possession. Formichetti studied them well. “When I style someone, it’s not to make them beautiful,” he says, “I like to push the idea of what they could be”.
When I style someone, it’s not to make them beautiful,” he says, “I like to push the idea of what they could be
Formichetti now works closely with American rapper Brooke Candy, who he first discovered in a music video by Canadian singer Grimes. “I thought, 'Who is this crazy looking person?' I tweeted her and then we started chatting and doing shoots,” he recalls. Formichetti arranged the fashion for her Opulence music video, released in April of 2014. In the clip’s belly, Candy zooms down a tunnel as lights race and recede behind her. As each frame flickers she adorns a different piece of headgear: studded horns, hysterical mops, bejewelled antlers, and then, most impressively, a crown fluted like a pillar, which glistens obscenely. In September of 2014, Formichetti styled Candy for the cover of Paper magazine. Her hands, folded as if in prayer, emerge from a leather sheath excrescent with jewels. She appears to assume the role of a catacomb saint: a conduit and parade float with fleeting beauty and eternal vanity. “I hate the word ‘styling’. Anyone can style. My mum can style,” Formichetti says. “It’s just me creating—I hate that word too!”