THE INNOVATORS

These eight changemakers are unparalleled in their contributions to their industries — and they're out while they're doing it.

BY Advocate Contributors

August 10 2011 4:00 AM ET

NICOLA FORMICHETTI XLRG (TERRY TSIOLIS) | ADVOCATE.COMNicola Formichetti
34 • New York & Tokyo
Fashion

"I don’t know why I keep pushing, pushing.” Nicola Formichetti is in Japan and trying to figure out how to respond to a very upsetting profile article in W magazine in which he says he was misquoted about never again wanting to work with fat people.

Total fabrication, he says, horrified: “I’ve always looked for people who don’t look like models. I do work with fat people. You can quote me on that.”

It’s clear that he has a lot of energy and will likely bounce back from this setback in high style. Formichetti’s current slate of projects — a testament to that seemingly boundless energy — requires a bit of a list: he is creative director of Mugler (the design house previously known as Thierry Mugler — he changed the name); fashion director for avant-garde pop sensation Lady Gaga; fashion director at Vogue Hommes Japan, arguably now the most influential Japanese-language style manual in the world; and fashion director at chic international retail chain Uniqlo. But that barely scratches the surface of the volume of work he undertakes, consulting for brands and styling and directing dozens of photo shoots.

This is quite the heady résumé for a young man of Italian and Japanese heritage with no formal design training. It was working in a boutique to earn some cash that introduced Formichetti to fashion industry people and landed him a job as a style columnist for Dazed & Confused magazine. The rest of his career seems to have been propelled by a mix of sheer will and audacity.

But it is his collaboration with Lady Gaga that has made his innovative style — from populist to pretentious, exotic to absurd — into a worldwide phenomenon. The two became friends before she found international fame, and it was Gaga who urged him to take the top job for Mugler.

Hardly one to do the expected, Formichetti created a short film, Brothers of Arcadia, as a sort of moving inspiration board, a sensual Caligula- and Pasolini-inspired sketchbook for his Mugler men’s collection, the design house’s first. Porn site XTube is the only place that would take the full version, so he’s embraced the site and plans to direct a more explicit porn film as well.

“I didn’t know anything. I just did it — I had no fear,” he says about jumping feet first into fashion. “I’m just kind of naive.… I want the world to love me and my work, but it’s unreasonable.” —Matthew Breen 

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