On the day of the much-anticipated Mugler show, JOYCE.com chatted with CEO Joel Palix, creative director Nicola Formichetti and his muse Rick Genest or Rico the Zombie Boy, as he is more commonly known.
Earlier that day Formichetti opened his first account on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and within hours had accumulated over 2,000 followers.
“We needed Lady Gaga to shout to the world that Mugler is back. It did generate interest and noise in the media. We made the first step, now we focus on the clothes.”
“It was amazing!” says an overjoyed Formichetti. “Being half Japanese and half Italian, I understand some of the Chinese characters, it’s great to connect with our Chinese followers.”
What is even more remarkable is the fact that the majority of Weibo users were probably still in their diapers when Thierry Mugler was in its hey-day. In the late eighties, Mugler was known for his signature wasp-like silhouette and exaggerated shoulders, while his shows merged fashion and entertainment to create a spectacular performance.
When CEO Joel Palix decided to revamp the brand, there were some very big boots to fill.
“I was introduced to Nicola and felt that he was the right fit. We dropped the [brand’s] first name and simply called it “Mugler”,” he remembers. “Since Mulger has always been non-conformist, I felt that the usual practice of hiring a trained fashion designer to lead the brand was not the right approach. Nicola is a stylist, Lady Gaga’s stylist, and he understands what entertainment is about, and we clicked right away.”
In contrast, Formichetti’s initial reaction wasn’t so positive.
“When I was asked to take on the job I was like ‘No Way!’. Thierry Mugler was like God to me, I could never do it better than my hero! I talked about this with Lady Gaga and she said, ‘You are crazy to turn down the job! I’ll be with you all along.’ So I went for it,” he says.
Speaking of Lady Gaga, she’s one the main reasons the brand has amassed such a strong following so quickly, particularly on social media platforms. When she made a special appearance at the Mugler debut show in Paris she created a frenzy. But is it wise to use the fame of an icon to resurrect a redundant label?
“We needed Lady Gaga to shout to the world that Mugler is back. It did generate interest and noise in the media. We made the first step, now we focus on the clothes,” says Palix. “The men’s wear and women’s wear designers Romain Kremer and Sébastien Peigné are gifted young talents. Together with Nicola they are good with the details, fabric, shape and form. I have total confidence in them making their marks with their design.”
There is also one more important character in this new dream team – zombie boy Rico – who has dedicated himself to the art of tattooing. Although his facial expressions were difficult to detect during our interview, he was a surprisingly shy and humble presence. It’s hard to understand how a young boy living on the streets in Montreal became the muse to Gaga’s stylist.
“It’s great. I got to travel around the world, which I never had the chance to do before. I hope to earn some money and experience then go back home and help my friends and family,” he says softly.
After our interview he was approached by a guest to pose for a picture, and he obediently stood up and transformed in front of the camera with a fierce and menacing look.
“He’s great, so professional,” Formichetti interjects, before revealing that he discovered Rico on the internet. “The digital world is great, I get to find interesting people who I would never know otherwise.”
Formichetti wholeheartedly embraces the digital world and had already updated his Weibo page five times by the end of the interview.
“It’s great that I can communicate directly with people. When I was small, I was a huge fan of Michael Jackson, but I could only send letters to some P.O Box. Now I get to show the real me and read what people would like to say to me, without being filtered and accused.
“The papers make up so much rubbish. They say that I hate fat and old people! When people read that, they must have thought that I was a f**king c**t! I think that in one sense the digital world and social media are great as long as one does not get too obsessed with it. It’s the way forward,” he says.