Boys, Bears, And Beards: Sitting On A Stoop With Nicola Formichetti

When we first arrived at Nicola Formichetti‘s pop-up shop — aptly named Nicola’s — we were totally disoriented. It may have been the Fashion Week-induced exhaustion or the fact that we were in desperate need of a snack, but it was probably the trippy floor-to-ceiling geometric mirrored space. Yes, even the floor is mirrored. We were then further disoriented when we sat on a stoop and hung out with none other than Nicola himself.

We had asked a PR assistant if we could ask the jack-of-all-trades fashion mastermind a few questions, and were told “Of course!” As we wandered around the store waiting for our turn, we peeped Mugler and Uniqlo and vintage Versace and jewelry made of teeth. We snacked on a red bean bun (that was a solid catering choice, by the way). We decided the store’s decor reminded us of the Jeff Koons Celebration series. We made our way back to the makeshift press line, and Nicola gave us a huge hug. This was starting off quite well! “Hey, can we go outside and talk?” he asked. Um, sure, yes, please, etc.

So there we were, sitting on a stoop with Nicola, as he puffed on a cigarette. Mid-conversation he stopped to point out a hot guy who walked by. It was as if we were hanging out with a good friend outside of a party. We wanted to ask for a drag of his cigarette, and we dont’t even smoke. Basically this was pretty much the opposite of every awkward celebrity interview we’ve ever been a part of. This was a welcome respite from the past seven days.

“I treat it like my Tumblr page. Like where you see all the things I do, but kind of in a uniform way,” he said of the store. “You see all the pandas, and all the stuff that I like, but also all the high fashion stuff and bondage and leather. And I think that’s me. I wanted to create that in the physical world, because I’ve been obsessing about digital, but we live here.”

Oh, right. Those pandas. They are everywhere! “I used to have a beard, and was a little bit of a bear, so people used to say, ‘You’re an Asian bear, so you’re a panda,'” he explained, noting that he loved to visit the pandas at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo growing up. “It kind of stuck, and my followers on Twitter nicknamed me Nicopanda. So I created a character for it, for them.” And the fans are biting. Panda gear is proving to be the store’s most popular offering.

The pop-up reflects Nicola’s career, a mashup of high and low, low and high. He calls it “punk couture”, and acknowledges that everyone seems to mix it up nowadays. Besides, fashion is very democratic now. “It’s for everyone, we’re not elitist. We should share our love, our joy.” It’s no surprise that Nicola and Lady Gaga are the best of friends and collaborators — they share the same philosophy. It’s about aspiration and accessibility all at once, it’s about the fans.

As Nicola finished up his cigarette, we chatted about the best places to get Japanese food in New York (St. Mark’s is his go-to) and asked about who he wants to work with next.

“Tim Burton,” he answered without hesitation. “I would love to make a film with Tim Burton. I want to do the costumes for it, with Rico in it. Oh my god, that would be genius!”

Nicola’s is located at 50 Walker St., and is open through Sept. 21.

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