Nicola Formichetti On Finding Then-Homeless Zombie Boy

We knew Nicola Formichetti found Rick Genest (also known as Zombie Boy or Rico) on Facebook, but the rest of his origin story was pretty mysterious until now. In an illuminating interview with Hint Magazine, Formichetti opens up about finding his muse.

The tale goes like this: Formichetti stumbled across a photo of Genest on Google, posted it to his Facebook wall and Formichetti’s tattoo artist identified him as a dude in Montreal who goes by Zombie Boy. He then found Genest’s Facebook profile, and went through the rest of his pictures. He was so inspired that he actually altered his collection for Thierry Mugler, transforming it from “very clean” to “a bit darker and gothicy.”

Formichetti messaged Genest shortly after and asked him to come to Paris. Genest was down, but there was a problem: he didn’t have a passport. And getting one wouldn’t be easy, since he was homeless and owed upwards of $20,000 in fines for sleeping on the street. But Formichetti was determined to make it work:

I had no idea what to do. I was calling my lawyers, saying we have to get this guy to Paris. But then I thought, maybe he doesn’t need to be there physically. Maybe I can do a film or a picture. So I told him I would go to him in two days. I called my friend Mariano [Vivanco, photographer] and my manager. We got together the first week after the holidays as I was about to leave for Paris to work on the last bit of the collection. I remember thinking I have to do this, I just have a gut feeling, I have to work with this guy. Everyone said he’s a freak, why would I want to do that to a luxury brand? Anyway, I didn’t listen to anyone and just went. I brought some clothes, a couple of suits, and I actually made lots of clothes the night before I left New York. I had pieces sent from Paris and was just making stuff in my house, and then took everything to Montreal and we did a photo shoot and video. The photos are the ones we just launched as a visual campaign.

We love the campaign! Anyway, Formichetti paid off the fines, and Genest was able to get a passport in time for Paris Fashion Week. Interestingly, Formichetti didn’t even want to do a runway show, but was persuaded by his pal Lady Gaga. We’re sure glad he followed her advice.


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