How Jeremy Scott Became the Designer for Katy Perry, Madonna, and Miley Cyrus
Last Friday, the runway show of Jeremy Scott’s Spring 2018 collection, at New York Fashion Week, was followed by an after-party—before the after-after-party—at which the London-based stylist Johnny Blue Eyes, who is best known for dressing the singer Lana Del Rey, wearing a long, wavy blond wig and exaggerated eyelashes above his full beard, stripped to a black thong and rolled across the floor in the middle of a cheering circle of revellers. That was the beginning of the evening. Scott, who loves a party, was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his label—a milestone made more notable by the fact that he has only recently experienced popular, critical, and financial success. Many designers—Alexander Wang and Rodarte’s Mulleavy sisters among them—peak early and struggle to maintain momentum. Scott spent his early years bouncing between obscurity and the outright disdain of the fashion cognoscenti, who didn’t get the point of his cartoon-inflected and slogan-covered designs. He found, and continues to find, inspiration in jarring sources—in junk food, for instance, or Jesus—and he likes to dress adults in teddy-bear prints. For the Italian label Moschino, where he has been the creative director since 2011, Scott based a collection on SpongeBob SquarePants.
Brands now seek out Scott for an injection of whimsy. His winged Adidas trainers sell on eBay for hefty prices. He has designed a Smart car for Mercedes-Benz, and a baby stroller for Cybex. He has his own peculiar take on high-low fashion: at Moschino shows he hands out plastic iPhone cases (one that resembled a pack of cigarettes caused a small scandal), while at his eponymous label he leaves Longchamp satchels on each front-row seat. (The initiated know to arrive early.) This season’s satchel was black, emblazoned in crimson with “Viva Avant Garde”—a slogan Scott used back in the nineties.
The gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, who attended Friday’s show dressed in a dark-blue pin-striped double-breasted suit and a pale-blue necktie, described Scott’s work as “a fusion of Pop art and performance art and fashion.” In 2003, Deitch organized a gallery showing of Scott’s work called “Sexybition,” in which Scott’s designs were displayed in peep-show booths. “What he did was really radical,” Deitch recalled, adding that there was a “pole-dancer section.” Pole dancers at New York Fashion Week are now commonplace (the Web site Pornhub showed a small collection as one of the past week’s events); Scott is accustomed to seeing his ideas take root. He was designing athleisure long before the term was coined. The new label Monse (pronounced Mon-say) has been making a name for itself by placing collars at the hems of shirts and setting sleeves akimbo. “Taking clothes and turning them upside down—I did that in 1997,” Scott said.
Scott’s aggressively cheery designs have a passionate following among artists such as Katy Perry, Madonna, and others, who turn to him for red-carpet looks and concert costumes. At his runway show, Lionel Richie sat beside Young Paris, a Congolese-Parisian protégé of Jay-Z; nearby, the d.j. Jodie Harsh wore a rhinestone, white-leather Jeremy Scott biker jacket much like one worn recently by the pop star Miley Cyrus. “I always wear Jeremy when I d.j.,” Harsh said. “He’s the modern-day Andy Warhol. He’s not afraid to bring out his inner child.” The show was called “Disco Damage.” There were acid-green snakeskin-print pants, camouflage corsets, and a bathing suit that appeared to reveal the wearer’s skeleton through a hole in the belly. Scott closed with evening dresses festooned with colorful shards; floor-length ruffles had been added to backpacks to make them glamorous. “It’s like a ‘Dynasty’ moment,” he said, later. Some shirts featured the word “Paris” spelled backwards. “I was mocking that Gay Paree thing,” he explained.
Backstage, after the show, Baby Mary, a Tokyo d.j. who owns several fashion boutiques in Japan, hugged Scott, whom she first met when he was doing off-schedule, guerrilla-style shows in Paris, in the early aughts. “He is like family,” Baby Mary said, wiping her eyes; she had burst into tears at the end of the show. “Always, I have had Jeremy’s clothes, since he was nobody.” In fact, Scott reminded her, this was not his first retrospective. His first came after only five collections. “I was, like, ‘O.K., you guys don’t get what I’m doing, so we’re going to just go over it again,’ ” Scott explained. “It was a little bold for a fifth show, but I thought I needed to make my mark.”