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Merging Physical and Digital in Fashion

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The Internet shapes my life and work so completely that I couldn't imagine living without it. Back in the early '00s, I remember (stupidly) brushing off e-mail as just a seasonal trend. But when I discovered social media, a new world opened up.

When I started out at Dazed & Confused, we used to fax our clothing requests, then wait days to find out if we could get the look we wanted. Things move much faster now, and as a result maybe we think about things a lot less. That's both good and bad.

The most crucial (and addictive) part of social media is interacting immediately with fans -- who never hesitate to say what they do or don't like. They love everything and they hate everything. But getting feedback on my work is so important to me, even though it also has the potential to drive me insane. The dark side of social media is that, within seconds, anything can be blown out of proportion and taken out of context. And it's very difficult not to get swept up in it all.

Fashion is such an insider's club, but slowly, the playing field is evening out. Through social media, everyone can have a front-row seat. For my first Mugler womens show, for which Gaga walked the runway, we live-streamed and broadcasted the show to millions of viewers globally across multiple digital platforms. Guests at the event and online shared the same view.

For me, the Internet has become an important tool for casting, and finding talents as well. Earlier, I used MySpace, through which I cast the launch campaign for McQ by Alexander McQueen. Facebook is where I discovered Rico Genest, who is now the face of Mugler menswear, and Nomi Ruiz from jessica 6, who starred in my Mugler video for XTube. Manvendra Singh Gohil, the gay prince of India, contacted me through Facebook, and I ended up shooting a portrait of him with Steven Klein for V Magazine.

I live in New York and Paris, and I'm constantly traveling between Tokyo and London, working for magazines like Vogue Hommes Japan, GQ style and V Magazine and brands like Uniqlo and M.A.C -- and, of course, with artists like Gaga.

While we're at opposite ends of the world, Gaga and I are able to share references and inspirations through digital media. But strangely enough, nothing really comes together until we assemble it all in the physical world -- either by producing a prototype or just by printing out an image and really talking about it. We research online then we work offline. The personal interaction is essential. It's important to touch and talk and feel, which is why we will always have to buy book and go to art galleries. Ultimately, I'm interested in merging the physical world and the digital world. I think incredible things will come out of that.

Fom September 8 to 21 in New York City, I'll be launching a pop-up shop dedicated to my inspirations, NICOLA'S -- incorporating many digital elements. The 2 week pop-up shop, produced by BOFFO, will carry exclusive Mugler pieces as well as new collaborations with Uniqlo, and special exclusive items just for the store under my own label. It will be my first attempt to merge physical and digital world... yes!