Nicola Formichetti Loves Gaga, Japanese Punk

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Nicola Formichetti on set at the Uniqlo-ad shoot. Photo: Melissa Hom

Fashion editor Nicola Formichetti spent his childhood shuttling between Japan and Italy before eventually landing in London as a retail buyer in his early twenties. There, his blended sense of European and Eastern style attracted the attention of editors at Dazed & Confused, where he climbed the ladder from fashion editor to his current post as creative director. Today, Formichetti consults and styles for a slew of both high-fashion and mass-market labels — from Alexander McQueen to Uniqlo — and oversees a small glossy empire as the fashion director of Vogue Japan, senior fashion editor of AnOther Man, and contributing fashion editor at V and V Man. The savvy editor recently moved downtown (the East Village was an obvious choice: "All my Japanese restaurants are here"), and ushered Lady Gaga into her mad hatter phase. We chatted with Formichetti about styling, art lust, and the "House of Gaga."

When did you start styling?
About ten years ago I was the buyer at a retail store in London that stocks emerging young designers, and Dazed & Confused asked me to be one of their fashion editors. I didn't know anything about styling back then; I had never assisted anyone. I just went into it by chance and started taking pictures and collecting things that I liked.

You work with a lot of celebrities in your job — recently, Agyness Deyn, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Lada Gaga. How did you get involved with Gaga?
I did a shoot with her for the July issue of V magazine, and she fell in love with some of my things, like the Orbit hat by Nasir Mazhar. I've given her a few things since then. But she has a whole team of stylists around; she calls it the House of Gaga.

How do you gauge what she'll like?
It needs to be something no one's seen before, something that's a bit tongue-in-cheek and outrageous. And maybe some people would really hate it. That's what I love about her — it's very similar to my work.

Who are your favorite designers?
Prada, McQueen, Gareth Pugh ... people that push the boundaries. The French designer Romain Kremer is incredible, and the hat designer Nasir Mazhar.

What's the first designer item you ever bought?
A Vivienne Westwood T-shirt. I was 15 and it was the only thing I could afford there. It was a white shirt with a blue teddy-bear print and Vivienne's logo.

Where do you shop in New York?
Mainly East Village thrift stores. And Search and Destroy on St. Marks, this Japanese-punk vintage store.

How would you describe your personal style?
Prada mixed with Uniqlo.

What trends are you appreciating now?
Lady Gaga. I like the mix-and-match approach to style, the newness. She's like the new Madonna. Eventually her style is going to trickle down and influence the mass market.

What trends do you hate?
Boring celebrity stuff. I've been working with a lot of great, eclectic actors lately, but I hate the whole idea of celebrity in America. It's so boring — all fake smiles and big business. It seems like you can sell crap if you put a famous name on it. America's crazy, you know?

What's one item you're saving to buy?
I'm saving up to buy art. Nothing famous, but every time I'm in a new city I wander into galleries and dream about buying great pieces one day.

What's something you never leave the house without?
My sketchbook — it's where I keep all my ideas.