His playful sensibility and insatiable appetite for all things pop saw him rise through the ranks, from Dazed’s eye-spy boy to creative director at MUGLER and sartorial advisor to one Lady Gaga. You’d think that would suffice, but then Nicola Formichetti’s sort-of-eponymous character-led product line, Nicopanda, is perhaps his most successful venture yet: rivaling Hello Kitty in the Asian popularity stakes and slowly making its assault in the west.
Today Formichetti is as much a celebrity as his roster of high-profile collaborators and now he’s back, for a week-long, K-popping, candy-coated take-over of the magazine that first discovered him. He’ll be selecting his top five east Asian designers, talking us through the best gif. art and launching his own Nicopanda mask competition. We also brought Boombox back for a one off panda party at The Oval Space. And although JPOP was the dress code for most, we threw in a few token pandas with costumes provided by Kigu. Cheers guys!
But before the invasion of Kawaii-cute commences, he fills us in on the coloured contact lenses that continue to inspire him.
Dazed Digital: This week you select six of your favourite designers from East Asia – Jenny Fax, Mikio Sakabe, Writtenafterwards, Yuima Nakazato, 6%DOKIDOKI and Chloma. What is it about their work that appealed to you?
Nicola Formichetti: I chose these designers because they are, for me, what’s exciting about Asia at the moment. I’d like to know more about them too. To get into their designs and discover together.
DD: What makes Japanese and Korean fashion so unique?
Nicola Formichetti: Well obviously I’m biased because I’m half Japanese, so anything Asian I think is great. Recently I’ve found that there are so many articles about Asia and it’s never been presented properly. So I was talking to Jefferson about it, and we talked about doing an issue with a direct voice from Asia.
DD: How did you choose who to feature in the issue, such as the two cover stars, pop-star Pamyu Pamyu and actress Angelababy?
Nicola Formichetti: Jefferson wanted me on the cover, and I said ‘No. I didn’t want to be on the cover alone, so I brought in a few other people to make me feel more comfortable. I’m a bit shy. So I chose Pamyu Pamyu for the Japan cover, and Angelababy for the China cover. I also wanted to do a Korea cover too – which didn’t happen. I’d still love to do that, with the girls from 21. I wanted to represent the young, new Harajuku generation, gone completely crazy. Angelababy is this really normal girl, but happens to be the most famous actress in China. The fact that none of these people are known in Europe or America is insane.
DD: What are the defining features of fashion and culture in Japan, China and Korea respectively?
Nicola Formichetti: They’re all mixed up now. The older generation hate each other, they were trying to kill each other. It’s really serious, they’re burning Japanese things in China – and vice versa. But the younger generation… well the Chinese kids are wearing Hello Kitty and shit. That’s because of the internet. These kids, can hack into a lot of places, so there’s a way to connect with each other.
DD: For the December issue you compiled a portfolio of all the best emerging talent in East Asia. Each of those people posed a question to you…
So designer Bajawoo of 99%is- asked: What are your plans for the future?
Nicola Formichetti: I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow… I’m going to see my dogs. I just miss them. They live in New York, I just got them, these two little Pomeranians: two puppies, so crazy, so insane.
DD: Japanese DJ Mademoiselle Yulia asked you to describe three turning points in your life?
Nicola Formichetti: When I first moved to London, when I moved to New York and today.
DD: Model and shop assistant at Candy, Tokyo, Matcha asks: What will the next Nicopanda collection look like?
Nicola Formichetti: It’s launching in January it’s a kind of ameba panda , this weird virus-like of thing. For me Nico Panda is just a hobby, I started it with my brother, I got this tattoo of Nico Panda and it was all very spontaneous. It’s just about my love of Asia, a Hello Kitty homage, and it started very small, with drawings – during the holiday I would draw on my bags and stuff - and that’s why the next season will be very different. I’m thinking of making something very structured actually.
DD: Designer and DJ Yoon from Tokyo asks: if your life was a movie, who would play you?
Nicola Formichetti: I was talking about that with my friend Alistair Mackie and I was like maybe Jake Gyllenhal or Brad Pitt, and he was like.. I think it’s gonna be that Korean one, the stylist, you know, Gok Wan? I was like…’Fuck You!’
DD: Model and actress Kiko Mizuhara asks: What are you doing for Christmas?
Nicola Formichetti: I’m probably gonna be with her, we’re planning to go on holiday.
DD: Your previous assistant Emi Kaeoka asks: When do you sleep?
Nicola Formichetti: Annie used to be my assistant in London, and then she went to work for Vogue in Japan, and now YSL… I sleep like 3 hours a day, which is really bad for my skin. But being half Asian balances it out, because we look much younger. I just cannot sleep, I wake up really early. I’m like a grandmother.
DD: Hirari Akida asks: Have you been impressed by working with someone recently?
Nicola Formichetti: I’m really impressed with her! She’s just a girl who works in a shop. Every time I see her she has new hair and does this crazy make-up and wears contacts. Every Asian girl has different-coloured eyes. I used to wear one blue in high school like David Bowie. Now I can’t see very well in that eye.
DD: Amber Man asks: Would you give up fashion if you could own a pet panda?
Nicola Formichetti: Yes, I would give up fashion, If I could give Panda’s a bed, for sure! Hello?!
DD: Andi Autumn of band La-Di-Da asks: What do you like about Hong Kong?
Nicola Formichetti: For me Hong Kong is the entrance to Asia, because they speak English there. So it’s an easy way into China, Korea, Japan, and the people are very similar to people from London.
Follow Nathalie Olah on Twitter here: @NROlah