‘I love becoming art’: Lady Gaga pushes boundaries as fashion shapeshifter | Fashion

There are still days to go before House of Gucci lands in cinemas, but the fashion industry may as well go ahead and hail Ridley Scott’s thriller as the most successful fashion film for a generation.

Certainly, there is no denying the fact that the actor who plays the protagonist is the axis around which the entire fashion world is circling at the moment. Undoubtedly, she is the woman designers are desperate to dress.

With 12 Grammys, an Oscar and perhaps the most explosive red carpet wardrobe in history already nestled safely under the waistband of her fishnets, Stefani Germanotta – or Lady Gaga as she is known stratospherically – has levelled up from style icon to become the most powerful woman in fashion.

In her role as Patrizia Reggiani, Lady Gaga works Gucci’s world-famous monogram motif like it has never been seen on screen before. Photograph: Fabio Lovino/© 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Instagram confirms her as the most visible. On Wednesday, the cover of an issue of Hollywood Reporter with Gaga on the cover received half a million likes in a matter of hours. This month, her dual Vogue covers – she features in British and Italian Vogue – incited similar hysteria.

In her role as Patrizia Reggiani – the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci and socialite who, in 1998, was convicted of arranging the hitman who shot him dead – Gaga wears a slew of fur coats and cleavage-boosting shift dresses. She also works Gucci’s world-famous monogram motif like it has never been seen on screen before. But few will need to spend 2 hours 38 minutes in the cinema to recognise the pop queen turned Oscar-nominated actor’s role as the most significant woman in fashion. They can watch the trailer instead. The two-minute teaser sent the internet into overdrive when it was aired in July and remains on YouTube’s most-viewed chart.

With a wardrobe masterminded by the costume designer Janty Yates, the film has piqued the interest of fashion fans around the world. The fashion platform Lyst accredits a surge in searches for Gucci (up by 173%) to Gaga. Gucci’s bosses, who have an apparent vested interest in the film reporting an 86% increase in revenue for the second quarter, could not have dreamed of better publicity for their brand.

Of course, Gaga’s influence extends beyond the horse-bit loafers and vintage silk headscarves she wears in House of Gucci, or indeed, one fashion brand. She’s a money-spinner for many. After her performances at Radio City Music Hall in New York this year searches for her signature platform boots increased by 60% and boosted searches for Valentino – she wore a couture look on stage – by 117%.

Her vegan makeup line, reported to pull in more than £100m a year, is further proof of her mass-market appeal.

Lady Gaga wearing Schiaparelli at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
Lady Gaga wearing Schiaparelli at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

For Daniel Roseberry, the artistic director of Schiaparelli who was behind the sweeping red faille skirt and cashmere jacket Gaga wore to sing at the presidential inauguration in January, her influence has been life-changing. His vision for haute couture is now the most coveted in the world, with celebrities lining up for a Roseberry creation.

She worked similar wonders for Magda Butrym. The Polish designer went from relative unknown to fashion super force when Gaga was photographed in New York wearing one of her body-skimming slip dresses.

Madonna wearing the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier’s conical bra in her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990.
Madonna wearing the iconic Jean Paul Gaultier’s conical bra in her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. Photograph: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

“Gaga has brought many designer names to a wider audience than would ever have been possible before”, said Alexander Fury, fashion features director of AnOther Magazine. “It’s a bit like the Madonna-Gaultier effect – only Gaga, fabulously, has no loyalty and wears all kinds of different designers.”

This reluctance to build alliances with one particular brand or designer is what makes her red carpet outfits so compelling. Gaga spoke in an Italian accent for almost a year while working on the movie and showed the same steely dedication to prepare for the accompanying press tour. She has said her clothes are performance art. Certainly, there was evidence of method dressing on the red carpet with Gaga dialling down the OTT (over-the-top) style to perform in the role of “actor at a film premiere”.

Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards wearing a raw meat outfit.
Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music awards wearing a raw meat outfit. Photograph: BDG/Rex Features

The floor-sweeping Gucci gown she wore to the London premiere was understated by Gaga’s standards. After all, this woman wore raw meat to the MTV awards in 2010 and famously rode a horse made entirely from Chanel bags down a red carpet.

Gaga’s ability to shapeshift – whether she’s adopting the role of Hollywood screen siren or her fictional male alter ego, Jo Calderone – is what is immeasurably appealing to designers. While the pressures of running a successful fashion brand are about carefully balancing creative intellect with the need to sell clothing, working with Gaga provides the opportunity to run with their wildest ideas. Moreover, a collaboration with Gaga is the opportunity for a designer to put the purest and most experimental version of their aesthetic on a global stage.

In a filmed interview made to accompany the new issue of Vogue, the singer describes the extreme lengths she will go to achieve the result she wants on the red carpet. “I’m not interested in fashion being functional for everyday life,” she said. “It’s about being functional for art. I love becoming art.”

This ethos has endeared her to fashion editors who can work with her to push boundaries in the way they cannot with other celebrities.

“She has always been deeply involved in the creative process of building all of her famous looks,” said Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief and European editorial director. “She is a true global icon.”

Eleanore Beatty

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