Why Jeremy Scott Is Having His Best Year Ever

By sticking to his super-colorful, pop culture-fueled guns, the designer’s eccentric vision makes couture feel decidedly more outré.

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Complex Original

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The Palazzo Corsini al Parione has been host to its fair share of major presentations, soireés, and events—but on the night of Moschino’s runway show at Pitti Uomo 88, the classical space is filled to the brim with the designs of unmistakable Jeremy Scott—and the equally vibrant characters that live for his signature aesthetic. When A$AP Rocky and Katy Perry appeared, the latter dressed like a cross between ‘60s go-go dancer and the tongue-in-cheek Italian fashion house, it was another reminder of how Scott’s work (while sometimes aggressive to the senses) is one that’s culled a fanbase that’s more devoted—and diverse—than nearly any other on the market today. In a way, the whole spectacle was just the latest chapter in an eventful 2015 for Scott, which is shaping up to be the 40-year-old designer’s best year ever.

The Missouri-born Scott, whose aesthetic received early mass appeal through his adidas sneakers, steadily diversified his portfolio, eventually taking on the role of creative director for the then-dormant Moschino brand. Scott’s influence has revived the Italian fashion house into a front-row and fan favorite. It’s the type of turnaround that’s cinematic in nature. The path Scott forged—from Kansas City to Milan—could only be done by someone who’s dedicated to their vision regardless of circumstance, an attribute that clearly comes across in the documentary Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer. The film is perhaps the most authentic and insightful project that the designer has embarked on—reminding the public that sometimes what we need is a little bit of Scott’s personal brand of fun.

That whimsy was certainly lacking in Moschino, a house that, according to fashionable talking heads in the documentary, was “sleepy” at best, and irrelevant at worst. A lack of exciting material, coupled with the loss of its founder Franco Moschino, forced the brand into a tailspin. At the heart of Moschino’s designs was a pop-cultural savviness and an understanding that fashion didn’t have to take itself seriously, manifested in pieces like luxurious cashmere jackets with "Expensive Jacket" embroidered across the back. That DNA, coupled with Scott’s own relationship with the brand as a former intern, made him an A-1 choice for the role of Moschino’s creative director. As Scott puts it: “Moschino’s like sleeping beauty, and I just gave it the kiss.”

Moschino’s would-be prince has reinvigorated the kingdom. Scott’s introduction has changed Moschino for the better, and the swelling sales numbers back up the label’s regained fashion cred in prestigious front row seats, street style photos, and on the red carpet. While Scott’s work for Moschino has been divisive (recalling his now-infamous Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, inspired by the work of McDonald’s Golden Arches), he’s also reminded the public at how he and Moschino’s founder are cut from similar cloth. Scott’s co-workers have commented on the similarities, but for him, the comparisons make the most sense in the little moments.

“When I’m flipping through a book of his sketches back at the office, sometimes I see something and I’m like ‘oh my goodness this is so ironic,’ and there’s a sketch that I’ve done on hotel paper that looks just like one of his from decades earlier,” he says.

But while Scott may be the perfect choice as Franco Moschino’s spiritual successor, Scott does have his own unique perspective that he’s added to the house’s history. While Moschino used humor to put a different perspective on Italy’s stuffy fashion hierarchy, Scott’s American background makes a different kind of social commentary.

“A lot of [Franco’s] work was Italian-centric,” says Scott. “It was thinking about Italy and Italian fashion’s role within the context of what he was speaking about. So me not being Italian already, I don’t have that iconography embedded in me. I don’t have those kind of elements that I’m playing with.”

Scott and Moschino both have proven their ability to tweak pop culture to their fashion will—language barriers be damned. As he admits with a laugh, “I don’t speak Italian, but I do speak Moschino.”

That’s likely the level of humor that grabbed the attention of the organizers of Pitti Uomo, Florence’s premier bi-annual menswear tradeshow. As the featured Guest Designer at the 88th edition of the storied Italian fair, Scott used the platform to redefine what Italian menswear is “supposed” to be, putting his own spin on sartorial sprezzatura.

Confidence in his vision has made him recognizable and helped him grow his brand. He also possesses an acute business savvy—rare in creative types. In the documentary, Scott insists that he doesn’t like to audition for work. While this sounds like overconfidence at first, it’s really more of way to vet prospective business partners.

“It’s a rare occasion that I give any designs prior to accepting a job,” admits Scott. “I don’t know, I’m very precious with my stuff, and honestly, I shouldn’t have to audition. I’m a proven commodity,” he says. “If you want to work with me you should trust that I’m going to give you the best. Whatever that is going to be you need to trust that it’s the best. Because if I’m doing it full on, it’s going to be 100%.”

His appointment at Moschino was an exception. While Scott knew the partnership would be a good fit, he understood the unique circumstances when it came to formalizing his role at Moschino. He broke his personal code and sent in some designs to the brand in advance of his appointment:

“I thought: ‘I’m going to have fun with this. I’m going to put some designs on paper and at the very least, we’ll be certain that where I want to go with the brand is something they’re willing to stand behind.’ Because if they didn’t get it, we needed to nip it in the bud.”

Vlad Yudin, the director of Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer, notes that whether Scott is designing his own brand or Moschino, there’s a consistent energy. “I think it’s the same Jeremy, I think the environment is different.” he says.

While Moschino was naturally hesitant about bringing on yet another creative director into the fold, Scott’s familiarity and love for Moschino’s core culture meant he was signing up for the long haul.

“I didn’t want things to be shaky getting into a relationship like that, because it is a very public marriage. And it’s not something you want to get out of after a couple seasons, that’s a bad look,” says Scott. “I believe in the brand; I believe in the heritage of the brand; I believe in the people who are supporting it and working on it today.”

Before his Moschino makeover, Scott was doing something similar with sportswear giant adidas, using winged sneakers and tuxedo-inspired track jackets to introduce his aesthetic to sneakerheads. A$AP Rocky, one of Scott’s most ardent friends and fans, is aware of the designer’s crossover appeal. He notes in the documentary: “Growing up in the ghetto, there were no heterosexual men into high-end fashion...fast-forward...and you got all of Harlem wearing that shit.... Drug dealers are wearing Jeremy Scott sneakers with teddy bears on them.”

A$AP Rocky wore many of Scott’s sneakers in his early music videos. And after finally meeting the designer in 2012, when the two were featured on a Complex cover, they collaborated on a blacked-out version of Scott’s “Wings 2.0” sneaker the following year.  Scott’s aggressive footwear aesthetic came about at a time when sneaker culture began embracing more avant-garde silhouettes. As fashion and sneakers began to intersect, adidas sneakers with wings on them didn’t seem out of place in world with brutalist Rick Owens kicks, too.

“It’s not good to toot your own horn, but I’ve changed a lot of the way sneakers look today—there’s pre-what I’ve done and there’s post-what I’ve done,” says Scott. “There are so many things that are now commonplace that you didn’t see before, and it’s derivative of me, you know?” 

The iconic status of Jeremy Scott’s adidas collaborations was further affirmed by their inclusion in the Brooklyn Museum’s “The Rise of Sneaker Culture” exhibit. Scott’s work at adidas would also pave the way for future adidas designer collaborations, like Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and even Kanye West.

“I’m the person who brought [Kanye West] to adidas,” he says. “It was back, maybe in 2009, 2008, when he was so excited by the line, and he conveyed to me that passionately wanted to do something with them.”

Scott championed the idea, seeing a lot of potential in a collaboration between Kanye West and adidas, even though it took some time to come into fruition. Naturally, Scott thinks only good things about the resulting Yeezy Season 1 collection and footwear like the Yeezy 350 Boost.

“[Kanye]’s an amazing, creative genius...he’s just so passionate and so curious about design,” he says. “I think that he’s been able to kind of show what he’s been wanting to do, trying to use this platform as a way to express himself.”

Scott’s commendable ability to balance celebrity relationships with his uncompromising vision is also one of the secrets to his success. Miley Cyrus designed accessories for his Spring/Summer 2015 show. Rihanna was one of the first celebrities to wear his debut Moschino pieces in public. These watershed pop culture fashion moments stem from genuine friendships and mutual adoration. He talks about designing the outfits for Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX Halftime Show performance as if he were making costumes for low-pressure talent show rather than prepping for one of the biggest nights in television.

“It began with a sweet little phone call from my bestie,” says Scott with a laugh. “[Perry] goes ‘I want to make it the most iconic Katy Perry ever. I want to be exactly the icon of me that people see, and there’s no one that I want or to think to do this more than you.’”

The costume was certainly memorable, drawing on Scott’s flame-winged adidas shoes to create a costume that wasn’t just memorable—but highly memeable.

Perry is currently the face of Moschino’s Fall 2015 campaign, while Miley Cyrus, another of Scott's famous friends, recently hosted MTV's Video Music Awards. Jeremy Scott was tasked with redesigning the Moonman statue for the 2015 ceremony, which not only pushed him further into the mainstream, but got him an onstage shout-out from Kanye West

The documentary Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer, finally brings his mythology to the mainstream. Director Vlad Yudin explains that while some documentaries are purely meant to heap accolades upon its subject, his vision to show the multitudes contained within Jeremy Scott.

“You get to see the good and the bad...I just haven’t seen that too much in fashion films,” Yudin says.

The film, which spans the beginning of 2014 to Jeremy Scott’s Fall/Winter 2014 Moschino runway show, takes time to highlight the obvious “design-behind-the-scenes” segments, but pays crucial attention to two things that appeal to every audience: Jeremy Scott's humble Missouri roots, and the critical response to his designs.

Viewers spend time with Scott’s family, gaining insights into his rural upbringing, his very first collection in Paris, and the nights where he was literally forced to sleep on the streets in pursuit of breaking into the industry. “Ultimately my story isn’t an uncommon story, it’s an American success story,” Scott remarks.

“I had to walk through the hallways of fancy hotels looking for trays that people put out that hadn’t finished all their food,” remembers Scott. “I had to do things like that to make ends meet—sleep in the metro and eat unfinished food—because I had a dream, because I had a passion, I wouldn’t let go.”

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The film also portrays the polarizing nature of Scott’s colorful, off-the-wall aesthetic. Stylist Mel Ottenberg says: “People love him; people can’t live without him. People don’t like him; people don’t get it. It’s two total extremes.”

Jeremy Scott is a patron saint of the offbeat. He gives people who exist outside of fashion’s insular world a non-discriminatory point of access. As Scott says: “My work isn’t for everyone to wear, but it’s for everyone to enjoy.”

Scott asserts that his clothes “aren’t for critics, they’re for the people.” You don’t need to live in an urban hotspot nor actually purchase one of his more expensive pieces to be part of his club. “Maybe you’re not going to wear it; maybe you’ll get a phone case; maybe you’ll get a knock-off phone case—maybe you don’t have any of it. But it made you smile.”

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