Jeremy Scott’s success as creative director of signature fashion house Moschino has blended fresh, fierce and fabulous designs with an ever-visible queer tilt – highlighted throughout with the accompanying images below.
He is, by all intents and purposes, a pioneer of the modern fashion world that’s visible (and proud) within the mainstream. With stars including pop star Katy Perry, internationally acclaimed model Gigi Hadid, and even the queen herself (Madonna that is, not HRH Elizabeth II), Jeremy’s connections and friendships speak for themselves – and have left us screaming at the collabs.
But when friend and Team USA ice skater Adam Rippon arrived at the 2018 Oscars back in March, the entire world gagged when he werked a classic Jeremy Scott x Moschino suit with added black harness. With Gay Twitter holding its breath and images of the look going viral, it became an iconic moment of queer visibility at what can sometimes become a bit of a rigid awards show. But more importantly, it cemented a new friendship between the pair.
Here, the creative director of Moschino speaks to the Team USA ice skater about the importance of queer visibility in an era of rebellion, his daily torment of physical abuse as a queer child at school, homophobia in the fashion world, and recalls the time he dragged Madonna… quite literally across the floor.
Jeremy: I’m ready!
AR: When designing clothes, how much of yourself are you putting into the designs, and how important is it to you that your creations and designs fit within the Jeremy Scott brand?
JS: I think I’m a vessel. I’m open and have to be open to a higher divinity to allow me to have those inspirations and have those creative moments, and that they process through me and come out as my work. I don’t really understand where they come from or how it happens, and I don’t know the mechanics because I try not to dissect it but be as pure as possible. I leave the dissecting to other people and give my purest form and my love and heart to everything I do.
AR: I’m sure your aesthetic has changed. I’m curious to how you think it’s adjusted to where you are now?
JS: I really believe it’s linked to the times we’re living, so that’s why when people talk about the mini skirt and things were great and this happened in the 60s, it’s linked by everything because true fashion doesn’t really stand alone as time is about the politics and is about the economics and social morrows. There’s this construct and then within fashion itself there’s moods. When I started, my first show was 1997 or 1998, there was a different mood in fashion. I was finding my legs by discovering who I was and I was a much maybe darker designer for lack of a better term. I’m a very pop designer and colourful, so when I first started, I didn’t think about that or see it in those terms – even if it’s who I was in order to be able to get my baring and have my voice come through my work.
AR: Now the team is bigger, do you find you’re able to push more boundaries?
JS: Absolutely! I’m able to do so much more because I have so many more resources at my fingers, and things I had to push up a hill on my own back I don’t have to do that. It can be the most gentle email of me thinking about this. It’s amazing and I think there’s a lot of creativity coming from constructs, like being in a box say.
AR: We’re both people from small towns… where are you from again?
JS: I was born in Missouri and raised about an hour outside in the farmland there.
AR: Thinking back to that time out on the farmland, when did you discover and feel you were a little bit different?
JS: I was just me and I didn’t think anything of it and nobody really judged me. Coming into a city environment when we moved back to Kansas City in fifth grade, I never cursed. I was obsessed with these not-always-boy things like Cyndi Lauper and would get on the bus. I don’t know how I convinced myself but I’d walk off the bus with a lace tablecloth with these black 50s pumps from my grandmother. I still had my short boy hair and a blonde mess. I literally thought that no one knows it’s me. That’s when people used the word faggot and I had no idea. I didn’t even understand that concept and I wasn’t thinking sexual or sexuality – I was expressing myself.
Then the kids starting getting mean and I wanted to quit school. People were really tormenting me and I had… I feel like I’m fine and healthy today, but I was tormented through elementary and high school. There wasn’t a day go by that somebody either didn’t call me a name, physically push or have an altercation, or threaten me. It was habitual. It was going to happen at one point in the day – the first couple of years were hideous. Picture day before school, I got chased down the hall by a skinhead who told me he was going to kill me. The footballer players don’t like me, these people don’t like me, these other fringe group of my friends don’t like me. It was intense but those things I believe also give you strength and fortitude to be order to make the challenges later in life. Not that I would ever want anyone to endure it to be truthful, but I have to find the bright side to it in that respect.
AR: Within the fashion world, have you ever experienced homophobia?
JS: I don’t feel like I’ve experienced homophobia in fashion. I’ve been bullied, it still happens and online bullying still happens today – it’s alive and well.
AR: When you started working and you’re out in the public more, were you always open about your sexuality?
JS: I never felt, especially within fashion, like I needed to come out or say anything different as it was always so known and understood. I’m more shocked when I see people write ‘is he gay?’. It’s like, come on – are you kidding? I’ve always been a little more private about my private life just because that’s always dealing with someone else’s world and life. I also thought it was okay to have that mystery of who I was actually dating or with. That seemed very personal and I already feel like I given so much of myself, having a little bit of something personal is necessary and healthy, but I never would or have been ashamed of being gay – not since being an adult. I don’t even know if I was ashamed when I was a kid.
My first boyfriend was when I was 14 and he was 16, and he wanted me to go to prom with him; I refused. I said I can’t do it because he’s graduating and I will be for the next three years ‘the faggot that went to prom’. Nobody else will be there to protect me or be with me, and he would be at college – I’ll be alone. I couldn’t do it and it wasn’t the climate. 1989 and there wasn’t Ellen on TV coming out yet, there wasn’t Glee or these things. It was a whole different world and I was in a place that still doesn’t really appreciate it very much because it’s a pretty conservative place. I don’t know that I have a regret but I think about it sometimes as I think if I could’ve been that person. It wasn’t my destiny to do that. I did end up going to my prom the next year with my best friend who is a lesbian and shaved her head bald, and we caused controversy just with that alone.
AR: I look back and wished that I came out earlier, but what you’re able to do now so well is be that somebody that the person from the small town can look to. The landscape is changing so much because of people like you…
JS: And you. And you, love.
AR: That’s so important. I feel like I owe it to my younger self to say something because nobody was saying anything when I was growing up. I didn’t want to be alone, just like you were going through that process. Do you see fashion shifting because we’re in an LGBTQ liberation, and the #MeToo movement?
JS: Yes. I think it’s a natural situation, and even if I just look at some else’s work. Louis Vuitton showed several women that I thought were men, and they were wearing suits. I had to read that they were women. They’re so androgynous say, and the look was so masculine. In all different ways it definitely is. I will say the popularity of both of our favourite show RuPaul’s Drag Race. I will be truthful, and this might be sad, but I also worry because pendulums spin so far to one side that sometimes they come crashing back to the other. I remember RuPaul’s first original coming around as I was in college; seeing Ru going to see a fashion show ten feet taller than everyone else and the popularity of the Supermodel time thinking this is forever. And then it wasn’t forever, and culture did change, and she’s a legend and it’s a great second coming because of culture, but there was a time when there wasn’t some flamboyant drag icon part of pop culture – and spawning others.
Part of me is wanting to cling to this moment and enjoy it because you don’t know how long it will last. I mean, even with shit that’s going on with Kavanaugh, feeling like we’re being railroaded into having some hideous, conservative frat boy change the spectrum of the Supreme Court that can really, truly affect you and I. They could make it no longer possible to be legally wed or start denying our rights and things we’ve worked so hard for as a community and people. Even when I think culture is on our side and statistics show people aren’t so freaked out about gay men being married or gay women being together, you and I both know there’s places – and they’ve made it legal – for them to refuse us to buy a fucking cake. It’s like… who the fuck do you think makes better cakes than faggots? Get the fuck real. I can’t help but still be panicked and why, for my show, we made a handwritten anti-Kavanaugh t-shirt I wore at the end. There’s nothing more important that I can do to use my platform to hopefully inspire someone else to be aware, call their senator, hopefully something can happen. Or, just be completely transparent about how I feel and not make someone else feel alone.
AR: You’ve worked so many big celebrities in fashion, music, Hollywood. Do you have top moments that stick out that were really fucking cool?
JS: One is with Madonna. Madonna was there from when I knew what music was, so taking her as my date to the Met Gala… they have the booths where you dance and they have a video of it for social media. Dancing with Madonna where we basically did an impromptu music video and I’m dragging her by her leg while she’s on her back posing which I literally got inspired to do while we were dancing. Then she’s rolling on the floor and I’m like ‘yeah I’m going to grab her leg and pull her’. I’m mother-fucking pulling Madonna’s God-damn leg and dragging her, ok? Yeah, that was a moment. When we walked away, I said to her, ‘I know you know this, you’re one of the world’s best dancers ever.’ In my heart, and I’ve said this to her, she’s a dancer who wanted to dance so badly she made a pop career to get a career of dancing. As you know, there’s not a lot of opportunities for dancers to make some longevity of a career, and she turned her love of dance into being a pop star. I was like, ‘Dancing with you, just know, is one of the best moments of my life.’ She was so cute like, ‘Oh thank you.’ I was thinking are you crazy? It’s like… she should’ve just been like, ‘Duh, like come on, let’s go get our food’. That’s high up and an amazing moment – something I cherish.
AR: I felt like when you dressed me for the Oscars, I got caught up in a full Jeremy Scott experience. The internet exploded a little bit…
JS: Yeah, it’s a huge moment!
AR: What you were able to put out there on the carpet, I was the vessel wearing it and I felt super bad-ass. Do you think there’s a reason that connected with so many people, and in particular the queer community?
JS: I think it’s a bigger moment than even you and I know or experienced. I will tell you genuinely, it’s one of my proudest moments. You are the first person I’ve dressed for the Oscars, ever. Within that, you did it purely. You were a vessel of my creativity. You weren’t a dumbed down one, you helped turn the volume up as I wouldn’t have put the harness with that jacket as I didn’t do it originally. Even though I had them on one thing and another, you being an inspiration pulled that and asked to try it. We did it and it looked so good.
AR: Let’s talk about Moschino joining forces with Ciroc. I wanted to know what we can expect, the famous faces you’ve got in the campaign. I’m super excited, it’s a lot of fun, so I want to hear all about it…
JS: Ah, thank you. One thing I love about doing my work is being able to be part of different parts of culture and doing things in a way outside of fashion and clothes. When Ciroc was like ‘Would you make a bottle?’, I thought that would be fun. To do this campaign where I use my fashion like a magic carpet and bring this other feeling into this world that reaches so many other people. And so, I thought about some of my muses and Jasmine Golden Barbie was number one on my list because I love her, I love her beauty and I love her personality. I just love her vibrancy and she’s super modern in so many respects for being multiracial to being just one of the loveliest people. She’s also someone I launched on my show and I’m a big fan of her. River Viiperi who is also a model that I launched when he started and has done my show so many million times. I brought two main muses for the campaign, and then we have Wizkid, Cassper (Refiloe Phoolo) and Thando (Thabooty Thabethe) from South Africa to have this very wonderful and global mix of different people and different personalities. It was a fun thing to do, it was a fun thing to film and I think Jasmine and I are doing a New Year’s Eve party in Brazil… if you want to come?
AR: Let me get my ticket!
JS: Exactly! I’ve never done a New Year’s Eve party in my life because I’ve always been really super low key as I do parties all year around. I always just go to sleep before midnight.
AR: I always do that, too!
JS: This is going to be my first time but I feel it’s going to be chill because it’s on a beach in Brazil. It’s the perfect way for me to do a celebratory party but it’s not going to be some Vegas nightclub kinda thing.
AR: It’ll be easy for you to survive.
JS: Exactly. Survive as I celebrate the new year.
AR: You’ve gotten to work with so many people, I want to know if there’s somebody you want to work with that inspires you and you want to dress? Who is next on that list?
JS: My life goal is still to dress Dolly Parton. I love her and I think she’s the closest thing to godliness I’ve ever seen on this earth. That’s why Katy (Perry) brought me to meet her that one time, and she did say to me, ‘Do you think you could ever make me something?’ I was like, ‘Of course, just name it. I’ll do whatever you want.’ She was like, ‘It’ll be fun if you made me a little something some time.’ She put out this little wire, we’re still chit-chatting so hopefully the right thing will come up where she needs my magic dust sprinkled all over her with tonnes of crystals and sequins, as she always should be adorned in. Ironically, she’s one of the few people I’ve been starstruck by.
Photography Marcus Mam
Words William J Connolly
More information on Moschino can be found here.