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King Jeremy the Wicked

Pimped-out record collection (Photo by Mark the Cobrasnake)

Greased lightning: Jeremy Scott flanked by the ’57 Chevy and record dressesPhotos by Garik Gyurjyan Makeup by Kimi Hair by Samantha RoeModels: Liberty Ross, One Model Management • Ruby Aldridge, NEXT modelsHollywood Hills, 2007

Jeremy Scott’s house is going off. The phone is ringing, packages are arriving, and right now he needs to check on “the girls” in his studio, a converted one-car garage attached to his modernist Hollywood Hills home. The fashion designer is dressed in an oversize Mickey Mouse shirt, gray sweatpants cut off at the shins, and saddle shoes, but he’s all business as he strides through the open door of his studio, where the walls are lined with colorful bolts of fabric, and three fashionably dressed young women — all skinny jeans, gorgeous hair, ballet flats and ankle boots — surround a square drafting table. These are not models but a freelance patternmaker and two interns from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, measuring tapes draped around their necks like stethoscopes, who check figures and pencil lines on the translucent beige paper that covers the table. They look like stylish E.R. residents tending a patient. When Scott appears, they come after him with a series of questions.

“Is the front meant to be higher than the back?” asks one intern, referring to a skirt hemline.

“The same all the way around,” answers Scott, furrowing his brow. “But I want it to flare out more, kind of poof out. You’ll have to add fabric.”

The other intern is working on a pattern that is supposed to look like a 35 mm movie strip for a blanket shawl. “Should there be another line here?” she asks, pointing to the inner edges of the strip. “I think it would look more like film.”

“You mean right here?” he asks, running a finger down the paper as he studies the pattern that will soon go off to the knitters.

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“Yeah,” he says finally, “that will look much better.”

Scott’s decisiveness is critical. It’s just a few weeks until the Paris shows, and Scott is showing his first collection in five years there.

Back in the house, in the dining room that doubles as his office, past the spare living room outfitted with a small sofa, a chair, and a piano adorned with a bust of Scott silhouetted against the L.A. skyline, Scott is about to explain the theme of his new collection when the doorbell rings. A woman in a blue uniform can be seen through the window.

“Oh, it’s my FedEx lady!” Scott says.

He skips off, practically clicking his heels as he excuses himself. They look like unlikely pals, but the two talk like housewives dishing on neighborhood gossip. He returns after a few minutes with packages, apologizing, “I haven’t seen her in forever — she got moved to a different route.”

Scott seems to make friends wherever he goes. And over the past 10 years, he seems to have been everywhere — in Paris, hosting a party for Sean Lennon; in Australia, collaborating with the surfer founders of the high-end jeans label Ksubi; in Tokyo, presenting his “Hello De Milo,” a Venus de Milo replica with Hello Kitty’s head, as part of the 30th-anniversary celebrations for the icon of cute.

You could call Jeremy Scott the Jeff Koons of fashion. He’s transformed bosoms into ice cream cones and twin Capitol domes (a.k.a. Capitol Hills), he finds inspiration in ’80s game shows and Vanna White, and his runway shows are always spectacles that shake the ennui out of fashion watchers. His “Food Fight” collection featured French-fry graphics on slinky dresses, a hamburger skirt, and long tees instructing observers to “Eat the Rich.” His “Right to Bear Arms” collection was all camouflage, guns and Care Bears. In 2004, The Face magazine listed him as number 32 in the 100 most powerful people in fashion.

Happy Daze – Jeremy Scott Autumn/Winter 2007 Collection

The ideas for his newest collection are spread all over his dining-room table, which is covered with full sketches and bits of colored-pencil drawings; the corner of a laptop peeks out from the pile.

“I used to hate the process, and just want the show,” Scott says as he shuffles the papers, looking for one particular sketch, “but now I love it.”

He finds the sketch and holds it up show-and-tell style. It’s a picture of a jukebox dress, its chest area like the window of an old Wurlitzer; a boa-like, foam-filled pillow of a collar goes around the wearer’s head and under the arms to form the machine’s signature lighted arch. The whole collection makes references to the iconography of the ’50s: “You know,” Scott says, “ ’57 Chevys, UFOs, guitars, 3-D movies, poodle skirts.” Other sketches show a pink dress with silver fins that mimic a Chevy, a Judy Jetson–esque poodle skirt, and a pink minidress with a fretboard-shaped halter. Black knit and ribbed skirts warp like melted records around a woman’s waist. And for some of the pieces, he took old footstep dance instruction sheets and sketched their patterns to make prints for pants and skirts.

Though Scott didn’t live through the decade, he feels that the ’50s as a cultural touchstone represent a simpler time in life, when everything seemed possible — the time of tomorrow, filled with cars of the future, a new form of music and rocket trips to space. And the teenybopper feel of ’50s poodle skirts and saddle shoes fits right in with the designer’s obsession with youth culture, no matter the decade. Over the course of his 10-year career, he’s easily made the transition from late MTV-generation designer, dressing Madonna, Björk and Britney Spears, to MySpace-age guru. Paris, 1995–2002

Three months after he graduated from Pratt, Scott was on a plane headed for Paris, the place he always felt he should be.

“I just wanted to pick up pins and needles off the floor of a studio of a designer I liked. Just to be around experimental fashion.”

There were only two problems: He had no internship, and he had no place to live. But he did have his own look, and Paris took notice. During his first week in the city, Gaultier’s PR rep came up to him and admired his hair (at the time, a Mohawk-mullet hybrid), he had a camera crew follow Scott around the Bastille, and a photographer spontaneously asked if he could take his portrait. Numerous party invitations also came his way as he wandered through the city. Crashing here and there over the first few months, he was, as he says, a “hodgepodge tumbling into the next set of circumstances.”

Even with his growing circle of connections, however, life in Paris was fragile. He decided that if he still had no place to live by Christmas, when he was set to head home to visit his family in Missouri, he would not go back to France.

“Life was hanging by a thread, and it all changed ’cause I met one guy and he became my boyfriend and helped me get the apartment,” Scott says. He got his place a few days before his homeward flight. When he returned to Paris, he was determined to put on a show, and he did.

“It just snowballed from there,” says Scott. “I didn’t expect to go to France and start my own company.”

He also didn’t expect to win two of France’s Venus de la Mode Awards for future top designer in 1997 or to be nominated for Best Young Designer by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1999. At that point, he had acquired a reputation as a “bad boy” designer. “The fashion world is knee-deep in debate,” wrote the London Evening Standard in 1999. “Is Jeremy Scott an enfant terrible, set to shake up the way we dress, or is he just plain terrible? His loudmouth pronouncements include calling John Galliano ‘stagnant and over,’ branding Ann Demeulemeester ‘just another Donna Karan ... completely boring’ ... and accusing Olivier Theyskens of being ‘too much up Alexander McQueen’s ass.’ Ouch.” But Scott had one important pillar of the fashion establishment in his corner: Karl Lagerfeld. Scott spent much of his time in Paris hanging around and sometimes art-directing shoots for the incredible shrinking designer. Back in his Hollywood Hills dining room, there is a large framed portrait of Scott, thin as a rail, his body greased up, wearing some sort of loincloth. His arms are raised above his head, and a bike, chained to a tree, lies at his feet. He looks vaguely Christ-like, and the bike resembles a kneeling, grieving Madonna.

“Oh that,” Scott says dismissively, his voice tinged with a Kansas City drawl, when I take notice of the picture. “Karl took that. I walked my bike into his studio, the tree was there, and I was like, ‘Karl, what’s that?’ He said sternly, ‘It’s for your photograph. Go!’ ”

Lagerfeld pointed to the tree, and someone did his hair and makeup while Scott fashioned his Madonna Like a Virgin T-shirt into a loincloth. It had been a long road to that Paris studio, but he made it. “But they still wanted my name,” he goes on. “They wanted me to stamp and validate them, but were trying so hard to be legitimate they didn’t want to include my designs. I know I’m an artist. At this point in my life, I know it, I don’t need them to tell me that. I’m collected by the Louvre, and MOCA won’t accept me?”

Jeremy Scott's Fall/Winter 2006 collection

Culver City, 2006

Scott fiddles nervously with the suspenders hanging down around his waist, looking at images being uploaded onto a laptop in the corner of a Smashbox photo studio. Devon Aoki is getting her hair and makeup done for the next shot. Lipstick made of candy sprinkles is applied, and she wears an ice-cream-cone corset.

“Is that weird?” he says, pointing to a shot of him and Aoki dressed in some kind of animal costume. “Am I winking the right eye? Should I wink the other eye?”

ID magazine is planning a 10-year retrospective of his work, and the pictures may go on the cover if they turn out well. Scott’s worked with ID before. He grew up reading it, and has a friendship with the magazine’s editor, but the cover isn’t guaranteed.

As an intern wipes sweat off Scott’s forehead, he tells me how on a recent visit to Paris, friends kept telling him that they missed his energy in the city, that Paris needed him. He realized that he missed the city too and decided to take his show back where he started.

“France esteems fashion unlike any place ever,” he says. “It’s an art form there. Everyone, even taxi drivers, knows about it, talks about it, is aware of it. We can’t fathom it as Americans.”

Scott tells me how one time he was recognized by a driver picking him up at the Paris airport and he felt as if he were on another planet. “It’s kind of like Hollywood, how everyone seems to know the film industry. Well, in France, Hollywood is fashion and fashion designers are their stars.”

For the last five years, Scott has shown in New York and felt like a fish out of water. “There were a lot of young people who were excited about my clothes in New York,” he says. But he felt that he was graded differently from other designers. “Even if the same people are watching each show [in Paris and New York],” he continues, “it’s like they put on different glasses in New York. Maybe I’ve made this whole thing up, but to me, my designs feel out of context in New York.”

West Hollywood, 2007

Scott throws on a pair of dark sunglasses. He’s back from Paris, where he was received like a returning hero, and is dressed in one of his own sweaters, the one with a happy face bloodied by a bullet in its head on the front, and a pair of yellow-and-black pants with the dance-step print. As we walk out the door, he cloaks himself in a black, blanketlike shawl with eyes woven into the knit. We head to one of his favorite restaurants, one with lots of vegetarian options. The cute young waiter comments on his wrap, and Scott blushes, shrinking into himself, and mumbles something inaudible.

And as we look over the menu, he tells me how he is still a little put off by something that happened earlier in the day at a photo shoot. Scott had presented three models with outfits, but the mother of one of the models was on-site and made it clear that she didn’t want her child to wear anything suggestive. She especially didn’t like the dress that had boobs shaped like records. Scott, understanding that the girl, who had previously modeled his clothes for Vice magazine, was only 15, tried to come up with items that would please the mother. Meanwhile, he’d saved an issue of Vice with the model’s picture and presented it proudly to the girl and her mom.

“Here you are,” he said, pointing to the model’s image in a group picture. She was wearing an age-appropriate jumper with an alphabet-lettered design. But as Scott went to look for a more demure outfit, the mother flipped through the magazine and discovered a spread that featured Tom Ford buffing the ass of another man. She pulled her daughter from the shoot before Scott could even show them another outfit.

“I wasn’t asking the girl to wear anything revealing,” Scott says, sipping on his iced white monkey. “She probably has bikini shots in her book that show more skin than anything I was going to put her in. It makes me feel bad. Makes me feel dirty and creepy, like I’m a bad person.”

He tries instead to focus on Paris, where critics called his clothes “fresh, upbeat and positive.”

“Over a thousand people wanted to get into the show, and the place only held 600,” reports Mark Hunter, who found his own way to Paris so he could document Scott’s return. “It was a madhouse.”

Once the show started, Hunter says, “Even the photographers were applauding. I guess most shows are kind of bland and ordinary; this was something different.”

After the show, Hunter went backstage to see Scott. “He was back there, speaking fluent French. I didn’t even know he spoke French. People were coming out of the woodwork to sing his praises — big fashion people saying they were really happy to be there and how amazing the show was.”

It’s no wonder he’s now made up his mind to show only in Paris, where he feels he’s understood. Here, it’s just too hard to constantly explain himself.

“I’ve always felt I fit better in Paris,” Scott told Women’s Wear Daily after his show. “People get me there. It’s about fashion for fashion’s sake.” For more information and store locations, go to www.jeremyscott.com.

“Starring” A short film by Jeremy Scott – Part One

Part Two