Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: Nicola Formichetti Is an Internet Icon

Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: Nicola Formichetti Is an Internet Icon

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I’m going to propose that ‘social media whore’ is an analogous term to fashion victim. The fashion victim is best defined (thanks, Georg Simmel) as an individual who negates their own individuality in the very act of exercising it through poses and trends. The social media whore can be defined mediocrely (thanks, Urban Dictionary) as, “A person who has a psychological need to receive @replies and pings on twitter, attention at tweetups, facebook status update comments, and facebook likes.”

We call someone a social media whore (smw) or a fashion victim (fv) when we see only the made-up exterior—of flattering profile pictures and trendy new purchases—and assume it to be hollow. Smw and fv are derogatory, dehumanizing terms. These are labels we affix at the sight of inauthenticity. You are not a real person to me, is what we’re saying; you are a self-indulgent status update, a slave to the latest fad. The smw and fv travel in the tropes of their form and it takes a fluency in that language—knowing the memes of social media and what’s in style right now—to identify someone who is iterating them.

If there is one individual who embodies both the social media whore and fashion victim, Nicola Formichetti might be it. Nicola Formichetti is the creative director of the newly relaunched Mugler fashion house. He is also the fashion director of both Vogue Hommes Japan and Uniqlo, the former creative director of Dazed & Confused, and the stylist to some of Lady Gaga’s most memorable looks. Online though, his self precedes his work. I was first guided to Nicola Formichetti’s Tumblr when I spotted the receptionist at the Visionaire gallery and offices on Mercer St. in Soho wearing a Nicola Formichetti Tumblr branded t-shirt. “Follow Nicola Formichetti.tumblr.com Nicopanda #Formichetti #Twohustlers www.nicolaformichetti.com” it said, with a vaguely familiar manga panda giving the double thumbs up. I followed the url-emblazoned t-shirt (down the panda hole) to a site of filtered Instagram photos of a baby-faced young man glamour posing alongside ambiguous press photos for various panda logo-ed projects. With the click of a link, I continued on my dérive and arrived at Nicola’s official website, a photo gallery of his work, navigable by tag. Then, new tab, on to Nicola’s Twitter, where his profile picture is an iPhone/mirror self-portrait; Nicola winking at his own reflection, and at his audience of 150 000 followers, the flash of his phone camera going off beside him.

Formichetti’s Twitter profile lists his resume efficiently: “MUGLER, GAGA, VOGUE, UNIQLO, MAC and lots of other cool stuff. ….(๏)ᴥ(๏)….nicopanda xx new  york/london/tokyo/paris”. That’s Nicola Formichetti in less than 140 characters (a nutshell), and I don’t think it does him justice. Formichetti has done an impressive job of relaunching the sex-sells, fantasy-first French fashion house of namesake Thierry Mugler (he who dressed supermodels like superheroes, ’90s bodycon Barbarellas). The man does some good work. Witness his Mugler Tumblr and his editorial work for Vogue Hommes Japan. But it’s hard to see that behind all the Zoolander Blue Steel.

His Tumblr looks like that of any other photogenic fashion follower. In interviews, Formichetti comes across as a reasonably self-aware self-promoter and exploiter of new media. Maybe he’s something of a fashion world Warholian genius, like Paris Hilton was (right?). Formichetti has talked about how he wants fashion to be less elitist. He’s happy to see power shift from the likes of Anna Wintour to kids with computers. I’m not sure fashion needs to to be more populist, though. Perhaps less classist but, if anything, fashion could do with some cultural elevation. Fashion’s standards aren’t going to change if you keep repeating the same power poses. Did you ever think that maybe there’s more to life than being really, really, really ridiculously good looking?