From a simple life in Kansas, Jeremy Scott followed his yellow brick road to New York, Paris, then Beverly Hills and beyond - Jeremy Scott IS Fashion, Jeremy Scott IS i-D, Jeremy Scott IS A FREAKIN’ GENIUS. Believe it fact fans - it’s the truth. Go buy...

by i-D Team
10 August 2007, 8:15pm

Jeremy Scott and Devon Aoki

So Dorothy, what was life like back home in Kansas?
Well you know, I was born in Kansas City but when I was 5 we moved to the farm where my dad grew up, so part of my childhood was in a really, really, rural part of Missouri which is like an hour and a half outside Kansas City. We would pick chicken eggs out of the coop and we had pigs, cattle and all that kind of stuff. Then my dad then moved us back when I was in 5th grade to Kansas City, so I went through this part of being very country, I was totally free, and could play till whatever hour and just run wild coz' we had tonnes of space.

Do you have any brothers and sisters?
Yes, a brother and sister, Barbara and James, ten years older and eight years older.

Do you get on well with them?
Well my sister's one of my best friends, I talk to her every day. I love my brother but my sister and I are very close. When we moved back to Kansas City it was a rude awakening. I was a small town kid; everyone was so wild compared to me so I was kinda shocked by all the kids. But then I fell in love with Cindy Lauper; she was my saviour. She made me realise it was ok to be different (laughs).

And that girls just wanna have fun….
Exactly, so I would just totally just get dressed up like Cindy, take the bus and just pretend like I was somebody else. I mean I dyed my hair, I was trying to go blonde but it turned penny copper orange, so in 5th grade I had red hair.

Were you the school freak?
I was the school freak, but also kinda quiet in a sense, like I still am. In one-way I'm shy but then the other I'm obviously very extrovert, so it's kinda this contrast between me visually and my emotions.

Who did you hang out with during school?
I didn't have very many friends. I would just go and sit in the corner of the playground everyday and wait till recess was done. Elementary school was like two years of hell, I remember coming home and I was like 'Mum I wanna quit school' and she was like 'You can't quit school till your 18!!' (laughs). I was miserable… miserable… I just hated it. I was so unaware of everyone's clothes and the school rules - I'd just come form being on a farm and being with just country kids.

Did you feel like you were in a Lindsay Lohan movie?
Totally… but which one? There's so many to choose from. I watched Freaky Friday recently, that film is soooo good… I was like 'Oh my God!' it was really powerful. I cried.

Do you get on with your Mum and Dad?
Oh, my Mom and Dad are really sweet. My Mom's a schoolteacher; she's really lovely and supportive. My Dad retired a few months back but he was an engineer, very mathematical and stuff. They've always been supportive of what I wanna do. Obviously, there were times as a kid, what I was wearing was just too much for my Mom to handle, so she would beg me not to wear certain clothes to school, but I would just pack them in my bag and get changed on the way.

Like what?
It wasn't like I was wearing lace panties or anything like that… actually… there were these lace shorts I had, she tried to pay me not to wear those. I loved them but she was like 'What happens if the police pull you over?'

Did things change in high school?
By that point, there was the whole New Wave scene and skaters, some gothic type kids, some alternative types… so there were enough of us to be like a community. I thought I was New Wave, but really, for me it was all about The United Colours of Benetton; it would be some punk kid next to some African Queen. All the contrast and the mix, I was really into all that stuff so I would be like always hanging out at Benetton.

So you were into bright colours from an early age…
I was like an anomaly, because the cheerleaders really liked me coz' I had Benetton clothes. I wouldn't spend any of my lunch money on food at all. I'd save every penny so I could buy clothes at Benetton. I kind of had 3 really, really, close friends, these girls who were super beautiful. We'd just talk about what we wear and we'd always plan outfits. Every day, school was a fashion show.

Was Benetton was your first introduction to fashion?
Yeerrrss, my real-real fashion. I thought Benetton was so cool and so forward but now I realise how many great talents worked on it. Then at fourteen I discovered Details magazine which at that time was by Andy Flanders and it was a men's magazine, it became my style Bible with Bill Cunningham's reportage of the Paris shows and student shows in all the different cities. His commentaries on all the club life that was going on in New York were amazing. Mainly the point of Details was it opened my eyes up to a fashion world that I didn't know existed, I only knew what was at the mall you know? Then I discovered Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and I was totally fascinated by them. Gaultier became my favourite of all the designers. I'd save all my lunch money and call all the stores in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and ordered Gaultier from the department stores.

Amazing… what pieces did you get?
I actually still wear some of them. I had my senior picture taken in a Junior Gaultier black X-ray T-shirt. I also had the splatter paint Jackson Pollock jacket, and then I went to Japan one Summer. My Mom was like 'If you wanna go… you have to save some money.' At that point I had some stupid job at a Chinese restaurant, so I saved up, bought myself a ticket and went to Japan for three months, I went shopping and learnt Japanese.

Have you always been really independent?
I was actually the first of all the kids to leave the house and travel independently from the rest of the family, and then, I was the first to move out even though I'm ten years younger than my sister. I moved out at 18 and then my sister just moved out four years ago, when she got married. But my Mom and Dad are really cool so you don't really wanna leave them.

So you moved out aged 18, and where did you go?
I went to NYU and studied art history just to get to New York

Did you study fashion at school or just art?
The weird thing is, as much as I loved fashion, I didn't think I was going to do fashion - I didn't even consider it. I was making ceramics at the time, I was very into that and making handmade paper - I was winning all these awards for my handmade paper…

What's handmade paper?
You make it from pulp and you dye it and put things in it.

What things did you put in your award winning handmade paper?
(laughs) Oh, anything from pennies to shavings of metal, I made these ones where I strung them all up on string. I did panels that would hang with spaces in between them, and then you lay other paper on top to make shapes and patterns. I was really into it and making paper things and clay, ceramics. I mean, one time I made this Lisa Bonet vase (laughs)! This carving thing with her hair flowing, jumping in the air… I was just so obsessed with everything she was wearing and doing. I was trying to suck fashion out of every orifice in the mid-west… mainly through television, but you know any kind of magazine, so anybody that gave it like she did it was just huge for me. Her and Cindy Lauper. I mean I loved her for so long. When she was on TV I'd get a camera and take a picture of the screen coz' that's how much I loved her, and then my brother would totally push my buttons and be like 'Cindy's a slut, she's a fucking whore'. I'd be totally furious….

Sounds devastating…
I know… it really is.

So what made you change from making paper to making fashion?
This is the trick, I've figured it out - I remember now. I was always drawing clothes, I thought I was going to be an actor then I could wear the clothes that I wanted, so I thought 'Oh I must want to be a celebrity' but I was really obsessed with Lady Miss Kier from Dee-Lite and there was this contest where you could win a trip to New York to meet Dee-Lite by designing some shoes. I was like 'Oh my God, I've got to meet her' so I designed I don't know how many shoes, and I'm like 'This is crazy easy, maybe I should do this as a living?' I didn't win the contest but it clicked in my head, 'Oh this is what I should do you know?' It's just kind of weird coz' other than Gaultier there weren't any designers that I could imagine wanting to be like. Galliano was still a baby and I was this young kid really into wearing clothes and wanting to express myself personally through clothes, so that's when I thought I should go into fashion design school.

Where did you apply?
Firstly to the Fashion Institute Technology, which is probably the biggest in New York. They sent me back my portfolio all folded up with a letter saying 'We can't accept you because you lack originality, creativity and artistic ability.' I've never forgotten those three things, because it freaked the shit out of me. I was devastated. I mean I was crying because I thought 'Oh my God, my whole vision is ruined.' That's when I pulled myself together. I went to Parsons and they said 'You need to tone down the look of your sketches. You should be thinking more 7th Avenue.' Meanwhile I'm wearing a sarong, platforms and my hair was past my shoulders in sticking out braids, I mean… ridiculous. So, then I went to see Prat and they were like 'Oh my God we love your sketches, you're totally into Science Fiction, we look towards Europe here and we're here to give you the back bone of your education into tailoring'. It was music to my ears; finally someone's not trying to talk to me like I'm an arsehole about my look or my designs or my inspiration. You know, I knew I looked goooood. So, yeah I stumbled into it that way.

How was New York when you first arrived?
Oh my God… it was early 90's and the moment I arrived I met Lady Miss Kier on the street right in front of the building of my dormitory. It was Gay Pride, I remember I had my picture taken with her, she's so beautiful in person, she was super nice.

What 'looks' were you doing?
Oh, I was doing lots, one of my big trends then was 1880's Vs 1980's, and so I'd wear some Victorian puff sleeve jacket and then some zipper sex top. Or some parachute pants with some weird lace glove. I was always into time machine looks; mixed decades and I always wore lots of clear plastic.

What did you design for your graduate collection?
My graduate show was inspired by the accident in Chernobyl and this cliché that every season the trends seemed to be about a Russian peasant look. So I decided to do futuristic Russian peasants who had to re-organise their vision of their whole lives. Now it was all about covering up and protecting themselves. So the whole collection was all white and I did these platform sandals, used a lot of plastic vinyl, ski masks with zippers over the lips and thigh high leg warmers. It was very strong, definitely not a whisper.

Did the collection receive much attention?
People were shooting it for magazines, I felt really special (laughs).

Why did you decide to move to Paris? Were you offered jobs there?
I just knew my vision of fashion was only really shared on the runways of Europe. New York especially at that moment was Donna, Calvin, Ralph - you know there wasn't anything else; Marc Jacobs had just started his own collection by the time I was leaving.

Didn't you do an internship at Marc Jacobs?
I did like three internships through my senior year and one was with him. He was the only designer I interned with ever.

And you got on well?
Oh my God, Marc was so sweet to me, he totally spoilt me. He showed me the clothes when they came in, and was like 'What do you think of this cape?' so all the employees hated me because they thought I was being treated differently. I didn't really care; Marc was a total sweetheart. I absolutely love him; he's always really super sweet to me. As I started to receive some notoriety about my work, very early on he was like 'Oh my God I'm so proud of you, course I remember you' and sent me little notes and gifts, just always being super sweet.

That's always good to know… then you moved to Paris. Did you have any money in your pocket? I was just a mess. I met a foreign exchange student that said I could stay in his apartment for a week, so I just had to keep drifting and drifting. Then I met some of his friends and they let me stay a few nights here and there, then I slept in the Metro a couple of nights. I just kept flopping around and meeting people. People were so amazingly sweet to me. I had to keep suitcases in different places.

What was in your suitcases, all you own clothes or your collections?
Oh my God, all these weird dresses form the '30s that looked like I dug them out of a coffin that I'd wear over the other junk I was wearing. I've worn everything there is possible to wear - I mean if I could fit it on from like size 2 to 24 I've had it on my body, dragged it all around - men's, women's, children's… If I could get it on my body it's mine. I used to dig around in the garbage, at the flea market, through the garbage, always making new concoctions…

How were you making money?
I was going to parties and being paid to show up, which was fabulous. People responded to my look the first day I arrived and one of the big promoters in Paris came up to me on the Metro and was like 'I love your look darling, you must be from New York' I was like 'Yup… I am', and then he was like 'Come to my party, I'll let you host.' It was probably for about a hundred bucks but I was thrilled, I was like 'Wow… free drinks and a hundred dollars.'

Have you always had a mullet?
I've had the same haircut for a while, but then I was also wearing a lot of eye make up. I didn't wear blush, lipstick or foundation but I was really into some fucked up eye, which looked like it'd been beat up and battered. I was very into that and giving myself hicky necklaces… Sometimes I was lucky enough to get real ones but I'd draw hicky chokers all round my neck. I was very into weird make up looks.

How did you go from hosting parties to getting your own place and showing on the catwalk?
Actually it was through clubland, everyone was like 'Oh my God your looks are so cool… you should do a fashion show.' I came to Paris to get internship with Gaultier and they wouldn't let me have it. I just wanted to work for free, pick up pins from the floor, and be in a studio of someone I admired so much. I just wanted to learn and give back all the love I felt that I'd received from Gaultier. He was the only one I really cared about, but I never got it…

Did you ever meet him?
I met him several times since.

And how was that?
Oh it was you know… AMAZING. I'd met him once in New York when I was at college, he came up to me at his perfume launch and told me he loved my jacket, I was like 'Oh thanks…' I'd made it so I was totally on cloud nine. I didn't go to Paris thinking I was going to start my own collection and like take over, I went because I wanted to learn. I just loved clothes and fashion; I wanted to be involved. All I cared about was pushing culture. I wanted to be part of something amazing.

Was it an easy transition to make?
This French kid who I was living with was always like (French accent) 'If you are so good why don't you do it yourself?' I was like 'Fuck you… I will Frenchy.' I just decided I was gonna do it, think about it, work it out and make a show happen. Through the club I was able to find a show location because the club promoter knew all the cool places. He showed me a couple spots I could have for free, and some friends who were artists did all the lighting. I put the music together myself, did all the patterns and the sewing and another friend help cast the show; I pulled people from the street and before I knew it, I had a show.

What did the collection look like?
It was called 'Body Modification'; it was inspired by car accidents, it was very morbid. A lot of the clothes were made using paper gowns from the hospitals. I took them and made them into fitted couture, pleated sexy dresses, with cut outs and inserts, but they were also disposable paper so it was kind of an oxymoron, all this work into something so disposable and impractical.

Did lots of people attend?
It wasn't that huge, but most importantly the fashion TV in Paris came and filmed it and did a thing on the show, then everyone saw it and spoke about it, and then everyone came to the second show because of that…

What was the theme of the second show?
Blade Runner inspired my second show. I made all the clothes out of trash bags, so the dresses were very baggy but tight around the hips. The third show was the 'White' collection, which was when I was brought Devon to her first show in Paris.

How did you meet Devon?
I saw the Nick Knight photo of her and I just fell in love. She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen - she still is to this day, but then she was 12 going on 13 and had never done a show before. I had a friend call her agency, everyday like three times a day till they finally agreed to send her over. I was so obsessed by her. She was my muse and then the whole collection evolved around her. This baby woman inspired it and she was it. From the point of the 'White' collection, everything came together; I was able to work with manufacturers and I was able to have shoes I'd designed created which took it to another level.

Then 'White' was followed by 'Gold'?
Exactly… 'White' was followed by 'Gold', then 'Gold' was followed by a retrospective. I decided I needed to recap what I was saying and make it very clear to people what I was about.

So Paris was a fabulous fashion time?
Absolutely… it was really wonderful. I mean it was huge for me, being there and being this American kid, from a farm who just had a dream. To think that there are so many people who were responding to my vision and my work. It's phenomenal to think about my work touching people lives. It's major for me; it's really big.

When did you start selling your clothes?
Sarah from Colette came to me with a dress from my first collection that she stole from a stylist. She took the dress came to return it and told me she wanted to buy it. I was like 'I ain't making them dresses again, I'm busy… I got new clothes to make', and I'd never seen Colette, the store hadn't opened yet and I was like 'Who's this little French girl who's so persistent?' She was 18, a baby. She kept on and on so I was like 'Fine… you can have a couple of the samples to sell… just leave me alone'. Then I came to the store to see it for the first time, thinking it's probably like some junky boutique, and I walk in and I go upstairs and see my stuff on display and I literally sat down on the floor because I was so stunned.

How did you meet Karl Lagerfeld?
(laughs) You just skip to Karl! The actual instigator was your Papa, Terry Jones. Terry wanted me to do a picture for the 'Elevator' issue. He asked me 'who would you like to be in a picture with and asked 'What about Karl?' We were on the same page. Terry asked Karl and Karl said 'Yes' so I went to see the Chanel couture collection that season at the Louvre. Karl had all his camera equipment with him so I said 'Why don't you just shoot the picture?' He was like 'Lets do it, lets do it… we're going into the elevator.' So the show was about to start, everyone is waiting and seated and Karl decided to do the shoot with him, Devon and me in an elevator. All the press were freaking out, it was quite amusing… and that's how we became friends. After that show he invited me to his studio to do photo's with him, and I also started styling shoots for him… different things. Just little projects, Italian Vogue… Karl would be like 'Come… come' so that's how we became friends. Karl is amazing, I love him. An incredible talent.

That's a great story… Why did you leave Paris?
Well I started coming to L.A and I just fell in love with the sun and the climate, the glamour the glitz, but the suburban aspect of it too. I'm a vegetarian and it's very friendly for food freaks like me, and I wanted to live in a house with sunlight and I wanted to step out of the middle of the whole fashion thing. I felt I was defined too much by the context of where I was. I just wanted a change and to be in my own country. I mean I enjoyed myself immensely during the time I was in Paris - I adore it - but it was time for me to move on and have another life.

Now you're involved with celebrity and dressing all these glamorous ladies.
Oh the ladies…

You've done everyone… Madonna… 
Madonna, Britney, Christina, Fergie, Kylie…

When did you start collaborating with Bjork?
Bjork called me after my 'White' show. At that time I'd only been to two concerts in my life - The Sugarcubes and a Madonna concert. So the only concerts I'd been to as a kid are the two ladies I'm now collaborating with. I mean Bjork is the ultimate. She's beyond. I mean there are very few things more satisfying then seeing her in something I've made.

Was the Homogenic tunic the first collaboration?
Exactly… that was the first thing I made for her.

That dress was amazing…
I'll never forget coming to New York to deliver the dress and seeing her on stage wearing it. I literally pinched myself, from that point on we became best friends and I feel so lucky to have someone like her in my life. I chaperoned her first date with Mr Barney (laughs).

Where did you go?
Matthew was having this screening and we went to meet him at a dinner. I was thrilled because he's always been one of my favourite artists… he's such a cool guy

What was the last piece you made for Bjork?
She has a duplicate of the butterfly dress I photographed Devon in. It had taken so long to make, so I brought it to her and she was so excited. When she took it out, her daughter Isadora saw it and started freaking out. I was like 'What's going on…' and she was like 'Oh, she has to put it on first, she wants to see herself in it.' Isadora is obsessed with looks too; so we put it on her and she looks at herself in the mirror and she's smiling and Bjork was like, 'Can Mummy try it on now?' Then later, Matthew came home and tried it on too (laughs). It was an outfit for the whole family.

So this year is your 10-year anniversary. What has been your career high point?
I've had so many, where to start? Madonna giving me a hug, um… Oh yeah and years ago, during an interview when asked who her favourite designers were, Madonna said Gaultier and Jeremy Scott, so I was thrilled obviously.

Now you've returned to Paris to show. How come?
I missed the glamour and glitz of it all; it felt like coming home again.

Who is your current favourite model?
Agyness of course!

What next?
I'm moving to London to marry you!


Read Devon Aoki's interview from The Ice Cream Issue here.


Text Ben Reardin
Photography Jeremy Scott 
[The Ice Cream Issue, No. 278, July 2007]

Jeremy Scott
fashion interviews
the ice cream issue
ben reardin