Photography Mitchell Sams

jeremy scott celebrates 20 years of creative independence

Fashion’s prince of pop presented a new view on his archive, with a little help from his old friends (Devon, Karlie, Jourdan, Joan, and Gigi).

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Sep 9 2017, 3:29pm

Photography Mitchell Sams

Check out our backstage coverage of Jeremy Scott's Spring/Summer 17 show here.

Jeremy Scott has built a technicolor empire by being himself. In the process, he's altered the landscape of contemporary fashion. His long-running collaboration with adidas Originals, for example, heralded a new era of luxury-sportswear crossover. His partnerships with pop star pals (Katy Perry, who he's known for a decade, and Miley Cyrus, who made jewelry for Scott's spring/summer 15 collection) have pushed his singular vision to brand new audiences. Over 20 years, Scott has proved the point that's the bedrock of his company: ordinary people aren't afraid of fashion.

Last night at Spring Studios, the designer took a look back at his legacy. But spring/summer 18 was much more than a runway retrospective. "I used my whole history as my starting point, which was a little mind-boggling. Because it's 20 years, and fashion is contextual," Scott explained backstage. "So it was this challenge of: 'How do I get inspired from what I've done, and do something new?'"

He explained the process as, "taking a flower and squeezing the juice to make a scent out of it." There were some whiffs of his white show, an outing of stark white garments with bold angular cuts. That show, Scott's third, introduced the world to his eternal muse, Devon Aoki. "It was about taking those ideas and layering another part of something I've done," Scott explained. "Maybe it's something from just two years ago; maybe it's the sequins I've been thinking about. Or it's these graphics that I've become known for. Or it's some of these forms and shapes that people love from me. How do I celebrate them, but see them today?"

Scott succeeded in reinterpreting his own references in a fun, fresh way. Aoki opened the show in a glitter motorcycle jacket (one of Scott's staple shapes), and later appeared in a sequin-spangled, multi-armhole dress dotted with cartoon patches. Those cartoons (which looked something like an acid-laced combination of Ed Roth's Rat Fink crew and Ah! Real Monsters) appeared elsewhere on painted-on jeans and Scott's signature intarsia sweaters. Fans were also thrilled to see him return to riffs on football padding. Those enviable over-the-knee boots got a camo update, and — as modeled by human disco ball Coco Rocha — chic corsets.

Aoki and Rocha were joined on the runway by fellow Scott alumna of the ages: Jourdan Dunn, Gigi Hadid, Joan Smalls, Stella Maxwell, Liberty Ross, and Charlotte Free all stepped out. They were joined by new-gen faces Scott has fallen for (think Slick Woods and Sofia Richie — whose father, Lionel, gave Scott a warm hello backstage). "When I was looking at the 20 years, I couldn't imagine anybody opening the show but Devon," said Scott. "There's different girls from different time periods who have been emblematic in my collections. Girls I launched, girls who started with me. It's so nice to have all these different generations of Jeremy girls!"

Perhaps the most exciting element of the show wasn't about looking back, but forward. The final looks were a slight departure for the designer, who often plays with straight 50s and 60s silhouettes. Scott described these works as "body sculptures, kinds of jewelry pieces for the body." The series — closed by Hadid — lifted inspiration from the idea of "an [Alexander] Calder mobile colliding with multi-colored disco lights," Scott explained. His eyes lit up as brightly as the sculptures.

It's inspiring to speak with someone who — at a moment he could easily fall back on a greatest hits parade — is still so much in love with designing clothing. I ask about his time at the Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn-based art school he attended in the mid-90s. Pratt's fashion program is smaller than Parsons or F.I.T.'s, but its studio-based approach yields an abundance of independent creative thinkers. Scott — who owns his growing company — feels similarly.

"The first letter I sent was to F.I.T. They sent me back a rejection letter that said I lacked originality, creativity, and artistic ability. The next appointment I had was with Parsons, in person. They said, 'Who would wear this?' I told them it's for my friends, and they said, 'That's not a clientele.'" Pratt responded differently: "'You're looking to the future, you're looking to Europe, your ideas are science fiction. We can teach you the ways to build these things,'" Scott remembered. "I felt heard. I felt understood and accepted."

While at Pratt, Scott did learn how to construct his dreams. "[The professors] would rip things up. 'This wasn't made right, do it again.' You ripped it yourself four times before you got to that point because you don't wanna be humiliated!" he remembered. "I couldn't have done the early shows on my own if I didn't know how to cut, sew, and drape those clothes. I even made the shoes! By hand. I couldn't have done that — or even articulated my ideas — without having the backbone I got at Pratt." He offered his adidas wing sneakers as an example: "If I couldn't tell you how to make that pattern, I wouldn't have been able to design those shoes. It goes hand-in-hand," he said.

"Those choices we make early on shape us as a person," said Scott, "and I do feel my independent spirit does really go back to what I learned there." And as for the future, his goal is the same as it's always been. "I want to keep putting a smile on people's faces."