Shirtless Jeremy Scott is First Fashion Designer to Earn Hollywood Handprints

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Jeremy Scott with Katy Perry outside of Mann’s Chinese Theater on Tuesday night. Photo: Getty Images

Can a fashion designer be a true Hollywood star? In this day and age, anything is possible. Just ask Jeremy Scott who, on Tuesday night, became the first style maven to put his handprints outside Mann’s Chinese Theater before a screening of his hotly anticipated documentary, Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer. (Other celebs immortalized there: Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, and Meryl Streep, to name a few.)  Directed by Vlad Yulin, the film follows Scott as he debuts his first collection for Moschino—and dresses Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Jared Leto along the way.

The movie opens nationwide on September 18, but you shouldn’t have to wait that long for a dose of Mr. Scott (and really, who can?). We’ve got an exclusive interview with the designer to discuss Barbie, bullying, and hanging out in Madonna’s bathroom. (Yes, really.) 

Yahoo Style: Some designers are very secretive about their work and their process. You let a documentary crew film it. Why?

Jeremy Scott: It had a lot to do with timing. [Vlad Yulin] approached me prior to anyone knowing about [getting the creative director job at] Moschino. It was before I even had a formal offer. Originally, they wanted to just document my life leading up to a fashion show. Then it became, “Oh, wait, it’s not just any fashion show. It’s the first show at Moschino.” I was going into this major moment, because it was special and a big transition, I thought it would be great to document it.

Did you give them access to everything?

I didn’t let them film some fittings because the models were kind of young, they’re getting dressed and undressed, and I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. But when it came to me, I let them film everything, because they said, “This doesn’t have to be sensational. This doesn’t have to be a reality TV show. This is about showing a creative process, and telling the story of a creative person.” What they wanted seemed beautiful and genuine. And I’m happy to share my work, but I don’t want to be like, “The fax hasn’t arrived! My life is over! It’s a disaster!”  

What was the hardest thing to let them film?

Everything was fine until they wanted to come to Soul Cycle with me. I was mortified. They followed me to the window of my Soul Cycle class. I walked in and ran to get a spot so they wouldn’t be able to see me, but of course they did. The other people in class said, “Oh my gosh, Jeremy, is that the paparazzi?” And I said, “No, it’s my documentary crew. I am mortified. I am so sorry. Oh god, please, let me just be on my bike and go away!” That was the most stressful day of filming!

You let them follow you back to your hometown in Missouri…

I did! How my past affects my work is on-limits. And people should see it. They should know I was born dirt poor. I grew up with very humble beginnings. I had no family name that could usher me into something as rarified as a lot of fashion can be. And I had a dream. I believed in it. I worked hard. I hope people see that. 

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Designer Jeremy Scott. Photo: Courtesy

You talk very candidly about how you were bullied in high school.

I do talk about how there was literally not a day that I didn’t get attacked, and I’m talking about physical fights. Even girls wanted to hit me. I had to create a core to survive, so I walked with my head really high at school. People said I was snotty, but ultimately, I had to to try and protect myself. I couldn’t look vulnerable. But I also just never thought of the people who were mean to me as anything. They didn’t exist. On the last day of school, I started laughing. I sat at the school flag waiting for a ride and laughing. I was like, “Don’t you get it? I never have to see these people ever again. I was forced to be with them and I never will again.” And I remember the first day of school, too. I remember standing in front of school going, “Okay, I have to do this. I have to go through this door for four years, and then I’m done.” But even on that first day, I got chased by a skinhead who said he was gonna kill me. But the skinheads hung out with the skaters, who hung out with the New Wave kids, who were my friends. I was like, “You’re supposed to be on my team!” But because being gay was such an albatross for everyone, nobody wanted to deal with it. Obviously I had some friends, but it was really challenging.

Do you think your drive to succeed is partly to prove them wrong? Do you think ambition can be a form of revenge?  

That’s a cool question, but in my case, truly, the answer is no. I could talk about high school for hours, but I don’t harbor any sadness about it, and that’s amazing. Revenge isn’t the same as jealousy, but somehow I don’t have either gene, and I feel lucky about it.

You don’t get jealous?

I always feel like, “If things are great for you, my time will come.” That’s how I always look at it. Sometimes I tell someone in the industry, “Congrats! Your new gig is amazing!” And they’re weirded out that I’m so happy for them! But I am, because their success means, my time will come.

Do you consider yourself a celebrity?

I don’t think I am. This girl came up to me at the airport like, “I’m sorry, I love you, can I take a picture?” And I love that because my work has touched someone’s life.  She doesn’t love me because she doesn’t know me, but she likes my work, and that’s what she loves, and that’s great. I’m not a famous person but what I do is iconic and it creates images and icons. Celebrity has so many different connotations. I hope I’m celebrated for the right things: being fun, being part of pop culture, making things fun, help shift culture and make it more dynamic. I want to make the world a more dynamic, fun place. And I do that through fashion.

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Scott’s first show for Moschino. Photo: Courtesy

But even if you’re not famous—which I think is up for debate!—you’re friends with a lot of famous people. And it’s clear from the documentary they adore you as a person. How do you foster real relationships with people who are also icons? Like Madonna?

You know, specifically with Madonna, she always has a different role to me in my life. When I grew up, she was part of my awakening. I have a relationship with her as an image, but I also have a relationship with her as a person. It’s been a decade of doing things with her… But even within the Instagram world we live in today, I don’t capture every private moment. I’ve spent a lot of time with Madonna on fittings, rehearsals, sets, dinners, and nobody sees the private things, and that’s where friendship happens.

I’d still be freaked out every five minutes.

There are moments where it’s unreal, trust me. Like during fittings for the Met Ball, she was in the bathroom checking out the dress, and I’m like, “Why don’t you have your assistant take a picture, so you can see it full length without the mirror?” And she looks back to the camera and says, “Strike a pose.” And I’m like, “Uhhhh…”

How is creating a pop culture moment—like Katy Perry at the Superbowl—different from designing a runway collection?

It’s case-by-case… but something you should know about many celebrities, especially the ones I know, is that they’re some of the most amazing stylists I’ve ever worked with. They put a lot of creative input into their performances and their outfits, and because it’s their job to shape pop culture, they have an innate passion for clothes and images, just like me… Katy [Perry] is truly like a Carine [Roitfeld]; she has so much creativity and such a great sense of collaboration and style. Madonna is, too. She’s the person I’ve had the most fun with, ever, doing fittings.

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Scott with stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. Photo: Courtesy

Why?

So many things. One thing is, she wanted a cape for her Met Gala outfit, but after [she stumbled on her Armani cape at the BRIT Awards], I was like, “You want [another] cape? Is this a joke?” And she was like, “F–k no, I’m not going down like that! Give me a cape!” And she rocked it.  

What do you want people to take away from this film?

Believe in yourself. You don’t have to have money. You can create your own name. You can create your own destiny if you work hard, you’re determined, and you’re talented. I love that. I hope people see on a more personal level how much I love my work and how passionate I am about it. In a culture that’s very quick to slag off things, not only in bigger terms but critic-wise, and also on Instagram where people just say “ugly,” I hope people can reevaluate how quick they are to judge. If you don’t think something’s great, don’t say anything about it. Move on. Whether it’s a professional critic—I’m an easy target; I get a lot of them. It’s like high school: “You’re different and I’m gonna pick on you!” I relive high school every fucking six months in that way! But the fans I have, those are a gift I have that no other designer has. They have clients. I have fans. And those fans make me do what I do. I want to do something more exciting for them. I want to push the envelope for them. Their enthusiasm drives me to be better, always. And I hope that opens people’s eyes.

What do you not want people to see in the film?

I mean, I don’t always look very attractive. My face is all scrunched up when I’m typing on the computer, or my a lot of times, my face just looks really tired. I mean, I work really hard! And I’ll be doing an interview, the show is going up in a few hours, and I don’t look like a magazine cover. And as trite as that is, I’m a human! I’m vain! I want to look great at all times! But you know what? Reality, unless you’re Cindy Crawford, is about looking human, tired, scrunched up on your computer, and looking like a cartoon T-Rex sometimes.

Can you give us a hint about your upcoming runway collection? The Moschino Barbie collection is still going strong on street style blogs. Will we get a sequel, maybe with a princess?

I am not contributing to that “Frozen” girl! She’s cool, I guess, but she’s so one note! I want to see her as an astronaut. I want to see her as a president. I don’t think Elsa has it in her. She’s a one-hit wonder. She’s never gonna do what Barbie can do. Barbie is a multitasking modern woman. She’s talented and she works hard. All the other princesses need to get on board.

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