Franc Fernandez: "A Premiere Weirdo To Keep an Eye On"

Chris Cassetti
Franc Fernandez is a freak -- and he has no problem with anyone knowing it. Fernandez was launched into the spotlight, winning over both admirers and detractors by famously using raw meat to create Lady Gaga's 2010 MTV Video Music Awards dress. By outfitting the nation's most celebrated pop star in an outfit made entirely of flank steak, Fernandez cemented his status as one of modern fashion's premiere weirdos to keep an eye on. The stylist and designer's distinctive avant-garde style has gone on to work with such superstars as Beyoncé and the Scissor Sisters. We spoke with him about how he sees his work evolving, what he's inspired by and why he's happy living in the 21st century.

So how would you describe your aesthetic?
From and against form.  I think the way I execute design is to be extreme and slightly contradictory.  Cold concepts, warm execution, or the other way around.

What inspires you?
Over the few years I've been designing and creating, it's become clear that live performance is my ultimate inspiration.  How clothing or props can tell a narrative on stage.  Lately I've been working with web-based artist Ryder Ripps [featured in Paper last year] on my new website; so a lot of inspiration has come from the internet as a medium.

You've dressed Lady Gaga in some pretty awesome pieces, from the Grammys to the video for "Bad Romance." But the meat dress is one of her most iconic looks to date. Were you surprised at the overwhelming response from that? And how do you think it's affected your career as a designer?

I wasn't surprised at the response.  I think everyone involved knew the response that the meat dress was going to get.  I think what I was more surprised and excited by was how much the internet and technology played a part in that. I got tons of hate-mail, love-mail, and "meat dress" was a top Twitter topic for three days straight.  The way it directly affected me was [Gaga's stylist] Nicola Formichetti doing some live-crediting during the VMAs. His mention of my name quickly led to a storm of interview requests.  The way it changed my career as a creative person is it gave me a bit of a larger audience. I just spent some time in Mexico and saw that they have these sort of naive-art little statues of Gaga in the meat dress.  It's nice to have a hand in creating something that's part of pop-culture history.

Is there anyone you're dying to work with?

I'd like to work with more talented artist that seem to be doing something genuine.  I've had great luck in having been approached and sought out by those types of creatives already.  It's hard in the music industry to find the people who write, produce and sing for themselves.  An artist I'd like to work with  is Robyn.  I'd love to work with her in a larger capacity than just making her some pieces, like maybe do a wardrobe concept for a tour? She's so good at writing melody and rap at the same time, and keeping it all so modern.

Your work as an artist extends beyond being a designer and stylist. In December you directed the music video for Sam Sparro's "Pink Cloud." Can you describe the process of pulling that together? And are you planning on doing more work like that in the future?

I was happy to create a video for someone I respect musically as much as Sam.  The feel is more like a make-up test than a music video.  I asked Nina McNeely to edit the video as if a user is scrolling through these make-up tests, mixing and matching. It's best viewed on an iPhone.  I do plan on directing a few more in the future.

If you could live in any era, which would you choose and why?

Stylistically, I've always liked the mid-1930s.  I can watch Roman Polanski's Chinatown over and over again, especially because it's set in Los Angeles during that era when it was still such a new bare city.  Although I don't think there's anything better than living when I do now.  There are so many things that feel so uncertain at the moment, it seems more exciting.  Also, when else can you end an interview with an emoticon :|.

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