Mickey Boardman’s Next Act Involves a Ton of Sparkle

Mickey Boardman’s Next Act Involves a Ton of Sparkle

I remember my first day at PAPER over years ago being introduced to Mickey Boardman in the old Koreatown office. Despite his beloved reputation and teddy bear image, it was hard not to feel a tad intimidated at the time — his influence among fashion and social circles is well-known to industry insiders. But after just a few exchanges, where I quickly learned about his fascination with astrology, soap operas and royals, it was clear that this was not someone I had to fear in order to respect.

That's the thing about Mr. Mickey, as he's oft referred to. Fashion veterans of his stature aren't exactly known for putting you at ease the second you meet them. It's a skill he's well-aware of: getting people to feel comfortable around him, something that no doubt comes in handy when wrangling celebrities for cover shoots or interviewing big names. So it's only fitting that the next chapter of his career — clothing designer and entrepreneur — reflects the easy-going, optimistic and sparkly outlook on life he's spent decades cultivating.

"The whole time I was working, I was thinking, God, what do I know about doing a clothing line?" he says of his new line, aptly called Mr. Mickey. But he wasn't going at it blindly. After all, he did study fashion design at Parsons and came close to graduating with his degree ("I failed the class in my senior year.") and he's been around the high echelons of fashion more or less for 30 years.

The first drop, which launched last week though Mark Bozek's new Live Rocket shopping platform, captures all the fun and whimsical elements associated with Mickey's extroverted nature: sequin shirts, logo hoodies and pieces printed with paparazzi photos of him taken over the years by party photographer Patrick McMullen. In a nutshell, it's all very "fabulous," a word that Mickey uses probably more than any other in his lexicon.

It was also important for Mickey to shoot the lookbook on an inclusive cast of his closest friends, from models and fashion legends to writers and friends who have nothing to do with the industry. Some have been in his circle for almost 30 years, most notably Lynn Yaeger and Michael Musto. "For me, the worst thing in a friend is someone who's competitive with you or who wants to undermine or sabotage you or isn't happy for your success," he says. "I want success for my friends and I know that they want success for me."

Below, Mickey and I discuss his longevity in fashion, staying grounded and his new sparkly act.

I think the obvious question is, firstly, why now? Do you consider this a new chapter of your life?

Since PAPER stopped doing print, and I've just been working part time, I really had time to fill in terms of keeping myself busy, but also in terms of making a living. I'm thrilled to still be a part of PAPER, and always will be, but it sort of made me think, Okay, what else do I want to do? It's hard because when you've worked somewhere for 29 years, and especially in New York City, we think that our whole identity is our job or our title. So on some level, I was like, Wow, if I'm not doing exactly what I've always done at PAPER, who am I. What is my value?

But it's been amazing to work on other things like this line for Live Rocket, and see that you could do many different things and still they don't define who you are. You could wear a bunch of different hats. I'm also co-producing this project about the debutante ball in Paris, which is going to be filmed at the beginning of next spring. A memoir of my life is also in the works. These kinds of things are all things, including the clothing line, that under normal circumstances, I'd either be too busy to do, or I would think I couldn't do or shouldn't do, unless it was like a real PAPER-sponsored situation, you know what I mean? And I have to say PAPER has been so supportive. I think if people have dreams or want to try things, it's always a great time. I'll be 55 next month, so now's the time — before I get put in the shady pines.

Speaking of support, you've always been very encouraging of my, let's say, opinionated presence on social media. I feel like you're also one of the few fashion media types who are actually real and share things beyond just the glossy fashion stuff. I'm still trying to figure all this out, but how have you been able to kind of maintain your own identity separate from work while still being associated with it? It's a weird balancing act, isn't it?

Yeah, it's hard. I think that's one reason why I love your Twitter and your Instagram so much because it's really you. It's not, you know, PAPER loves this collection. You really see who you are and in a way, it's not even necessarily exactly you the person, but it's you having fun and being entertaining and super opinionated and slightly shady in a world that's often just bullshit and just sucking up when it comes to written stuff. No one says what they really think, only a few people do. So that's why it's great that you do that. And it is a balancing act. I think you kind of just have to try things out. For me, it was way easier when Kim [Hastreiter] and David [Herskowitz] who had started PAPER sold it, because it was like starting over on a certain level. For me, it would have been great to assert my personal brand a little more even before now. But it's, like I said, between the pandemic and PAPER being sold and wanting to try new things, it sort of just seemed like the right time.

As someone who doesn't fit the traditional mold of a "fashion person," how do you reconcile working in an industry for so long that doesn't always accept you back?

I have to say, fashion is even sicker in the way that our identities aren't just defined by our title and where we work but also by the seating chart of a fashion show, you know what I mean? It's so high school and so crazy. That's the thing about fashion. I love it and I'll always be a fashion person, but every step of the way there are things that can make you feel bad about yourself or question who you are, or sort of torture you. As a fat person especially, from the size of the seats at the show, to the size of the clothes in the store, to wanting people to be left out, I'm the opposite. I like everyone to be included and everybody to feel good.

I'm from the Midwest. I don't know how to not be me. I wish I could be one of these people who gave off an impression that I'm a lot more sophisticated than I am. But I'm not. I watch soap operas. I eat french fries. I'm fat. I just kind of know who I am. But I also love fashion. I love glamour, sparkle and stuff like that, too. I think that's what people really respond to. I remember I used to never share about sobriety on social media because it seemed like a thing you weren't supposed to talk about. I'm just talking about my personal experiences, because they're important to me. And I've learned a lot from that. I shared it and people really responded.

You're part of the very few number of editors who have stuck around for so long. To what do you owe your longevity in this business?

We're so lucky to do what we do. I think about Polly Mellen, who I used to love and adore and who I saw at shows all the time when I first started off until she stopped going to shows. At one of my first Marc Jacobs shows I was very late; the show was starting and I just plopped my ass down next to Polly in the front row, which I'm surprised I didn't get banned forever because of that, because there was an empty seat. Every look that would go by, you'd think it was the first fashion show she'd ever been to. She was so excited and so enthusiastic. I started just using that as an inspiration. You do get more jaded. But I remember the first time I went to Paris going to my first Alexander McQueen show when he was still alive, and I came out of that show and it was like I was transformed forever. It was the most amazing experience.

How do you stay level-headed in fashion and not let it consume you despite all the egos and drama that can make you feel less-than?

I think I'm just lucky that I'm at that age where you just wake up one day and all the stuff that you've spent your whole life agonizing over worrying about, like, Oh, I'm too fat or I'm too short. My boobs are too small. My boobs are too big. I have last season's handbag. I have the third row, all these things that seem like the gigantic end of the world, nobody cares, really. I do think we're like a big family in fashion. It's great to be back at shows because I love the security people. I love the publicists. I love the production people who kick photographers out of the front row. They're the people who you regularly see.

You also learn after a while that there are show ponies and the workhorses. The influencer types aren't really the ones who make the magic happen. There are people like Sally Singer, Lori Goldstein, who to me, I really worship and they're in the trenches doing the work. They're not necessarily changing from one head-to-toe look for each photograph. They're doing the research and doing stories and things like that. You learn after a while that this sort of glamorous way of being is not sustainable. You'll drive yourself crazy if you have to get a whole new outfit. The path of least resistance is just to be who I am. To be nice to people, to be sincerely happy and appreciate things.

Finally, your obsession with Indochine, where you shot the campaign for this line, is no secret. Why the heck do you love it so much?

I've lived in the same apartment for 28 years; I've had the same job for 29 years. I'm much more interested in going to the same place always, as opposed to what's the hot new place. Whenever we would take clients out, they would always think Oh, you guys work at PAPER. You know what the coolest new places are? What's the hot spot? What's the new place that just opened that's hard to get a reservation for? That's fun in a way too. But for me, Indochine has been the hot new place for 35 years and it opened the same year that PAPER started, so there's that connection. I love Jean-Marc who owns Indochine — he was actually supposed to be in the lookbook shoot but he had to go out of town at the last minute. I've seen the King and Queen of Sweden there. I've seen Iman with Bethann Hardison. Every celebrity loves it. Carine Roitfeld loves it. Stephen Gan loves it. Lots of fashion people love it. So to me, it's kind of like a cafeteria or canteen for fashion people from around the world.

Photography: Marco Ovando