Fashion Evolution With Nicola Formichetti and SYKY

Fashion Evolution With Nicola Formichetti and SYKY

Jun 18, 2024

Nicola Formichetti was admittedly over the fashion industry. “I've been in it for 20 years, and it was kind of getting a little boring for me,” he says. Until he came across SYKY, that is.

Having collaborated with an impressive roster of fashion houses and celebrities, most notably as Lady Gaga’s right hand man, the Japanese-born creative director is no stranger to evolving trends within the space. This brings him to his new role as Artistic Director of SYKY (pronounced "psyche"), a new blockchain-based luxury fashion platform and digital designer marketplace.

Founded by Alice Delahunt, formerly of Ralph Lauren and Burberry, SYKY is more than just a platform for exploring digital fashion pieces — it’s a community and collective that nurtures up-and-coming designers who are shifting the trajectory of fashion’s future. This comes in the form of monthly drops, which has begun with a collaboration between SYKY and London-based fashion tech brand XTENDED iDENTiTY.

“We believe that SYKY is more positive and fun and cool rather than this dystopian, dark, AI end-of-the-world vibe,” Formichetti tells PAPER. The latest drop includes five signature pieces that will be presented in both digital and 3D-printed physical versions, centering on the motif of butterfly wings which evoke the beauty of nature and the spirit of creative freedom. It’s just one of many iterations of what’s to come from SYKY, an exciting new frontier in fashion and augmented reality.

Below, we sit down with Formichetti to discuss his new role, Gaga’s upcoming era and current obsessions.

As a fashion director, how did you land at SYKY?

I've always been fascinated with digital aesthetics. Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to create something digital looking because I'm obsessed with computer games and the future, so I always try to mimic that in the physical world. In fact, when I did the cover of PAPER with Gaga during COVID, we were fascinated with the future and what’s happening in the digital world with escapism. It was all about mixing technology and humanity, with nature and technology living harmoniously together. We were already kind of talking about that back then, so now it’s like a 360.

I started researching a lot and became a sort of student of Web3. And what I noticed was that there was nothing out there that spoke to me. It was very much all bros and very ugly. Until I met with Alice who showed me SYKY. It was completely different to what other platforms were doing. She started SYKY as a luxury fashion platform supporting young and emerging designers. She told me that she believes the future of the fashion industry is going to be a merge of digital designers and physical designers. I got so inspired from our meeting that I wanted to be part of it.

If you were to explain SYKY to someone who knows nothing about Web3, how would you describe the interface and its abilities?

It's a platform that you can explore. It's a digital community. So you get to see what these designers are doing in the space, and you can play with it. You can purchase it. You can collect. You can share. It’s all on blockchain, and it’s like a marketplace where you get to experience what’s going to be in the future. Another part is that we do more close collaborations and drops with designers. We work very closely with emerging brands to create collections and events. What we’re doing with XTENDED iDENTiTY, which [just dropped] is a part of that.

Yeah, I remember when NFTs first came out and the Metaverse was a thing in 2021. But I feel like they fell off. It comes in waves, I guess.

I'm kind of glad that the whole thing kind of just disappeared because it was getting crazy, and it was full of ugly stuff. Anyone can make anything. It was not really visually pleasing. What I'm interested in is the actual technology behind it. Blockchain technology is changing the way we make contracts and the way we navigate this digital world more secure. With AI advancing so quickly, the blockchain is becoming more a part of our world. Of course, we are early starters, but we really believe that mixing this technology into what we do normally in the industry is gonna be very important. In a way, this bubble burst [with NFTs] was a positive thing because it took away all of the noise and only the good things remained. So we are very excited to be working with that.

What are some references or pieces of media that you’re obsessed with right now? Anything that you’re hyper fixated on?

Well, until recently I was obsessed with Midjourney. I couldn’t stop playing around with it. It just keeps getting better and better. I’m such a reference queen, and you just have to tell the AI exactly what you want from the photography to the light and just fucking go there. It’s crazy. I’ve also been traveling around the world. I was in Tokyo and Korea working with some K-pop people that I cannot talk about yet. Korea for me was fascinating. They’re truly the future. The way they’re living and incorporating music and technology and beauty is really fascinating. After that, I went to LA to work with Gaga. And then, I’ve just been busy with SYKY. I really believe that this change is about to happen. It’s happening. With the launch of Apple Vision Pro, we’re definitely gonna start thinking about how you’re gonna be yourself within this world. I think digital fashion is gonna be at its core.

Tell me about the collaboration with XTENDED iDENTiTY.

I’ve always been a fan of their work, even before SYKY. I actually used one of their earrings on Bad Bunny, and it kind of became a thing. Even then, they had a physical version and a digital version. So they always have the digital twin of everything they do. They used to do smaller objects like earrings and necklaces, but now they’re expanding into bigger things like dresses and other objects. We collaborated on a specific color. I call it “SYKY Blue,” so all of the metallics are in this shade of blue that we love. For me, it’s like a new kind of brand to exist.

There are other brands that we work with. We have a SYKY collective. We’re nurturing them. There’s an amazing Berlin-based designer Taskin Goec who we launched during London Fashion Week. He’s merging the digital and physical and using a lot of nature references. Another one that I love is Calvyn Justus. He’s based in LA and is a digital designer, but he’s incorporating sports elements into it because he’s an Olympic swimmer. I’m just super excited about this space. It sounds super foreign when you say “Web3” and “Blockchain,” but it’s basically how we’re evolving. You can see it in the Apple Vision Pro when you’re in there, the augmented reality. It’s this merger of it all, and we believe that SYKY is more positive and fun and cool rather than this dystopian, dark, AI end-of-the-world vibe. We believe that it’s definitely gonna be more fun and creative.

This is PAPER, so I have to ask about Gaga. Is there anything you can tell us about her next era? Will she be incorporating digital fashion?

I mean, we’ve explored digital fashion from day one, in a way. With “Bad Romance” and everything, we’ve done all that type of stuff. I actually really loved what we did for PAPER. I mean, it was insane. We scanned her, and we were creating the metaverse before the metaverse was a thing. It was cool. Um, yeah, you know I can’t say anything [laughs]. So I’m gonna dance around everything except that. But it's going to be an amazing year for Gaga. I'm excited to be part of all the stuff that she's doing. You know, she's so informed. We've been working together for 13 years, and we’re just gonna keep going.

What does the future look like for SYKY?

So we like to keep collaborating and supporting designers and brands. Starting next month, we have a drop coming out every month. And we have some crazy things this summer. We just want to have fun. In a way, I was sort of over the fashion industry. You know, I've been in it for 20 years, and it was kind of getting a little boring for me. But with SYKY and with technology, I am rediscovering fashion for myself. I feel like I'm starting all over again. Getting to talk and collaborate with not normal designers, you know, people who are trying to do something new. We just want to support it and do more crazy stuff.

Photos courtesy of SYKY and XTENDED iDENTiTY