Fashion Week is a circus, and no one relishes the big top more than Jeremy Scott.
The designerâs February runway show had fashionistas sweltering in an 80-degree room as they waited for attendee Kylie Jenner to appear, 45 minutes late and with TV crew in tow. Gate-crashers stole seats, relegating top editors from Elle and Teen Vogue to watching a live stream of the presentation in a screening room. Model Gigi Hadid stormed the runway in velvet bell-bottoms emblazoned with the face of Jesus; Anna Cleveland sashayed in a gaudy, Vegas-era Elvis cape.
The industry Web site Fashionista.com called the event a âs – – tshow,â while other critics scoffed at the C-listers, such as Sofia Richie, mugging in the front row. But for Scott, that embrace of chaos, celebrity and kitsch is the whole point.
âIâve always been inspired by pop culture,â the 42-year-old designer told The Post. âIâve always been very democratic about my view of fashion and iconography.â As for his haters?
âI would say that theyâre stuffy and they could go to another show.â
They do so at their own peril. This Fashion Week marks the 20th anniversary of Scottâs namesake brand â his show on Friday will be a retrospective of his career â and, love him or hate him, his postmodern, cartoon aesthetic is everywhere.
Itâs on TV, with Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus strutting in his eye-popping designs at the MTV Video Music Awards. Itâs on newsstands, where reality stars are on the cover of Vogue. Itâs even on the Paris runway, with revered labels such as Vetements and Gucci splattering images from âTitanicâ or Disney cartoons onto their clothes.
âIt is completely generational,â said Beth Dincuff Charleston, an industry vet who teaches fashion history at Parsons, adding that older fashion fans tend to find Scottâs garish designs off-putting. âHe puts a lot of ideas together in a way that the 21-and-under set can really identify with.â She said that when she asks her undergraduate students who their favorite designer is, the name she hears most is Scottâs. âHeâs becoming more and more impactful.â
Scott isnât surprised. âMany times my taste in something that wasnât accepted at first has ended up becoming more mainstream,â he said. âThatâs another note I would say to those people who donât get [me].â
SCOTT was born outside of Kansas City, Mo., far from the fashion world. But when the self-proclaimed âMidwest farm boyâ discovered Details magazine in high school, he became obsessed with â80s bad-boy designers Jean Paul Gaultier, Martin Margiela and Franco Moschino. After studying design at the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill, he high-tailed it to Paris, with dreams of interning for Gaultier himself.
âEveryone was like, âYou donât know anyone, you donât have any money, you donât speak the language,âââ he said. âThere were all [people saying] no, no, no, no, no, but I . . . said yes.â
It was tough: Scott couldnât get an internship. He was so broke that, in between bouts of couch-surfing, he slept on the Metro. But he fell in with the nightclub crowd and, in 1997, put on his own fashion show using scraps from a medical-supply store.
That collection â featuring hospital gowns with geometric pleats and bandages with heels attached for shoes â attracted a French TV crew. Suddenly, at 22, Scott was the toast of Paris fashion.
Mario Testino photographed his clothes. Isabella Blow, the stylist and magazine editor responsible for discovering Alexander McQueen, became a mentor. Karl Lagerfeld told Le Monde that Scott was the only designer who could succeed him at Chanel. In a few years, Scott was creating clothes for performers such as Madonna and Bjork.
âIt was like a fairy tale,â Scott said. âIt was . . . superflattering, and, at the same time, a little overwhelming.â
But he had his first fall from grace when, barely a year later, he debuted his fourth collection â an all-gold homage to the most opulent fashions of the 1980s. Vogue called it âdestined to sink.â
âThat was one of the hardest things to endure,â said Scott. âThese were the same people that had said such beautiful things about me five minutes before, and now theyâre saying heinous things. I took it very personally.â
Yet by the time he left Paris, in 2001, he was back en vogue â at least among the downtown demimonde, which adored his irreverence. Scott had inched toward an unabashedly pop style, inspired by the garish glitz of game-show hostess Vanna White. Scott settled in Los Angeles, so he could be closer to his growing celeb clientele.
âPeople thought I was crazy,â Scott said. This was more than a decade before Tom Ford moved to the West Coast and made it a fashion capital. âBut Hollywood dictates so much of what we think of as fashion â the way people emulate things worn by celebrities on the red carpet or just getting coffee.â
Scott made his New York Fashion Week debut in 2002 with a show that combined â80s shoulder-pad hauteur with the space-age kitsch of âThe Jetsons.â New York was newly cool in fashion â Alexander McQueen had shown there in 2000 â but Scott helped take it over the top.
He invited reality stars like Paris Hilton to sit front row, creating a media riot. One 2003 presentation at Jeffrey Deitchâs Soho gallery â which featured scantily clad models in elaborate tableaux, such as a dominatrix in a barnyard surrounded by live animals â rankled the fashion press. The CondÃ© Nast Web site Style.com refused to cover his shows for seven years after that.
âIt was art,â Deitch told The Post of the scandalous show, explaining that Scott was taking pop-art tropes and expanding on them. âThis was something different. He was maybe a little ahead of his time.â
After a sojourn to Paris Fashion Week, and a stopover in London, Scott returned to NYC in 2010, refreshed and with a sharper point of view, conjuring up the gonzo, Cartoon Network-on-acid sensibility that imbues his clothes today. Among his inspirations: Bart Simpson, SpongeBob and the McDonaldâs arches, all of which have been emblazoned on his namesake designs or those created for Moschino, for which he became creative director in 2011.
âI think when he started to immerse himself in playing with those recognizable logos, it was a good way for him to [make] his message clearer,â said Parsonsâ Charleston.
Katy Perry became a muse. A$AP Rocky sported his kicks, which Scott did for Adidas in an early high-fashion/sneaker collab. Miley Cyrus debuted a plastic jewelry line at his show. He was, now, a celebrity himself.
But some in the industry chafed at his vulgarity. Whatâs more, he was hit with lawsuits. In 2013, skateboard artist Jimbo Phillips sued Scott for copyright infringement. This was followed shortly with a suit by graffiti artist Rime, who said that the designer had taken elements from one of his Detroit murals for a dress Katy Perry wore to the Met Gala in 2015. (Scott settled in both cases.)
âThat mindset of taking the McDonaldâs logo and infusing it with the M for Moschino, or using corporate imagery in your designs, thatâs fine. But itâs different when youâre using imagery from another artist,â said Charleston. (Scott had permission to use the SpongeBob and Bart Simpson characters, but a representative for the designer said his use of McDonaldâs imagery was an âhomageâ that used a similar, ânot directâ logo and therefore did not require approval.)
âFor a moment there . . . I did question what Jeremy Scottâs role in the fashion industry is,â said Julie Zerbo, a legal consultant and founder of the Web site the Fashion Law. âBut novelty is not what is driving demand for fashion. Demna [Gvasalia of the label Vetements] and Gucci are heavily referential for othersâ work. [Copying] is less harmful to oneâs reputation. And I assume the young people who are buying [Scottâs] iPhone cases and Barbie-inspired collections donât necessarily care.â
They donât. Scottâs pop vision of fashion has now become the norm. Balenciaga has a $2,100 bag that pays homage to IKEAâs blue tote; Gucci sells coats embroidered with Donald Duck.
âHeâs a rule-breaker, which is good for fashion,â said influential publicist Kelly Cutrone. âFashion can be super boring and elitist â thereâs only so much you can do with a spaghetti strap, bias-cut satin gown.â
And while several designers, such as Altuzarra and Thom Browne, are fleeing New York Fashion Week for Paris â or skipping the runway entirely, as Narciso Rodriguez is â Scott has remained its stalwart: eager to deliver the sparkle, headlines and drama that the week once regularly promised.
âHe still gets all the big models,â said fashion photographer Shawn Brackbill, who added that even though some glossy magazines donât consider Scottâs shows âelevatedâ enough to warrant coverage, the presentations still draw a raucous, passionate crowd. âI think itâs a testament to him. Whether itâs just that the shows are fun or just different from everything else, people want to be a part of it.â