Just Dance, Gaga’s chart-topping debut single, was released in April 2008. “That record saved my life,” she told The Guardian. “I was in such a dark space in New York. I was so depressed, always in a bar. I got on a plane to LA to do my music and was given one shot to write the song that would change my life and I did.” It went on to become one of the best-selling digital singles, shifting over 10 million copies. The song’s music video was the public’s first glimpse at the outlandish sartorial tastes of the soon-to-be megastar. Platinum blonde hair, supersized shoulder pads, and disco-ball bras were small indicators of what was yet to come.
For every single she released, Gaga had a very clear artistic vision surrounding each song that was relayed through her music videos and performance wardrobe. Her eclectic on-stage style cascaded into her everyday look. For the singer there was no such thing as ‘off duty’: “I am Lady Gaga 24/7”, she confessed to the Evening Standard. “I have no day off. You have to live your art. You won’t ever catch me in sweatpants and a hoodie. Even in bed I wear my pearls and high heels.”
Modelled on Andy Warhol’s factory, the Haus of Gaga is the pop star’s collaborative team, full of hand-picked creatives that are responsible for some of her most memorable props and costumes. “I just called all my coolest art friends and we sat in a room and I said that I wanted to make my face light up,” Gaga explained to theEvening Standard in 2010. “Or that I wanted to make my cane light up. Or that I wanted to make a pair of dope sunglasses. Or that I wanted to make video glasses, or whatever it was that I wanted to do. It’s a whole amazing creative process that’s completely separate from the label.” Back in 2008, Nicola Formichetti was fashion director of the Haus, heading up the role of stylist to Lady Gaga. He was responsible for introducing the singer to a number of London-based designers that she went on to collaborate with, including Fred Butler, Gareth Pugh and Nasir Mazhar.
The Fame Monster
In 2009 Gaga reissued her studio album as The Fame Monster, with artwork shot by designer Hedi Slimane. It was around this time fans of the popstar became known as Little Monsters, hailing Gaga as Mother Monster. “I actually have become a better artist because of my fans,” Gaga told Rolling Stone magazine. “There’s something about my relationship with my fans that’s so pure and genuine.”
The Fame Monster: McQueen Romance
Gaga debuted the reissued album’s lead single -Bad Romance – at Lee Alexander McQueen’s final catwalk show, Plato’s Atlantis. The singer, who was both a fan and a friend of the late designer, also featured the rare Armadillo Boots from McQueen’s show in the Bad Romance music video. When three pairs of the famous shoes went up for auction in aid of UNICEF five years later, the singer snapped them all up, posting a picture on Instagram captioned: “When a gift comes to you from heaven.”
Born This Way
In May 2011, Gaga released her second album,Born This Way. “The album is about rebirth in every sense”, she explained to the Financial Times. “It’s about being able to be reborn over and over again until you find the identity inside of yourself that defines you best for who you are, that makes you feel the most like a champion of life.”
Born This Way: From Mugler to Armani
2011 saw some exciting fashion collaborations for Gaga. When she performed the album’s title track at the Grammys, the singer was reborn on stage, emerging out of a giant egg wearing latex and prosthetics to resemble an alien. Before the performance, Formichetti sent out a tweet from the singer’s account to clarify the spectacle: “This is Nicola, Haus of Gaga: Gaga is in incubation. Tonight’s performance is in collaboration with Hussein Chalayan and House of Mugler.” The following month, Gaga made her debut catwalk appearance when she walked in the Mugler show to celebrate her friend Formichetti’s first collection as creative director of the French fashion house. That year Gaga also collaborated with Giorgio Armani, who created a number of bespoke costumes for the world tour.
Born This Way: Alter Ego
“Beginning as an invention of my mind, Jo Calderone was created with Nick Knight as a mischievous experiment,” Gaga explained to V Magazine. “After working together tirelessly and passionately for years … Nick and I began to wonder: how much exactly can we get away with? … How can we remodel the model? … I asked myself this question. And the answer? Drag”. Gaga worked with Formichetti and Knight to create an editorial starring her alter ego, which was published in the autumn/winter 2010 edition of Vogue Hommes Japan. Calderone also made an appearance at the 2011 MTV VMAs, walking the red carpet and performing Yoü and I during the ceremony.
In 2013 came Artpop, Gaga’s third studio album. “The intention of the album was to put art culture into pop music, a reverse of Warhol,” she told the Daily Mail. “Instead of putting pop onto the canvas, we wanted to put the art onto the soup can.”
Artpop: Versace Love
Gaga first met Donatella Versace when she borrowed vintage pieces from the fashion house for her Edge of Glory music video in 2011. “I thought she looked incredible in the pieces,” Versace told V Magazine. “The way she wore Versace in that video showed young people around the world the energy and attitude of Versace.” That was the beginning of the blossoming friendship between the designer and the pop star. Gaga wrote an ode to the designer which featured on her Artpop album. Versace,who was thrilled with the tribute, then cast Gaga in the spring/summer 2014 Versace campaign.
Cheek to Cheek
Gaga’s album with Tony Bennett – Cheek to Cheek, released in 2014 – marked a pivotal point in her style evolution. From the Emmys to the Oscars, her red carpet appearances called upon the glamour of Old Hollywood, mirroring the ambience of the big band jazz tunes she was singing. The mastermind behind many of her looks was Brandon Maxwell, former assistant to Nicola Formichetti and current fashion director of Gaga’s Haus. Maxwell, however, insists that Gaga’s new look was a result of the collaborative process between the two of them. “I don’t feel responsible for any sort of style transformation”, he told Vanity Fair. “I think, over time, people grow; they evolve and they change.