Lady Gaga resting on 14th Street in an Asher Levine jacket in New York City.
Photo: Terry Richardson
Lady Gaga has made a name for herself as much for her music as for her outrageous style. (How can you forget the meat dress?) But what's spectacular about her fashion choices is her ability to catapult the careers of rising design stars. Like 22-year-old menswear designer Asher Levine. The Port Charlotte, Florida native dressed Lady Gaga not once, but twice, in the past few months, finding his clothes on her just weeks after he graduated college at New York's Pace University. First, Lady Gaga wore Asher's black motorcycle jacket in Rolling Stone's July issue, and she wore his white straightjacket coat to her Today Show performance. MTV Style caught up with Asher Levine, who just presented his second full collection at New York Fashion Week, at his home base in New York City to find out how he went from student to dressing Lady Gaga in record time.
Asher Levine self portrait.
Photo: Courtesy of Asher Levine
When did you start designing?
Asher Levine: "Since I was a little boy, I was always sitting at the sewing machine. It's the only option for me. I've always felt the same way from the very beginning about fashion — I love it to an obsessive, obsessive degree. Two days after I graduated high school I got on a plane and moved to New York City [in 2006] to pursue a business degree at Pace University. I knew how to make clothes, I needed to know accounting, marketing and all the things fashion school leaves out."
Who do you design for?
"There are certain people that transcend the boundaries of gender. Look at Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Madonna. Look at Lady Gaga. These are figures throughout our recent history that have transcended gender and represent something that's greater. And that's who I'm connecting with."
How were you discovered?
"Nicola Formichetti's team (Lady Gaga's stylist) contacted me and said someone recommended me. They got in contact, and I said let's do it. I respect Gaga because she's cognizant about what's been done in the past, and she knows how to push the boundaries and make new fashion, music, or art."
From the streets of NYC to the cover of 'Rolling Stone,' Lady Gaga makes the most of her Asher Levine motorcycle jacket.
Photo: Courtesy of Asher Levine
What was your process like to design the oversize motorcycle jacket she wore in Rolling Stone?
"I would make a sketch. I would send it to Nicola, and then if Nicola approves it, he sends it to Lady Gaga, and then it trickles down. A lot of times, I do a sketch and they say, 'Can it be like this or like that?' Then, once he says it's good, I do a muslin (light fabric) version. I build the muslin version, take a picture, send it to them, and they say 'let's do it.' "
How long did it take to create the jacket?
"With Gaga, they only give you a couple days, so you better crank it out quickly. Depending on how complicated the piece is, about a week."
What was it like designing the white straightjacket coat for her Today Show appearance?
"When she kicked off her Monster Ball tour, they said they wanted a new jacket. They wanted purple at first, so I got three whole cows in purple. It's a lot of skin. It takes about 200 square feet of animal skin to make one of those oversize coats. At the last minute, they go, 'We want it to be white.' So I went back my factory and found all these nice lambskins and cut that up and put it together. And I'm really happy how it turned out."
Did you hit any snags while designing for Lady Gaga?
"When we were doing the white straightjacket we worked from 7 a.m. to 4 in the morning the next day. We needed to deliver it to her at the Today Show. They said you have to get it to us 5 a.m. Out of nowhere it's 4 a.m., so I hop in a cab with this whole motorcycle straightjacket — and I pull up to 48th street and it was MAYHEM. I was literally hand-sewing the tag into the jacket on my way to the Today Show in the cab."
Lady Gaga backstage at the 'Today Show' in an Asher Levine jacket.
Photo: Courtesy of Nicola Formichetti.
What has Lady Gaga done for your career?
"I think she represents my future customer. Because she's looked at so highly, she legitimized that standpoint of this new mentality of clothing—of being unique. She helped it immensely, and I'm excited to work with her more in the future."
Are you working on more for Lady Gaga?
"I totally expect to be. I get along with her team. It changes my direction, and that’s why I like to collaborate with these artists."
What are you trying to convey through your clothes?
"There's a revolution happening right now within humanity, not just fashion. It's a revolution of uniqueness of the individual. Many artists are tapping into this energy, and I'm interpreting it through fashion. What I'm doing in fashion, I'm defining the new man and how he presents himself in the world and how to make him look as sexy as possible. When you think of someone who looks sexy, how do you define that? I'm using different types of fabrics that define a new sexuality and masculinity."
What are you inspired by?
"I look at inspiration [in] everyday weird things. I think it's important to look at things that are outside of your box of understanding, like organisms that are zoomed in 40,000 times. I fill my head with that, and when I pick up the chalk or charcoal, it all manifests itself in that one stroke so it comes together collectively."
Where can people buy your collection?
"It's available at OAK in New York and online. The price ranges from $150 for a shirt or tank pants for $250 to $350 and fur pieces up to $4,000 for a jacket like Lady Gaga's."
+ Would you wear Asher Levine's designs like Lady Gaga?