Behind every pop supernova and her unimaginably conceived getup, behind every stylist and costume designer who orchestrates their star’s image, there is always a gifted artisan actually conceiving the original idea, literally crafting it into existence, ultimately responsible for conjuring the stuff that legends are made of.
To Cher, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Dolly Parton and a host of other bonafide icons, that guy is Michael Schmidt. Some of the most stunning, provocative, diabolical, how-the-hell-did-they-pull-that-off costumes seen on the likes of, well, every top pop star in the last two decades were hatched by the downtown L.A. designer.
For the covers of Rolling Stone, he put Lady Gaga in plastic bubbles and Rihanna in cut-off jeans that were actually silk-screened mesh, a process he innovated. He put Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas in elaborate costumes made of thousands of Legos. For Janet Jackson, he faced the mind-blowing request of creating a fully articulated ring that resembled a penis—from wax to final functional form in less than a week. His intricate hand-wrought mesh togs famously drape Iggy Pop, Tina Turner, Cher, Steven Tyler, Grace Jones…
Then, there's my favorite, the gown he created years ago for long-time friend Debbie Harry covered in 3,500 real razor blades that he personally hand sanded and hand sewed on individually to create a fringe effect. The floor-length dress has appeared in the “Rock Style’ exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in NYC and the fashion showcase I curated at last summer's California Design Biennial.
Karl Lagerfeld has collected pieces Michael has created for Chrome Hearts. And Michael's large-scale interior projects include black leather floors in the VIP room of NYC's Palladium nightclub, studded in silver and spelling out in Braille the lyrics to the Iggy Pop classic "Nightclubbing."
Folks with a fraction of his credits and talent have managed to bask in the limelight of clients they've scarcely worked with, a fact that speaks to Michael's maddening modesty. So it goes to reason that those of us fans who've become his champions were as delighted as we were relieved when he finally decided to roll out a collection of silver mesh and Swarovski jewelry under his very own name.
For the big reveal, Lisa Edelstein, Annie Flanders and I banded to do what we do best: throw a party to share our excitement for Michael's work. This was the first opportunity anyone had to order from the collection, which should start making its way into better boutiques in coming months. Lisa opened the doors to her incredible mid-century home on a recent Sunday afternoon, and the response just proved what we have always known: Michael Schmidt rocks!
The man of the hour, Michael Schmidt strikes a pose in between actresses Danielle Bisutti and Sara Ramirez, both dripping in his mesh and crystal pieces.
Michael has created elaborate costumes and accessories for friend Dita Von Teese, and she turned out to check out the collection and zero in on a few favorite pieces for herself.
Neither mesh or sparkle, these crystal "bubbles" come as a swatch of fabric from Swarovski which Michael partly deconstructs and refashions into tubing and other forms to create jewelry that is comfortably pliable and moves.
Talk about glam punk.
Arianne Philips, pictured on the left here with Lisa and me, has long collaborated with Michael on jaw-dropping tour costumes for Madonna and her editorials with sharp shooting greats such as Steven Klein. She has always been an incredible champion of relatively unknown talent, and has been equally supportive of Michael's work forever and now.
Britta Hayertz and the Marquis Michael Des Barres
Besides the dazzling eye candy they create, the beautiful thing about the creative folks in this community is the support. At our Sunday fling for Michael, fellow accessories designers and friends turned out such as Raven Kauffman and Joseph Brooks, whose jewelry we carry at A+R. Stay tuned for more about all of these folks…
by Rose Apodaca
Photos Courtesy of David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan.com