Talking of bras, before your conical design for Madonna came about, you created one for your very first teddy bear, Nana. Why? Did you ever think it would become such an important piece of fashion and music iconography?
You know, I wanted to have a doll to dress up but my parents didn’t want me to – ‘A doll, non, that’s for a girl, come on!’ – so I made my first transvestite teddy bear instead, ha! I never imagined the design would become what it has though. Nothing I have ever designed has been made as a deliberate fashion statement – I saw fashion advertising for bras in the 50s, and they were on pin-up girls and were a little pointy and sexy, so the conical bra was about my own self-education and interpretation of what women were wearing and liked.
With Women shaping much of your life and career, you’ve had many female muses, most notably Madonna. How did that relationship come about, and how has it evolved over the years?
The first time I saw Madonna was in the ‘Holiday’ video, and I remember thinking she must be British, because Americans couldn’t dress like that. She was and still is very European in reality and her look then was a mix of what I was doing – it was very underground. I loved how she was creating her own look and didn’t need a stylist. I remember seeing her later on in another video clip where she was wearing a black and gold corset, and it was like one of my own designs but it was by Frederick’s of Hollywood, and I thought, ‘Why didn’t she ask me to do that?’ So later on at a party I gave her some sketches of designs I had in mind for her and then one year later, between one of my shows, someone said, ‘Madonna called and she wants you to call her back,’ and I said, ‘Yes, okay, okay,’ thinking they were making fun of me, and then after the show I said, ‘But it was true that story of Madonna, non?’ So we eventually spoke and she knew what she wanted from me and I knew how to create that, and I was also a big fan too, so it was perfect. It still is. It has been one of the most incredible collaborations of my career.
What would a typical night out together involve?
Well, she has a family now of course, but when we used to go out everything was always arranged, usually by her, ha! And we would go for dinner and she never spoke about business, never, never, never – but gossip yes! Bitchy things, yes! And sexy things, yes! The first time I went to New York it was after Thanksgiving, and we went out to some parties and then to a club where she was casting for a show. It was super organised with a mix of work too. I love that about her, that she’s always researching and being influenced wherever she