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Jeremy Scott and his muse, Karen Elson, talk fantasy, friendship and the joy of fashion

Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott and supermodel Karen Elson discuss fashion, what it was like to collaborate on a musical and how the modelling industry can become truly ethical.  
“She's genuinely the real deal,” says Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott about his long-standing muse, illustrious supermodel Karen Elson. “We have a history of doing shows, but we also have a very personal friendship.” 
It comes as no surprise, then, that the American designer has revolved the entire Moschino Resort 2022 and menswear SS22 film — entitled Lightning Strikes: The Moschino Musical — around the iconic British model-turned-songstress, starring her as the lead. The project was also a close collaboration between Elson, 42, and 45-year-old Scott: “My piece of the puzzle was the music, but I was a sounding board and source of inspiration as well,” says Elson. 
“I love that you can't tell what time period it is, it’s a whimsical fantasy,” says Scott about the film. “It's an amalgamation of Hollywood musicals.” The short vignette, directed by the designer and shot at the legendary backlots of Universal Studios, California, sees Elson as a waitress, daydreaming into a cinematic world of wonder, along with a cast of professional dancers, adorned in dazzling Moschino fashions that are, as always, peppered with Scott’s signature tongue-in-cheek wit. 
It’s fun, colourful and utterly glamorous — everything we need after the year-and-a-half we’ve all had. And it’s all topped off with Elson’s electrifying original track, Lightning Strikes, an upbeat number that takes the exuberant spectacle to a grand peak.
Ahead of the film’s premiere on the Moschino website on 29 June, Vogue caught up with the designer and supermodel to talk about their enduring bond, what it was like to collaborate on a musical and why the modelling industry has much further to go to become truly ethical.
How did you meet and what do you admire about each other?
Jeremy Scott: “We met at Café Ruc in Paris in October 1999 when I was having dinner with [American model] Devon Aoki, who had just told me she wouldn’t be able to walk my show. Karen came up to the table because she knew Devon, and said, “I'll do it!” She stole the spotlight and it helped put me on the map. Since then, she’s been a true friend I can rely on.”
Karen Elson: “There's this hope and fearlessness that I've always admired about you, Jeremy. You’ve always stayed true to yourself.”
You must have so many stories from over the years. What's one of your favourites?
Karen: “One of mine is the SS00 Duty-free Glamour show at the Louvre in Paris. It reminded me that fashion can be fun and irreverent.”
Jeremy: “Our first Met Gala, 20 years ago, is a great memory. But it’s actually been superseded by filming this musical together. Karen, you were so beautiful and your singing is so joyful. I was dancing in front of the monitor the whole time — it was the closest thing to perfection.”
Karen: “It takes one person to believe in another to let them shine, and you trusted me to do that. In this industry, people don't put enough faith in others, especially models. Even after the rehearsals, I was pinching myself because it was a dream come true.”
Jeremy: “You trusted me, too! I couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t been the muse.”
A musical is the high-energy relief we all need right now. Where did the idea come from and how did you bring it to life?
Jeremy: “When Karen was in Los Angeles to shoot Moschino’s AW21 Jungle Red film, I had been listening to her album Radio Redhead, Vol 1 on repeat. I was enamoured when we saw each other. I immediately had this vision of her as the centrepiece of a triptych. As soon as we wrapped, all I could think of was Karen in a musical.”
Karen: “When Jeremy texted me about this beautiful idea, we started sending each other clips and I could feel him percolating. During the pandemic, I've been working on a lot of new music and I sent him various projects to choose from.”  
Jeremy, why was Karen the perfect lead for your whimsical fantasy?
Jeremy: “I felt it was in her and, honestly, I didn't even know if she could dance before we started. And the fact that we have a long friendship, I feel so protected by her, because with what I do, I don't share my ideas with anybody.”                 
Foto: Marco Ovando
Foto: Marco Ovando
Foto: Marco Ovando
Karen, can you tell me about your new single, Lightning Strikes?
Karen: “It’s a play on flirtatiousness and how someone can make you feel, with the additional little-known fact that I’m obsessed with thunderstorms. I love them and I live in Nashville, Tennessee, where there are crazy ones. I'm so glad we picked this song because it's got such an audacity to it.”
Apart from each other, of course, which collaborators were instrumental in executing this production?
Jeremy: “It’s a mostly female-driven project, which is exciting. The choreographer, Denna Thomsen, made my job look easy — she had to calculate every movement and it was mind-blowing. And the cinematographer, Cristina Dunlap, helped me create lighting that gave the mood an unreal quality.”
Karen: Margo Price, an amazing singer-songwriter in Nashville, produced the music. Brendan Benson [singer-songwriter, producer and co-founder of rock band The Raconteurs], who's also my daughter's godfather, engineered it. I had the most fun with the dancers, as well, who were so patient with me.”
Karen, you're a mentor and advocate for models’ rights, and Jeremy, you've got long-standing relationships with your muses — what do you feel needs to change in the modelling industry?
Karen: “Jeremy has always viewed me as a person and that is the number one thing. Models are a vital part of the process so giving them respect and humanity is essential. It's a business, so you must also have transparency. There shouldn’t be bullying — this culture of meanness needs to stop. It's important that we're having this dialogue now for future generations, and I don't plan on going anywhere, anytime soon.”
Jeremy: “When I started out, we were all young and such good friends, so I knew of the heartbreaking things that were going on. These people work for you so why are you being manipulative? Kindness and care is the bare minimum that should be given.”
And lastly, the musical evokes so much joy and positivity — what brings you joy? 
Jeremy: “Firstly, it's creating — I enjoy and relish the process as much as I do the end result. Second, it's getting to hear that it brought you joy! I love to be able to put a smile on people's faces.”
Karen: “I've said this to you many times, Jeremy: you bring such joy to fashion. I feel so lucky to be a part of your imagination, to still be doing all of this.”