In an echoing studio in Brooklyn’s hipster Red Hook neighborhood, Grace Coddington and a team of earnest Comme des Garçons minions are fastening Katy Perry into something that resembles a child’s toy car fashioned from jade-green fake-Astrakhan fur with a many-tentacled faux–ostrich feather boa shimmying at her hips like an Elizabethan life preserver. “Done everything else,” says Perry drily, “why not check this box?”
Nugget, Perry’s adorable, ginger biscuit–colored micro teacup poodle, gambols at her feet, which are being coaxed into shoes with long, pointed toes, like those of medieval knights in brass rubbings. If her arms weren’t entirely constrained by Rei Kawakubo’s conceptual straitjacket, she would sweep Nugget up in them. “I collect tiny things,” says Perry. “She brings so much love. When I wake up, she’s the only serotonin I need.”
Hair artist Julien d’Ys selects a wig from an army of Styrofoam heads that bear scissored neon Dynel bangs, peroxided eighteenth-century sausage curls, lilac glass stalagmites, and a Miss Havisham mess of ancient tulle and orange blossom made to wear with a dress from Rei Kawakubo’s 2005 Broken Bride collection.
Perry appraises herself in the mirror. “Let me know when Zoolander 3 starts shooting,” she deadpans. “These clothes, honestly, are walking pieces of art,” she adds, serious now. “It’s the redefinition of sex; the sex of the mind.”
Artist Dustin Yellin’s Pioneer Works studios are next door; hearing that Perry is in the house, he comes to pay court to the performer who has engaged with artists since she collaborated with Will Cotton on her candylicious 2010 Teenage Dream album cover and “California Gurls” video. “Fashion is just a language,” says Perry. “It’s storytelling. I am so encouraged by the big morph in fashion that’s happening at the moment. Everybody is shape-shifting, changing, adapting.” No one more than Perry herself, it would seem.