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When it comes to fashion at the Winter Olympics, ice skaters generally have the most memorable, if not the best, costumes. So it’s no surprise that former skater and current NBC Olympics analyst Johnny Weir has stood out with his sartorial choices, even when he’s off the ice.
Despite his busy schedule analyzing this season’s performers at Sochi with former figure skater Tara Lipinski, Weir chatted with Pret-a-Reporter about his Hunger Games-inspired look, being compared to Coco Chanel and what constitutes a successful costume on the ice.
When you skated, what process did you go through to create the perfect outfit?
Everyone has a different process. I, myself, am very diplomatic. I made sure my entire career was managed underneath my own thumb. Costuming, like everything else — musical selection, coaching changes, choreography — was all decided by me. I sat down every year and listened to music at the beginning of the year, and decided what I was going to skate to, and of course, after selecting your music, you create a character in your mind of what you want to look like. I’m a very visual person, so I would have a vision of what I wanted to look like on the TV or medal stands. Then I would sketch and work for months with my seamstress, and we’d create the looks that you’d see me in. I never went on the ice in something that I didn’t have a hand in designing.
Is that the same for most ice skaters? Designing their own costumes?
[It’s a] personal preference for me, and again, it’s because I’m so OCD and micro-managing, but more than that, it’s because I do love costume designs and clothes. I’m a huge clothes whore. Just through that love, I’ve become — at least, in my own right — my own kind of expert on how I should look, and how my body is. And I knew I’d be the best designer for myself. I couldn’t sew, but I definitely knew what would work best for me. But a lot of skaters hire a designer to do their costumes, and they do it from start to finish. They’ll say, like, “Oh, I like pink,” and they’ll wear pink, and a designer will do it. Or a designer will envision something and tell them what to do or a coach will have very specific ideas of what to show. You see that mainly in ice dancing, where the whole ballroom aspect of ice dance is very important so the coaches and choreographers take a huge role in costume designing.
What major designers have been involved in the ice-skating world?
Vera Wang used to make costumes for Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan, and then Roberto Cavalli actually does the costumes of the great Italian champion Carolina Kostner, who will be in the ladies’ event here. Bob Mackie used to work on the Ice Capades; there have been some major fashion designers who have been involved because it’s such an artistic sport and I think designers love getting their fingers on the sporting aspect.
Considering that you’re a hands-on type of person when it comes to costumes, have you done any collabs?
As far as collaborations, I’ve worked with furrier Adrienne Landau, and previewing different collections, and Chris Benz is a great friend of mine and he would invite me to see the collections and get my opinion on what he was trying to do each season. And I absolutely love being involved or invited to enter this very interesting world of fashion, and that my opinion actually matters to some designers. It’s a very huge compliment to me.
What can we expect from you in terms of a future collection?
I actually created a small line of dresses for a website called e-dress me. It was six dresses, and I loved it. This was in 2011. I definitely love doing it, but I know fashion is a full-time job, and I honestly just haven’t had the time to commit to it fully, yet. But I definitely see myself in that kind of realm, collaborating with designers or doing special capsule collections. But certain people are born to do certain things, and I was born to ice skate and be part of the ice skating world. And fashion designers — the good ones, at least — are meant to be fashion designers, and I would never go in there and take that away from them.
You’ve posted some pretty fabulous outfits on Insta. Do you have a stylist or is that all you?
Everything I’m wearing in Sochi is selected by me. I was lucky enough to pull from some really great jewelry and fashion designers. I’m very excited to wear so many luxurious brands like Sandro, Erickson Beamon and Joomi Lim jewelry. And RAI LA is a great new leatherware company from Los Angeles. As far as stylists are concerned, I worked with Rachel Zoe for a little while after the Olympics and other stylists before. They are the middleman between me and the clothes, and as such an in-depth shopper, I don’t like that interference, so everything I pull, I style myself. Like my figure skating costumes, I like to have a word over what I wear. No one is going to style me better than me. I know myself best.
Given your expertise in styling good-looking outfits, what constitutes a successful ice skating costume?
For me, it was important that I felt pretty when I ice-skated. If I wore something — no matter how ridiculous — as long as I felt beautiful, I knew I would skate better in something that I felt good in. If I wore something heinous, I would skate heinously. For me, a great skating costume is a costume that will make photographs; it will be something that you can see on the cover of a magazine. It could be something that you’ll have photographs of yourself in for the rest of your life, sitting on the medal stand while listening to your national anthem. And you look wonderful. That, to me, is a successful costume.
Of all the costumes you’ve worn on the ice, which one’s your favorite?
It was definitely from the 2010 Olympics, both costumes. In the short program, I wore a black oil-slick corset with hot pink cording and tassel. It was very over-the-top, but very me. I looked thin and fabulous, and loved it. Then, for the free program, my costume was inspired by a fallen angel. I did these wild, Swarvoski-crusted ribs and these huge angel wings that flopped over my shoulders. It was one of those costumes I’m not embarrassed looking back on it. One that’s parodied and made fun of a lot, but that I loved was my costume, for my short program at the 2006 Olympics. I skated to “The Dying Swan” and I basically wore an entire swan. (Laughs.) And it was wonderful.
Which costumes at Sochi have you been most impressed by, so far?
So far, I’ve liked Carolina Kostner — the Roberto Cavalli costume she wore to the short program in the team event for Italy — I just think it’s so beautiful and well-made. It creates that perfect image and moment. And Aliona Savchenko from Germany, she was in the pairs competition and skated to the Pink Panther and wore an entire hot pink catsuit. She’s the only skater in the world with the body that’s banging enough to wear a hot pink onesie. While it may not be the most well-made costume, it definitely was a memory and moment. She looked hot.
How about the bad ones?
I’m not the biggest fans of the guys who go out in a T-shirt, and there were lots of them last night that competed wearing a long-sleeve tee or some shirt with no style or idea of what was pretty and interesting. [They were] just outfits that were thrown together and thrown on. Looking ahead to the men’s free skate, I actually designed two costumes in the event. One for Alexei Bychenko from Israel and one for Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan. I’m excited to see the costumes I had a part in on Olympic ice.
So we hear that Stanley Tucci’s character in The Hunger Games has been your wardrobe inspiration?
Yes, I was definitely trying to think of a way of incorporating my own style with now working, and trying to be respectful of my boss. (Laughs.) I’m so used to promoting myself and being very aware of my public image. But now, I have to take a sort of back seat. I try to find the perfect blend, finding my way between Coco Chanel and the other anchors that’ll wear Brooks Brothers. That’s Stanley Tucci‘s character from The Hunger Games. That’s literally where I felt I fit in the best.
There’s actually a photo of you being compared to Coco Chanel. Have you seen that?
I did. A friend of mine actually sent me the email and put that in there. I thought that was so funny and I didn’t even realize that I was dressed in basically the same outfit as Coco Chanel. It’s a great compliment.
We saw on Insta that you’ve packed a ton of clothes for Sochi. How does one decide what to pack?
I, like many fashionistas, will overpack so I have options every day. I came with about 10 pairs of shoes, four fur coats, 10 blazers — I have a lot of stuff here. I have four giant suitcases that are the size of the Ford Focuses. I overpack. I’m not an economical packer, and no one has ever accused me of being that. My advice for when you’re going on a trip is to overpack.
OK, so that pink Chanel blazer — love. Where did you find that?
Well, I love a shop in New York called What Goes Around Comes Around. Also, in L.A., I love Decades. I’m a big fan of vintage clothing. I think there’s a really subtle, beautiful way that things were crafted back in the day. Now everything is sort of mass-produced and it’s kind of rough to buy things now.… And [at] What Goes Around Comes Around, years ago, unfortunately a woman passed away and her family had dropped off a lot of her Chanel, Valentino, Alaia. She was a larger woman, but was basically my size in women’s clothing. The pink blazer was sitting there, and I knew I had to have it.
When did your love for fashion start?
I think it’s because I come from Amish country in Pennslyvania, and I wasn’t exposed to fashion and glamour for the most part. My mom wore heels and lipstick every once in a while when she was going out. It was definitely the ’80s, early ’90s when I started to see how ladies dressed. I found it very much costuming yourself when you go out, and I was so inspired by it. When I grew up, I started reading fashion magazines like Vogue and GQ. I became obsessed with learning about the designers and their history, then when the Internet became popular, I would spend hours just sitting and learning as much as I could. It was very organic and natural the way I got into it. I was so fascinated with how fashion worked. The business side was very interesting, but of course, the art.
And in the spirit of awards season, whose outfit are you most excited to see at the Oscars?
I think Jennifer Lawrence is killing it. Also, Lupita Nyong’o — she’s just impeccably dressed, especially when she wore that turquoise Gucci [dress]. I just love what she’s been doing with her fashion. Really, I’m excited for some weirdos to show up. If Tilda Swinton shows up, I’ll be excited to see what she’s wearing.
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