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LONDON — It is 48 hours before the Rolling Stones kick off their “50 & Counting: The Rolling Stones Live” tour and a fiercely focused, articulate Mick Jagger is talking about clothes in an exclusive interview with WWD. So, too, is Jagger’s longtime paramour, L’Wren Scott. After a decade together, it is the first time they’ve ever done a joint sit-down for publication.
Jagger — whose serpentine silhouette put a whole new spin on masculinity — is in full flow about the dramatic impact of 18th century French riding coats; the pleasure — and pain — that came with wearing an Ossie Clark jumpsuit, and the cheesecloth trousers that used to keep him cool onstage.
Yet while he has very clear ideas about how he wants to look onstage, he’s like many other men when it comes to one aspect of dressing. “Men aren’t interested in clothes that look amazing but are fantastically uncomfortable to wear. We’re not into pain — we’re into comfort,” says Jagger with his big grin.
He and Scott are in the thick of final fittings at her King’s Road studio not far from their home in Chelsea and a short walk from Edith Grove, where Jagger once shared a grimy flat with Brian Jones and Keith Richards.
Dressed today in a pair of gray, private-label trousers from the London specialty store Browns, a dark plaid shirt and black Nike trainers, Jagger is disarmingly calm. Sunday night may be fast approaching, but the mood in the room is easy. Scott and Jagger are so clearly comfortable with each other, and so mutually gracious with visitors, they could teach the legions of highly strung, puffed-up celebrities a lesson.
For the moment, both are intensely focused on the tour’s sartorial side. Conversation ranges from a debate over the merits of two Stephen Jones hats, and exactly how roomy a black-and-white patterned jacket needs to be for the famously athletic Jagger to move properly onstage. “When you’re onstage [the costumes] have to fit, and they have to be — for me —glamorous,” Jagger says. “They have to fit in with the show. If you’re doing a small club like we did the other week [in Paris], you don’t want to dress up like a popinjay. If you’re playing in a really big stadium, you want to be in superbright colors, otherwise you just get lost. But if you’re in an arena that’s really well-lit, like we’re going to be in the next few shows, you don’t have to be looking like a Day-Glo.”
Jagger says silhouette and the different shapes he cuts onstage have always been important: “I’ve always done a kind of skinny silhouette because I am skinny; I don’t have to worry about covering up fat bits! So you’ve got to emphasize your silhouette. But then sometimes you want, on top of that, clothes that have movement. So I’ve always done a lot of coats influenced by riding coats of the 18th or early 19th centuries — what the French call ‘red in gote.’ I do those with a small tail. Obviously I’ve done other more mad things. I’ve done capes and things,” he says.
“I think about parts of the show. The show has a beginning, so it’s very important to make an entrance. If there’s a second act where the lights or the scene changes, it’s good to have a different [look]. I don’t get time to change my pants really. So the pants stay. So they’ve got to be supercomfy, and not cause me problems. I might change my coat or shirts,” Jagger adds.
Costume design for maximum impact is just the sort of challenge that fires up Scott, who, before launching her ready-to-wear collection, was a celebrity stylist known for her consummate discretion — and for using clothing to empower her high-profile clients. She is famous for her lean, elegant silhouettes, bold colors and celebrity clientele that includes Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penélope Cruz.
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“In a way, when you’re designing for this, you are designing for the stage persona,” Scott says in her studio earlier in the day, before Jagger’s arrival. “So it’s so great when you see [the clothes] come to life and moving — it’s amazing! I’ve worked with lots of musicians — like Tina Turner — and I love when they go in front of the fitting mirror and do their thing, pose, dance. I love that moment! As you know, when Mick performs he takes things off, goes into this other world.”
The statuesque Scott, a Utah native with a major mane of jet-black hair, says working with friends — not to mention one’s living-legend companion — can be a double-edged experience. “The fact that you’re close with someone or friends with them can be good and bad. It’s good that you know their comfort levels, and how far you can push. But, at the same time, you need to avoid having too many emotions and feelings because you have to listen very carefully to their ideas. You have to make sure that your creation, your vision [is in tune with theirs],” she says. “Mick really has his own style, and he is quite opinionated about how he wants to look. At the end of the day, [the performer] has to feel good in it. It’s not you or I dancing and prancing out there.”
Scott, who has designed costumes for Jagger in the past (an entirely separate team, unrelated to her, takes care of the rest of the band), is dressed head-to-toe in her own designs — lace shirt, black skinny jeans, a sweater with gold sequins, a black suede jacket. The only thing that’s not Scott are the Martin Margiela brogues. Her small studio, meanwhile, is overrun with sequins, teal feathers and sparkly jackets, while the storyboards feature images of Jagger throughout the decades — all sweat and vocal chords, messy hair and lips. On a mannequin in one corner, there’s a floor-length, black coat lush with hand-embroidered ostrich feathers and lined in metallic bordeaux lace — a reference to the Walton Ford gorilla design on the band’s latest album cover.