Born this way’s fashion and message remain powerful a decade later


There’s no denying Lady Gaga’s impact on music. A decade ago, the star cemented her status as one of the most influential artists around with the release of her second studio album, Born This Way. Led by an anthemic title track that focused on self-acceptance và unity, the album introduced another side of Gaga to lớn the public. Though she’d always celebrated the diversity of her audience và peppered her lyrics with messages of hope, those issues moved to the forefront in Born This Way. An all-out celebration of her LGBTQIA+ fans, as well as a chance khổng lồ push the boundaries of pop presentation, it became the star’s magnum opus. 

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The fashion of Born This Way was equally as iconic. Gaga had already had her giới thiệu of headline-making outfits—meat dress, anyone?—but the fresh look for the new album was a full-scale reinvention that played with the codes of performance art lớn express the albums’ themes fully. “The Fame was pure pop, & she was living in that world for a while, but she started communicating with her fans và getting lớn know their problems,” explains Nicola Formichetti, Haus of Gaga's longtime fashion director. “She was the first pop star khổng lồ build this kind of relationship through social media. I remember her saying, ‘we need to vày more. We need khổng lồ create music and messages that are much deeper.’ Gay rights, gender equality, racial equality were all being talked about & fought for during that time, and they still are now. wanted to lớn create a celebration of equality, one that would resonate with the listeners.” 

Creating a visual representation of those ideals required thought, especially when it came lớn the “Born This Way” track and its accompanying visuals. Months before the album’s release, the Haus of Gaga team—Formichetti, makeup artist Sarah Tanno, hair stylist Frederic Aspiras, và designer Brandon Maxwell— bounced ideas off each other. They had a sense of the era’s vibe thanks khổng lồ previews of the tracks but hadn’t settled on an aesthetic. “That’s always how our creative process works; we’re there creating based on feelings and our reaction to lớn things,” says Formichetti. “We don’t come in with a mood board. We might start there, but when it’s time to lớn decide, we are there creating on the spot, taking lots of different elements và mixing them up.” 


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The earnest nature of the song’s lyrics presented a challenge. “It’s an incredibly powerful song, but it could be seen as cheesy because it’s so celebratory and not trying to be cool,” explains Formichetti. “At the time, it all felt so new và strange. When we were discussing the looks, we didn’t have one specific concept in mind, but we wanted to show multiple versions of Gaga, all different but given equal importance.” Photography legend Nick Knight was on hand lớn shoot the album’s visuals, & his stylized images led the team to strip down. The pictures which feature Gaga in front of a backdrop with pointy shoulders, platform heels, or her toàn thân morphed into a motorcycle keep the focus on the performer. “When in doubt, hotline Nick,” says Formichetti. “During the shoot, he was like, ‘lets go back to lớn the bare minimum và just start creating.’” 

For many, the first visual that comes to lớn mind when they think of the album is that of Gaga decked out in horns và cheekbone ridges, her features reimagined thanks khổng lồ the hard edges of latex prosthetics created by the special effects makeup masters at Millennium FX. “We had this extraterrestrial alien look that we were going for, but also very religious,” says Formichetti. “Pure and stripped down to basics, into embryo form.” That rebirth led lớn collaboration with Dutch artist Bart Hess, whose “slime dress” features in the song’s video and album shoot. “The album has this rock n’ roll feeling that is in Gaga’s DNA, but how do you take that and make it feel new và alien?” says Formichetti. “We worked with Bart on a goo that almost looks lượt thích an embryo or something that has just been born. We started to take these themes that we loved and just went deeper with them.” 

When it came time to film the Knight-directed music đoạn clip for ‘Born This Way,’ Gaga và her crew had an inkling of how important the clip would eventually become. “She wanted to lớn create a manifesto with that video,” says Formichetti. “It’s a song about empowerment và freedom, so of course, we wanted the look to be powerful và fearless. At the same time, you want a duality, khổng lồ show the darker side of the fantasy—good & evil.” 

Alexander McQueen’s irreverence perfectly reflected that duality, but Formichetti wanted lớn honor the hallmarks of the McQueen look without pulling from the designer’s archives. After leaning into his Plato’s Atlantis spring/summer 2010 collection for the ‘Bad Romance’ video, Formichetti wanted to go in a different direction. “The spirit of McQueen inspired us, but we didn’t use his clothes,” says Formichetti. “Instead, we wanted to show the goddess look without using his clothes, the headdress, the big hair, these otherworldly silhouettes.” Named creative director of Mugler in 2010, Formichetti instead mixed custom pieces from the brand, like those towering knife platforms, with museum-worthy originals from artists like Petra Storrs. The latter made the video’s memorable stained glass dress. “Gaga has such respect for the fashion world, its creatures, and creative people in general,” says Formichetti. “So we’re always working with incredible designers, be it people we love from the past or next exciting talent.” 


The video’s theatricality carried over into the real world thanks khổng lồ events like the Grammys where Gaga arrived in a Hussein Chalayan egg she would later hatch out of and the Born This Way ball tour where she cycled through creative looks daily, including special piece from Versace and Moschino. A special pop-up at Barneys offered fans another way lớn dive into the album’s world. “It was pop culture entertainment,” says Formichetti. “We wanted khổng lồ keep people excited and continuously surprised.” 

The song and album became a rallying cry. For so many fans, its assertion that all people are beautiful, valuable, và essential is as powerful today as it was ten years ago. “There’s a reason why it’s still relevant,” says Formichetti. “Born This Way is a celebration of people & our differences, the importance of freedom và equality. Back then, it was still a bit taboo to lớn speak about some of these things openly, but now if you look at what’s happened, you can see where the tuy vậy has become a motto, and its message has proven so meaningful.”