As we travel through some of the best Chromatica Ball costumes so far, Gareth Pugh and Bradley Sharpe tell us exactly what it was like designing for pop’s high priestess

So thrilled that Lady Gaga managed to get leave from the cash register to do the Chromatica Ball. Or was that the dentists? Or Starbucks? Or Jordan’s Taekwondo team? I don’t know – Stefanie Germanottta has taken on many guises, shapeshifting in and out of culture since ancient Babylon, apparently. Over the last decade, at least, she has emerged as an egg, a Chateaubriand, and an overbearing Italian, approaching fashion much like a lizard would shed its skin, born and reborn again as a bare-footed Victorian doll, or whatever this is. 

Through clothing, Gaga has built a kaleidoscopic, freak-flag brandishing universe, positioning herself as a high priestess brooding over a coven of needy little monsters. Only, since becoming a Serious Actor, she rarely haunts the streets of New York in latex tentacles or multi-storey stilettos, choosing instead to inhabit the soul of some kind of Old Hollywood starlet. But as shakily-filmed footage from Gaga’s current tour emerges online, she seems to have returned to herself – the master, the muse, the spectacle. The whole thing is a lesson in fashion pageantry, with Gaga careening through the archives of Christian Lacroix, Alexander McQueen, and Gareth Pugh, picking up the work of newgen designer Bradley Sharpe and Natali (her sister) along the way.

It would be tempting to describe this as “never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before,” but that would be a lie. Alongside former Dazed editor Nicola Formichetti, Gaga’s affiliation with high fashion has led to campaigns for (and close allegiances with) Donatella Versace, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Marc Jacobs, among so many of the industry’s most prestigious creatives. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the Chromatica Ball, though, is that Gaga has seemingly placed a ban on spangled bodysuits. And, for that, I will not be mentioning the jockstraps, which will no doubt come hoicked across the waists of all the Gaggots – sorry, Monsters – pouring into London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next weekend.

Needless to say, getting a Gaga co-sign is a big ticket for any designer, but that holds particular resonance for the likes of Sharpe, who always felt seen by her particular brand of outsider anthems. “I remember buying a printer and using the entire first cartridge on printing Google Images for a wall in my room that was entirely of her,” he says. “And she is beyond a dream to work with.” Having designed a gruesome, 18th century-inspired gown for Nick Knight’s video interludes, he says “there’s usually such a barrier between the artist and the designer, but Gaga’s team knows no boundaries and are completely committed to delivering art. I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities before and the chances of doing an in-person fitting is always so slim – you just get handed their measurements via email – but it was so different with Gaga, she gave me the time I needed to make things perfect.”

Gareth Pugh, who designed a hard-shelled opening look for the Chromatica Ball, feels the same. “She’s like a dream collaborator and she’s so lovely, too, she knows people working on the tour probably haven’t slept for a week. Like, she gave everyone in my team a hug, which is rare, and my interns went mad for that, obviously.” In terms of the inspiration behind the piece, Pugh looked to David Bowie’s 1979 SNL performance, producing a concrete-mirrored sarcophagus that chimed with Gaga’s Brutalist staging. And though her fans are already throwing threads together about what each and every visual might represent, much of this was left in the hands of her collaborators. “For me, I really liked the idea of something bright, optimistic, and joyful coming out of the ashes, like Gaga coming out of the bunker. When you want to rebuild something within you, you always have to knock something down.” 

Below, we spotlight Gaga’s best Chromatica Ball looks so far – from Alexander McQueen to archival Christian Lacroix – as Pugh and Sharpe go deeper into the process and meaning behind their own creations.