When Lady Gaga says it’s a fashion emergency, you know you’re in for something big. The pop star goes to great lengths to make her music videos original, and this morning she raised the bar with the surprise release of ‘911,’ a Tarsem Singh directed mini-film chock full of arresting imagery. With nods to art-house classics like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, and Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates, the clip is Gaga at her most surreal. Forget dance breaks or linear narrative: this is all about fantasy. Naturally, the clothes reflect that idea via a series of custom pieces commissioned by Gaga, her fashion director Nicola Formichetti, and stylist Marta del Rio.
Instead of focusing on the runway, Gaga and her team sought out new designers and one-of-a-kind pieces. Central Saint Martins Alum Johannes Warne contributes the opening look, a slinky, asymmetrical, ombré dress and cape that Gaga wears while passed out in the sand dunes. A crimson mesh mask from Dead Lotus Couture shields her eyes as she’s discovered by a rider on a black stallion, wearing a black fedora similar to Jodorowsky’s hats in El Topo. The finale look from Warne’s graduate collection also makes an appearance, and the elegant yellow draped dress provides another memorable moment.
The costumes only get wilder from there. Diego Montoya, who provided the sound-reactive masks used during Gaga’s recent MTV Video Music Awards performance, contributed a transparent dress with retro elegance. Bright blue and flecked with hundreds of sapphire beads, the look would have been right at home on the red carpet, but the swirling mollusk mask from Lance Moore kept things weird and wonderful. Likewise, Karina Akopyan’s floral alien catsuit and its matching spade-shaped mask were an artsy addition that managed to be sexy, creepy, and Rei Kawakubo-esque all at once.
Even the background characters were a feast for the eyes. Costume designer Garo Sparro created custom looks for several performers who fill out the mise en scène. Each of the tangerine and yellow versions of religious vestments, high-collared gowns detailed with embroidery, and towering headpieces would have been impressive on its own but combined, they fill the video with a spectacular chorus of oddities.
There was a message behind all the surrealism. Moments after the video’s release the star took to Instagram to explain the video’s symbolism and its deeply personal intent. “This short film is very personal to me, my experience with mental health and the way reality and dreams can interconnect to form heroes within us and all around us,” she wrote before thanking Singh, her team, and legions of supportive fans for bringing the concept to life. With every frame packed with film references, outlandish attire, and action, ‘911’ could go down as one of Gaga’s best—a fact she seemed aware of. “It’s been years since I felt so alive in my creativity to make together what we did with “911” she said. “Something that was once my real life everyday is now a film, a true story that is now the past and not the present. It’s the poetry of pain.”