When Michaelangelo L’Acqua first entered the high stakes world of music-meets-high-fashion, he couldn’t have been more blissfully unaware. L’Acqua has spent a decade working with designers like Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, John Varvatos, Jil Sander, Chanel and Diane von Furstenberg on nearly 150 fashion shows and 200 commercials. L’Acqua is far from naïve about the industry, and as a seasoned vet in an ever-thinning circle, he’s diving into his new position as the W Hotels’ first ever Global Music Director with unbridled enthusiasm and bohemian sensibilities. L’Acqua has been busy producing the W’s 8th CD, crafting a digital mark for the brand and drumming up more than a few live performances. More on L’Acqua’s W plans, history in the industry and memories of the “velvet mafia” after the jump.
Fashion backstory: I used to play in funk and soul bands. Then, I wanted to be part of the bigger picture so I moved into production. After I’d been producing music for a while, I got invited to produce a Cynthia Rowley fashion show with my old partner who didn’t know anything about producing. We did a bunch of remixes for the show, and the next thing we know, a production company called Kevin Kline and Associates heard about the remixes and how people were just going nuts about them. They asked me to audition, and then, I was on a plane to meet this guy Tom Ford. I had no clue who he was. When I landed in Paris, I turned to my old partner and said, “How is he related to Ford trucks?”
On Tom Ford: When I met him, I was like, “Hey, Buddy! How you doing?” Everybody else was like, “We don’t look at him in the eye directly. You have to have a ten foot distance away from him at all times.” Working for Tom was one of the most intense moments of my entire life in the creative world. He’s a man who had such unbelievable vision in what he wanted to accomplish in fashion and in life. When I started, it was one of the largest moments in fashion. It was the passing of the torch. Yves Saint Laurent was just stepping down. Saint Laurent hated Tom Ford because he thought he was selling out to a person who wasn’t like Saint Laurent. He was such an epic character and Tom was more of a marketing genius. Tom acquires the most talented people in the world and orchestrates them to create his vision. For me not to have known anything about fashion and then thrust into that world was insane! I’d have to create a soundtrack like a score for a film and visualize it from the words that Tom would say. He’s the only other man that made me cry other than my father. He’d refuse the word “I can’t.” I used to say, “I can’t do this!” He’d just look at me and say, “That’s not part of my vocabulary. You’re gonna do it or you’re back to oblivion.” Every move you made could be your last, but if you did what he wanted, you were like a prized dog.
Career highlights: One was the first season of Gucci where Tom was inspired by the movie Magnolia , and I did remixes of Aimee Mann songs for the show. The level of attention we received having no one know who we were at the moment was incredible. Then, the first season of Yves Saint Laurent when Yves Saint Laurent stepped down, everybody was waiting for that show. There were people who were expecting Tom to fail and people who were expecting Tom to be the next God. We were told, “If you fuck this up, not only will you never work in fashion again, but we’ll probably break you. We’re gonna get the velvet mafia on you and you’ll be in some ditch somewhere.” Other shows that stand out are John Varvatos when he won the CFDA Award for Men’s Designer of the Year. We did the show in Florence, and it was this America rock icon show inside of an abandoned church that had been burned out. We opened it up with Jimmy Hendrix playing “Star Spangled Banner.” Every single person in that room just had chills straight down to their toes.
On DJing: I grew up in a time when you had to be the baddest motherfucker on the block. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t get the job and you never got hired again. Now, it’s changed. A lot of it is about who looks good in a skinny tie and all this other shit. I watch DJs, and it’s not about the skill that they put into their craft. I still approach it like the years where I was an artist or a musician. I wish more kids put more time into their craft these days.
Favorite DJ’s: There’s this one guy, Lincoln Madley. He’s a slick little brother–plays everything and his knowledge of music is phenomenal. There are a couple guys I like in the city. One guy’s named Jesse Marco. He’s real good. There’s another guy named Ian Boyd who is really good. And, my old friend Jordy.
On being the Global Music Director for W Hotels: It’s the culmination, the convergence of all the things that I do and that I have done. From working with advertising agencies, in fashion and scoring commercials, producing records, behind the scenes executive producing to managing egos and talent in the corporate mindset. I find myself working with the W at a time when the industry’s completely falling apart. There are no rules anymore. Whatever worked three years ago, chances are, is not working now. I feel like an artist. I’m a creative person who can just throw some stuff up on the wall creatively. Then, pick the pieces that mechanically work well together. Present it with a partner like the W and say, “This is the direction we can go.” People are now being forced to be more creative and let go of the institution or they’ll sink with the institution. I feel I’ve never been more creative in my life than right now. Working with the W has given me the platform to really help them have a voice out there.
Current projects: We’ve just launched a new record, Symmetry, and I’m in motion to prepare for the next record. I think we’re gonna depart from your standard compilation. We’re taking it more into original content. Within that, it’s developing the relationships and identifying the right artists that could be a part of this record. That’s a day-to-day project even though it may be nine months out. Then, we have the Symmetry live events. We start the first one in Los Angeles with Janelle Monae. We might be doing something with Kelis in Miami for swim week. We’re developing our DJ series, as well. So, we’ll do record release parties and we’ll pull in maybe Golden Filter, maybe Aeroplane in six or seven different cities throughout the US. We’re working hard to develop our digital initiative so that we can come out in 2011 with a whole new interactive platform.
Go-to places: I love places like Bianca and Florio’s, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Barrio Chino, all these Lower East Side joints. La Esquina. There’s a bar called Ella on the Lower East Side that my friends own. I’m excited for the Downtown W, happening in the next few weeks.
Side gigs: I’m producing a festival in Southampton in August. We secured the rights to the land and it’ll be a 1000 to 1500 person festival. An all-day event with ten bands of epic proportion. Then, I’m producing a Mafia Opera that I’ve been writing. It’s a cross between Tony and Tina’s Wedding and Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s an homage to Martin Scorsese’s mafia films. I’m hoping to premiere in August at a place like The Box. The project’s called Tommy Shine Box and The Mirrors. Everybody sings.