Lady goes Gaga for Scots designer's silicon frocks

LESS THAN A year ago, Rachael Barrett was a struggling art student who could barely afford the trip home to her native Glasgow.

• Broad shoulders: Lady Gaga wears one of Rachael Barrett's while sporting a stylised nun's wimple. Picture: Complimentary

But now she is one of fashion's hottest properties after finding favour with global phenomenon Lady Gaga. The style and pop guru, currently the biggest pop sensation in the world with her joint Telephone hit and video with Beyonc, has described the 25-year-old Scottish fashion graduate as "my favourite new designer".

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Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, has worn several of Barrett's distinctive silicone dresses in recent months.

The American singer wore Barrett creations – which cost up to 1,000 – in the video for last November's number one hit Bad Romance and for Telephone, a video that has smashed all YouTube records and received over 24 million viewings.

A Barrett dress also features in Lady Gaga's current Monster Ball world tour, and the singer appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in another Barrett design.

In an interview with fashion bible Dazed & Confused, Lady Gaga said: "Rachael is my favourite new designer. Her innovation with latex, silhouette, and minimalism is refreshing, inspirational and promising for the future of fashion."

For Barrett, who graduated from London's Royal College of Art in June 2009 with a Masters degree in fashion, having previously finished a four-year BA in fashion at Edinburgh College of Art, it's a bit overwhelming.

"It was absolutely wonderful when I discovered Lady Gaga would be wearing one of my dresses for the Bad Romance video," she said. "After graduating it was pretty rough, I had a tough summer hunting for freelance work, so for this to happen was a real surprise."

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Barrett, who was voted "breakthrough designer of the year at last November's Scottish Style Awards, has never met or spoken to Lady Gaga but was initially approached by the singer's stylist, Nicola Formichetti, who had seen her designs at her Royal College of Art degree show.

Lady Gaga was so taken with them that she commissioned several other pieces from Barrett.

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The pop star, who is known for choosing designs by cutting edge young designers and who also has her own fashion house, the House of Gaga, clearly believes that Barrett has a great future ahead of her.

"I hope to be sitting front row at her own shows while she's skyrocketing, and taking the fashion world to her planet," Lady Gaga told Dazed & Confused.

Barrett, who is still working as a freelance, says she was amazed by what Lady Gaga had said. "It was just phenomenal. I really wasn't expecting that so it was absolutely lovely. To have my own label is an ambition for the future but I think I've got a wee bit to go before then."

Lindsay Campbell, a Scottish fashion stylist who has worked on Vogue and with celebrities such as Andie MacDowell, said Lady Gaga's influence on the career of young fashion designers like Barrett cannot be overestimated.

"Lady Gaga is the new Grace Jones, and it's a dream come true for a young designer to have something like this happen. Lady Gaga is an inspiration to people, she's an artist and she's cutting edge, and her music videos are really stimulating. To have someone like her saying you're the future of fashion is incredible – you can't buy publicity like that."

Barrett, who grew up in the west end of Glasgow, the daughter of two architects, was inspired to start working with silicone after doing a placement with Philips Design, the electrical goods firm.

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"I just really loved the look of the material, and the idea of marrying technology and fashion. I sourced some rubber and silicone to work with and developed the collection from there."

She has so far made eight different silicone pieces, and has attracted the attention of other celebrities. Barrett was recently contacted by an LA-based stylist, Djuna Bel, who was doing some styling for Hollywood actor Jared Leto, who also plays in the band 30 Seconds to Mars.

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"I did a rubber shoulder piece for him," she said. "He ended up wearing it for his British tour."

Barrett admits that her designs are not the most practical, and that even she hasn't felt brave enough to wear one of her own dresses outside of her own home.

"I've had a few e-mails from people asking for pieces but I'm really keen to make sure people know what they're getting. It's not something you can just wear out."

Campbell agrees. "They're not meant to be worn when you go and buy your milk. It's all about cutting edge fashion and pushing boundaries."