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Doja Cat on stage at Coachella 2024; Lady Gaga on stage during her Las Vegas residency "Enigma"© Getty Images

Exclusive: Celebrity designer Asher Levine talks working with Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Doja Cat, Coachella, and future of fashion

Asher has also created pieces for the "Bad Blood" music video and Christina Aguilera

Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
May 24, 2024
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In the ever-changing world of fashion, Asher Levine is at the forefront of everything "new" and "interesting" and sometimes, "weird." In a good way, of course, turning human anatomy into luxurious items of clothing. 

His garments have been worn by Lady Gaga since the very beginning of her career, Taylor Swift in her record-breaking "Bad Blood" music video, and most recently, Doja Cat at her dynamite Coachella set last month, creating her sinewy six-pack muscle bodysuit.

From his atelier, HELLO! spoke with Asher about his design process, working with Doja, finding his start with Lady Gaga (whose long-awaited Chromatica Ball film drops on May 25), where the fashion industry is headed, and how he plans to "level up" with it…

Asher Levine poses with the bodysuit he created for Doja Cat for her Coachella performance© Asher Levine
Asher Levine poses with the bodysuit he created for Doja Cat for her Coachella performance

Tell us more about how you worked on the look you created for Doja at Coachella, the ideation process and what not. How involved was she with everything?

How it usually goes is I get a call from Brett Alan Nelson, who's her stylist. And he likes to do renderings. What I always love to do is to listen to what they want, then think about how can I put my twist on it to where it's like, 'Okay, I'm gonna make what you want, but I'm gonna level up, I'm going to show you something that you've never seen before.' 

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When it comes to how involved [Doja] was, she has to approve everything. I did the rendering and she loved it. I built it around a body scan of her, I do lots of 3-D clothing integration. So what they originally wanted was inspired basically by muscular anatomical inspirations. I really wanted to bring it to the next level. I was really inspired by Eiko Ishioka, the costume designer from The Cell and Dracula. We went and fit with her, and she was very happy with it. I'm really happy with how it ended up turning out.

A sketch for Doja Cat's bodysuit for her Coachella performance by Asher Levine© Asher Levine
A sketch for Doja's bodysuit for her Coachella performance

What about working with Doja specifically has stood out from many of your other clients?

I really appreciate that she's hands-on and understands that the more you work hand-in-hand with the designer, with the stylist, the end product is always better. I've worked with many divas and actually most of them are pretty cool with me. But specifically with Doja, I'm grateful that there are always very little changes. It's always like, 'I love it. Don't touch it. Don't change a thing.'

Your pieces have this quality to them where they're so structural, like armor, but also otherworldly. Where do you draw your inspirations from?

A BTS photo from the creation of Doja Cat's bodysuit for her Coachella performance by Asher Levine© Asher Levine
"I built it around a body scan of her, I do lots of 3-D clothing integration. So what they originally wanted was inspired basically by muscular anatomical inspirations."

I started very early on in biomorphic inspirations. 13 years ago Iris van Herpen and [my clothes] were hanging on the same rack in this small PR showroom, and now, it's cool to take those references and merge it with classic tailoring. It's kind of like a mixture between Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, and Calvin Klein. And Thierry Mugler, passed away. Roberto Cavalli, passed away. Pierre Cardin, passed away. We're losing all of these iconic greats, who's going to be stepping into those shoes that push the boundaries in futuristic fashion? What we're doing here is advancing that dialogue of what is an exotic skin. Look at Doja, we manifested this beautiful, textural skin. That's kind of the narrative that we're building on and creating products around. Because it's really about the product experience. And whether it's Doja or a person who reads HELLO! magazine, when they purchase one of my pieces… I don't even like to use words to describe it. You put it on and wow, you feel like a rock star. 

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You've told us a bit about some of your inspirations, but how did you get your start in fashion in the first place?

Lady Gaga performs during her 'ENIGMA' residency at Park Theater at Park MGM on December 28, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.© Getty Images
Asher has been working with Lady Gaga since the beginning of her career, starting with designing leather jackets for her

I took a sewing class when I was 10 and I was really good at it. I joined a sewing club, then I became the president of the sewing club. It was Florida in the 90s, you didn't necessarily want to be the boy that sews, but I love to sew and I love making things. I moved to New York in 2006 and immediately immersed myself in nightlife and club kids. The New York nightlife scene was just this open invitation to express yourself in all of these different ways, and I express myself through what I wore. I would go out wearing cool looking things, and people were like, 'Hey, can you do this?' and then I started designing for my friends. And then I went to business school downtown, and launched my first men's collection. Literally a month after I got out of school, I get a call from Nicola Formichetti, who was [working with] Lady Gaga at that time. She just came out with 'Poker Face.' I'm like, 'Who's this chick doing geode shoulders, that's my jam!' And then I started doing a lot of Lady Gaga's leather jackets. Then her career skyrocketed and I started doing a lot of work with the Black Eyed Peas, leather jackets for will.i am. Then I worked on growing this atelier and doing cool experimental processes and new materials.

You've spoken fondly about working with Lady Gaga. As someone who's been with her from the start, what do you think we as fans don't understand about her and her aesthetic?

Doja Cat performs at the Coachella Stage during the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 21, 2024 in Indio, California.© Getty Images
"Look at Doja, we manifested this beautiful, textural skin."

Kind of like Doja, she's super hands-on as well. The designer-musician relationship, she respects that. And she's such a hard worker. Whenever we work together, she's hardcore. And that's what I like, because I'm hardcore. I guess I've heard there's a new album in the works. Fingers crossed, I hope there is.

Your pieces have been worn by the likes of Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X, Nicki Minaj, Christina Aguilera. What's something specific that you look for in an artist that inspires you to collaborate with them?

The one specific thing is their desire to push the boundaries. I highly value that. Sometimes I like to make the most beautifully cut pencil skirt, I value high design in minimalism. But when it comes to maximalism, sometimes it's difficult for people to even put something on if they don't have the confidence themselves. What I love is when their stylists are like, 'We need a next level look that no one has ever seen before, who are we gonna go to?' I really thought about that when doing the finale look for Christina Aguilera's residency, how cool is it that when people want to go next level, they call the studio? I'm so grateful that these people are reaching out to me to bring them to the next level. Put everything aside, money, success, that's so honorable, to be in that position.

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Christina Aguilera performs at her opening night show at Voltaire at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas on December 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.© Getty Images
Christina wore a custom Asher Levine piece for the finale of her Las Vegas residency

Are there any fashion icons and artists that you're hoping to still work with?

Yeah! Cher is definitely one, I love these iconic greats. We were actually talking with Chaka Khan, she wants to do some things. I like all cultural icons, and I'm also interested now in young, up and coming people that want to push the boundaries. Whether it's cultural icons that have been around for decades, or new icons that have been around for weeks, but you just have that special flair… these are the people that I'm really interested in.

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Where do you see yourself taking not only the Asher Levine atelier, but also your personal vision?

Asher Levine with Laverne Cox after one of his shows© Instagram
An image from one of Asher's latest shows with Laverne Cox

We have menswear, womenswear, we're in the middle of scaling up which is super exciting. But at the end of the day, I love it when the pieces inspire wonder and curiosity. I not only want people to feel sexy and powerful in my clothes, but also elevate a global consciousness around wonder and peace and harmony and science and collaboration and art. That's really what our planet needs at this time, you know?

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