This weekend, Lady Gaga released the official album artwork for Chromatica, her upcoming sixth studio album. (It was originally due to release on April 10, but has been pushed back indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.) While fans still have a while to wait for the official record release—which is now slated for sometime in 2020—the superstar did offer a quick glimpse at what one can expect with this new album era. Gaga always assumes a new fashion alter ego to go with a new album—and this one looks like it could be her most wonderfully weird yet.
Say goodbye to the cowboy-hat-wearing Gaga from her Joanne days: Mother Monster is officially making a comeback. The captivating cover art is set in a dystopian factory, and Gaga sports body armor and killer heels (literally—they are made of knives and talons). This new sci-fi, Mad Max–inspired aesthetic—call it part pop star, part pop machine—is a continuation of the one Gaga showcased in the album’s debut music video, “Stupid Love,” set in an intergalactic land.
The pop star is a noted champion of smaller, independent artists—she has worked with many such as Vex Clothing, Laurel Dewitt, and Kaimin. For the Chromatica cover, she worked with her longtime stylists Nicola Formichetti and Marta del Rio to pull in pieces from three under-the-radar talents from all over the world. Below, meet the three special collaborators and their theatrical Chromatica creations.
1. Cecilio Castrillo Martinez
Cecilio Castrillo Martinez—who is based in a small village near Madrid, Spain—is a full-time artist who works with leather and metal. “I’ve been working with leather since I was a child, as my mum was a leather gloves maker,” Martinez says. His specialties are masks and headpieces, though he has created full-body pieces as well. Nicki Minaj and Madonna, to name a few, have performed in his designs, but Martinez has worked with Lady Gaga since the early stages of her career. “Her team saw some of my work and they contacted me through my PR partners,” he says of how they first began their partnership. Notably, he created a horned white mask that Gaga wore to perform “Bad Romance” during her Born This Way tour in 2012.
For Gaga’s latest Chromatica cover, Martinez lent the superstar a futuristic bodysuit and a knife-heel boot (worn on her right leg), both of which fall in line with her new sci-fi direction.
“I think this look is my masterpiece,” he says. “It took five months of work to create the full-body armor and three months to create the knife-heel shoe and leg piece. Every piece is handmade in real leather, embellished with hand-cut metal pieces.” The look was first displayed in an art museum in Spain, “but the government of Madrid thought the exhibition wasn’t suitable for all ages, so I needed to remove it before it ended,” Martinez says. He drew inspiration from sci-fi and horror movies, which he has “devoured since I was a young kid.” (His favorites are classic films such as Alien, The Shining, Hellraiser, and The Exorcist.) He enjoys fusing more freaky-deeky pieces with a fetish aesthetic as a result.
Martinez also recently designed costumes for Gaga’s “Stupid Love” music video (which was shot entirely on an iPhone). He produced two pieces that are worn by her dancers in it, including a thorny black leather mask. Gaga inspires Martinez whether or not he’s designing specifically for her. “When I’m making one of my pieces, she is one of my references. She is daring, modern, a transgressor—the best way to define avant-garde. We have very similar points of view about fashion.”
2. Gasoline Glamour
Gasoline Glamour’s Shannon Coffield specializes in the art of maximal footwear. Think: towering heels covered in sequins, crystals, and death-defying spikes. She had worked with a long list of artists including Beyoncé, Cher, Britney Spears, Shania Twain, Grimes, Doja Cat—the list goes on—before quitting the fashion industry after almost 20 years in the business. Then, Team Gaga rang.
“I had to quit due to chronic illness and overall exhaustion from the business. But one day that little email popped up in my inbox from Marta and Nicola, and of course, I said yes,” Coffield says. For the special Chromatica project, Gaga asked to wear one of Coffield’s “Howlin Wolf” pumps, which is worn on her left leg on the cover. The monstrous shoe is a design that Coffield made seven years ago. “It’s named for the blues crooner and musician of the same name,” Coffield says. “They took a while because I didn’t make them all at one time—maybe took a year or so.”
The artist used a mixture of vintage and custom Swarovski rhinestones, as well as semiprecious stones, glass beads, and a steer horn heel. She didn’t design the shoes specifically for this album shoot, but she (much like Martinez) says Gaga has always been a source of inspiration for her work, and that the superstar will continue to influence her designs to come too. “I love her bravery in every way she cuts it,” says Coffield.
3. Gary Fay
Gary Fay is a self-taught artist based in Mandurah, Western Australia, who makes mechanical hands that give the wearer a futuristic, robotic feel—kind of like a fashionable Edward Scissorhands. “For the past 15 months, I have been 3D-designing and printing articulated fingers and mechanical body devices that work using natural movement,” he says of the aesthetic pieces. He has created steel hands for a range of events including cosplay conventions, haunted houses, and even music videos (his work appears in a recent video for the band Rings of Saturn, among others).
Fay says he was approached for the Chromatica shoot by Gaga’s stylist del Rio. “She thought what I was making was perfect for what they had in mind,” he says. Together, they pulled two of Fay’s menacing talons for the shoot: one silver set of razor-sharp fingers that is worn by Gaga on the cover, and another extra-long pink set—called the “Mech Claw”—that is worn by Gaga in another promo image, where she is dressed in her “Stupid Love” music video outfit.
Designing such hands took some trial and error. “I originally designed the articulated fingers I make out of [popsicle] sticks and wire a few years ago, but had no way of making an item that would fit other people and be comfortable to wear,” he says. In 2018, he found a solution when he took up 3D printing, and produced his first full set of working fingers. “Since then, I have grown substantially and have made a few styles, but they are all based on the early sets of fingers I designed—and the sets used on [Gaga’s] album are two of those.” Like the other two collaborators for this album shoot, Fay loves Gaga’s style. “I have always loved how expressive Lady Gaga is in what she does,” he says. “Normally I can adapt and create work to suit the person, but the set used is in my natural style and I think it worked very well.”