In the U.S., Kylie Minogue may not be as well-known as Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, and her other American counterparts, but in the rest of the world, her influence as a performer, trend setter, and style icon often draws comparisons to the original pop star diva — Madonna.
EW caught up with the Australian-born Minogue when she signed copies of her new book, Kylie: Fashion, at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City to ask about her designer tour costumes, whether she ever wears jeans and sneakers, and what it would take to get her to judge a reality singing competition.
EW: The book is a look back at your sartorial evolution over the last two-and-a-half decades. Tell us about the process of pulling it all together.
Kylie Minogue: Books are often a living hell… You could go on tour easier than doing a book. We did it because last year was my 25th anniversary in music, and it was a way to mark that moment in time and celebrate it. It was quite difficult finding all of the stuff. I mean, my archives are fairly organized now because I had to do it. And finding photographs in all different formats — you’ve got negatives, transparencies, Polaroid film, Polaroids, weird random floppy discs, where we’re going, “We don’t even know what this is. What machine reads these?” There was a moment in time where there was one technical thing that has just disappeared to endless CDs, and into just digitized stuff. So, that was kind of interesting, finding everything. Then choosing, making the decision of what to put in that [would] be a fair representation, like an overview of all those years, because some years there was a lot more sartorial activity than other years.
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic, for sure. I love a beautifully fitted gown, I mean, that’s fantastic. But I also like to be [casual]… some people are surprised, they go, “Really? You walked around with jeans and trainers on?” I’m like, “Who do you think I am?” I really need the balance. There’s so much of what I’ll wear certainly for touring. But you ask any girl, the red carpet is never comfortable. It looks great, but I think in a roundabout way or in a funny way, I realize that with dresses, with outfits, sometimes the best moments is putting it on and taking it off. All the middle bit is for everyone else’s pleasure. But for your satisfaction, when you first go and everything’s done, you’ve had countless fittings, or something’s just arrived, and you put it on, or you buy it, or whatever, and you just go, “Yeah, I like that.” And the rest is just, “ugh.” And then taking it off is like a release. But if I was able to tell my 14-year-old self, in Melbourne, Australia, the girl who would go to the market with two dollars and buy so much rubbish my mom would say, “What are you going to do?” I’d make things with them and customize outfits. But if I could tell that girl that you’re going to work with Karl Lagerfeld, and Jean Paul Gaultier, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, there’s no way I would have believed that. In a way I’m living a dream. Sometimes it feels like a nightmare, but I don’t imagine my life without putting on beautiful shoes and fabulous jewelry. It’s good for a girl.
How did you become friends with designers like Lagerfeld, Versace, and Gaultier?
You meet people, and someone like Jean Paul Gaultier, I mean, he couldn’t be lovelier. He’s a bubbly spirit and beyond talented. And just to use him as example, when I spent time in Paris in the early 90s, clubbing all the time and just being a 22-year-old going wild basically, and really getting into fashion, and I used to go to his store and buy my little — it sounds so wrong — but my little one-piece slip, almost like a little hot pant and wear them out with my high top trainers. And so he was like this figure, and I kind of idolized him and then I end up meeting him out at an event or wherever it was. Slightly different story with someone like Azzedine Alaia. I met him at his studio and he would fit me in clothes, which again is just like, “Ah, Azzedine Alaia.” I wasn’t going to bump into him in a club, a bit different to Jean Paul. But, I think if you meet a designer that you have a — maybe your entire sensibility is not the same but there’s a point where you can meet. I mean, I’m such a chameleon that I will happily go from Pucci to… what’s completely different to Pucci? Or, Alaia’s aesthetic is very different to Dolce & Gabbana, or whoever else. For me, it’s a real pleasure to go around and use different designers or wear different designers’ clothes. It really depends what it’s for.
Where are all the clothes and costumes pictured in the book?
Well most of them, the amazing, amazing ones, I donated all of my stage costumes, all of my video costumes to the performing arts museum in Melbourne, Australia. So they have all my showgirl outfits, they have the blonde corset, really the iconic pieces. My hot pants, the “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” pantsuit, I mean, they’ve got all of that. So I do say if I hit hard times, I’m going to have nothing to sell! That’s it, I’m doomed. But it’s amazing because they can preserve everything. No one even looks at them without [wearing] white gloves. When we did this exhibition, which was first in Melbourne, and then, I’m really proud to say, it was at the V&A in London. We had an exhibition of my clothes there. But when I went to look at the set up and see the mannequins with the outfits on, something was not right, so I just went up and I’m adjusting this kind of crow-feather headpiece or something, and you can almost hear the assistants just like, “Ahh!” And I realized, oh my God. One of the girls said, “You are the only person that can get away with doing that.” And I thought, it’s the relationship to an item of clothing. It can be so deep, because I will look at that and I will think that’s an extension of me, or I’ve worn that for 77 shows around the world with all the pain, and tears, and blood, and joy, and all sorts of stories and emotions that I associate with that piece. And then other people just look at it as this very foreign thing, but I kind of lived it and breathed it. I had never thought of it like that.
Could you see yourself as a judge on a show like American Idol or The Voice?
I think when you’re at home, like if my boyfriend and I are home and we see one of those shows, we are all great couch judges. We’re all just like, “Come on! That was terrible!” Or, “That was great!” But, I don’t know, I don’t know how well I’d cope with being in that situation. Maybe fine, but I think I’d definitely have some good advice to offer just from experience. There’s stuff that I wish that I knew a long time ago but you actually just have to go through it. But one of my favorite sayings is, “There are no shortcuts to learning your craft.” You just have to put the years in. And certainly those shows are here to stay, and I wouldn’t say no to it if it was the right moment for me and if it was the right show.
Do you have a favorite reality TV singing competition?
Well last time I was here a few weeks back, I saw The Voice had just kicked off, and Shakira’s in the Roc Nation family now, so that’s quite interesting. I think she’s doing a great job.