When UGG reigned supreme in the early 2000s, the world was a different place. Kim Kardashian was Paris Hilton's humble assistant; Pluto was still a planet (demoted in 2006); and presidents didn't have Twitter accounts. Style-wise the era could be described as cute but vulgar—an aesthetic that fully embraced rhinestone butterfly navel rings, for example!
Loved by both 'What a Girl Wants' and 'Dirrty' Christina Aguilera-type gals, one of the sartorial status symbols of the decade was, of course, the UGG boot. Despite its authentic surfer roots from the seventies, the shearling shoe was quickly catapulted into aughties iconography as a cozy, but 'basic' must-have. Fast forward almost 20 years and Jeremy Scott's capsule collaboration with UGG is here to shake that association.
ELLE.com sat down with the designer to discuss his personal definition of the term 'basic,' how he leaned into irreverence for his work on the iconic boot, and the nostalgia factor in Kendall Jenner's style.
What's your first memory of UGG?
My first memory was really Britney [Spears] and Kate Hudson wearing them to get Starbucks in Malibu—like me thinking 'what are the shoes that all these cute blonde girls are wearing?' Then learning more about it and finding it has the history from surf culture and that it came from a men's surf boot. I didn't know about that and I became more interested in trying a pair on, and finally falling in love with them myself.
When did you get your first pair?
Only three years ago. They're really comfortable, like a hug for your foot. Especially living here in LA they keep your feet warm, but you can wear them with shorts in the winter with a sweater and you will just be fine.
Your runway designs are heavily influenced by nostalgia, irreverence, and pop culture. How did that color the way you approached the collaboration?
That's purely what I did. I wanted to do something with flames and I thought it would be great to have something with that color, energy, and excitement. And of course the humor and irreverence of life. Keeping the classic, iconic boot but with this twist in the embroidery and old English font.
The fashion of the 2000s is thought of as a bit tacky. Did you consider that when you approached the collaboration?
I know that a lot of my friends and young people [are] very fascinated by that time period and they're very nostalgic about it. Even Kendall [Jenner] was wearing things that Paris [Hilton] would've worn then. I remember talking to Paris about it and saying isn't it funny that all the kids now are loving the things you wore. And she was like 'I know, I'll never Ed Hardy again.' I think it's cute that that's the cyclical nature of fashion.
'I'm going to rebuke the basic association or innuendo.' - Jeremy Scott
Why do you think young celebs are re-embracing aughties style?
I think as humans we're nostalgic creatures and that's what we do. We go back to things that have a semblance of something [...] comforting, or enough time passes that it seems cool again, or maybe it's something that some people didn't even experience. Kylie and Kendall weren't old enough to experience [the 2000s] in that way. When you're little and looking at those things it seems so exciting and glamorous to be able to embody it. Kendall wore a dress inspired by Paris for her 21st birthday. She wasn't wearing a dress inspired by Kim [Kardashian] because Paris was more emblematic of that [age] growing up, even though Kim is more emblematic today.
Ugg has a reputation of being basic. How would you define that term?
I think when people think of something as basic, they think that it's boring. [But] I think of it as a utilitarian and classic thing because it has a great function of keeping you warm and being part of surf and beach culture. I'm going to rebuke the basic association or innuendo because I think it's a classic. Even as exuberant as my style is and as over the top as I may be, I can appreciate a classic when it's really well done.
Did you have any celebrities in mind when designing this?
I think about my friends all the time when I'm designing. That's always an arbiter. Would Katy wear this? Would Rihanna wear this? Would Sia wear it? Would Miley wear it?
What was the vibe you were going for in this collaboration?
I was thinking about California and L.A. culture. I love the low-rider cars and that whole culture. There's the Latino culture, there's the hip-hop culture, it was the mix. I was thinking about the beach and the desert and this kind of hot sand and blazing hot sun.
Do you think L.A. culture is relatable to people that don't live here?
Completely, because I think it's part of what dictates fashion globally. The red carpets in Hollywood dictate what people think is okay in Hong Kong and Timbuktu and Kansas City. We look at celebrities and stars as icons to give us permission. Even in the '30s if you think about Jean Harlow and the white silk gowns, maybe not everybody wore a silk bodice gown but it made it okay to wear a white dress. You can interpret it your own way, and that's one of the roles that celebrities play in our society whether they realize it or not. It gives us permission. Madonna did that so I can do that too. And then you take it and make it your own.
Make Jeremy Scott x UGG boots your own when the collection drops on September 13, 2017. The limited edition styles retail from $90 to $1,195 USD in retailers worldwide, including intermixonline.com.