With her penchant for wearing ensembles in watermelon and ice-cream cone prints along with accessories like Lego head bands, music sensation Katy Perry has taken the music and fashion world by storm. It’s a quirky style that Perry regularly credits to her stylist, Michigan native Johnny Wujek.
“I’ve been with her from the beginning,” says the 30-year-old Wujek, who grew up in St. Clair Shores and now lives in L.A. “We’re keeping it fun,” he says of his work on Perry’s album covers, videos, and her American Idol appearances.
Wujek’s metro Detroit days took him from St. Joan of Arc grammar school, to Lake Shore High, to a brief stint at Wayne State University. Now he has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stylists. Wujek recently gave Hour Detroit the scoop on how he got his start and his plans for the future.
What made you move to L.A.?
I moved to San Francisco first. I have an older brother who was working there for an Internet company. I was going to be some kind of male-advice columnist. That lasted only eight months … then I had a sister who lived in L.A. … she signed me up to model, and I did commercial modeling for three years.
How did you change from modeling to styling?
A friend of mine was directing the movie Wonderland. I worked with the costume designer [Maryam Malakpour], and she hired me after the movie. We did everything from the Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, to Mountain Dew commercials. She basically brought me into the world. I assisted her for about a year. A producer on a shoot we did together called me separately and said, “I’m doing a Campbell’s Soup commercial. It’s a small budget, but I can get you as head stylist on it.” I did it, and that was it.
Is Katy Perry currently your biggest client? How did the relationship come about?
Katy Perry is my biggest and keeps me the most busy. We are really, really good friends. We became friends five or six years ago. At a fashion party, Katy and I ended up at the bar together and started talking. Everyone in L.A. knew her, but she was just this super-outgoing vintage girl, a little hipster. In L.A., she was her own little celebrity, but she didn’t have an album.
So how did you become her stylist?
We became friends. She would call me and say, ‘I’m going to a party; do you have anything I can wear?’ It was a slow here-and-there kind of thing. Her first big thing was her first album with her first label and she said she would love for me to style it. [She] and I went to some costume stores and pulled some crazy things for the shoot. Then her label dropped her. A year later, she said, ‘ I’m doing it again — a new label.’ We did this album and the rest is history.
You have a strong A-list celebrity following. Can you tell me how it is working with other clients [who have included Hilary Swank, Claire Danes, Sharon Stone, Rebecca Romijn, Brittany Murphy, and Jimmy Fallon]?
I’ve worked with Meg Ryan a couple of times on different magazine cover shoots. Paris [Hilton] I worked with about a year and half, two years. Some clients I’ve had forever. I’m friends with Mischa [Barton], and she will call me and tell me she is going to a party, and ask if I have anything she can wear.
Can you tell me about your editorial work? [Which has included Italian Vanity Fair, German Glamour, Nylon, InStyle, Marie Claire, and Teen People.]
I did a shoot with Naomi Campbell for, I think, a German fashion magazine. Everything she put on was beautiful. The pictures came out amazing. After that, every time she was in L.A. she would call me to hang out or just go shopping.
Tell me about the Johnny Wujek for Modern Vintage shoe line.
A friend of a friend who was connected to this manufacturer in Montreal hooked me up. He manufactures all these different shoe lines (Prada, Marc Jacobs) and he had his own line, Modern Vintage. He wanted to get his name out there a little more and get them on celebrities. It was a quick negotiation, and I did this quick two-season deal. I did an entire sandal collection and the ones out right now are these crazy neon platform shoes.
What are your designing plans for the future?
This is my last season for Modern Vintage. After that, if everything works out, it will be Johnny Wujek and it will be a full collection with flats, wedges, heels, mid-heels, boots — the whole deal.
What’s the trend for summer?
A lot of color, neon.
What is your must-have item?
I’m obsessed with cardigans. I collect tons and tons: vintage grandma ones to nice designer ones. My favorite is this vintage all torn-up one; I think H&M has one. I have literally had people offer me hundreds of dollars for it.