Gaga taps her inner Wonka for holiday workshop

For the grand opening of Gaga's Workshop, it seemed as if Lady Gaga chartered a sleigh, picked up Santa Claus and Willy Wonka along the way and landed Monday night at Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue.

The Workshop is the retailer's in-store holiday shop, conceived, designed and christened by Lady Gaga — 5,500 square feet of bright colors, crazy shapes and a gigantic cartoon statue of the superstar herself in a pinup pose surrounded by jagged mirrors and sitting atop thousands of black plastic discs.

From the street, passers-by get a hint of what's taken over the fifth floor of the store since Gaga and stylist Nicola Formichetti also created the seasonal window displays, always an attraction during the holidays, but the crowds typically don't start building hours before the unveiling as they did on Monday.

To keep them entertained, a troupe of clowns-turned-carolers sang some of Gaga's signature songs, including “The Edge of Glory” and “Born This Way.”

“It's a 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' moment,” Gaga said. “We wanted it all to be whimsical and fun, with a sense of art and fashion.”

She doesn't have time to do much holiday shopping anymore, she explained, but Christmas was a special time in her “traditional Italian house,” where the smell of food cooking all day is one of her fondest childhood memories. As for gifts, her favorite as a teenager was a ticket to see a Tory Amos concert.

She pointed out at Barneys the hair bows attached to headbands, iPhone and iPad covers and stiletto-heel holiday stockings as potential hits for her fans. It was, however, the composition notebooks splashed with her logo that she'd put at the top of the list.

“I hope they'll be given as gifts this year,” she said.

Gaga had many elves for this project, including Formichetti, whom she called the “art director” for it all. He oversaw the day-to-day development of decor and products — each one exclusive.

“This was very personal and very emotional for us,” said Formichetti, who also helps design Gaga's concert costumes and personal wardrobe.

Gaga's mother, Cynthia Germanotta, also was very involved, sharing memories with artists Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide Pierson and Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman.

Items for sale — ranging from studded leather motorcycle jackets for infants to Gaga-on-a-motorcycle ornaments — purposely run the gamut of price and aim to appeal to many ages.

“I wanted it to be a wide spectrum,” Gaga said.

In the candy shop section there are cookies shaped like little monsters (Gaga's affectionate term for her fans) and rock candy necklaces, while inside the boudoir, sort of a tent shaped like a wig, there are hair bows and hologram-effect nail polishes. For toys, there are plush monsters riding a train, and the jewelry store has chunky necklaces and bracelets from Erickson Beamon and Pamela Love.

Underneath an oversized, archlike spider, shoppers can get $4,000 heel-less booties or $50 heart-shaped sunglasses. There are special editions of Roald Dahl's aforementioned “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” as well as “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda.”

Gaga said it was important for the Workshop to have a charitable aspect, too, so for each product bought from the Workshop or online, 25 percent of the sale will be donated to Gaga's anti-bullying Born This Way Foundation.

As for Gaga's wish list, her gifts have been taken care of. Noting her custom-made ivory gown — and all its trimmings — by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, she said, “Christmas came early. Christmas is today.”

Gaga's Workshop is open through Jan. 2.

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