The tale of a social media influencer: Imp of the Perverse.

Above: Alicia Lini, right, with my longtime friend and social media influencer, Giovanni Contrada, aka Imp of the Perverse.

When Italy first went into lockdown mode in March 2020, my longtime friend and fashion designer Giovanni Contrada (above, left) was living in Milan where he was building his Imp of the Perverse label and brand.

The boredom of the closures led him to start documenting his (at first modest) culinary adventures in Italy’s fashion and culture capital. What started with handful of simpatico videos on TikTok, where Giovanni would interact with owners of neighborhood cafés and restaurants, soon blossomed into an increasing number of likes and shares. And before long, that number started to grow — exponentially.

When he called me at the end of the year, he told me, “dude, I’m huge on TikTok.” And he wasn’t kidding.

He already had close to one million followers at the time. Today, he has 1.5 million followers — yes, one and a half million.

He also has an agent and scores of requests for product placements and endorsements. And his fashion line has exploded as well.

When Giovanni’s unique line of jackets and suits first took off, he was a favorite among the glitterati crowd. Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Etheridge were among the first celebrities to wear his clothes. Remember when Melissa Etheridge performed at the Grammys during her battle with cancer in 2005? She was wearing a Giovanni jacket.

As Giovanni was rising in the fashion world, he would often dress our band Nous Non Plus for our shows. Over the years, he’s even designed a few special pieces that he’s gifted to me (including “The Jar” hoodie). When I was up for a prize in Milan some years ago, he dressed me for the awards ceremony.

Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet another dear friend and longtime client of mine, Alicia Lini. On Thursday morning, we sat down with Giovanni for breakfast at this fantastic Italian bakery and café on Sunset Blvd. called Ceci’s (everything was great, the erbazzone exceptional).

Click here to see the TikTok they made together. Click here for the Instagram. Giovanni also posted a wonderful clip of him enjoying Alicia’s traditional balsamic vinegar.

It was one of the ages. But that’s no surprise. Giovanni has always been such a loving and generous friend to me, a big brother who has comforted me in my worst times and shared my joy in my best.

Giovanni, I love you. Thanks for carving out an hour of your morning for us. I’ll never forget that chilly overcast day in LA as long as I live.

If you’re wondering where the handle “Imp of the Perverse” came from, look no further than Edgar Allen Poe.

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