1. 2022
  2. 2021
  3. 2020
  4. 2019
  5. 2018
  6. 2017
  7. 2016
  8. 2015
  9. 2014
  10. 2013
  11. 2012
  12. 2011
  13. 2010
  14. 2009
  15. 2008
  16. 2007
  17. 2006
  18. 2005
  19. 2004
  20. 2003
  21. 2002
  22. 2001

Celebrating AnOther Magazine. All of the covers, all in one place.

AN42_COV1 MARGARET QUALLEY_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Margaret Qualley

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Emma Wyman

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AN42_COV2 WILLEM DAFOE_2-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Willem Dafoe

Photography by Joshua Woods, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN42_COV4 COLLECTIONS WOMEN_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2023

Maverick

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN42_COV5 WELL1_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Maverick

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN42_COV7 WELL2_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Maverick

Photography by Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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AN42_COV8 SWAROWSKI_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Swarovski

Photography by Elizaveta Porodina, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Zoë Kravitz

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Avena Gallagher

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page-000003

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Travis Scott

Photography by Joshua Woods, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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page-000011

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Gucci Aria

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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page-000007

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Miu Miu

Photography by Jamie Hawkesworth, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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page-000005

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Balenciaga Couture

Photography by Ola Rindal, Styling by Marie Chaix

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page-000009

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Vivienne Westwood

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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page-000013

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Hindsight

Photography by Jackie Nickerson, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN40_COV4_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Kiki Willems

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN40_COV2_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Adwoa Aboah

Photography by Jack Davison, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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AN40_COV3_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Lila Moss

Photography by Sharna Osborne, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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AN40_COV5_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Ottawa Kwami

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Ibrahim Kamara

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AN40_COV1_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN40_COV6_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Malick Bodian

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN40_COV7_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Eliot Sumner

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN39_COV1 SUSIE CAVE_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Susie Cave

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN39_COV5 JANAYA_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Janaya Future Khan

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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AN39_COV2 MARGIELA_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Anok Yai

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN39_COV4_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Adut Akech

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN39_COV3 HUSEBY_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

MJ Harper

Art and Fashion Direction by Katy England, Photography by Benjamin A Huseby

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AN39_COV6 ART PROJECT_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Kim Kardashian and Michèle Lamy

Concept and photographic direction by Paul Kooiker, Photography by Rick Owens and Kanye West

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webcover2

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Laura Dern

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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webcover1

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Lily James

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Katie Shillingford 

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webcover3

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Kelsey Lu

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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webcover4

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Lola Nicon

Photography by Sam Rock, Styling by Katy England

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cov4web2

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Indya Moore

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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cov4web6

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Naomi Scott

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web5

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Marte Mei Van Haaster

Photography by Viviane Sassen, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web4

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Veronika Kunz

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web3

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Jonas Gloër and Kiki Willems

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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Cov4web1

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Medea Morton

Photography by Harley Weir, Styling by Jane How

AN36_COV1_LupitaNyongo

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Lupita Nyong’o

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN36_COV2-Burberry

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Theo Sion, Styling by Max Pearmain

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AN36_COV3-Comme

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Anok Yai

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN36_COV4-CroppedForWeb-Hires_Page_2

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Bo Gebruers

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Hannes Hetta

AN36_COV5-Brianna-Capozzi

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Fran Summers

Photography by Brianna Capozzi, Styling by Jane How

AN35_COV1_TildaSwinton

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Tilda Swinton

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN35_COV2_DakotaJohnson

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Dakota Johnson

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV3_MiaGoth

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Mia Goth

Photography by Viviane Sassen, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV4_ChloeMoretz-180807

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Chloë Grace Moretz

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV5_YohjiYamamoto

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Martina Boaretto

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Katy England

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AN35_COV6_ColinxJane1

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Laurien van der Holst

Photography by Colin Dodgson, Styling by Jane How

an34_cover_ig_vertical_1a_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Saoirse Ronan

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_1b_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Saoirse Ronan

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_2_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Versace

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Katy England

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_3_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Karolin Wolter

Photography by Zoe Ghertner, Styling by Jane How

an34_cover_ig_vertical_4_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Robbie Spencer

unnamed-6

Volume 2 Issue 6

Autumn/Winter 2017

Solange Knowles

Photography by Peter Lindbergh, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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unnamed-5

Volume 2 Issue 6

Autumn/Winter 2017

Rooney Mara

Photography by Tim Walker, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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unnamed-7

Volume 2 Issue 6

Autumn/Winter 2017

Saskia de Brauw

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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unnamed-9

Volume 2 Issue 6

Autumn/Winter 2017

Dior Haute Couture

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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unnamed-8

Volume 2 Issue 6

Autumn/Winter 2017

Dries Van Noten

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN32_COV-2_ruth

Volume 2 Issue 5

Spring/Summer 2017

Ruth Negga

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN32_COV1_prada

Volume 2 Issue 5

Spring/Summer 2017

Amanda Murphy

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN32_COV3_Mia-Goth

Volume 2 Issue 5

Spring/Summer 2017

Mia Goth

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Katy England

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AN32_COV4_cdg

Volume 2 Issue 5

Spring/Summer 2017

Raquel Zimmermann

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN32_COV5_LMTED

Volume 2 Issue 5

Spring/Summer 2017

Natalie Westling

Photography by Mario Sorrenti, Styling by Robbie Spencer

AnOther_AW2016_

Volume 2 Issue 4

Autumn/Winter 2016

Naomi Campbell

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Katy England

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AnOther_AW2016_3

Volume 2 Issue 4

Autumn/Winter 2016

Vittoria Ceretti

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katy England

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AnOther_AW2016_2

Volume 2 Issue 4

Autumn/Winter 2016

Yasmin Wijnaldum

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Katy England

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AN31_COV_4_WVP_postcard-(1)-(1)

Volume 2 Issue 4

Autumn/Winter 2016

Suzi Leenaars

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Katy England

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NEWAnother30_Cover_Karl-Lagerfeld-B

Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring/Summer 2016

Karl Lagerfeld

Self-portrait, in association with Rob Munday

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AN30_M1_COVER Kristen

Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring/Summer 2016

Kristen Stewart

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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Another30_Cover_Bjork

Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring/Summer 2016

Björk 

Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Katy England

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AN30_M3_COVER Grimes

Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring/Summer 2016

Grimes

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Alex White

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AN30_M4_COVER Kate

Volume 2 Issue 3

Spring/Summer 2016

Kate Moss

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN29_Tilda

Volume 2 Issue 2

Autumn/Winter 2015

Marianne Lane

Photography by Glen Luchford, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN29_Dakota3

Volume 2 Issue 2

Autumn/Winter 2015

Dakota Johnson

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN29_Dakota2

Volume 2 Issue 2

Autumn/Winter 2015

Dakota Johnson

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN29_Dakota1

Volume 2 Issue 2

Autumn/Winter 2015

Dakota Johnson

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN28 Rihanna

Volume 2 Issue 1

Spring/Summer 2015

Rihanna

Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Styling by Katy England

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AN28 McQueen

Volume 2 Issue 1

Spring/Summer 2015

Stella Lucia

Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Katy England

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352100

Volume 2 Issue 1

Spring/Summer 2015

Léa Seydoux

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN27_CraigMcdean

Issue 27

Autumn/Winter 2014

Kate Moss

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN27_Collier

Issue 27

Autumn/Winter 2014

Kate Moss

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katy England

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AN27_AlasdairMcLellan

Issue 27

Autumn/Winter 2014

Kate Moss

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN27_WillyVanderperre

Issue 27

Autumn/Winter 2014

Kate Moss

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN26

Issue 26

Spring/Summer 2014

Mia Wasikowska

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN25

Issue 25

Autumn/Winter 2013

Cate Blanchett

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN24

Issue 24

Spring/Summer 2013

Michelle Williams

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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352091

Issue 22

Spring/Summer 2012

Jessica Chastain

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN20_Lea Seydoux

Issue 20

Spring/Summer 2011

Léa Seydoux 

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN20_Jennifer Lawrence

Issue 20

Spring/Summer 2011

Jennifer Lawrence

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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352086

Issue 20

Spring/Summer 2011

Andrea Riseborough

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN21

Issue 21

Autumn/Winter 2011

Rachel Weisz

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN20_Mia Wasikowska

Issue 20

Spring/Summer 2011

Mia Wasikowska

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN18_limited

Issue 18

Spring/Summer 2010

Marion Cotillard

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN19

Issue 19

Autumn/Winter 2010

Björk

Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Styling by Camilla Nickerson

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AN18

Issue 18

Spring/Summer 2010

Marion Cotillard

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN17_Cover_03_UK copy

Issue 17

Autumn/Winter 2009

Vanessa Paradis

Photography by Hedi Slimane, Styling by Panos Yiapanis

AN17_Cover_02_UK copy

Issue 17

Autumn/Winter 2009

Kate Moss

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Panos Yiapanis

AN17

Issue 17

Autumn/Winter 2009

Katie Holmes

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Yanos Yiapanis

AN17_Cover_04_UK copy

Issue 17

Autumn/Winter 2009

Natalie Portman

Photography by Hedi Slimane, Styling by Panos Yiapanis

TILDA

Issue 16

Spring/Summer 2009

Tilda Swinton

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Panos Yiapanis

AN15

Issue 15

Autumn/Winter 2008

Scarlett Johansson

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

AN14

Issue 14

Spring/Summer 2008

Uma Thurman

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

AN13

Issue 13

Autumn/Winter 2007

Julianne Moore

Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Styling by Beat Bolliger

AN12

Issue 12

Spring/Summer 2007

Christina Ricci

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

Kirsten-Dunst-1

Issue 11

Autumn/Winter 2006

Kirsten Dunst

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

AN010

Issue 10

Spring/Summer 2006

Winona Ryder

Photography by Mario Sorrenti, Styling by Katy England

352075

Issue 09

Autumn/Winter 2005

Jodie Foster

Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Styling by Venetia Scott

drew

Issue 08

Spring/Summer 2005

Drew Barrymore

Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Styling by Alister Mackie

352073

Issue 07

Autumn/Winter 2004

Natalie Portman

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

kate

Issue 06

Spring/Summer 2004

Kate Moss

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

352071

Issue 05

Autumn/Winter 2003

Gwyneth Paltrow

Photography by Mario Sorrenti, Styling by Katy England

352070

Issue 04

Spring/Summer 2003

Nicole Kidman

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Tabitha Simmons

352069

Issue 03

Autumn/Winter 2002

Pamela Anderson

Photography by Mario Sorrenti, Styling by Alister Mackie

352068

Issue 02

Spring/Summer 2002

Seth and Jaclyn Hodes

Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Katy England

352067

Issue 01

Autumn/Winter 01

Zora and Olivier

Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Katy England

Fran Summers Swarovski Another Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

The Ethereal Beauty of Fran Summers

The British model is shot, covered in Swarovski crystals, by Elizaveta Porodina and styled by Katie Shillingford for the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

See the full story in the gallery above.

Hair: Olivier Schawalder at Bryant Artists. Make-up: Aurore Gibrien at Bryant Artists using GUCCI BEAUTY. Model: Fran Summers at Elite. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Set design: César Sebastien at Swan Mgmt. Manicure: Eri Narita at Artists Unit. Lighting: Josef Beyer. Photographic assistant: Valentine Lacour. Videographer: William Nixon. Styling assistants: George Pistachio, Juliette Dumazy and Claire Thorn. Seamstress: Pryscille. Hair assistant: Damien Lacoussade. Make-up assistants: Claire Laugeois and Christine Hubert. Set-design assistants: Frédérick Asséo and Ilan Aksoul. Production: Kitten. Postproduction: INK

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022 Robbie Spencer

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Photographs Dancers as Human Sculptures

For the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, Luis Alberto Rodriguez and Robbie Spencer imagine a series of abstract sculptures in a fusion of fashion, choreography, and the human form

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

See the full story in the gallery above.

Hair: Mari Ohashi at LGA Management using BOUCLÈME. Make-up: Ammy Drammeh at Bryant Artists using CHARLOTTE TILBURY. Models: Loli Bahia at Women Management, Akti-Magdalini Konstantinou at Crumb and Lea Orož. Casting: Mollie Dendle at Mini Title. Set design: Afra Zamara at Second Name. Photographic assistants: Alessandro Tranchini and Cameron Williamson. Styling assistants: Met Kilinc and Isabella This page,  from left: Lea is wearing a silk tulle minidress and satin and tulle minidress by DSQUARED2. Spandex body by MELITTA BAUMEISTER. Recycled cotton blend shorts by SALVATORE FERRAGAMO. Hood and socks as before. Beaded cashmere gloves by SIMONE ROCHA. Tulle gloves (underneath) by YUHAN WANG. And leather loafers by PROENZA SCHOULER. Akti is wearing a cotton blazer by SPORTMAX. Patchwork knitted cardigan with pearl and crystal embellishment and tutu dress with rickrack trim by SIMONE ROCHA. And hood, leg warmers, socks and sandals as before. Akti is wearing a denim bomber jacket by DSQUARED2. Reflective waxed cotton trench dress by RORY TOWNSEND. Opposite: Loli is wearing a cotton trench coat with metal plate by LOEWE. Leather bonnet by ELLA MORRIS. And leg warmers, socks and sandals as before Damazio. Hair assistant: Nao Sato. Make-up assistant: Rina. Set-design assistant: Anderson Asteclines. Printing: Sarah England. Producer: Noot Coates at Town Productions. Production assistants: Simon Biu and Jess Chant. Post-production: Dtouch Creative

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

Vincent Rockins Spring/Summer 2022 AnOther Magazine

A Personal Portrait of Vincent Rockins, by Alasdair McLellan

Alasdair McLellan and Alister Mackie combine forces to capture the young musician, designer and model for the cover of our Spring/Summer 2022 issue

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

See the full story in the gallery above.

Hair: Syd Hayes at Art and Commerce. Make-up: Miranda Joyce at Streeters. Model: Vincent Rockins at Kate Moss Agency. Photographic assistants: Lex Kembery and Simon Mackinlay. Styling assistants: Vincent Pons and Brian Conway. Hair assistant: Ryan Wood. Make-up assistant: Faye Bluff. Producer: Alice Kasinather-Jones. Production assistants: Ed Conway and Arthur Millier. Post-production: Output. Special thanks to Spring Studios

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

AN42_COV4 COLLECTIONS WOMEN_3-HR

Craig McDean Captures the Season’s Most Magnetic Looks

In a series of dancerly portraits, Craig McDean and Katie Shillingford capture the highlights of the Spring/Summer 2022 season

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

See the full story in the gallery above.

Hair: Eugene Souleiman at Streeters. Make-up: Lynsey Alexander at Streeters. Models: Giselle Norman and Majesty Amare at Premier Model Management and Maty Fall at IMG Models. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Set design: Andy Hillman at Streeters. Manicure: Lorraine Griffin. Digital tech: Nicholas Ong. Photographic assistants: Nick Brinley, Margaux Jouanneau and Tomo Inenaga. Styling assistants: George Pistachio and Joseph Bates. Seamstress: Anissa at Chapman Burrell. Hair assistants: Massimo Di Stefano and Carlo Avena. Make-up assistant: Phoebe Brown. Set-design assistant: Saskia Wickins. Props assistant: Lizzy Gilbert. Production: North Six

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine which is on sale now. Head here to purchase a copy.

Pieter Mulier: Alaïa for AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

“I Want to Bring a Sexuality Back”: Inside Pieter Mulier’s Alaïa

For the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, Pieter Mulier – the Belgian designer helming the house of Alaïa – speaks to Alexander Fury on passion, Picasso, working with Raf Simons, and the spirit of fashion’s most maverick maison

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Pieter Mulier seems at home at the house of Alaïa. It’s an early winter evening, dark by six, almost a year since he began as creative director. We are in the backstage area for his January 2022 show, normally the Alaïa boutique at 7 rue de Moussy, with its panels of glass and bare brick walls, gargantuan artworks just leaning against them. As you walk in from the street, you ascend a small flight of stairs, directly facing a monolithic colour-daubed canvas by the artist Christoph von Weyhe, Azzedine Alaïa’s partner. In the cabine to the left there’s a Julian Schnabel smashed-plate portrait of Alaïa that, thanks to the angle of the shattered porcelain around the mouth, appears to be staring beatifically. When the light shifts the face seems animated, alive.

Mulier is sitting at a glass-topped table between two rails of the clothes that he’s about to show. I ask him what the collection is about, a hackneyed question. “The beginning of the collection was a sense of family,” Mulier says, softly. “It’s a love song, for Azzedine. And it’s everything I find important for Azzedine. Everything he loved.” As he says this he’s flanked by body-conscious dresses, their bombastic shapes squiggling even on their hangers. There’s a bit of animal print behind him, and a full skirt in featherweight poplin, the kind Alaïa adored, but here attached to leather thigh-high boots. He’s playing with a pair of sandals that have brackets of red metal bolted on as their heels. They’re based on the work of Jean Prouvé: Alaïa was a passionate collector, a statement that understates his fervour entirely. He slept in a glass petrol station Prouvé designed in 1953, one of only three remaining. I often feared leaning back on a chair chez Alaïa, because most of them should have been in museums. Behind Mulier are shelves stacked with bangles. “Techno Nancy Cunard,” Mulier says, picking one up. It’s a polished-brass, small-scale recreation of the Alaïa Diabolo waist-cincher belt from Spring/Summer 1992. In leather aerated with punched designs resembling broderie anglaise and with serrated edges, it’s a favourite archival piece of Mulier’s. It’s one of the first he reissued, full-size, in different leather finishes, including one that resembled blown glass. In miniature, in metal, that belt-bangle looks almost industrial, a small cog for a big machine.

Mulier was an unexpected appointment to Alaïa, announced about three and a half years after the founder’s death in November 2017. He was a relative unknown outside tight-knit fashion circles, having worked as right-hand man to Raf Simons from 2002 – when he began as an intern in that designer’s company – until 2018. By that point, Mulier had been appointed creative director of Calvin Klein, alongside Simons’s chief creative officer role, but was still a low-key figure even though he took a bow with Simons at their debut Calvin Klein 205W39NYC show for Autumn/Winter 2017, and regardless of his role in Frédéric Tcheng's 2015 feature documentary Dior and I, which charted his work alongside Simons on their debut haute couture collection for the label.

That did raise Mulier’s profile, granted – and gives something of an insight into both his working processes and the inestimable importance of his innate ability to enthuse and engage a team of highly trained and, perhaps, slightly jaded technicians to make his dreams a reality, to excite the same passion in them that he feels himself. You observe Mulier working with Simons to manipulate pieces from the Dior archive, dusting off cobwebs to try to give a new relevance to the house’s storied but sometimes staid history. And you see the delicate pas de deux between Mulier’s mind and the ateliers’ hands. “Pieter, j’adore,” said Florence Chehet, the formidable première of Dior’s flou atelier, to camera. She’s blushing. And eliciting that kind of emotional reaction – joy, loyalty, devotion – is arguably more Alaïa than any curvy leather jacket or spiral-zipped knit dress.

When I first speak to Mulier, four months after he was appointed to Alaïa and two and a half weeks before his debut show for the label, he’s excited, enthused. He lights up when talking about Alaïa’s ateliers, and understandably so. They are known as some of the best in fashion – as other houses closed their haute couture operations, Azzedine Alaïa employed the best of the best, with impeccable pedigrees. His retinue of staff included seamstresses trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga and 15 former members of Yves Saint Laurent’s couture workrooms, employed after the cessation of that line in 2002. Many are still with the company today – including Alaïa’s first assistant, a shaven-headed Hiroshima-born artist and designer named Hideki Seo. Mulier only brought one collaborator with him – Frenchwoman Clémande Burgevin Blachman, who headed Calvin Klein’s home division and who is an Alaïa obsessive herself.

In June 2021, over one of those glitchy Zoom connections that have become the defining audio of our time, Mulier’s reverence for the craft of the Alaïa ateliers – and their point of view – is paramount. “I ask the two heads of the atelier, when we see pieces, ‘Is it Alaïa?’ Always. At the beginning they didn’t answer me. I said, ‘I really respect you, I really want to know. Is it Alaïa?’ In three weeks they started to answer.” He smiles. “They’ve been here 25 years, they know.” And the outcome? “Last week, when we did the selection for the runway and the showroom, they were both crying. That’s even more important than the collection.” He takes a breath. “The ateliers are alive again. It’s a human thing.” It’s clear why he was chosen.

Jump forward to this year, back inside the bare brick walls of the Alaïa backstage-boutique space. The January 2022 show marked Mulier’s second catwalk collection for Alaïa, but his fourth overall. There was a swim capsule but, first of all, a pre-emptive series of pieces, unveiled in a digital campaign photographed by Paolo Roversi, an old friend of Alaïa’s and a new collaborator for Mulier, as a kind of preview before his first show in July 2021. They consist of what the house calls archetypes but what Mulier, privately, calls Alaïa icons – and they’re the rare fashion pieces today that truly deserve that often-hyperbolic moniker. There’s that Diabolo belt, alongside leggings and a coeur croisé halter top, a flared skirt, and another laced tight down the thigh and constructed of horizontal strips of fabric, from Alaïa’s famous 1986 Bandelette collection. “I remade each icon in a reflective yarn from Japan,” Mulier says. “It’s all the shapes that I think are diehard. It sets the tone.” As shot by Roversi, they became silhouettes of pure light, almost ethereal. Maybe spiritual.

It’s difficult not to feel the spirit of Alaïa in the house he built, because it isn’t just a house in that fashion sense. Azzedine Alaïa’s idiosyncratic bedroom is perched on top of the building; von Weyhe, whose relationship began with the designer in 1959, still sleeps a few hundred feet from where Mulier and I are talking, in an apartment in the warren-like complex. Monsieur Alaïa famously hosted friends in the space, with multiple bedrooms for them to stay in, and held dinner parties and lunches around his kitchen table for an eye-popping mix of his atelier workers, artists, writers and general devotees. I once failed to recognise Monica Bellucci, seated opposite me. Because who has Monica Bellucci in their kitchen?

Maison Alaïa was always more home than house – Alaïa’s first fashion shows, in the early 1980s, were held in his own tiny flat on rue de Bellechasse on Paris’s Rive Gauche, audiences crammed into the living room, some sitting on the floor, Alaïa pressing clothes in the kitchen. The house in the Marais is much bigger – 750,000 square feet, or thereabouts. Alaïa moved there in about 1988, and began showing his collections there the following year. Yet the man himself always seemed omnipresent – startled shoppers often caught a glimpse of him crossing the boutique floor, as his studio was just overhead. Physical then, his presence is ideological now, almost five years after he died.

Mulier doesn’t shy away from the legacy of Alaïa, one many would find overwhelming or overpowering. Indeed he seemed giddy at the thought of it when we first met at the house last year, bubbling over with references to Alaïa’s greatest hits – which were also present, all around. Burgevin Blachman was darting about wearing a leopard intarsia skirt, from Alaïa’s Autumn/Winter 1991 collection. It would be tempting to say that Mulier’s collection featured a checklist of Alaïa-isms – but that would be lazy, which Mulier isn’t. What it felt like was an instinctive, even gut reaction to the potential sucker punch of taking up one of the most formidable mantles in modern fashion. Mulier went with what he loved. “I played around with what I thought was Alaïa,” he told me, just before that first catwalk collection was presented. “The base was in the Eighties, that’s when he began to build. The sense, the essence.” It was as direct as the curvy corset-belts, body-defining knits and leopard prints, and as subtle as a meandering fagoted seam defining the erogenous zones of the bust and waist on brief dresses and bodysuits.

“Full-on” is how Mulier described that first collection, a recalibration of those Alaïa greatest hits, reimagined for a new audience. “I want to bring a sexuality back,” he added. “Alaïa is the only house that can do sexuality without being vulgar. Here in the atelier, from the moment they do something sensual – nearly explicitly sexual – it’s just beauty. That’s the strength of this house.” He even switched the labels back – in the 1980s and 1990s they were bold black on white typeface. “It’s a small thing, but it’s an important thing,” he says. “You know, most of them were stitched all the way around. So you could never take it out.” He laughs. “Very Azzedine.” Mulier also chose to make his debut outside the boutique on the aforementioned rue de Moussy, a doubly loaded act. Firstly, it recalled a famous Arthur Elgort image of statuesque Alaïa models in the street after one of his shows in 1986, and an Ellen von Unwerth film that includes scenes of Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington cavorting around the Marais after another in 1990. Those images loaned a reality to Alaïa’s fantasies – and the same to Mulier’s. It was also, Mulier says, about humility and respect. “You must respect Alaïa,” he says. Mulier smiles a great deal, but he isn’t smiling now.

If that first collection was something of a mark of that respect, it was also a communiqué of Mulier’s intent as well as a palimpsest demonstrating his knowledge of Alaïa’s past. Mulier – like Azzedine Alaïa – is a passionate collector of vintage clothing. He and his partner, the designer Matthieu Blazy, who is now creative director of Bottega Veneta, have a vast archive of vintage pieces at their home in Antwerp, spanning from Twenties Lanvin through more obscure names such as Norman Norell to modern masters like Martin Margiela. Since his appointment last year, Mulier has – understandably – been buying vintage Alaïa pieces in a frenzy, turning them inside out, examining their cut and construction. He’s especially drawn, he says, to early Eighties pieces, which are the rarest.

There’s a magic in objects that images often cannot convey – especially in work like that of Alaïa, devised as three-dimensional pieces with a sculptural quality. Moreover, many contain tricks and traits that can only really be appreciated in the physical handling – skirts tugged into position by belts, dresses whose surfaces are composed of a multitude of interlocked pattern pieces, giving them a unique physical tension, like stroking your hands over a living body, feeling the give and take of muscle and skin. Alaïa once described one of those dresses, intricately seamed in wool jersey, as like a racehorse. And he certainly believed in the magic of objects – his quietly amassed archive, held by the foundation established after his death, is now regarded as probably the most significant private collection of fashion in the world. It includes pieces by Balenciaga and Charles James, Madeleine Vionnet and the Hollywood costume designer Gilbert Adrian, all of which influenced his own designs. The archive holds more than 22,000 examples of those, too.

Many designers accumulate fashion collections – vintage pieces are valuable reference points, after all. But the manner in which both Mulier and Alaïa collected has a certain kinship – a value given to pieces from the past, an innate appreciation of fashion, a love of and fixation with craft, and an urge to protect. It’s miles from the slavish copying of archival pieces, and luckily light years from the hopefully apocryphal tales of fashion designers torching vintage garments to hide just how closely they were ‘inspired’. Alaïa once told me a story of a rich family he knew, former clients of Vionnet. They lived next door to a convent and, at the end of every season, gave their cast-off couture to the nuns to chop up and sew into habits. Alaïa looked aghast when relaying that story. That idea of cherishing fashion, the value of its history, isn’t something everyone has.

There are other connections between the two. How about the fact they’re both kind of outsiders in Paris? Alaïa was born in Tunisia, coming to Paris in 1957, Mulier is Belgian, although his accent is soft. Both began quietly, in the shadows – and, actually, worked in some of the same ateliers. Alaïa’s career began at Christian Dior – although he was only employed for four days because of issues with immigration papers. Mulier was there for three years, from 2012 to 2015, alongside Raf Simons, who was then the artistic director of womenswear. Alaïa, incidentally, attended that first couture show, and all the ones that followed. It was Simons who first encouraged Mulier, as a student, to pursue fashion instead of his intended vocation of architecture, in which he originally trained at the Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels after a brief foray into law. Another parallel: Alaïa studied sculpture, not fashion, yet he referred to himself as a bâtisseur, a builder, although his clothes were neither stiff nor heavy. Indeed, Alaïa’s breakthrough in 1980 was to create a collection entirely in leather, studded with eyelets. He gave the hitherto unyielding material a new softness and suppleness, pulling it tight around the body. The clothing collection was originally designed for the shoe manufacturer Charles Jourdan in 1979 – the company freaked out at the strident, powerful sexuality of his garments and nixed the collection, but Alaïa presented it under his own name, his first ready-to-wear collection.

Sex is something Mulier is interested in – who isn’t? And sex was Alaïa’s leitmotif. “The iconic part, for me, was from 1980 to 1994 – the heyday,” Mulier says. “It wasn’t lady – although I do love that aspect. But that is when the Alaïa revolution really happens. Timeless simplicity, sensuality and sexuality. That’s the most important.” His first collection showed both sides of sexuality: a python top and skirt, composed of snakeskin, were laced tight, gaps showing the flesh underneath. Another floor-length dress covered a model entirely, a hood smothering her scalp, gloves her hands, but the dress clinging close, which reminded me of those violated Vionnet nun’s habits. In his second collection, there were vestal virgin shirt dresses that were cocooned in the back, drawn in at the knee and kicked out into a pooling mermaid skirt.

If the first show was, by necessity, demonstrating Mulier’s agility with and understanding of Alaïa’s codes and, indeed, his respect – “A beautiful word,” he says – the second seemed like he was relaxing, stretching a little. “Clients are coming. Couture is working extremely well. I feel confident,” he says. While Mulier doesn’t want to impose his vision on Alaïa, he hastens to add that Alaïa cannot be purely referential. “Don’t change it, but push it,” he says. “Bit by bit.” It embraced more of Mulier’s own loves. The soundtrack was classical music – “I was raised with classical music,” Mulier says, commenting that it reminded him of his mother. There is a sequence of dresses created in close collaboration with the Picasso Administration that marry Alaïa’s body-clinging knit with motifs drawn from Pablo Picasso’s sculptural porcelain female figurines of the late 1940s, called tanagras after their reference to antecedents from the Hellenistic period. “An ode to Azzedine, who was the greatest sculptor of fashion,” Mulier says. “The idea behind it is to put Azzedine – as the greatest sculptor of fashion – with the greatest sculptor in the world.” He smiles. “And also, everybody talks about collaboration … but you cannot go higher than Picasso.” He shrugs.

There’s also history there: Mulier was able to call Claude Ruiz-Picasso, son of the artist and the painter Françoise Gilot, and one of the heads of the Picasso Administration, to ask for permission. “We worked together at Jil,” he says. That is of course Jil Sander, where Raf Simons and Mulier collaborated with the administration in 2011 on a series of knits inspired by ceramics. “There’s some Raf in there too,” Mulier allows, of these dresses. “It’s a nod to Raf, what he means in my career.” Simons is, of course, part of Mulier’s community – his family, even. After more than 15 years working side by side, the two are still close – they speak constantly, and Simons was a prominent front-row presence at Mulier’s debut. For this second show, he was referenced in a letter addressed to Azzedine that Mulier placed on each seat: “Raf, who taught me the love of art and how to mix it within my creations.”

“The idea behind it is to put Azzedine – as the greatest sculptor of fashion – with the greatest sculptor in the world … everybody talks about collaboration … but you cannot go higher than Picasso” – Pieter Mulier

Their continued synergy is interesting: Mulier shows me a dress where fullness is created by nylon crin (or horsehair) knitted into the structure itself. “They normally apply it after,” Mulier says. “This is the first time.” A week before, Simons had enthused to me about sweaters in the Autumn/Winter 2022 men’s collection he had created alongside Miuccia Prada. Their swaggering shape was created by nylon thread similarly knitted into the shoulder line. “It’s actually all people, on a personal level, that gave me a chance,” Mulier continues. “It’s the house of Alaïa, I cannot talk of Azzedine like that” – he and Mulier never met. “But still, yes – it’s his house. It’s Raf, who still plays such an important role in my life. And sculpting and fashion and architecture is the concept. It’s about how to sculpt beauty.” He stops again, smiles. “Sounds very pretentious, and I don’t mean it pretentiously at all.”

It is interesting that instinct leads Mulier back, somehow, to Azzedine Alaïa, who referenced ancient Greece also, in his artfully draped and bound dresses; he adored the Musée Picasso, which opened in the Marais a few years before Alaïa moved to the rue de Moussy. And the Picasso family were intimates. “He was very close to Claude Picasso,” Mulier says. “We called him, and he said yes to the collaboration in a minute.” Then his voice rises. “Because he used to come here and sit next to Azzedine when he was pattern-making.” The Picasso Administration was included in every step – the resulting dresses, a half-dozen, combine intarsia knit with hand embroidery, and will be limited edition. “They’re very involved, and that’s what I like,” Mulier says. “It’s this sense of community – almost like a Bauhaus.”

Mulier jumps up. He wants to show me the space where the show will be held, an enormous double-height atrium with a vaulted glass roof. “We are showing in Azzedine’s heart,” he says. “I always call it the cathedral.” The Alaïa complex is so big, it straddles an entire city block, and technically the entrance to this space is at 18 rue de la Verrerie, through a pretty courtyard with a giant hammered-bronze female breast incongruously plonked in the centre. It’s a 1966 sculpture by the French artist César – a friend of Alaïa’s, of course – and its full title is Le Sein d’Hélène Rochas, modelled after the embonpoint of that fixture of French high society, a doyenne of haute couture and artist’s muse.

The cathedral betrays the origins of the Alaïa building – built in the 19th century, it was latterly a warehouse for the Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville department store around the corner on the rue de Rivoli, and formerly a factory that, during its time, created clocks and mattresses. That feels ironic: Alaïa was rarely on time – during the 1980s, his shows not only famously ran hours late, but were presented weeks after the rest of the fashion industry had wrapped up their seasonal presentations – and given his passion for his work, he didn’t really sleep much. Alaïa himself presented collections here from 1989 onwards – unless, perhaps, he decided to cancel a show because the clothes weren’t up to his exacting standards, or because he didn’t want to force his beloved dogs out of the space. “In its present, unfinished state, a chill rain dripped through the cracks, showering press and buyers during the 1½-hour wait,” wrote the Los Angeles Times, of Alaïa’s first show at rue de la Verrerie in May 1989. “The models got wet, too.” The models at Mulier’s debut got a little wet also – Paris decided July 2021 was a time for rain.

It brings a wry smile to my face that, to many eyes, the Alaïa headquarters still doesn’t seem finished: when I walk through in January, that exposition hall is a building site. Although, credit where due, that was because the space is also used by the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa to stage exhibitions. They were taking one down, juxtaposing Azzedine Alaïa’s clothes with those of Cristóbal Balenciaga, to allow Mulier to use the place for his sophomore show. Showing there “was my dream, in the beginning”, he says. “But I’m happy I didn’t do it the first time.” Mulier enthuses about a wrought-iron staircase off to one side, normally boxed in and rarely revealed to public view, and by a series of enormous maps painted onto raw plaster walls, again usually hidden. The vaulted ceiling had also been shrouded in cloth that blocked out the sky, Mulier said, for almost 20 years. Stripping Alaïa back to its bones – its foundations – excites him.

What do those constitute? This collection, it seems – it’s the unexpected, the extreme. “It’s big fashion this time,” Mulier says. “It’s about shoulders, about volume. It’s about proportion and sculpting. It’s very simple, really.” There are knitted bodysuits in wool, in black or nude – Alaïa offering nine shades of ‘nude’, reflecting the inclusivity that was one hallmark of its namesake. “You’ll buy it in a box – and it looks like a Sarah Lucas!” Mulier laughs. Sculpture again, I guess. “But on the body it’s sublime.” He sounds just like Simons when he says that word. As with Azzedine Alaïa’s own collections, conventional seasons are eschewed – Alaïa has named them Winter/Spring and Summer/Autumn, reflecting when clothes will actually arrive in stores, and chooses to show them just outside the official haute couture weeks. The collections themselves include a mix of couture pieces and ready-to-wear, which Alaïa himself initiated. “The beauty here is that even ready-to-wear has a couture feeling, the construction, the finishing,” Mulier says. “It’s not important to put it in a category.” The finale of the show, entirely haute couture, features ball gowns made in calfskin and Japanese velvets – all the fabrics, Mulier says, are made especially for Alaïa, including specially treated leathers.

Some details are more esoteric: several dresses, and those aforementioned bodysuits, are held in place with moulded metal frames around a deep, undulating décolletage. Reflecting Mulier’s love of community spirit, they were shaped by the husband of one of Alaïa’s premières. “He makes staircases,” Mulier says. “She’d go home in the evening and send videos of him manipulating it.” That neckline is an echo of a dress Alaïa called the Carla, after Carla Sozzani. It wasn’t because she wore it: in 1987 she put the dress on the cover of Italian Elle – she was then its editor – shot by Roversi. The publication was devoted to championing Italian fashion only, and Sozzani was promptly fired. I love that story.

Azzedine Alaïa was a storyteller, a raconteur par excellence. Those stories have outlived him. Mulier is delighted by one account of him spending an exorbitant amount on a coat by Paul Poiret – an inspiration for bloused backs on dresses and coats, with a 1911 feel, caught in low around the thigh. They’re influenced by a coat from 1985, which not only shapes the gently curved tailoring but also appears in the show. It nods to another famous story, of Alaïa creating a coat for the actor Greta Garbo in the 1970s. By then Garbo had become a reclusive figure. “They told me she was waiting outside with Cécile de Rothschild. I said, ‘Sure, who else?’” Alaïa recalled, with his typical humour, in 1990. He made her a dark blue cashmere coat – “Big, bigger, biggest! And a huge collar to hide.” He kept the patterns until the day he died. 

The Garbo collar inspired Mulier to pull turtlenecks over the mouths of his models, an echo of her mystique. Edie Campbell, daughter of Sophie Hicks, had a Picasso pulled over hers – Hicks was a friend of Alaïa, and is currently redesigning the brand’s boutiques (new ones are set to open in New York and Shanghai). “I think he loved Garbo because cinema in Egypt and in Tunisia when Azzedine was growing up was a copy of that. He was obsessed with Hollywood, and the Egyptian copies,” Mulier says. “I asked Christoph [von Weyhe] and he agreed. Christoph told me the stories of Garbo, because he was there. He fitted the coat and everything. He said it was such a big moment because Azzedine was obsessed with her. Obsessed.” He seems obsessed too. “Can you imagine,” he knocks loudly on the glass table. “Garbo?!” Mulier’s infectious obsession, it seems, is with Azzedine Alaïa – the man, his myths.

Mulier’s Alaïa show takes place in the “cathedral”, atop a polished black lacquer floor that reflects the night sky. The moulded metal necklines make dresses appear suspended, magically, around the body; the skirts buttoned to boots seem to be hovering; and the models, walking on platform shoes with Plexiglas heels, look like they’re floating a few inches above the ground. Four days later the space has been transformed to all white, for an exhibition of archival Alaïa clothing. Fittingly, after the second show of Alaïa after Alaïa, this is titled Alaïa Afore Alaïa, and looks at the made-to-measure clothes created for his private clientele. There’s another Garbo coat – she was a repeat customer – but it isn’t navy blue. An exhibition-goer said the space looked “heavenly”, and it did.

Mulier is calm after the storm. I ask him what he wants to convey with his work for Alaïa, and he takes a moment. “Emotion,” he says, and his voice cracks a little. “I hope that comes through, that emotion. And I hope that emotion will be the same in the people who see it. It’s driven by emotion. It needs to make the heart beat. If it doesn’t make your heart beat … ” He pauses. “I mean, we’re at Alaïa.”

Hair: Duffy at Streeters. Make-up: Karin Westerlund at Artlist using DR BARBARA STURM. Model: Mariacarla Boscono at Women Management. Casting: Ashley Brokaw. Manicure: Eden Tonda. Digital tech: Henri Coutant. Lighting: Romain Dubus. Photographic assistant: Corentin Thévenet. Styling assistants: Niccolo Torelli, Ewa Kluczenko and Kevin Grosjean. Hair assistant: Lukas Tralmer. Make-up assistant: Noa Yehonatan. Producer to Willy Vanderperre: Lieze Rubbrecht. Production: One Thirty-Eight Productions. Producer: Ashleigh Hayward. Production assistants: Arthur Debriffe, Félix Biton and Julien Fernandes. On-set retoucher: Stéphane Virlogeux

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale here.

Jodie Turner-Smith for AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

The Full Shoot: Jodie Turner-Smith for AnOther Magazine Spring/Sumer 2022

In a dawn-to-dusk shoot located in the Californian desert, Jackie Nickerson and Katie Shillingford capture Turner-Smith and a cast of supporting characters wearing Gucci’s decadent Love Parade collection

Jodie Turner-Smith AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

Jodie Turner-Smith: “Everything I Do Is Political”

In our Spring/Summer 2022 issue, the history-making actor speaks to her friend Jeremy O Harris about transformative love, motherhood, and her role in Kogonada’s offbeat sci-fi film, After Yang

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

In 2021, Jodie Turner-Smith made history as she played history, becoming the first Black actor to take on the role of the doomed Queen Anne Boleyn. In Turner-Smith’s hands the most troubled and controversial of Henry VIII’s six wives was as fierce as she was tender: as believable in her unbridled ambition and overwhelming grief as she was dignified – majestic. That is a quality Turner-Smith seems to have been born with, one that elevates her characterisations, giving a nobility to her Angela “Queen” Johnson – the criminal defence lawyer turned outlaw in Melina Matsoukas’s 2019 film Queen & Slim – and, last year, to her unexpected appearance as part of Alessandro Michele’s Love Parade show for Gucci. Back then, an uplifting display of both fashion and the people who wear it best – stars – played out on Hollywood Boulevard; here, we move that diverse parade of beautiful people to the desert outside Los Angeles, shooting Turner-Smith and a cast of supporting characters over the course of a day – dawn to dusk – clothed in Michele’s designs. Alongside this, Turner-Smith talks to writer, actor and director Jeremy O Harris about transformative love, motherhood, the responsibility of storytelling and her role in Noah Baumbach’s upcoming adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise.

Jeremy O Harris: This is such a crazy year for you. You have so many new things on your plate, but the first thing I want to talk to you about is, what’s it like having your daughter? As your friend, who’s watched you grow up over the past decade and become the woman you are now, I feel like every day as a mom changes you in significant ways. How do you feel seeing your daughter grow every day?

Jodie Turner-Smith: It’s incredible to watch a person gain an understanding of the world and be beside them as they conceive of every single thing. It’s like experiencing life again, because you are seeing them discover a tree, the ocean, a shark. We were looking at sharks in the water today – we’re in the Bahamas. One of the best parts about parenting is that you get to learn everything again because you see the world anew through innocent, fresh eyes. It’s humbling and beautiful and exciting – and it’s really emotional.

JOH: I think about some of the projects you’re doing this year and realise that it’s only really just now that people are interacting with your Anne Boleyn. It’s this great story about a young woman, a complicated mother and someone who had a really difficult life. Your lens on Anne Boleyn is the thing I was most excited about when it was announced and you did not disappoint. What was that like, stepping into that role and also stepping into so much history?

“As a dark-skinned Black woman, my body is politicised. Everything I do is political. My existence is political” – Jodie Turner-Smith

JTS: Well, when I accepted that job, I was so raw with motherhood. And I use the word raw because I feel like it is such a raw-feeling experience. The transformation that you go through internally, while it is incredible and epic and beautiful, birthing this living creature that you held inside your body, your body grows an entire organ to feed this child. And then when that child is born, that organ detaches itself from the inside of your body and you birth that out too, the placenta. And it leaves a huge wound that takes time to heal. And five months out from that, I was still extremely raw.

JOH: Oof.

JTS: People have asked me, “Did you have any worries about taking it on?” Anytime something creative comes across your path that excites you and lights you up, the first instinct is to be like, “Fuck, yeah.” You say yes. And then you’re like, “Oh fuck.” There is also the rest of the world and their opinions and how they’re going to respond to this. That is also going to affect me. I am not creating inside a bubble, which would be really nice sometimes. One thing I admire about theatre is that there’s so much more freedom to portray others. And maybe it’s because you are so connected to the audience that they’re willing to drop the veil, whereas in film and television, people are thinking that they’re meant to be presented with an imitation of reality – they’re less willing to make those allowances. But this project is cool – symbolically. This idea of Anne as an outsider because of her upbringing, the way that she was a disruptor. It was interesting to tell her story in a different way, because I saw The Other Boleyn Girl [2008], which I loved at the time. I thought Natalie Portman was amazing in that, but it was a very specific portrayal of Anne that goes with that negative history that people have sometimes recorded about her. And at this point in my life as an adult woman, I think about any woman in history who was super powerful and who is written about as this horrible person, I take it with a grain of salt – men were recording that history and were threatened by that power.

JOH: Yeah. Anyone that was married to Henry.

JTS: Henry was a sociopath.

JOH: You’ve been in America for a really long time. Were there any Britishisms you had to relearn to become Anne?

JTS: Well, first of all, unless you have really practised received pronunciation [RP], you have to work on that. I started acting in the US, Anne Boleyn was my first job in the UK. For me having never worked in the UK, having not gone to drama school, I definitely needed to work on the RP. I worked with this really amazing coach who was there on set to make sure everything sounded how it needed to, because it’s just very particular to sound like you come from that class. And although Anne may have had more of a French accent, we decided to go with something that felt more like RP.

JOH: It was so jarring and exciting to see you speaking in RP for the entire show, because it’s so rare to see a Black performer, even a Black performer who grew up in the UK, get to use that tool in the toolbox. Did you feel a responsibility? Like, “If this is something that works really well it means so much for other Black girls coming up after me.” I feel like you’ve done such significant roles and at a time when people are asking a lot about representation, especially representation of dark-skinned Black women, you have come to the forefront as one of the first names that’s consistently called. What do you feel about that responsibility?

“Every project I go into, I think, who’s the woman that I’ll be on the other side of this? That is the goal and the focus” – Jodie Turner-Smith

JTS: It’s impossible for me to not think about it every time I go into something and not as if it’s some kind of burden, but for the simple fact that being who I am, I know how much it means to see someone who looks like me on screen. I’m so honoured to have the opportunity to portray someone on screen, to create a woman who looks like me on screen and to fill her with life. It’s something I think about in every project I do. Obviously the goal is to create wonderful three-dimensional characters but every time I go into a job, I always think about that because as a dark-skinned Black woman, my body is politicised. Everything I do is political. My existence is political. I wish I could exist in a vacuum but I have an understanding of the systems and the social mores and everything that’s going on around me. And I know that I’m a part of all of that. I also think about my daughter and the fact that I want her to be able to look at the things I’ve done and the women I’ve played and see something powerful and interesting and beautiful and ... complicated.

JOH: I love the punctuation of complicated.

JTS: Yeah. Because sometimes there are certain spaces where people that look like me aren’t expected to be seen. And that’s what I love about a project like After Yang.

JOH: Yes. That’s what I was about to get to. Because After Yang is the definition of complex and moreover it’s this amazing meditation on motherhood. And on top of that, it has this thing happening inside it, because of [the writer-director] Kogonada’s beautifully open imagination. There’s this real opportunity there for this casting to be a model for how we see families in movies going forward, especially speculative fictions. What was it like crafting this family with Colin [Farrell] and Kogonada?

JTS: Kogonada is just an incredibly talented, gentle, amazing spirit and he created that energy on set, held such a safe space for us. The movie’s only coming out now but that was my second film, the movie I did after Queen & Slim. It was my first time playing a mother on screen, and then I became a mother shortly afterwards. And the thing is, even the way that he writes his scripts, he doesn’t write a lot of stage direction. He doesn’t write a lot of things that would indicate to you what your character is going through internally. He just presents the story and he trusts you as the actor to come in and infuse that with life. The film meditates on very specific themes but we all got to add our own specificity to what was happening in our characters’ internal lives. And I love the world that he built, that conception of a future world. If the future world looks like that, I think we would all be in a really good place.

JOH: Yes. What was the mood on set like? I’ve seen all the interviews post-Sundance and there seems to be so much joy on these Zoom calls among the cast – but as exciting and beautiful as the film is, there is also so much heaviness there. How does one navigate that?

JTS: The reason we’re all a fucking love fest every time you see us together is because it was just so supportive and so loving and so generous. The energy felt so good. And it’s interesting because in terms of my relationship with Colin, we are in a marriage where we’re not really hearing or seeing each other and there’s frustration and there’s stress and there’s distance, but there was so much love on that set. We shot most of it in this little house. And just around the corner there was a house that we used as our base camp and everybody had a bedroom and anytime someone was making food in the kitchen, you’d smell that through the house. It always smelled like incense and we’d play with hair and make-up in the front room. It was just this lovely, delicious, warm atmosphere. And honestly, I thrive in that kind of environment. It doesn’t work for me to be dark all day in order to play dark shit. It actually stresses me out more, it’s better for me to feel loved and held by everyone in the crew every time the camera cuts. You’re not always going to get that. And I know that, but when you can create that kind of environment, for me, I feel like I thrive – like I can go deeper into whatever darkness I have to go to when I feel that safety when the camera’s not rolling.

JOH: I love that. I think that’s so true. I feel like we make best with our families. Even if these families are sort of quickly put together – but put together with love. If things feel sterile, it’s so hard to make it work. Looking at your career so far, you’ve led a lot of projects already. You’ve jumped through a lot of genres. We’ve mentioned your first film, which is like an amazing modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, a romantic getaway film that takes place across America. And then you have Anne Boleyn, this historical drama, a television series. You have After Yang, the speculative fiction. And one of the things you’re doing next is White Noise by Noah Baumbach, which is the Don DeLillo adaptation. What fuels how you choose the projects you want to do? Having had such significant work happen at such an early part of your career and being in such a pivotal moment, where the type of actress Jodie Turner-Smith is starts to solidify itself. What helps you decide which direction you want to go in?

“I don’t want to get cancelled for saying this but I feel like there are still so many directors who are creating all-white worlds” – Jodie Turner-Smith

JTS: Honestly, there are different deciding factors every time. Mainly it’s about the story and then there’s who’s telling the story. For Anne Boleyn, I wasn’t necessarily that familiar with Lynsey [Miller]’s work as the director, but I knew that I wanted to tell that story. I was like, “Yes, this resonates with me. It lights me up.” With White Noise, I didn’t really have any script until the very last minute – when I auditioned, I didn’t have a script. It was 100 per cent about who was in the project and that I wanted to work with Noah, who is so talented and amazing. I really consider White Noise to be my first comedy because Noah makes comedies. Everyone’s like, they’re dramas, but they’re actually comedies – in my humble opinion.

I make these choices – I would love to work with that person. And then I jump in and maybe that was a good decision or maybe it is, “OK, what did I learn here?” But every project I go into, I think, who’s the woman that I’ll be on the other side of this? That is the goal and the focus, because you never know how something’s going to turn out. I don’t have any control after I do my bit. It’s really about, “What did I come here to learn? Can I expand from this experience and be better?” The goal is that I just want to get better. And I really hope it never solidifies, what kind of actress Jodie Turner-Smith is, because I want to do so many different things and I don’t want to end up in a box.

JOH: I love the idea that part of what fuels you is a thirst to get better. One of the things I enjoy so much about watching many of my friends who come from so many different backgrounds start to be seen in this industry is that I get to watch them grow on screen in front of me. Not just age-wise, but talent-wise. It’s like watching someone work out from afar over a year or two years and seeing how their body changes and what muscles develop. I’m seeing all my friends develop on screen in front of me right now in their first significant roles on screen. It is exhilarating watching someone learn the muscle of being a lead and then taking what they learnt there to go to the back and work as a supporting actor and build that muscle. And you see that their understanding of how to stand with a scene partner has changed significantly. I’m so excited to see what the Jodie Turner-Smith I meet in four or five years is going to be.

JTS: Me too, Jeremy. Me too.

JOH: Are there any projects you want to do that you haven’t yet? I feel like there’s going to be someone reading this, looking to see if you’re right for this thing they’re doing and you just might tell them right now – “This is where I want to grow next.”

JTS: I feel like I always mis-answer this question, because I guess in a way it is your opportunity to say, “Hi, so-and-so, I’d love to work with you.” Like, “Denis, put me in the next Dune, I’m here.”

JOH: Exactly.

JTS: Listen, when I watched Dune I didn’t stop thinking about it for four weeks. I think it was just so incredibly beautiful and poetically done. But you know what else I think about? Other than working with Denis Villeneuve ... And I don’t want to get cancelled for saying this but I feel like there are still so many directors who are creating all-white worlds. I constantly have this conversation with my team, “OK, well, who do I want to work with?” And I realise that these directors I would really love to work with, I’m like, “Well, I don’t really see a place for myself in their world.” But honestly before White Noise, you could have probably said that about Noah Baumbach and here we are.

JOH: Yes, absolutely.

JTS: You know something else? I’m really wondering when I’m going to be working with Jeremy O Harris and Janicza Bravo.

JOH: Well, when you said that White Noise is your first comedy – I was like, well, you were really funny in Lemon too. But yeah, we need to do a comedy together. Before we go, I want to talk about your mom, Hilda, who I had such a great time with when we were shooting.

“There is a legion of women inside me – I think all of them should get to come out and play” – Jodie Turner-Smith

JTS: Shout-out to Hilda. My mom. Don’t you just love her? Isn’t she everything?

JOH: I love her to death. And you have been such a great daughter to her and that was so evident when we were there. Such a great model for how daughters give back to their parents and how parents can stay so integrated in a family’s life if you choose to have them there. I think so many people make excuses for not having their family be involved in their lives, and seeing your family as a model, I was just like, “There are few excuses, right?” I would love to be someone who has integrated a family as you do in the sense that your mom is there with your daughter. She’s there helping you out on long trips and you’re there helping her out, sending her on bougie trips like in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, talking about boys together.

JTS: I feel so lucky that I have my mom with me to not only just be there for my daughter, but to teach me how to be a mom. My mother is a really, really good mother. And now I have her teaching me how to mother my daughter. I never had a close relationship with my grandmas. So the fact that my daughter is really close with her grandma literally makes me cry every time I think about it. To me, the concept of someone being close to their grandma was like a movie and TV thing. It wasn’t real life. I’m just happy to create that world for my daughter. It really does take a village. And I have so many people helping me make it happen.

JOH: That’s so beautiful. I’m so excited that we got to do this conversation together. There’s no one I’d rather wake up to talk to. How is the Bahamas for your family?

JTS: We decided last minute to come here. It’s just me, my husband and my daughter. I’m playing a Bahamian in this TV show, Bad Monkey. I thought, let me come to the Bahamas and be around the people.

JOH: What kind of Bahamian are you playing?

JTS: Anyone who’s read the book will know some of the characters but I am playing a woman who is an Obeah woman, which I love because it just feels witchy and interesting. It’s funny because her name is Dragon Queen and I don’t know how this keeps happening to me, that I keep playing people that are named queen or are a queen, but if this is the way I’m being typecast, I’m down with it.

JOH: Oh my God. I love that. I mean, you give off queen shit, you know what I mean? You give off “Don’t fuck with her.” Do people know who you are in the Bahamas yet?

JTS: I don’t think I’m, like, Jen Aniston famous, where everywhere I go people are crowding me. It’s just the kind of thing where people might look at us twice and say, “Is that ... ?” We just go about our business. And we always go to places that are more remote and not too intense, so that we can live a quiet existence anyway because that’s what we prefer. And obviously with a young child, that feels safer. I love my life and I’m so grateful for all of the bounties that it provides. It definitely is a little bit unnerving, fame, especially because a lot of my fame comes from the fact that my husband’s been famous for a long time and I’m a Black woman married to him. As I said, political body. That is a story for people. And that is not what my daughter chose. I want to protect her from that for as long as I can and not let the more negative elements of that affect her. I just want her to feel like a grounded human being, as grounded as one can be when you grow up wealthy.

JOH: Exactly. And I mean, given the fact that she’s with an actual queen every day, queen on and off screen, it’s going to be really hard for her not to realise that she’s a princess.

JTS: And her father treats her like she is a goddess walking on Earth. The Bahamas have a really special history for me and Josh, because this was the first place we came together. You know how it is, when you meet someone, it’s like, are you going to take me on holiday? That’s how I know you’re serious.

JOH: Yes, exactly.

JTS: But we were both working, so we had to wait a little bit. And then we went to the Bahamas and it was this really special trip because we were falling in love with each other but not wanting to say that yet. And I remember he rented this boat and took me on a tour of the Exumas. That’s why we came straight to the Exumas this time. And when we were on this boat ride, the captain kept saying, you guys are going to make a baby out here and you’re going to call it Exuma.

JOH: Oh my God. That’s you guys.

JTS: And we did less than a year later. And now we’ve brought our daughter here. It’s really special to be here together.

JOH: Can I ask you something quickly? I watched you walk in the Gucci Love Parade show on Hollywood Boulevard. I was there screaming. Was there any anxiety about jumping back into the space of fashion after you’d made this transition into acting and even after motherhood, being on a catwalk, walking a Gucci show – did that feel like a daunting thing to do? Or were you just like, “You know what, this is another classic Jodie challenge”?

JTS: First of all, that was a long stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and those shoes we were wearing, I was just like, “Oh my God, bitch, do not fall down.” But it was a little bit of both because I feel like the catwalk is a kind of performance, it’s sort of like being on stage. It’s why I loved it when I did it for the first time – I didn’t realise at the time, but I think it was the performance element of it that I loved so much. I loved re-entering that world as an actor, because it’s different when you do it as an actor versus as a model. I mean, it’s why you didn’t see me all over billboards everywhere. I was never a successful model. But as an actress to now model, I can take everything that I’ve learnt from that and put it to great use. I can come with my personality and everything that I am. And there is a legion of women inside me – I think all of them should get to come out and play.

Jodie Turner-Smith: Hair: Ursula Stephen at A-Frame Agency using ORIBE. Make-up: Sheika Daley at Day One Studio using Gucci Beauty. Manicure: Sigourney Nuñez using OPI

Models: Hair: Jenny Kim at Frank Reps using ORIBE. Make-up: Zenia Jaeger at Streeters using SUBMISSION BEAUTY. Models: Lex Peckham at Kollektiv Mgmt, Quannah Chasinghorse at IMG Models, Cici Tamez at New Icon Models and Justin Thomas at Next NY. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Set design: Bette Adams at MHS Artists. Manicure: Sigourney Nuñez using OPI. Digital tech: James Weir. Photographic assistants: Gregory Brouillette, Milan Aguirre and Carolin Schild. Styling assistants: George Pistachio, Bota Abdul and Megan King. Seamstress: Katie Casey at 7th Bone Tailoring. Hair assistant: Sol Rodriguez. Make-up assistant: Katie Mann. Production: Tiagi. Executive producer: Chantelle-Shakila Tiagi. Producer: Mica Kossakowska. Local production: Arzu Kocman at Productionising. Production assistants: Turner Fair and Brett Goldberger

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale here.

After Yang is out now.

WILLEM DAFOE FOR ANOTHER MAGAZINE SPRING/SUMMER 2022

The Full Shoot: Willem Dafoe for AnOther Magazine S/S22

Joshua Woods and Ellie Grace Cumming capture the chameleonic actor

This editorial appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which will be on sale internationally from 24 March 2022. Pre-order a copy here.

WILLEM DAFOE FOR ANOTHER MAGAZINE SPRING/SUMMER 2022

“I Don’t Want to Be Nostalgic”: Willem Dafoe Is on a Roll

As he hits his seventh decade, one of the world’s greatest actors is burning brighter than ever. In AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022, Willem Dafoe speaks with Hannah Lack about the value of fear, and playing everyone’s favourite supervillain

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

In 1979, tiny New York theatre The Performing Garage had 60 seats, a tin collection box and some of the most radical ideas in a grimy, broken-down city pulsing with creative energy. That year, Willem Dafoe was playing a foul-mouthed oil-rig worker, a heroin-addicted mother and a nun – all in the same play – when Kathryn Bigelow took a seat in the audience one night. The experimental works staged at the scrappy space in SoHo had more in common with the no-wave shows happening around the corner at the Mudd Club than with polite theatre uptown. Plundering all genres, they were loud and freewheeling, incorporating looping video projections, actors shouting over pre-recorded audio, technicians in full view, occasional nudity and, once, Dafoe in the role of a living chicken heart.

After seeing him onstage, Bigelow called the actor to ask if he wanted to be in a film. “I was still in the phone book then,” Dafoe says today, over Zoom from his home in central Rome. “I had to call up friends to find out what to ask for as a salary. I had no idea – I had no representation. My identity was totally as a downtown theatre actor living hand to mouth.” Bigelow cast him as a delinquent, leather-clad antihero in The Loveless, the tale of a nihilistic biker gang who ride into a Georgia backwater and set fire to its simmering tensions. It became Bigelow’s debut film (co-directed with Monty Montgomery), Dafoe’s first starring role, and today an artful cult oddity that makes one thing overwhelmingly clear: whether he’s dodging a shotgun or pouring ketchup over congealed scrambled eggs, Dafoe’s screen presence has been intact from the start.

Even over an imperfect Zoom connection it’s easy to see how journalists get tangled up describing his face, its angles and hollows and meme-generating expressiveness: “a demiurge as rendered by a cubist” (The New York Times); “the pallidly beautiful embodiment of pure evil” (The Village Voice); “the boy next door, if you live next door to a mausoleum” (that was Dafoe himself). None of those descriptions captures his amiable charm in interviews – and as singular as he looks, in the four decades since his debut, the 66-year-old has carved one of the most versatile careers in cinema, uprooting his audience’s expectations again and again. His staggering 120-plus roles to date have encompassed oddball detectives, drug lords and unhinged hitmen, a giant alien and a manga god of death, Pier Paolo Pasolini and TS Eliot, a tropical fish and Jesus Christ. Dafoe’s versatility shows not just in his chameleonic powers, but his willingness to take a gamble and work outside his comfort zone. “I’m always nervous on my first day, but that’s good news,” he says in the ridged, textured voice that has become as distinctive as his elastic features. “It motivates you, fear. It’s what keeps you curious, keeps you trying to find new ways. If you accept fear, that’s a good practice for an actor to have – it’s a good practice for a person to have. You get used to being a little off balance. I don’t know whether I enjoy it – I’m like anyone, I like to be lazy and comfortable. But you know, that can kill you too.”

“Comfortable” is not a word often associated with Dafoe’s choices, but it might be a good description of Appleton, Wisconsin, the small paper-mill town he grew up in, a hundred miles north of Milwaukee. Pre Dafoe, Appleton’s two most famous residents were Joe McCarthy, ringleader of the communist witchhunts of the Fifties, and the magician and escapologist Harry Houdini. (A possibly unfair joke goes: “What was Harry Houdini’s greatest escape? Getting out of Appleton.”) Houdini was indeed long gone and Eisenhower was in office when Dafoe was born there in 1955, into an already-crowded family. The seventh of eight children, he was christened William, soon known as Bill, and later nicknamed Willem. His nurse mother and surgeon father both worked long hours, resulting in minimal supervision and family mealtimes – Dafoe credits his elder sisters with raising him. There’s a revealing childhood story he tells of shutting himself in a closet for two days to mimic the conditions of the Gemini astronauts orbiting Earth at the time: nobody noticed. Clearly attention would have to be sought elsewhere. “My place in this large family of eight kids definitely contributed to me becoming an actor,” he says. “It shaped me very much. I’m married to an only child [the Italian director Giada Colagrande] of a single mother – you have a totally different sense of your place in the world.”

Fittingly for someone who has played monsters better than anyone, Dafoe’s earliest film memories were the Frankenstein and Dracula reels his father brought back from work trips to Chicago. “We’d get these Super 8 edited features and I’d play them over and over in slow motion on a little Bell & Howell projector,” he says, “and charge the neighbourhood kids to watch.” You could argue that Dafoe’s first performances were surreal pranks – he once dressed up in a gorilla suit to picket Planet of the Apes at the local cinema. Appleton’s community theatre provided a more structured outlet for that mischievous energy, and brought him his first review – “This is a lad with a promising future on the stage,” announced the local paper of 13-year-old Dafoe’s turn in A Thousand Clowns. But in a family of medical professionals there was little thought that that afterschool hobby might become a career. “No, not at all,” he says. “Having said that, my family was very lively, great singers and dancers. The irony is, and it sounds a little coy but it’s sort of true, they’re all more talented than I am. I just worked on it.”

In 1977, after a few semesters at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a stint with experimental troupe Theatre X, his ambitions led him to the logical destination for an aspiring stage actor. When Dafoe arrived in New York wide-eyed from the Midwest, the city was plunged in some of its darkest years. Virtually bankrupt, it was decaying and weed-ridden, with broad-daylight muggings and night-time blackouts (and a serial killer, Son of Sam, who took advantage of those blackouts). But its febrile atmosphere was causing an outburst of creative, cross-genre collisions, and after assuming he’d try his luck on Broadway, Dafoe found himself drawn instead to the grittier scene downtown. “I don’t want to be nostalgic, it was a rough time,” he says, “but I’m 20 years old, a kid from Wisconsin, not very sophisticated, not much of an education. I was living in tough areas, with people who had different problems and world views than I had grown up with. So it was a radical time for me. When I moved to SoHo it was a no man’s land, there was a bunch of old factory buildings gone belly-up. New York was in such bad shape people were taking over spaces to make their own work. So many musicians, painters, dancers that later became successful were all in the same room together then – at clubs, at the Kitchen or La MaMa. We were young and we weren’t thinking about tomorrow.”

That year he grafted as a stagehand at The Performing Garage on Wooster Street and encountered the explosive, uncompromising Elizabeth LeCompte, director of what would soon be christened The Wooster Group. The plays she helmed fused influences from vaudeville to Noh, and could feel white-knuckle reckless, as though being worked out in front of a crowd’s eyes. “It was a whole little world unto itself,” Dafoe remembers. “We were doing it for the love of it, not for a career. Every show we did felt like it was going to be the last, but that was the beauty of it.” He fell for The Wooster Group and LeCompte simultaneously and soon moved into the latter’s SoHo loft – in 1982 they had a son, Jack. Dafoe went on to appear in every production the crew staged for the next 27 years, despite the demands of a movie schedule that had him criss-crossing continents. There was just one stumble before his star began to rise: cast as a cockfighter in Michael Cimino’s 1980 western Heaven’s Gate, he laughed too loudly at a joke during a lighting set-up. Cimino, nicknamed “the Ayatollah” on that shoot, fired Dafoe on the spot. He’s too good-natured to relish the schadenfreude, but the film became a monumental albatross, floundering under bloated budgets and excessive retakes – hours lost waiting for the right clouds to roll by and weeks spent on roller-skating lessons for the cast. It came out to toxic reviews.

At first, screen villains came Dafoe’s way: a twitchy biker in Walter Hill’s neon-lit inner-city fable Streets of Fire, and then, in 1985, a homicidal, Ferrari-driving counterfeiter in William Friedkin’s brutally amoral neo-noir To Live and Die in LA. Friedkin’s vision of a city riddled with corruption, all blood-red skies and windlashed palms, climaxes with Dafoe’s character burning to death in a bonfire of counterfeit money. It was the first of many spectacular on-screen deaths that have included being impaled by a hoverboard, dissolved in a shaft of sunlight, and crucified. But it was the following year, and his slow-motion, bullet-addled demise in the Vietnam jungle to the sound of swelling strings and thudding helicopter blades, that marked Dafoe’s breakthrough, as the doomed Sergeant Elias in Oliver Stone’s searing indictment of the Vietnam War, Platoon. Stone upended the bad-guy narrative and cast Dafoe as the film’s moral anchor. “There was a soul in him, a gentleness that could radiate from those eyes,” Stone wrote in his memoir. The conflict in Vietnam had gnawed at the director since his own tour of duty, where idealism crumbled into disillusion, and he was determined his cast would emanate the gluey, bone-deep exhaustion he remembered. In 1986, they were dropped into the jungle for a gruelling boot camp – they dug trenches, slept in two-hour shifts and battled bamboo snakes and the night-time ambushes Stone surprised them with. Dafoe had to be medevacked at one point, after drinking river water downstream from a decomposing ox. The role put him on the cover of Time and gave him his first Academy Award nomination, for best supporting actor. “I still have my dog tags from Platoon,” he says. “I’ve got a little area in my office where things that have meaning for me pile up. Pictures, writings, poetry … I also have my parents’ ashes in a mason jar, so go figure.”

Michael Caine won that year for Hannah and Her Sisters, but Platoon brought Dafoe a new level of attention – specifically from Martin Scorsese, who needed an actor to play the son of God. He cast Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ and in 1987 he was performing miracles in the deserts of Morocco, in melting temperatures. “I really believe those difficulties are gold,” Dafoe says of his willingness to embrace whatever a shoot will throw at him. “They not only give you the authority but they create the stake. If something is hard, like you’re in the desert, that puts you in it. That will fuel the inner life and make the performing not feel like work, but like an adventure, like a life experience … Last Temptation was a big deal for me. That doesn’t mean I became a born-again Christian, but I started thinking about a spiritual life and forgiveness, and that triggered something in me.”

“I should just shut up and say it’s fun to play bad guys because it’s titillating to do bad things and not get punished for it” – Willem Dafoe

The film’s release prompted no forgiveness from the religious right; they unleashed hell. There were protests outside movie theatres, drive-by paint bombings and an arson attack that gutted a Paris cinema. The actor has never been afraid to provoke – most notoriously the boos and whistles of Cannes critics outraged at Lars von Trier’s psychosexual drama Antichrist, in which Dafoe gets his testicles crushed by a plank of wood. But the fact Last Temptation became a lightning rod for protest was something of a back-handed compliment to the actor’s earthy performance: he humanised Jesus, an apparently unforgivable blasphemy. (He also gave him a libido: in one scene Jesus imagines having sex with Mary Magdalene.)

But if Dafoe can humanise deities, he extends the same courtesy to his darker characters, often misfits whose dangerous menace has a streak of vulnerability. “Outsiders are the most interesting characters because they aren’t quite recognisable,” he says. “The audience has to work through how they feel about them.” His role last year in Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, as a carnival grifter with a collection of pickled babies and a finely attuned ability to exploit the weakness in others, finds a muddy human space in a character whose actions are chillingly cruel. His more outlandish villains – who almost always go on to parallel meme careers – still have a textured, slippery nuance: it’s what made his odious, stubby-toothed hitman Bobby Peru in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart so indelibly disturbing. Dafoe credits the gruesome dentures Lynch made him wear – “Without those teeth who knows what I would have done? But the second I put them in, I knew exactly what to do” – but Lynch wrote that Dafoe was “a gift from God” in that role. Even when his characters are ripped straight from the speech bubbles of a comic book, like the cackling arch-nemesis the Green Goblin, Dafoe plumbs deeper waters. “I didn’t want to just be a device, that’s kind of a drag,” he says. “They’d probably pay you to do very little, but that’s not what I was interested in.” Instead, he threw himself into the part like a circus performer, switching between comedy and Shakespearean tragedy to craft what is generally considered everyone’s favourite supervillain. 

“I should just shut up and say it’s fun to play bad guys because it’s titillating to do bad things and not get punished for it,” he says. “But the whole idea is you don’t want to see the world that way, or accept those kinds of categorisations. It challenges our idea of morality when you can find the most human aspect in dark characters. If a character does unsavoury things, you try to balance it with another aspect where it’s plausible that this guy can do bad things but still be your brother, your father, your lover.” Dafoe is now treasured for that ambiguity; he draws our imaginations out of well-worn grooves into unexplored territory. It has led him to build sustained and fruitful relationships with maverick directors who have a similar distrust of easy answers: Lars von Trier, Paul Schrader, Abel Ferrara – auteurs with vision and a personal stake in the stories they tell. If they have demanding reputations and unorthodox ways of working to get the demons in their heads onto film, Dafoe has always been game – it’s the pool he was baptised in at The Wooster Group. 

It was Schrader – the gravelly voiced veteran of New Hollywood long preoccupied with sin and redemption – who wrote Last Temptation. The pair have made seven films together since, most recently last year’s murky crime drama The Card Counter, set between the twilight world of poker tournaments and Abu Ghraib. Their first collaboration was 1992’s Light Sleeper, starring Dafoe as a high-end drug courier soaking up nocturnal Manhattan from the back of a chauffeur-driven car, dropping off illicit deliveries to the city’s glass-and-art-filled penthouses as garbage piles up on the streets below. He’s one of Schrader’s classic troubled loners, lending an ear to his clients’ coked-up philosophies while being stalked by the feeling his luck is running out. Dafoe says it’s one of the roles he has felt closest to – perhaps the act of moving between so many different lives rang a bell. “There was nothing about him that was different from me except for what he did,” he says. “He was a lost soul, that’s not necessarily me, but I could have been him. If I didn’t find what I wanted to do and I got into that line of work … I understood him.” Dafoe shadowed a dealer for three weeks prior to shooting, which must have been a little bizarre for the customers. “I got to know the business, the clients. He was different to my character – he was gay, had different music taste, lived in a different part of town, but he taught me a lot.”

That commitment to performing the actions of his characters is often central to Dafoe’s approach. He doesn’t do method or spin intricate backstories, but melts into his roles by rooting himself in their physicality. That meant skinning his own wallaby as a mercenary in Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter (Dafoe puts his lack of squeamishness down to a stint as the janitor of his father’s medical building when he was a teenager). And to step into Van Gogh’s battered shoes in 2018 for Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, he got paint under his fingernails during art lessons with Schnabel himself – they first crossed paths in the New York nightlife of the Eighties. “Painting literally changed how I see things,” he says. “I was doing it in Van Gogh’s clothes, looking at the same things he looked at. It was thrilling.” It’s an electrifying performance: Dafoe unearths the famous name from the calcified cliché, stripping away the layers of dust and bad merchandise to reveal an unmediated glimpse of the world through the artist’s eyes: raw and alive, flooded with yellow light, tugged by the swells and currents of madness. “I loved that film,” he says. “It was a little channelling job. He’s in the air, he’s in the soil in Provence.” In 2019, it gave Dafoe his most recent Oscar nomination and he’s kept all the canvases he painted during filming, “even the bad ones”, he says with a smile.

He played another late icon, Pier Paolo Pasolini (they look uncannily alike), in Ferrara’s 2014 portrait of the provocative Italian filmmaker’s final 24 hours and shocking, grisly death. Ferrara, the irascible director whose career has spanned porn to grindhouse to studio films, is exactly the kind of partner in crime Dafoe gets a kick out of – a live wire who wills his work into existence. Their friendship stretches back to a late-night meeting in a Canal Street bar that resulted in the woozy 1998 cult movie New Rose Hotel. They’ve made five feature films together since, including 2019’s Tommaso, shot on a shoestring in Rome. In it, Dafoe plays an American director transplanted to the city, living with his young wife and child, attending recovery meetings and sporadically pierced by sudden and terrible visions. It’s not autobiographical, but it feels like their most personal film: at one AA meeting Dafoe’s character shares a rock-bottom memory from a drug-fuelled Miami shoot that seems pulled straight from Ferrara’s own battles with substance abuse; at another he teaches an acting class with musings that align closely with the actor’s own methods. (His character also practises some gravity-defying yoga, as Dafoe has done every morning for years, though he prefers not to harp on about it.) The pair’s ongoing collaboration is emerging as one of cinema’s most stimulating actor-director partnerships – today they’re neighbours in Rome and Dafoe is godfather to Ferrara’s child.

The actor has split his time between New York and the Eternal City since meeting his wife there in 2004, while shooting his role as Klaus, the comically loyal shipmate in tiny blue shorts in Wes Anderson’s offbeat gem The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Dafoe is now an Italian citizen and speaks the language of his adopted country. “I’m one day back here and I’m in heaven,” he says, recently released from a rapid-fire round of Spider-Man: No Way Home junkets. “There’s a sense of beauty and impermanence and history that I love. I like the people so much. I don’t want to sound like a rube – it’s a broad statement – but they’re empathetic. Americans like a winner. Italians consider people that have lost in a different way. In more puritanical societies, which probably includes where you’re from and where I’m from, it’s, ‘If they fall, keep ’em down, because it’s their fault.’”

Dafoe and Colagrande married in 2005 (she will next direct him in the noirish spy thriller Tropico). That brought his epic run with The Wooster Group to a close, but his theatre work has continued elsewhere: in 2011 he was the shapeshifting storyteller of Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, with ghostly make-up and fiery hair; and Abramović later asked him to star in her seance-like experimental opera 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, in which the pair morph through operatic death scenes – in one Dafoe strangles the artist with two gigantic, coiling snakes. They will reprise the performance this May at the world’s oldest opera house, the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. “I probably get more inspired by art, performance, dance, than film actually,” he says. “Sometimes I see a painting and I don’t have the language to say why, but it opens me up to wonder. You come to it, rather than it coming to you. I think that expresses something about my taste in movies too.”

Dafoe has often said he feels more like a dancer than an actor, trusting his senses and his body’s intelligence as a dancer might. On screen he has a lithe physicality – there’s a tracking shot in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project in which Dafoe wrestles the wallet from a shady character that is so gracefully accomplished it might be a choreographed dance, though it took him barely two takes. That film is another example of the actor’s undimmed pleasure in exploring new territory – as well as the older generation of cinematic rebels, he has sought out the new vanguard of original thinkers. There are plenty of film stars who would balk at jumping on board with less-seasoned directors (and less-bountiful budgets). Dafoe has no such qualms if the work is good, and those young directors have returned the favour with roles that have inspired some of his best performances. After seeing Tangerine, Baker’s iPhone-shot slice of life in LA’s transgender community, Dafoe volunteered to star opposite non-actors as the besieged manager of an ice-cream-coloured motel near Disney World in the director’s The Florida Project. The quiet integrity Dafoe brought to his role as a guardian of wayward families on the brink of eviction was a reminder of what an unselfish co-star he has always been. (See his understated, straight-arrow federal agent to Gene Hackman’s bombastic southern charmer in 1988’s Mississippi Burning.) His dedication – forged in theatre – to working for the group allowed the film’s nonprofessionals to breathe. “I didn’t think about playing scenes,” he says simply, “I thought about being the best manager of a hotel I could be.”

That film delivered him another Oscar nomination in 2018, the same year he began working with Robert Eggers – he had contacted the director after seeing a poster for his candlelit indie horror The Witch and spontaneously walking into a cinema to watch it. Eggers created The Lighthouse, a nightmarish tale of screaming seagulls, ocean spray and maritime superstition with Dafoe in mind, and he delivers an acting masterclass as a loquacious, weather-beaten wickie trapped with Robert Pattinson in briny isolation. (Dafoe holed up in a creaky fisherman’s cottage in Nova Scotia and learnt to knit like a 19th-century New Englander during the storm-tossed shoot.) Where Dafoe leads, others follow: he and Eggers reunite again this spring in The Northman, a lush, 10th-century saga steeped in Norse myth, this time with a $60 million budget and a cast including Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård. Dafoe’s role sounds perfectly appropriate: he plays a jester, the figure who challenges the court and its hierarchies under the guise of performance. “The artist is supposed to challenge society, and that includes the jester in this case. But – he pays for it!” says Dafoe. “I’m a real cheerleader for Robert [Eggers]. He’s from the theatre – when I met him I felt very close to him.” He’s just finished shooting with another former theatre director, the gleefully unpredictable Yorgos Lanthimos, who cast Dafoe as a Frankenstein-like scientist in Poor Things, his follow-up to The Favourite. The Greek auteur is notorious for eccentric rehearsals that have involved asking actors to recite lines while fighting invisible force fields or behaving like human noodles. “It helped to liberate the actors from their shtick and find new ways,” Dafoe says of the process. “Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed by the specificness of his vision. I think of Yorgos and it puts a wry smile on my face.

After four Academy Award nominations to date, this year Dafoe will be receiving that enduring symbol of movie-icon status, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s doubtful he’s been losing sleep over it, but it’s odd that a household name like his wasn’t etched into the pavement years ago. In part, that might be Dafoe’s own cleverness at hiding in plain sight – all the better to disappear into his roles. He’s the A-lister who has slipped the leash that moniker entails and crafted a career on his own terms, switching from blockbuster to indie to experimental opera, often in the same year. It’s part of his considerable charm that he will commit with his every fibre to each project; Dafoe is not an actor who phones it in. The result is that everyone has their own favourite version of him – for every Florida Project fan, there’s someone with a special place in their heart for his cross-dressing FBI agent in The Boondock Saints.

Francis Ford Coppola once asked Dafoe to write an essay, Why Act in Theatre?, for his Zoetrope: All-Story magazine. It’s a question that might have returned a rather ponderous answer. But Dafoe’s caught at the joy he finds in performing, onstage or on screen. “It engages the high-minded seeker and simultaneously satisfies the crude exhibitionist in me,” he wrote, “as does dancing, dressing up for Halloween, telling jokes, sex, reading aloud to someone, doing imitations, smiling at strangers, playing with animals, flirting, playing charades, singing on a bus.” In his seventh decade, one of the world’s greatest actors is on a roll, burning as brightly as the twentysomething kid Kathryn Bigelow spotted onstage. He has brought the anarchic spirit of the downtown scene onto the big screen and shifted the conversation in the process, both his heroes and villains questioning the way we think, and watch. Many actors harbour, for better or worse, a yearning to direct. Dafoe is not one of them: he found his calling in his teens, and he’s still fired up about its possibilities. “If you’re open to experience, and it doesn’t have layers of ego over it, hopefully people will see that and say, ‘I wonder whether I could do that?’ Or, ‘How would I feel?’ And that brings you on the trip with me,” he says. “That’s the pleasure of telling stories. It challenges how we live and sometimes proposes other ways to live.”

Hair: Mustafa Yanaz at Art and Commerce. Make-up: Amy Komorowski at The Wall Group. Set design: Alice Martinelli at MHS Artists. Photographic assistants: Nicolas Padron, Ahmed Alramly and Elizabeth Borrelli. Styling assistants: Jordan Duddy, Isabella Kavanagh, Marley Cohen and Lilly Nasso. Set-design assistant: Mattia Minasi. Producer: Jennifer Pio. Production manager: Alex Frischman

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale here.

Margaret Qualley Chanel Spring/Summer 2022 Another magazine

“You’re Supposed to Be Messy”: Margaret Qualley Is a Maverick in the Making

In AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022, the American actor discusses working with Quentin Tarantino, her role in the Netflix smash hit Maid, and the importance of taking up space

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Margaret Qualley is learning how to trust herself. It doesn’t always come easily to the actor. In 2018, Qualley was on the biggest production of her life, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood. It was only a minor role: that of Pussycat, a fictionalised member of Charles Manson’s cult, the Family. But a Tarantino film. Qualley had never dreamed she’d be asked to be in anything so prestigious, or share screen time with Brad Pitt. (“He’s all the things you want him to be,” she says.)

It was the first day of filming at a ranch in the Simi Valley, a stand-in for Spahn Ranch, where Manson infamously devised the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders that, as Joan Didion famously wrote in The White Album, brought an end to the Sixties. Dogs prowled the perimeter: Tarantino was insistent they be visible in every shot, to approximate the rangy, pseudo-beatnik vibe of life in a cult. The then 23-year-old Qualley was nervous, of course, and focused on getting through the scene without flubbing her lines in front of her co-star Pitt, who was playing languorous stuntman Cliff Booth.

But Qualley had this urge. Pussycat is a louche, free-loving, hitch-hiking hippy chick with LSD-dipped cigarettes in her back pocket. She does what she wants and thinks social norms are a drag. She’s all uncontrolled id in denim cut-offs and a halter top. Pussycat would do something off-key in this situation, Qualley just knew it. Like? Stick her tongue out at Cliff. A half-leering, half-promiscuous gesture. Jarring, but also an invitation.

Qualley thought about it but ruled it out. “I thought, I better not do that,” she recalls. “Who am I to take up that space? This is my first day on the job, this is Brad Pitt and Tarantino. What the fuck am I doing? I better just obey.”

Afterwards Tarantino beckoned her over. He asked Qualley: was there something you wanted to do in that scene that you didn’t do? “How did he fucking know that?” Qualley wonders. “I was blown away.” And with that, Tarantino gave Qualley permission to lean into the sheer weirdness of her role. She did indeed loll her tongue at Pitt in the next take, and it became one of the stand-out moments of a stand-out film, earning Qualley rave reviews for what might have been, in the hands of another actor, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role.

“You forget that you’re supposed to be messy,” she says. “You’re supposed to take up all the space and make all the mistakes, and you’re supposed to do the thing you feel. But it’s so scary sometimes.”

“The messier you are, the more mistakes you make, the more vulnerable you are, the better it is” – Margaret Qualley

She was born in Montana to the actor and model Andie MacDowell and the model-turned-property contractor Paul Qualley. Her parents divorced amicably when she was five and moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where Qualley and her siblings Rainey and Justin split their time between their parents’ houses. Growing up in a small town had its blessings – Qualley was removed from the neuroses and competitiveness of the LA scene – but also downsides. “My mom was the only actor in Asheville,” Qualley says, “so it makes you a bit more on display, and people are interested when there’s nothing really interesting going on.”

Qualley was a strange, terminally uncool child. She would think that inanimate objects like pillows and chairs had feelings and was obsessed with making sure that her socks were neat and unwrinkled. Later she grew into what we would now call a social justice warrior, only this was in the early Noughties, when activism was uncool. “I was a vegetarian who was selling recycled global-warming bracelets for charity and sifting through the trash bins, being like, ‘You didn’t recycle this,’ and putting up pictures of cows being slaughtered,” she laughs. “I was so annoying, and passionate, and gangly.” By contrast her sister was “conventionally beautiful in her own whimsical and incredible way. I grew up in a time when it was, like, Uggs and Juicy Couture, and denim miniskirts, blonde hair and boobs. And I was like” – Qualley gurns and affects a deep voice – “look how long my fingers are.”

Even if it’s difficult to accept for a moment that anyone could ever see Qualley as an ugly sister – she is possessed of the sort of luminous beauty that has booked her Chanel and Kenzo campaigns – she is such a funny and self-deprecating raconteur that it’s possible to suspend disbelief. Sprawled across a sofa in her New York City apartment, Qualley is dressed casually in a T-shirt, her hair pulled back in a French plait. She’s in high spirits despite the fact that she’s got a nasty-looking infection in her right eye. “Don’t mind my eye!” she hoots, leaning into the camera so I can get a closer look. “I have this crazy thing going on. Or do mind it. It’s been a process.”

Although Qualley would visit her mother on set, once spending a memorable few months running free on an Italian island, she had no interest back then in pursuing an acting career. Dance was her first love. “I did competition dancing and ridiculous Honey Boo Boo pageant-style dancing,” she says. Alas, there are no pictures of this online. “And then at a certain point I realised that ballet was more sophisticated and the pinnacle of perfection. So I was like, OK, I should do that.” Qualley studied dance at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. “The obsession,” she says, “really was about being perfect.”

Aged 16, after attending a summer programme held by the American Ballet Theatre in New York, Qualley had a dark night of the soul. “I realised,” she says, “you don’t even love this. You’re just doing this because you want to be perfect, and you’re about to waste your whole life because you’ll never be perfect.” She wrote her parents a long, impassioned email, outlining her plans to become self-sufficient, and persuaded them to let her stay in New York, where she became a working model. In her telling of the story, Qualley is a hillbilly doofus who avoided getting into elevators with men because someone had told her that men attack women in New York City lifts. “I was like,” she snorts, “is this guy going to kill me? I better leave.” Qualley was likely more sophisticated than she lets on – she was, after all, presented to society at Le Bal des débutantes at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris later that year.

But the New York modelling scene is not a healthy place for a perfectionist teenager and Qualley has spoken elsewhere about developing an eating disorder. “I was really hard on myself when I was in high school and modelling, and just trying hard to be perfect at everything, and be a perfect student, and a perfect model,” she says. This was a pre-body-positivity time, when high-fashion models were uniformly size zero. “Hopefully now there’s more body inclusivity,” she says, “and celebrating all of the different variations of bodies, and how beautiful that is, and how versatile beauty is in general. It’s wild that we shift through people with the same criteria in mind, that people have checklists. I’ve been a victim of that, and it’s a dark, ugly place to exist.”

“For young women ... we’re often told that our accounts of reality aren’t correct. That the way you feel and the way you’re experiencing the world is somehow your fault” – Margaret Qualley 

Qualley freely admits that her mother’s celebrity created a carapace around her. “I think I’ve been protected in a certain way my entire life because of that. I was put into a different category and there’s definitely a protective shield that I feel is related to being my mother’s daughter,” she says.

Qualley quit modelling after four months. “I realised it wasn’t good for me,” she explains. Her boyfriend at the time, The Fault in Our Stars actor Nat Wolff, took her to an acting class in a church on the Upper East Side. For the repressed, hard-on-herself Qualley, it was a revelation. “The thing that I loved,” she says, “was that back then I didn’t give myself permission to have many feelings in life. I was an incredibly disciplined, controlled person, that didn’t talk very much, and nodded a lot, and never broke the rules. So I didn’t have permission to do anything or have any feelings, basically. And then I went to an acting class and I got really mad, got really sad and had all the feelings. And I was like, ‘This is great! I could try to get paid to do this – that would be nuts.’ And I still feel that way.”

After so many years of ballet and modelling – both professions that demand punishing self-discipline and a certain degree of stoic professionalism – acting felt loose, chaotic, exciting. Like throwing paint at a canvas, Jackson Pollock-style, instead of the technical precision of the old masters. Like peeling off Spandex and pulling on sweats. Like being given permission to be the goofy, oddball version of herself that she was when she was a climate-change evangelising little girl instead of the uptight model. But with liberation comes a different sort of fear.

“What I love about acting,” Qualley says, “is that it’s so scary to do it. It’s a real fear-factor kind of thing, in the sense that the messier you are, the more mistakes you make, the more vulnerable you are, the better it is. You’re constantly in front of the camera, going, ‘I’m not perfect, I’m not perfect, look at me, I’m not perfect.’ And that is terrifying, but incredibly exhilarating. And coming to terms with that is going to be something I work on, I think, for ever.”

In less than a decade Qualley has become one of Hollywood’s brightest talents, even if she doesn’t actually live in the epicentre of the movie industry. “New York feels very cosy to me,” she says. “LA feels scary. LA feels like I’ll never be good enough.”

She is at her happiest when she’s walking around New York, eating cereal milk ice cream from cult favourite Milk Bar. “It’s a touristy thing,” she says, “but I think it’s just phenomenal.” For many years Qualley’s apartment didn’t have any furniture: she ate meals from a plate on the floor. “I have furniture now,” she deadpans, gesturing proudly. “It’s really exciting.” In New York you can throw a dime in most directions and hit a celebrity. “Nobody gives a shit,” Qualley says. She prefers the relative anonymity of big-city life. “No one stops me,” she insists. “I really am not terribly recognised. And any recognition I get from my work is great because I want to touch people. I’m telling these stories because I want them to be watched.”

“A lot of actors – and people – are people-pleasers. Who doesn’t want love? And it seems like the easiest way to get it” – Margaret Qualley

In 2021, Qualley got her wish, starring in the Netflix smash hit miniseries Maid, based on Stephanie Land’s 2019 memoir of her time spent working as a cleaner to support her infant daughter after the break-up of an abusive relationship. Maid is an unflinching portrayal of abuse, poverty and the backbreaking reality of life for low-income Americans, but it is also a show about maternal love, the dignity of work and finding joy in small things, whether a walk through sun-dappled forests or singing along to a favourite Salt-N-Pepa song in the car. Shoop shoop ba-doop.

As Alex, Qualley is straight-backed and utterly without self-pity, even as life heaps calamities upon her: a car crash, homelessness, employers who stiff her out of her wages. The role was a revelation. “So many people are just treading water to get by,” she says, “just barely able to pay their bills and stuck in this constant loop of trying to stay afloat. To be a person in the States who is lower middle class and working your fucking ass off, and still be a good mom or a good dad, I think is truly heroic. It’s just fucked up what we do to people.”

Her on-screen relationship with daughter Maddy, played by five-year-old Rylea Nevaeh Whittet, is the emotional heart of the show. “I became obsessed with hanging out with Rylea,” Qualley says, “because the hardest challenge was to make a convincing mother-daughter relationship. I’m not a mom and it’s a really challenging feat to be a believable mother to a child I don’t know, and who doesn’t know me, more importantly. So I just spent all of my time with her and carried her around everywhere, and temporarily kidnapped her from her parents.” They would go grocery shopping and make pancakes. At the end of many scenes where she was carrying her in her arms, Qualley wouldn’t be able to tell if Whittet was pretending to be asleep or was actually so relaxed she had nodded off.

Her hard work paid off: Qualley and Whittet’s relationship is as plausible and nuanced as is possible to imagine, as is the on-screen relationship with Alex’s mother Paula – which is unsurprising, given that the role is played by none other than MacDowell. Qualley lobbied for her mother to have the role, calling Margot Robbie, one of Maid’s producers, who loved the idea. “It was the biggest cheat I’ve ever managed to pull off,” Qualley said last year, pointing out that the comfort of having her mother on set gave a sense of easy confidence.

Maid is not only critically acclaimed but has also advanced the public understanding of emotional and financial abuse. “One of the greatest things about Maid was how accessible it was,” says Qualley. “How so many people felt a part of their story was being told. They saw themselves there, or their sisters there, or their moms.”

While Qualley credits her time on Maid as one of the most fulfilling professional experiences of her life and is full of praise for everyone involved in the production, she had to stand her ground when it came to her vision of Alex. “Everyone was really disappointed in me at first,” Qualley says, “because they thought I couldn’t access rage, and that I was playing a victim, essentially. And I was like, ‘No, I can access rage, I promise you.’” Qualley explained that Alex simply wouldn’t lose her cool while holding Maddy in her arms. “Alex is fucking smart and she’s not going to blow up at someone unless it’s going to have an effect. If she’s holding her child, she’s going to be mindful of her child’s experience. She’s a mama bear. She’s going to protect her kid at all costs.”

“I’m working on trying to get back to whatever I was when I was a little kid, which is a total freak show” – Margaret Qualley

It wasn’t until they came to film episode three, where Alex confronts her ex-boyfriend Sean in a bar, that she was proved right. “I yelled like crazy and they’re like, ‘Finally,’” Qualley says. “I was like, ‘Well, yeah, no shit. I’m not holding a kid and this is something that I’m mad about.’” It may not seem like much – a creative disagreement that was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved – but for an inveterate people-pleaser it was progress. No Tarantino standing in the wings, mouthing “OK” at her. Qualley understood the role on an elemental level and was ultimately vindicated.

“For young women,” Qualley says, “we’re often told that our accounts of reality aren’t correct. That the way you feel and the way you’re experiencing the world is somehow your fault, and if you want certain things you should feel bad for wanting those things.” We’re not talking about Alex, or Maddy, or Maid any more. Something bigger. “By proxy of standing up for Alex and standing up for Maddy,” she continues, “I was able to realise that I shouldn’t feel ashamed of certain wants or beliefs or feelings. And that it is literally still hard to say these things, because people are so conditioned and practised not to speak this way.”

I ask her whether she still feels like a people-pleaser. “Definitely,” she responds. “A lot of actors – and people – are people-pleasers. Who doesn’t want love? And it seems like the easiest way to get it. I don’t know if it’s the right way to get it, but it seems to make sense. If I make this person happy, maybe they’ll stick around; maybe they’ll love me and love feels great.” Qualley drew on these experiences of desperate longing when playing the iconic choreographer and dancer Ann Reinking in the 2019 miniseries Fosse/Verdon, a role for which she was Emmy nominated.

Reinking was the partner of legendary Cabaret choreographer and director Bob Fosse after his split from the equally legendary film and Broadway star Gwen Verdon. There were three people in their relationship – Fosse and Verdon continued to work together, even after their romantic partnership ended – and Reinking fought valiantly to get Fosse off drugs and booze, to little effect. “I see a similarity in us,” Qualley says, “which I’m hesitant to say, because I really do look up to her. The similarity I see is like, ‘Let me lay down so you don’t have to push me down. It’s safer to just be run over by the bus of my own choosing.’”

Qualley got to know Reinking before she died in 2020. “She was the most giving, generous, humble, kind, sweet, powerful thing. All she did was just love everybody all of the time,” Qualley says. “You’d ask her about somebody and she’d go, ‘Oh, they’re the greatest.’” Getting to know Reinking made Qualley reflect on her own approach to relationships. “I’ve been trying to think lately,” Qualley says, “what allows certain people to not hurt themselves by letting people walk over them, but to take a bullet instead of being resentful and angry and hung up on it. I think that ability to love other people in such a big way comes from loving yourself in a big way. So I’m working on that.”

Has she been walked over or treated badly in the past? “Yeah,” she says. “And I’m really lucky now because I have really amazing people that have the best intentions. I’m really lucky. I’m not getting hurt very much. But you’re not always going to be around those safe, special people. You have to build up those skills and figure out how to navigate the world.”

“You’re not always going to be around those safe, special people. You have to build up those skills and figure out how to navigate the world” – Margaret Qualley

In January 2021, Qualley was reported to have ended her relationship with fellow actor Shia LaBeouf after his ex, musician FKA twigs, filed a lawsuit against him, alleging sexual battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (LaBeouf has denied some of the allegations made by twigs and other former girlfriends but accepted accountability for “those things I have done”.) Qualley has not commented publicly on their break-up but signalled her support for twigs in an Instagram post, in which she shared a picture of a magazine cover the singer had recently shot, accompanying it with a caption that read, simply, “Thank you.”

Now Qualley is happily in love, although she doesn’t say with whom (according to gossip blogs it’s musician, songwriter and frequent Taylor Swift collaboator Jack Antonoff). She met his parents a few months ago. “Terrifying,” she says. “Please like me, please like me, this is so important, please.” I ask how it went and she grins. “Great,” she says. “Love them.”

Lately Qualley has been surprised by how fast she’s changing. Maid was a nine-month shoot, and in that time “I changed so much,” she says. “I grew a lot in that time, or shed a lot, whatever it is.”

Her goal right now, she says, “is to be like I was when I was a kid. We come into this world and we’re just the purest versions of ourselves. And then we put on all these affectations and people-please. We go to middle school and we’re like, ‘I want the boys to like me, and the girls to like me,’ and so you’re taken away from yourself a bit. You’re putting on all these different shields. I’m working on trying to get back to whatever I was when I was a little kid, which is a total freak show.”

What Qualley might term a “freak show” other people would probably see as incredibly charming. She has a goofy quality to her personality that comes out in compulsive self-deprecation, silly voices and a dork laugh that sounds like it’s running away from her in fits and starts. When I ask her what her best quality is, she groans, before finally offering that she makes a good breakfast and is “clean”. Despite her lifelong proximity to fame, Qualley is unaffected and down to earth, her happiest when she’s improvising a dance routine in a hotel corridor or eating her dad’s favourite pancakes. When not filming, she’s been spending her time at his latest construction project, a block of flats he built himself on the windswept beach of San Carlos, on Panama’s Pacific coast.

But her opportunities for downtime are limited. She recently wrapped production on the Claire Denis film The Stars at Noon, based on a 1986 novel by Denis Johnson about an American woman caught up in the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1984. Filming took place in Panama, which meant that Qualley’s father was able to stay with her and visit her on set. “My God,” she exclaims. “It was so freaking cool!” Because of the pandemic she hadn’t seen him for nearly two years. He went to see her every day, listed on the call sheet as “Margaret’s dad”. They would go for long walks in the morning before filming. She jokes that she was able to finally take him back with her to the US when filming wrapped. “It’s good because he can get all the surgeries that he needs,” she says. (Building all his construction projects himself, without external help, means Paul can be accident-prone. Qualley credits him with teaching her her work ethic.)

“I think playing the dark sad girl is my go-to, but it’s not on purpose. People just think I’m that. I can play convincing dark sad girls. But I’m not really that sad, and I don’t think I’m dark” – Margaret Qualley

In addition to The Stars at Noon, Qualley has a part in Yorgos Lanthimos’s upcoming Poor Things, alongside Willem Dafoe. “Margaret made me laugh a lot and was always game and unpretentious,” says Dafoe of their time on set. The feeling is mutual. “He is so grounded and great and giving and kind and professional,” she says. “And he’s always telling the most ridiculous stories that are just normal anecdotes for him.”

If the past decade has been a whirlwind, there are some moments that stand out. Like driving down Sunset Boulevard shortly before the release of Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood and seeing herself on a billboard for the movie. Qualley hadn’t told anyone about the role because she was convinced she would be cut out in the edit. “I was like, ‘I guess I’m in the fucking movie,’” she remembers. “It was shocking.”

She’s determined to maintain that wide-eyed sense of gratitude and joy about a job that brings her transformation and release. “I want to keep pushing myself,” she says, “and I want to keep having fun and keep doing things that are important to me. I don’t know what that will look like. I feel like I’m so different from last month to this month, and who knows where I’m going to get to next month?” Qualley knows what she doesn’t want to do: be typecast as a loose approximation of her character in Maid. “I think playing the dark sad girl is my go-to,” she says, “but it’s not on purpose. People just think I’m that. I can play convincing dark sad girls. But I’m not really that sad, and I don’t think I’m dark.”

More than anything, Qualley wants to stay true to herself: to the “total freak show” she was before she grew up into a person anxious to please others, at her own expense. To be maverick. To be authentic. “I want to make sure that my intention when I’m making something is never to please the cool people,” she concludes. “You know what I mean? I want to operate from that place.”

All CHANEL clothing and accessories from the Métiers d’Art 2022 collection. 

Hair: James Pecis at Bryant Artists. Make-up: Dick Page at Statement. Set design: Ian Salter at Frank Reps. Manicure: Alicia Torello at Bridge. Digital tech: Jarrod Turner. Photographic assistants: Dylan Garcia, Tom Maltbie and Ariel Sadok. Styling assistant: Marcus Cuffie. Hair assistant: D’Angelo Alston. Set-design assistants: Russell Mangicaro and Robert Forbes. Production: Hen’s Tooth Production

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale here.

ZOE KRAVITZ

No One Can Resist the Allure of Zoë Kravitz

It now seems inevitable that Zoë Kravitz would become a star. In AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2021, the actor speaks openly with Lynette Nylander in a conversation spanning family, activism and her biggest role yet: Selina Kyle aka Catwoman

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine:

No one can resist the allure of Zoë Kravitz. Not the waifish model-cum-waitress serving us at Greenpoint’s premier hangout Five Leaves, where we’re meeting for our interview. Between taking our order she reports back to her colleagues in hushed tones that she is serving “Zoë’s table”. Not the archetypal Brooklynite couple reclining in the park on the overwhelmingly humid mid-July day, who only break from gazing at each other to stare as we stroll past post-lunch. Not the two hipster bros who whip their heads around at breakneck speed on Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue as she walks back to her home nearby.

Although Kravitz herself seems unaware of the attention, one thing is clear: she is the cool kids’ cool kid. She arrives for our interview straight from Pilates, dewy from the midday heat and dressed down in a white tank and heather-grey yoga shorts, her signature wavy braids framing her delicate features. Her mix of good looks and down-to-earth energy (she’s happy to offer counsel on my dating life) goes to prove that some people really do have it all. She’s genuinely nice too. She greets me with a hearty grin, graciously pours us both water every time we run low, and takes breaks from her kale and steak salad to ask with genuine concern if the sound from the busy Brooklyn street where we are sitting will interfere with my recording.

Arguably set up for life with Eighties (and enduring) style icon and actress Lisa Bonet as her mother and perennial rock god Lenny Kravitz for a father, Zoë Kravitz could easily have had her head turned by the inevitable interest this was going to generate in her and her life and assumed vapid It-girl status. A fashion favourite, she has been the face of Saint Laurent across beauty, fragrance and fashion for four years – “It’s simple and beautiful clothing,” she says.

“I feel like me and Anthony inspire each other. We talk about inspiration pictures and send things back and forth. Me and Anthony are tight.” She has also fronted campaigns for Calvin Klein, Tiffany and Balenciaga. Yet Kravitz has taken that undeniable head start in life and written her own story.

Beginning her acting career with appearances in films such as 2011’s X-Men: First Class and 2014’s Divergent garnered her big-screen time, albeit in supporting roles. A kick into high gear came with parts in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road and the Fantastic Beasts film series. But it was her performance in HBO’s Big Little Lies that led to Kravitz breaking through. Holding court as the bohemian yoga instructor Bonnie Carlson (a part originally written for a white woman, and for which Kravitz adroitly handles the nuanced racial power dynamics in the shifting of the story), she stars alongside an assemblage of Hollywood’s finest actors: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Divergent co-star Shailene Woodley.

An ability to flit seamlessly between indie flicks and mega-budget franchises is Kravitz’s superpower. Her turn as Robyn “Rob” Brooks in the 2020 TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, High Fidelity, may have been short-lived (it was cancelled after one series), but she cleverly reinvented it with millennials in mind. Her character, a female record store owner living in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, who has flashbacks to and laments her ill-fated relationships with both men and women, ensures this is a far cry from the Stephen Frears movie of the same name, which John Cusack and her mother starred in 20 years earlier. Kravitz, here, plays the Cusack role.

In addition to the lead character, Kravitz was an executive producer on the project and her command was seen everywhere from the freewheeling, globe-trekking soundtrack to the directing decisions. “I don’t think the network understood the importance of that story,” she says, “but I am still touched by how many women, especially women of colour, come up to me saying they loved it.”

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, she left her Williamsburg home for London to take on her biggest role yet, starring alongside Robert Pattinson’s Batman as Selina Kyle – aka Catwoman. She had already played the role, after a fashion, in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie, but now she can get her teeth into a character that has already been portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and, most recently, Anne Hathaway. It was the biracial Eartha Kitt’s 1960s Catwoman – coming as it did in an era of racial tensions even more heightened and politicised than our own – that has remained in memory, immortalised. Today the role comes with its own legacy and feverishly passionate fanbase. The weight of that didn’t go unnoticed by Kravitz, but it didn’t deter her either. “It was different. It was scary. It was unexpected for me. And that was what was exciting.”

With megastardom on the cards, her rise hasn’t come without setbacks. After marrying actor Karl Glusman in an intimate ceremony at her father’s Paris home in 2019, she filed for divorce 18 months later – a dark spot on an otherwise bright few years but the start of an invigorating new chapter. She feels affirmed – unafraid. Her feature directorial debut Pussy Island was recently acquired by MGM. Kravitz herself is reluctant to divulge much but she’s already hard at work on the project, off to scout for locations after we meet. “I am 32 and it’s fucking fantastic,” she says. “I am happy about all the experiences. If you don’t learn and grow, what’s the point?”

Lynette Nylander: How have you been spending your time in these strange circumstances we find ourselves in? What’s been your reality in the pandemic?

Zoë Kravitz: It’s been so many things. I never had to worry about my job or where I was going to live – how I was going to pay rent or for food. In that respect, I’m very lucky. I also worked a lot through it. We had already started shooting The Batman when it happened. It was crazy because we were shooting this big movie and then everything stopped. The movie was shut down for six months. I stayed in London for three months, in a house in Notting Hill, this dark, funny house in London. It was very weird being away from home and my family being in other places.

LN: Whereabouts are your family?

ZK: My dad’s in the Bahamas. My mom’s in California. Eventually I ended up coming back here to New York for a couple of months and living upstate, which was good for me. I think it was important to take the time to feel all the things that we were all feeling. I realised how I was personally using the fast-paced life as a way of not doing and dealing with a lot of things. I’m very thankful for that time to really sit and look at, “Who am I? What do I want to be doing? How do I want to spend my time? How am I connecting with my friends and family when I talk to them?” All of those things, I had to look at.

LN: I am interested in your childhood from your perspective and the allure of your family. Everyone says you’ve got the coolest parents in the world. Though to you they’re simply Mum and Dad. That photo of you at a fashion event sitting next to Donatella Versace springs to mind.

ZK: Yeah, if you look closely at that picture, I’m looking at my nails. I’m bored. I want to hang out with my friends. You know what I mean? Yes, that stuff is very cool from the outside, but when you’re a kid you don’t know what that means. It doesn’t feel the same. It was all very normal to me and then alienating in a lot of ways because when you’re a kid you’re just trying to fit in with other kids. Standing out was the worst thing in the world.

LN: How old were you when your parents separated?

ZK: Two. I don’t even remember them together but they were very friendly. I lived with my mom in LA primarily until I was 10 or 11. My dad was on tour then, so I didn’t see him very often. He’d be in town for a month or a couple of days. It was the schedule. He was around, but it wasn’t one week on, one week off, or anything like that. When I was 11, I moved in with him for a couple of years in Miami, near the Bahamas, where his family is from. I moved out when I was 18 and came to New York.

LN: It’s natural to put you in an indie-role category – how do you navigate your career and choose the breadth of roles that you do?

ZK: I don’t put a lot of thought into it in terms of, “I have to do something different so I don’t get boxed in and put into a corner.” We have many layers. I’m very lucky to be able to be creative for a living. I simply want to have fun and explore and challenge different sides of myself. If I read something that I feel that I’ve seen or done before, it doesn’t spark that thing inside me. When I read something unexpected for me, it’s exciting and scary. It makes me feel alive.

LN: I love that you changed your Instagram bio to Black Lives Matter.

ZK: There’s nothing else to say. If you disagree with that you should leave.

“I’ve felt pressure to post something that I wasn’t ready to post about or didn’t know enough about. It affected me. It can feel like if you don’t post about something that means you don’t care about it” – Zoë Kravitz

LN: I remember that it used to read “Trying not to be a TOTAL asshole since 1988”.

ZK: That’s the point, we’re all quite an asshole sometimes, and that needs to be OK.

LN: You are not afraid to put yourself out there. LGBTQ+ advocacy, Black Lives Matter – political conversations.

ZK: I feel like we’re living in a very odd time, where people confuse posting something with activism, which is not the same thing. There are people who dedicate their lives and their time and their physical bodies to being at rallies and meetings and being on the front lines.

I always want to make it very clear that I am not that person. I’m not saving the world.

That’s been a really difficult thing, emotionally, for me, where I’ve felt pressure to post something that I wasn’t ready to post about or didn’t know enough about. It affected me. It can feel like if you don’t post about something that means you don’t care about it. That’s conflicting for me because sometimes I don’t have enough information and need to learn more, or I don’t want to be on my phone today and something’s going on in the world. I’ll get a lot of hate for not talking about something, and I’m like, “I’m not a fucking news anchor.” Also, just because I don’t post on this thing it does not mean that I’m not feeling it or learning about it. My silence doesn’t mean I’m taking a side. The internet is not the real world.

LN: How did the Catwoman role come about?

ZK: My agent called me and was like, “They’re making a Batman movie and there’s a Catwoman role. You’re on the list of actors they are looking at.” I think the first thing that happened was I went to LA and met with Matt Reeves, the director, who also wrote the script, and just talked to him.

I read the script. Then he talked with me again to hear my thoughts, to see if we were on the same page. I didn’t know him well and it was a bit of a process. When these big opportunities come up, these big roles, and you really want them, it’s heartbreaking when you don’t get them. You put a lot of energy into it.

The thing that I tried to keep in check throughout, though, was just wanting to be agreeable and likeable to get the role. To read the script and say, “I love it. I love everything about it.” Then I go to the audition and I have this puppy dog energy.

It was important to give him an idea of what it’s really like to work with me. To say what I really think and, if we’re on set together, to ask the questions I want to ask. I tried to come at it from the angle where I am showing him what I see and feel about this character. I believe that’s why it happened and I got the role. Matt’s a fantastic director, and he’s really into talking about the character. We had some really good conversations. I had some thoughts about the character once I’d read the script too and they were welcomed.

LN: Have you seen all the other Batman movies?

ZK: I’ve seen all the movies, yeah. I’ve read some of the comics now, but I wasn’t a comic head or anything. I also tried to think about it not as Catwoman, but as a woman, how does this make me feel? How are we approaching this and how are we making sure we’re not fetishising or creating a stereotype? I knew it needed to be a real person.

LN: How do you feel about the importance of that massive comics universe? It’s different from what you’ve previously done. Those fans are hardcore.

ZK: They are, and because I respect them so much I chose not to think about them when making the movie. If I’m thinking about wanting everyone to like it and wanting all the fans to like it, I’m not going to actually bring a real person to life. Matt wrote a really interesting story with a complex character, and the relationships are really interesting. All I wanted to do was honour that story.

Sometimes with really big movies, it can feel like you’re just a puppet and part of this big machine. This felt like an independent movie in the way that there was real heart and soul and thought being put into the process and into every scene. It was incredibly collaborative. Matt’s very specific. It took him a year to make this because of Covid. We were in this bubble, really in this world, and it was an incredible experience. To spend a year of your life, and it’s very physically demanding ... I had to be in very specific shape, and there’s a pandemic going on. I’m being zipped into a catsuit every day at 7am, working 12-hour days and then coming home and working out. It was intense.

LN: You’ve been working on your feature directorial debut, Pussy Island, too, which you also wrote.

ZK: I’ve been writing it for four years. I want to be careful about how I speak about it and what information I put out there because there are a lot of layers to the story. I was actually in London shooting Fantastic Beasts when I started to write it. I had a decent amount of time off during that film, and I was feeling a lot of frustration and anger towards men, specifically in my industry, and I felt like this wasn’t a conversation that was happening at the time. Then my imagination ran away with me and I started writing a story around those feelings. Then Harvey Weinstein happened and the world changed. This story has evolved with the world evolving, which has been interesting and which is part of the reason it took so long. This conversation is happening in real time.

LN: And you want it to reflect what was and is happening?

ZK: Yeah, and my opinions changed and the world changed, and so the characters and their interactions have had to change. That was interesting. It was this living, breathing thing. It’s been a crazy journey, writing this movie, and I’m in love with it. I’m so excited to bring it to life.

“It’s so complex, that space, when you’re in between heartbroken and mourning the loss of something and excited for what’s ahead of you” – Zoë Kravitz

LN: When you wrote it, did you imagine you’d also direct it yourself? What was the plan?

ZK: Maybe not right away. I wrote the lead role for myself, assuming I’d be in it, just naturally, because I was writing it from my perspective, in a way. Then, maybe a year in, I had decided that I wanted to direct it and that I didn’t want to do both. It was actually really fun, creating this character and taking her away from me and making her something that is not a version of me. Writing something for a woman that she can sink her teeth into, as I’m constantly reading one-dimensional, boring roles. So now we have [British actor] Naomi Ackie on board. I feel very lucky to have her.

We’re in prep right now. We’re still figuring out when we’re going to shoot – there are a lot of different factors. Schedules and locations and stuff. It’s the fun part right now, where we get to see how it all falls together. It will start filming either at the end of this year or sometime next year. I’m still figuring it out.

LN: Are you nervous?

ZK: I am. In a really good way – nervous and also very ready. I know the story inside out. I know how to tell it. I know what I want to do. I know where I’m coming from emotionally. I’m going to learn a lot and it’s going to be hard, but the challenge is good.

LN: From my perspective, to see so many female directors shine in the past few years seems new. There had been odd glimpses before but I feel like there’s such a great wave of women telling worthwhile stories now. And you can always tell when a woman has directed the film.

ZK: Of course you can. It’s been really interesting also looking for crew and seeing what’s out there. I’m looking for DPs, most are white men and then white women. There are very few Black female DPs, Asian female DPs, queer DPs, queer female DPs. People are aware of that now and it’s at least progress to be having these kinds of conversations. Especially as a first-time director, I want someone that’s done it before. And the people who’ve done it before are white men. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I haven’t chosen a DP yet. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I’m trying to just stay open and feel it out.

LN: You also just wrapped on Kimi with Steven Soderbergh.

ZK: I loved working with him. It was a really fucking fun movie. It was my first time working with him. To get that phone call and to star in one of his movies was a wild experience. He is a true genius. Watching him work, especially going into directing, was like a college education. It’s so nice to meet a filmmaker who’s been doing it for so long and who’s still so interested and invested in finding new ways to tell stories. He wants to work. He wants to do new things. He loves filmmaking. It’s amazing.

LN: Have you had time for your music amid all of this?

ZK: Well, the band is no more but I’ve been recording a solo album with Jack Antonoff for a couple of years, on and off. It’s been hard with the schedule and the pandemic. Jack is a fantastic producer – he’s so good at really tapping into who he’s working with and not making it about him. Some producers want to make it about ... like, “I’m going to put my sound on you.” It’s what I experienced with my band. But for him to want to help me realise what I’m hearing in my head has been a really wonderful experience and very therapeutic. I wrote it over a long stretch of time, subconsciously just capturing this range of emotions, which has been interesting to look back on and see what I was writing about them, then and now and in between. It’s personal. It’s about love and loss. I got married. I got divorced. Separations, break-ups are sad but are beautiful things too. It’s about the bittersweetness, that beginning and that end. It’s so complex, that space, when you’re in between heartbroken and mourning the loss of something and excited for what’s ahead of you.

LN: Do you feel happy? Your twenties are crazy, I feel. I was holding on for dear life.

ZK: I was too. Now I’m holding on to my thirties and I’m like, “Can I just stay here, though? This is nice.” It’s great making better decisions, knowing what works for you, knowing what feels good to you, knowing what real fun is, not just the idea of fun. We’re in a sweet spot. We need to enjoy it and not pretend to be adults that don’t do fun things any more. It should be, “I’m in my thirties. Let’s do more things.”

Hair: Nikki Nelms at Ice Studios using MAUI MOISTURE. Make-up: Nina Park at Kalpana using YSL BEAUTY. Manicure: Aki Hirayama at Tracey Mattingly using YSL BEAUTY. Set design: Maxim Jezek at Walter Schupfer. Digital tech: Jarrod Turner. Lighting: Ari Sadok. Photographic assistants: KT Tucker and Rob Orlowski. Styling assistant: Taryn Bensky. Set-design assistants: Odin J Grina and Natalia Janul. Executive producer: Shea Spencer at Artists Commissions. Production: Jemma Hinkly at Artist Commissions and Alana Amram at Hen’s Tooth Productions. Production assistant: Donovan Powell. Post-production: Two Three Two.

This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale internationally from 7 October 2021. Pre-order a copy here.

Travis Scott Cover AW21

Travis Scott and Kim Jones Speak on Their History-Making Collaboration

Travis Scott appears in AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2021, dressed in the clothes he designed in partnership with Kim Jones and the house of Dior – speaking to Emma Hope Allwood, he and Jones discuss this deep-rooted, far-reaching collaboration

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.

Travis Scott is difficult to pin down – literally, for an interview or a photographic shoot, but also ideologically. He eschews and evades easy categorisation. Sure, he’s a musician – he has one of the highest profiles of a new generation of rap artists. Yet to see Scott as just that is to miss the point: whether creating a McDonald’s meal – he is the first celebrity to have one named after him since Michael Jordan in 1992 – performing a virtual concert on gaming platform Fortnite, or remaking himself as a modern media mogul, Scott embodies creativity in the 21st century. While somehow juggling an aura of mystery with a stratospheric level of fame, he matches a hazy, autotune-inflected musical output that defines the sound of modern hip-hop with a creative auteurship that goes beyond hit singles. Scott’s creative collective Cactus Jack encompasses a record label, a publishing arm and an array of merchandise with graphics devised by him. Perhaps inevitably his manifold talents attracted the attention of the equally multi-hyphenate creative Kim Jones at Dior – he thought they should collaborate.

Jones, of course, has brought the work of visual artists into the Dior universe on numerous occasions since stepping into his role as artistic director of menswear in 2018: the pneumatic robots of Hajime Sorayama; the playful, cross-eyed characters created by Kaws; and art-influenced clothing in partnership with artists Raymond Pettibon, Daniel Arsham and Peter Doig. But this latest collaboration exhaustively explores the elastic definition of the term ‘artist’ today. “I have always collaborated with artists. This time I said to myself, why not a musician?” Jones says. “Creating is a collective effort and, let’s be honest, a creative director is surrounded by a whole team of creatives. You can’t accomplish your ambitions for a house like this if you’re doing it alone. It’s not about talent or celebrity, but if someone produces something I find cool, I want to interact with him.”

Scott was born Jacques Bermon Webster II in Houston, Texas, in 1991: he renamed himself after a favourite uncle, Travis, and the American rapper Kid Cudi, whose real first name is Scott. Thus rechristened, he achieved global success as a recording artist: after dropping out of university to pursue music, his first commercial EP, Upper Echelon, was released in 2013 – since then, he has been nominated for eight Grammy awards. His 2018 album Astroworld has gone triple platinum in the US and, after the release of his last single – fittingly titled Franchise – in September last year, he became the first artist to have three songs debut at No 1 in less than a year on the Billboard Hot 100. Spotify currently ranks him as the 24th most popular artist in the world, ahead of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and the Beatles.

He and Jones first met six years ago, when the latter was head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, clashing modern luxury with streetwear in a manner that’s now commonplace – not least at Dior. The label’s much hyped Air Jordan collaboration was previewed on Scott’s feet at the house’s menswear show in Miami in December 2019. The next step was for them to collaborate for Spring/Summer 2022, on the first Dior catwalk collection created with a musician or a record label, dual-branded as Cactus Jack Dior.

The collaboration, however, isn’t about two brands coming together – rather, it’s about the relationship between Jones and Scott, an intimate connection. The two have been in contact since that first meeting, talking, texting and ultimately gestating this possibly inevitable hook-up. “Kim is a friend of mine. I probably wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t involved,” Scott says. “He is such an inspiration. I was a fan even when I was in college, so it’s crazy to be working with him. Going to the atelier and watching things being sewn and made by hand, it was insane.”

“He is such an inspiration. I was a fan even when I was in college, so it’s crazy to be working with him. Going to the atelier and watching things being sewn and made by hand, it was insane” – Travis Scott

This wasn’t just a case of Scott slapping his name on a label and calling it a day. It never is with any of his collaborations: Scott and Cactus Jack have also worked with Nike, Bape and PlayStation, and his McDonald’s hook-up wasn’t just a meal – incidentally, it consisted of a quarter pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, fries with barbecue sauce and a Sprite – but a full line of merchandise. “This is the first time that a luxury house is collaborating with a musician and involving him in all the creation process,” says Jones in an implicit acknowledgment of the fact that while rappers like Scott are often on the moodboard or seated in the front row, they’re rarely found in the atelier or joining a designer for a bow at the end of the runway. Their creative process began with Scott visiting Dior’s archives. “Travis knew exactly what he wanted,” says Jones. “He understands what young people want, knows how to appeal to them. He also knows what the brand is about. We wanted it to be Dior with Travis’s element on top.”

On his 2016 track “High Fashion”, Scott raps a list of designer names: Maison Margiela, Louboutin, Givenchy. But he isn’t keen to label either himself or his sound. He has bristled at a music industry keen to pigeonhole the latter as hip-hop: “I would just describe it as different pieces of my brain,” he has said. The same approach applies to his personal appearance – the two go hand in hand, blending sports and formalwear, street and couture. That is what influenced Jones for this Cactus Jack Dior show: Scott’s own style, filtered through his eye and the workmanship of Dior, a conversation in cloth.

Scott’s home state of Texas served as an inspiration – it was, coincidentally, the first place in America that Christian Dior himself visited, in 1947, a bit of Dior folklore that connected now to then. As such, the set of the show offered a visual mash-up of Dior’s childhood rose garden in Normandy with an imaginary rendering of the Lone Star State – all fluorescent fibreglass cacti, larger-than-life bleached bison skulls and desert sand (no matter that Scott actually grew up in the lush Houston suburb of Missouri City). The colour of the clothes came from there too. “The pink is the sky over Houston, the green is the cactus, the brown is the soil,” shares Jones. “We tried to connect worlds and take where I’m from and the identity of Houston, Texas, and spread it across the collection,” Scott adds.

Of course, Scott provided the soundtrack for the Cactus Jack Dior catwalk in June – the Paris menswear show debuted two new songs by Scott, one titled “Escape Plan”, the second “Lost Forever”, featuring rapper Westside Gunn. He also included a song originally leaked in 2019, “In My Head”, featuring Swae Lee and CyHi the Prynce, with a different beat and additional ad libs. All three are set for release on the forthcoming Utopia LP, his fourth album to date. As we go to print, it’s scheduled to drop sometime later in 2021 – but precise details are hazy. Scott values his mystique.

“Travis knew exactly what he wanted. He understands what young people want, knows how to appeal to them. He also knows what the brand is about. We wanted it to be Dior with Travis’s element on top” – Kim Jones

What does the music sound like? Ambient, unexpected, kind of earwormy, lo-fi yet high-tech. It’s a bundle of contradictions, which is – as Scott says – connected to the clothes. His personal style has been described as grunge – which it is, with beaten-up jeans and flannel button-downs and even Nirvana T-shirts making appearances. Then he’ll tote a crocodile Hermès Haut à courroies bag below an Ozzfest T-shirt. “I think high end and evening couture have always been in the metaverse of things I’m into,” says Scott, who cites the tailoring as his favourite part of the Dior collection. And there was a philanthropic element too: a series of shirts hand-painted by American artist George Condo will be sold to raise money for a new foundation Scott is establishing, which will support students with scholarships in collaboration with New York fashion institution Parsons.

“I have been thinking about young people a lot recently. With the pandemic, it’s a very difficult time for them,” says Jones. “Studying, going to university, following their dreams, it’s all a lot more difficult today with Covid-19. And yet Dior is doing incredibly well in spite of this crisis. We need to use our power and the means at our disposal to support the kind of initiatives in which we believe.”

As Scott puts it, “I’m just a kid from Texas.” Maybe this collection will end up helping the next kid from Texas too.

Lighting: Romain Hirtz and Hugues Poulanges. Styling assistants: Isabella Kavanagh and Ewa Kluczenko. Production: Artistry Paris. Executive producer: Laura Forrest at Artistry Paris

This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale internationally from 7 October 2021. Pre-order a copy here.

Lulu Tenney model Gucci Aria

“It’s Like Pornography”: Alessandro Michele on Hacking Gucci and Balenciaga

In the new issue of AnOther Magazine, Alessandro Michele tells Alexander Fury about his audacious Autumn/Winter 2021 Gucci collection, which confounded all expectations

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.

“It’s like pornography.” Alessandro Michele uses typically atypical terminology to describe his latest Gucci collection. In an ongoing challenge to traditional seasonal nomenclature, he has called it Aria, the operatic term denoting a self-contained piece for a solo voice. Which is ironic, given that Michele’s Gucci is boldly plural – especially today, drawing in myriad creative voices, aesthetic histories and ideological constructs, many parts to make the whole. This time, Michele went even further, describing his approach of openly appropriating other styles, symbols and signifiers as “hacking”. To draw us back to his pornographic play on perception, he means the results seem slightly illicit, the gains maybe ill-gotten. “It’s illegal, but maybe we can start to change this word a little bit,” he says. “You can hack if you have permission.”

Michele, who turns 49 this autumn, has helmed Gucci for six and a half years now, a restless period of ceaseless reinvention of the century-old Italian leather goods house. Not only Gucci’s clothes but its entire aesthetic universe has been transformed – hacked, not in the sense of the act of illegally infiltrating a computer system, but of violently or sharply cutting. Michele has hacked at Gucci’s heritage, its history, its meaning, to reshape it into something new. I’m reminded of a turn of phrase by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin – whose work Michele admires and quotes often. Benjamin used the German word Tigersprung – ‘tiger’s leap’ – to describe fashion’s leap into the past to create an ever-changing present. Michele embroiders lots of tigers on things. Maybe they mean more than you would imagine at first glance.

“Gucci is a brand that started from the creativity of a family,” says Michele. He’s talking from his home in Rome, a few weeks after presenting his Gucci collection, via Zoom but without video. The focus instead is on his melodious, strong-accented voice, softly crooning. Michele is mesmerising in person, dressed like some kind of bejewelled fashion shaman with his long, flowing hair. But as with any great leader, his voice is enough to pull you into his world, his cult. Now he’s talking about the cult of Gucci – the history of the brand, but also of the family. “They just did something unbelievable because they were not couturiers. They were just people of the bottega” – the Italian word for ‘shop’, not the Kering brand that shares that name – “that started to work in leather goods. They really used a lot of creativity to start this unbelievable trip. In Gucci there is a space for everybody. There was a space for Tom, who invented, again, the image of the brand – you know the story.”

“Tom” means Tom Ford, of course, who in 1994 was appointed creative director of Gucci – a name then more commonly seen in tabloid headlines than fashion pages, emerging from a morass of familial power struggles and murder plots worthy of pulp-fiction novels and, now, a blockbuster movie – and ignited its rise to the pinnacle of the industry. What Ford did was to rebrand Gucci, as swiftly and adroitly as Michele has done, giving it a slinky, subversive sexiness that pervaded everything from evening dresses to advertising campaigns to exotic ephemera – such as a kinky leather Gucci whip – intended to provoke reactions. Michele’s vision for Gucci is softer, sure – it’s tough to picture Ford quoting Benjamin – and infinitely more multifaceted, as befits the vastly expanded sphere of luxury today. But it’s just as powerful.

“There is a big philosophical conversation around the copy. And the idea of combining the language of two brands, it’s also a dream of a fashionista. I mean, it’s like history if you can combine Leonardo with Raphael, not because I feel myself like Leonardo! Maybe Demna is Raphael ... ” – Alessandro Michele

And for this Gucci collection, Michele embraced every part of the house’s identity – his opening look was one hell of a tiger’s leap, exhuming a keynote outfit from Tom Ford’s Autumn/Winter 1996 Gucci collection, a velvet suit in a shade of scarlet that the New York Times critic Amy Spindler compared to Mick Jagger’s bruised lips, slithering over a baby-blue shirt. It was sort of Scarface. More tigers. I remember it, from when I was a kid, the advertising campaign showing Georgina Grenville languishing on a sofa, staring up at a male model, Ludovico Benazzo. They were both dressed in that suit, her hand stroking a velvety thigh.

Whenever fashion quotes from its past it’s never quite the same. Michele hacked at that look, shifting the proportions, overlaying the subtly sexual open shirt with an overtly fetishistic leather harness. Ironically, that has its roots in an even older Gucci – Michele tugged it from the brand’s origins, the leather equestrian goods offered alongside luggage in a tiny Florentine shop established by Guccio Gucci in 1921. He learnt his trade at Valigeria Franzi, purveyor of luggage and leathers to the Italian aristocracy, but had also spent time at the Savoy in London, hauling expensive luggage. Literal first-hand experience. Guccio started off importing goods to his store, but given the excellence of Tuscan craftspeople, he began to have artisans make pieces for him locally. But he – and those leather workers – probably never imagined their harnesses and whips would be shifted from horse to human.

“Fashion is about life. Fashion is the closest thing to life – because every day, from the first day of our life, we put something on our body. So it’s such a crazy thing to apply boundaries or limits. Because life isn’t about limits” – Alessandro Michele

Then again, Michele likes to confound expectations. So, although rumours of a collaboration – or whatever you want to call it – between Gucci and its stablemate Balenciaga swirled before Michele unveiled his Aria show in April, the sheer audacity of Michele’s approach was still breathtaking. This wasn’t a polite example of co-branding, an anodyne sweatshirt plastered with a couple of emblems. Michele filched the patterns of Demna Gvasalia’s tugged-across asymmetric coats, his curve-bottomed Hourglass handbag, stretch trouser-boot hybrids and the waist-nipped, plump-hipped suits he showed in his first Balenciaga show in 2016 – it was at that event that the two designers first met one another – and slapped a Gucci label in them, sometimes over them. He printed Balenciaga’s logo atop Gucci’s monogram canvas, smothering one suit with crystals spelling out both labels’ names in a delirious co-branding confusion. The Gucci Jackie bag, a fiercely protected house classic first introduced in 1961 – it was given the rather less evocative serial number G1244 until last year, when it was officially renamed after its most high-profile fan, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – now comes stamped with a print stating, falsely, ‘BALENCIAGA’. It looks like a fake.

The language of the counterfeit is something Michele is fascinated by. I should have asked him if, really, he’s always hacking Gucci because he isn’t a Gucci – he’s perpetually working under someone else’s name. But he was already talking, slowly, methodically, about his ideas. “There is a big philosophical conversation around the copy,” Michele says. “And the idea of combining the language of two brands, it’s also a dream of a fashionista.” He breaks into laughter. “I mean, it’s like history if you can combine Leonardo with Raphael, not because I feel myself like Leonardo! Maybe Demna is Raphael ... ” He’s laughing again. “But it’s like a dream. It could be really bad, it could be a beautiful experiment. The beautiful thing is that it’s forbidden, and when you say that something is forbidden, I think that it starts to be interesting, in terms of creativity.”

Michele pauses, thinks. “Fashion is about life. Fashion is the closest thing to life – because every day, from the first day of our life, we put something on our body. So it’s such a crazy thing to apply boundaries or limits. Because life isn’t about limits.”

Hair: Anthony Turner at Streeters. Make-up: Lynsey Alexander at Streeters. Models: Daan Duez at Rebel Management and Lulu Tenney at Ford Models. Casting: Michelle Lee Casting. Manicure: Lotje Vleugels. Digital tech: Henri Coutant. Lighting: Romain Dubus. Photographic assistant: Samir Dari. Styling assistants: Niccolo Torelli, Louise Pollet and Jasmien Van Loo. Hair assistant: Harriet Beidleman. Make-up assistant: Raffaele Romagnoli. Producer to Willy Vanderperre: Lieze Rubbrecht. Production: Mindbox. Producer: Isabelle Verreyke. On-set producer: Lise Luyckx. Production manager: Roel Van Tittelboom. Production assistants: Charlotte Dupont and Marteen Rose. Post-production: Triplelutz Paris

This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale internationally from 7 October 2021. Pre-order a copy here.

Miu Miu Cover AW21

Miuccia Prada on the Changing Fashion Industry and Importance of Bravery

Alongside an interview with Susannah Frankel, the designer has, for the first time, pulled from the Miu Miu archive to dress a cast of powerfully individual young people, who are photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth and styled by Katie Shillingford

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.

If Prada is the elder statesman in the empire Miuccia Prada presides over with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, Miu Miu is its intuitive, impulsive counterpart. Titled after the affectionate moniker by which the designer has been known by her closest friends and family since she was a child, Miu Miu has the sensibility of sibling rebellion. Each bears an echo of the other: Miu Miu’s intellect is light-hearted compared to Prada’s heavyweight approach; Prada questions luxury, whereas Miu Miu toys with its trappings. While also profoundly radical, Prada is more serious, the public face of Miuccia Prada and indeed the family dynasty – carrying the name of her mother, Luisa, who ran the company once her own father, Prada’s founder Mario Prada, stepped down. Miu Miu, which launched in 1993, is conversely just Miuccia Prada’s. It is a place where she can express herself freely. Prada is now co-creatively directed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. Miu Miu is personal.

“The show in the mountains was personal – exactly that,” Miuccia Prada says. Entitled Brave Hearts, it was filmed in March 2021, with Europe in the throes of the third wave of the pandemic. With references to both Tyrolean and Highland dress, Miu Miu’s Autumn/Winter collection also draws on the dress codes adopted by its designer as a young woman. Those were unconventional. “I had so much fun in the mountains, skiing in a skirt,” she remembers. “I skied in a bikini too. I did it back then. It was perfectly normal. And the mountains are my favourite place in the world. I am in love with the mountains. I enjoy them at any moment, under every circumstance. I don’t know why.”

Prada’s clothing designs have always been drawn from her personal experience, personal history, personal tastes. She dressed in Saint Laurent as a rebellious, left-leaning student in the 1970s; later in the 1980s, butting against the direction of contemporary fashion, she bought her clothes from children’s tailors and from suppliers of uniforms for nurses and chambermaids, before deciding to design her own. Miu Miu is of course no exception: it began life as a small collection of minimal, vintage-inspired pieces, the sort of thing she might dream of wearing. If the sobriety of Prada reflected the life of a committed feminist and businesswoman – albeit a creative one, with impeccably refined taste – Miu Miu spoke of the side of Miuccia Prada that grew up wanting to wear pink when her mother dressed her in navy, that secretly hitched up her skirt as she left her house to go out, and that skied in a bikini.

Miuccia Prada likes bravery – she is herself brave. And it is a quality she admires in others. “Bravery is something women always need,” she commented at the time the collection was shown. “This talks about the fantasies of women, their imaginations and dreams of different places, different ideas. Following your dreams is courageous – that takes bravery and strength.” Still, for Miuccia Prada, while women’s fantasies are often the starting point of a conversation, fashion is always seen in the context of it being in the first instance a service to men (at Prada) but to women at both Prada and at Miu Miu still more so.

And so, at the Italian ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, against a backdrop of the Dolomite Alps, models walked through the snow in boots – from ankle to thigh-high – and chubby coats in teddy bear fur, bombers, jumpsuits and miniskirts in Miu Miu’s signature matelassé leather and boudoir satins in a sugary colour palette that seemed as sweet as it was incongruous, as apparently delicate as the look is ultimately fierce. Juxtaposing clothing designed to protect its wearer from the elements with more quintessentially feminine pieces – those aforementioned fantasies, evocative of an empowered sense of seduction – oversized satin padded jackets were layered over lingerie-inspired slip dresses in featherlight silks or lacy sweaters and skirts embroidered with twinkling sequins. Striped, pop bright and pastel crochet nursery knits framed faces and made for cosy cardigans, arm warmers, socks and tights. And yes, there was indeed a bikini of sorts: a bralet and skirt – the dimensions of the latter, an over-anxious mother might not unreasonably argue, are more reminiscent of a belt. One can only imagine what Miuccia Prada’s own parents had to say on the matter of their daughter skiing in her swimwear all those years ago now. Not that she would have let that stop her.

Idiosyncratically, sport has always been a passion for Miuccia Prada, long before the fashion world caught up. She was among the first designers to put sportswear on the runway: for Prada’s final Spring/Summer show of the millennium she introduced Prada Sport, inspired by Bertelli’s love of sailing and Prada’s announcement of its involvement in the America’s Cup in 1997. The red and white logo mirrored that of the lettering on the Prada Challenge boat, and the label, reintroduced in 2018, is now called Linea Rossa. Designer sportswear proved a rapidly expanding commodity across the board and Prada, with its luxe-industrial heritage, was well placed to capitalise on that. Clean shapes and technologically advanced fabrics with equally pragmatic shoes and bags were shown alongside the main collection, which was very much about both fashion and luxury in a more traditional sense: full, pleated canvas skirts and coats with broad, pleated ribbon edges, crumpled chiffon dresses, skirts and knickerbockers in tea-stained shades and richly coloured crocodile skirts and jackets all made an appearance, sometimes embellished with saucer-sized mirror embroideries. The wilful contrariness of the Prada handwriting – the space somewhere between the real and the unreal, the functional and the fashionable, the earthly and the otherworldly – was already well established.

Miuccia Prada needs no introduction, but here are the basics of her upbringing and career, the elements that formed her and still frame her current status and state of mind. Born in 1949, she grew up in Milan and left that city’s Statale University with a doctorate in political science in 1970. A committed activist, she was a member of the Unione Donne Italiane, dedicated to establishing equal rights for women. She studied mime at the Piccolo Teatro before joining the family business in the mid-70s. She met Bertelli in 1978 and they married in 1987, a year before she began designing her own clothes. For her wedding, Miuccia Prada wore a dress made by the Ferrari sisters, designers of clothes for the children of Milan’s elite, scaled up to her size. With Bertelli, she launched the famous Prada nylon backpack in 1984, debuted Prada women’s ready-to-wear in 1988 and Miu Miu five years later. Today, Prada is a multi-billion-dollar public company. It was floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2011, yet remains under their control both creatively and financially.

To help differentiate Miu Miu from Prada, principally shown in its hometown, the label staged catwalk shows in each of the major fashion capitals until landing, lastingly, in Paris in 2006. There Miu Miu was first presented at 34 avenue Foch, a hotel particulier in a chic residential arrondissement. From the start, Miu Miu exuded the spirit of the renegade debutante, all puffed sleeves, empire lines, pie-crust collars and slightly off party dresses. The clothes perhaps owe a debt to the Ferrari sisters too, and to Cirri in Florence, which Miuccia Prada once said made the best sailor dresses around. They often play with childlike elements, taking liberties with scale by blowing up or shrinking details. When they are more adult – in the Autumn/Winter 2011 collection of broad 1940s shoulders and mid-calf skirts, for example – models somehow still resemble young girls dressed in looks far too old for them. There are mismatched graphic prints – of swallows in flight or kittens at play – and unlikely fabric combinations: paillettes on sludge-coloured wools. Elsewhere, 50s Americana meets 80s Anglophilia or 70s psychedelia, varsity jackets are worn over big knickers (Miuccia Prada calls them panties), leather is oversized, silver and inlaid with everything from art deco florals to stars, and French terry towelling bathrobes double up as summer coats.

Such diversity of fabrication, silhouette and thematic makes the fact that Miu Miu is so immediately identifiable and distinct from its sister, Prada, more remarkable still. Across these pages the overview of Miu Miu is Miuccia Prada’s own, having delved into her archives to select pieces that best show her vision of her label. The edit reflects both past and present tense: the pieces are chosen from the label’s back catalogue but with the designer’s current mood and viewpoint in mind. They are the styles she feels are relevant for now. Miu Miu is always reactive: the shows are put together in a matter of weeks, sometimes even days. It is spontaneous, immediate, instinctive.

When we speak at the end of May, Miuccia Prada is alone. She is as elegant and conscious of the importance of good manners and humour as always, and a quietly contemplative mood prevails, one that acknowledges that we are living in a world that remains frightening in its uncertainty. While the designer’s circumstances – as she herself is the first to admit – are privileged, there is a modesty to the conversation, if not quite so much to the surroundings. An opulent olive-green velvet covers the walls of the room she is working from and that same fabric, in brown, a plump daybed. Pieces from the personal collection of modern art Prada and Bertelli have been building for a quarter of a century hang behind her – a fluffy white Pietro Manzoni Achrome like a lost cloud, a John Baldessari pop portrait of Bruce Lee, the eyes cut out.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, she has been based here, away from the crowds and mainly focused on her job. As perceptive and aware of the world as she always has been, she is grateful for the time that has afforded her – time to work, time to watch and to read, time to think. Many column inches have been dedicated to her wardrobe in the past and that too has moved with the times. Today she is wearing an oversized white cotton T-shirt that it’s somehow life-affirming to imagine her rolling out of bed in – and a pair of vintage diamond earrings that reach almost to her shoulders. Some things shouldn’t change.

Then as now, Miuccia Prada is the ultimate brave heart: a woman for whom courage and risk-taking are second nature – the driving force.

“I think bravery is very important in general. Otherwise, why do you live? You have to try to make things, to do things” – Miuccia Prada

Susannah Frankel: Can we talk first about the Miu Miu show in the mountains?

Miuccia Prada: I’m not sure I would do it again now but at that point you didn’t need many people, which was a good thing, and also there was so much snow. I said it’s now or never. Then everybody got excited. It was a long discussion because of the difficulties of there being no physical show. That is much more complex for me but also more interesting. You have to turn your ideas into a bigger picture. If you call directors, good movie directors, they are not, I think, very good at doing fashion, and fashion people, of course, they don’t know how to make movies. So we had to improvise, to reinvent our jobs. It all came out of this idea of bravery. The mountains, the walking in the snow, the symbol of being brave. Back then I was fixated on women being brave.

SF: You’re always brave.

MP: I try to be. I wanted to be. We decided to go, we dealt with whatever happened. We had very bad weather but also very good weather.

SF: In one way the collection was mountain appropriate – the big trousers, the big boots, the Tyrolean references, the Highland references – but in another way it was about a skirt covered in jewels. That’s very you. The conservative and radical, the appropriate and the inappropriate, often in one look.

MP: That is what I always aim for and it comes instinctively.

SF: It’s about you.

MP: Yes, it’s me.

SF: You were one of the first people to actually combine high fashion and sport in the 90s with Prada Sport.

MP: I remember back then I never wanted to dress myself in sporty things. I didn’t like them. Then I was always into inappropriate things. And I asked myself why when you do sport, or ski, do you have to become another person? I want to keep my love of fashion, my ideas. I don’t want to transform myself into someone else, into a sporty man or a sporty woman, wearing what everyone else is wearing. That was the origin of it.

SF: And today you still combine two apparently contrasting worlds. The idea of the couture gesture – the gloves are big woolly gloves but they’re still long gloves, the hats, the jewellery – with something much more obviously functional.

MP: That’s something that I really like. I like that when you do sport you retain your spirit. So if you run, why shouldn’t you wear a pair of earrings? Be covered in jewels, running along?

SF: You always work with extremes.

MP: I like very different things. There were men’s things in that collection and then there were feminine things. Probably I like the duality in myself. I can be very feminine, or very masculine, or both at the same time. In general, in a modest environment I like to put on the richest pieces. I like opposites together. Why? I don’t know. For instance, in the Fondazione, when we did the house in gold, it was not my idea, it was Rem’s idea, but I thought it was genius because it represents what I like to the maximum. What do you do in gold? The poorest, most industrial, most old-fashioned home. It’s also about assessing the value of something by putting it with its opposite, making inexpensive things look or feel very rich and vice versa. I don’t want to say it’s a political approach because the word carries so much weight but, yes, the point of view is to find the opposite between two extremes, always, and to try to improvise. I don’t question myself about that. It comes so naturally.

SF: Perhaps that’s the recognition that women are not simple or straightforward.

MP: Yes, for sure. It’s not enough to be feminine. Put simply, by mixing things you show the complexity of life, the complexity all around us. To be just one thing is boring.

SF: Do you think bravery is particularly important now?

MP: I think bravery is very important in general. Otherwise, why do you live? You have to try to make things, to do things.

SF: In the past we talked about the idea that, in the 2000s especially, you in particular seemed to be taking bigger risks than smaller, independent labels, bigger risks than the avant-garde.

MP: If you are small – niche – you can be avant-garde. It is very different in a bourgeois context. I struggle sometimes. And my husband tells me, you can’t pretend to be left-wing, because the other ones are all rich, or bourgeois. It is true that with Prada and Miu Miu I want to make the impossible happen. We are a luxury group with concepts that are not only about luxury. In fact, I don’t like the word luxury but I have always appreciated beauty and sophisticated things. So it really is a constant effort.

SF: A constant fight.

MP: Yes, that too.

SF: Miu Miu especially seems to be about female rites of passage – about a girl becoming a woman, a girl on the cusp of womanhood. Of course, that’s not actually about age at all but about spirit, and about the slight fragility – but also the exceptional beauty – of that time in a woman’s life, the time when you’re a girl working out what being a woman means. That is something that continues, that comes up again and again at all ages.

MP: That’s right. That’s great. It’s true that Miu Miu is also about that fragility, the fact that you don’t know who you are, who you want to be. You want to be beautiful, you want to be sexy – but you also want to be nasty, intelligent and political.

SF: However brave you are – however brave Miu Miu is – we are all vulnerable.

MP: I never think about that but, yes, actually Miu Miu is probably a lot about that.

SF: People always say Miu Miu is younger but it’s not about being young physically. It’s about ...

MP: The mentality.

“People are thinking more about the past, about things that count, about the heart, not about superficial things” – Miuccia Prada