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

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

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

SF: It is also the embodiment of the fact that you can be 40, 50, 60, 70, but you can still flirt.

MP: I strongly believe in that. Apart from I don’t go out in miniskirts, which if you have the courage to and you want to, then why not, but apart from that, when I dress I’m not dressing like an old woman. When you become old, it’s not easy to have fun with how you dress. When you are older, dressing is even more about bravery.

SF: One of the things that has changed since you started designing clothes is that you really can wear what you like.

MP: True. Good taste, bad taste ... It’s very subtle.

SF: This issue of the magazine is about hindsight, the idea of looking at the past to inform the future. That sentiment feels intense at the moment because the present is relatively quiet. Our present is lacking in outside experience, so people are looking back in a romantic way, though not necessarily a purely nostalgic way – it feels like something bigger than that.

MP: That has something to do with looking for meaning. I hear a lot of people saying now that they don’t want to go to stupid parties any more, that what they value is friendship, love. That, of course, is romantic. We are searching for something more complete, more true, not superficial.

SF: You have always said you love superficial things.

MP: Maybe because I would like to be that person but really I’m not. Now people are thinking more about the past, about things that count, about the heart, not about superficial things. The word romantic makes sense.

SF: You have Prada and Miu Miu. Miu Miu is approaching its 30th anniversary, Prada is more than a century old. You shoulder a huge legacy. How do you feel now about that responsibility?

MP: I don’t think about legacy. I know I should but it’s not what motivates me. Also because of our age, people say to me you should enjoy what you have done, celebrate your achievement. Listen, I’m not like that. I’m always thinking about what I can do next. I don’t think of myself as someone who is ambitious but somebody told me recently, “You are a monster of ambition.” In truth, I am very ambitious.

SF: Historically, Miu Miu comes at the end of the ready-to-wear season. It’s reactive to what has come before it at the shows and is done quickly, in weeks rather than months. This situation must throw that slightly. The seasons are difficult to follow now.

MP: That’s why in the end I am still showing in seasons. It took so much time for the fashion world to get itself together, to facilitate the jobs of journalists and buyers and so on. So now I find myself in a place where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. But I don’t know if that’s right. In the first place, you lose the sense of a season and with that, a little bit, the sense of fashion. I understand that it’s exciting to be free but instinctively I decided to stick with the calendar. Otherwise it’s going to be such a mess.

SF: Fashion is a community – you move from one place to another as a group. The pandemic has left a vacuum.

MP: Yes, but going back to normal shows is maybe like going backwards. Before, you did your job, your clothes, your show, then it was finished. This is the beginning of a whole different chapter and it’s ten times the work. But I’m afraid that now just to go back to physical shows won’t feel so exciting. Maybe you should do both. But both is double the money and more work again. We are discussing this all the time. In the end, somebody said, “People like being together. Who cares about the clothes? They just like having fun, like at a concert, in a football stadium.” It’s more the idea of being with people. Everybody always complains. But now that it is not possible people miss it.

SF: Now you work with Raf at Prada, how has your work with Miu Miu changed?

MP: It has changed. I decided that at Prada I wanted to work with someone else to create a new idea, to have more inspiration and to share, that’s a priority. The priority is for Raf and me to do something together. I’m very happy with that. So Miu Miu is now the place where I am completely myself. When I realise that, then I want to do even more, to really concentrate, to inject more passion, more of what I like. The show in the mountains was exactly that. It was very personal. Because of the location and the implications. For sure, Miu Miu is the only place where I am alone.

SF: Is there more of a sense of your renegade spirit in Miu Miu?

MP: Absolutely. It’s what I like in life. I have not always been able to be enough like that perhaps. I was when I was young, with my political ideas and activities, I kind of did it. Probably not enough. But that’s what I like.

SF: I think your son said to you that, as someone in a position of power, you’re obliged to speak out and say things that go beyond fashion. Do you believe that?

MP: That’s a big question. I always hated it in the past. I never wanted to answer any questions that weren’t specifically related to what I do, related to art or fashion. I didn’t want to talk about politics or any of the things that I care about most. That is partly out of a sense of decency, about being a rich fashion designer. Having said that, because of the influence we have, we probably should speak out more. I should probably speak out more. But that goes against my spirit and my thinking completely. I’m thinking about it, about how to try to speak to people more.

SF: People often talk about a certain woman they design for. Is there a Miu Miu woman?

MP: You know that’s something I don’t like. I design what I think is right. It’s theoretical. I never had a woman in mind, I don’t have an icon in mind. I do like a renegade. Usually, every brand has its target. I don’t. But I always said I do what I feel is right and if I am in contact with reality, if I know people through reading, through movies, through meeting them, then it will work. The more I am in contact with reality the more what I do makes sense. If it works it means I was connected and my thoughts were realistic. I’m trying to do something that is relevant, to translate that into clothes, because that is my job and something that I am able to do. You know that I am fanatical about the life of people, that is the reason I love vintage. I love thinking about who the woman was who wore something, about what their life was like. People’s lives. I like thinking about that a lot.

SF: You recently put exactly that idea into practice with Upcycled by Miu Miu, that idea of finding vintage clothes and letting them tell their own story all while putting your mark on it.

MP: When I did my first show for Prada, I was very much criticised for appropriation. It was the 80s, the art world did it the whole time, but in fashion it caused a scandal – a dress that was totally 60s, totally 70s. But I loved it because I like history, I like stories of periods, stories of women. I think, OK, modernity, the future, but all our ideas come from what we saw, what we heard, what we read. We are our past. How can we pretend it doesn’t exist? Now, with Upcycled, it’s conscious and we want to build on it, but in the first instance it came from a place of naivety, from a love of vintage and the fact that vintage pieces entertain the people who wear them. It is a piece of clothing but it expresses a whole life – how was it worn, what was it worn for, what did its original owner do while they were wearing it?

SF: In fact, that’s what we love about clothes generally.

MP: Yes, because clothes are instruments for living, basically. To conquer or not to conquer, to do whatever you want. I always think dresses have to be useful.

SF: As a young woman you were active in the second wave of feminism. Do you think things are better now for women than they were then?

MP: There’s a long way to go. That is one of my biggest questions – how long does it take? Sometimes it seems like we’re going backwards rather than forwards. Sometimes when you see movies about the suffragettes, you see how they really struggled. For sure in our countries, for people who are richer, more educated, things are better, but that’s easy for us to say. There are still things happening to women all over the world that are terrible – unbelievable.

“Miu Miu is the only place where I am alone” – Miuccia Prada

SF: The upheaval of the past 18 months has meant we have all been forced to acknowledge a shift in our perspectives and change the way we look at things and how we prioritise.

MP: I think so. Six months after the pandemic started, my son told me that if it finished now things would go back to how they were before but that if it lasted longer things would change. I am very much changed. I’m changed in general but mainly in thinking that anything I used to do in a certain way I should now do differently. I have an instinctive desire for change, for not repeating things we did before.

SF: And when you’re designing, thinking about bravery and about fighting, you’re also dreaming.

MP: I always say that I don’t like dreaming. If I dream about something I want to make it happen.

SF: For someone who sometimes thinks they are not ambitious that’s quite an ambitious idea.

MP: Now my ambition at the Fondazione is doing science. We are preparing a show for the next biennale with the most important scientists in the world. It’s about the human brain. I always want to do shows that are about religion, feminism, science, big subjects that are floating in our heads but that many of us don’t really understand. And they said they wanted to do it only if the Fondazione Prada in Venice becomes a permanent place for exploring ideas about neuroscience. So, yes, that’s also ambitious.

SF: The idea of the same woman who grew up skiing in a skirt now doing that is inspiring – uplifting. Can we talk about Miu Miu as a community of women who shop but who also exchange and share ideas about culture, about things they are excited by and that they love? You have Women’s Tales, dedicated to supporting female talent in film, Miu Miu Musings, conversations between women about issues that are culturally and socially pertinent, Miu Miu Club ...

MP: We do and that’s very important to me. I love film and know that, even now, it is not so easy for women to break through, so if we can help we should. I also believe in giving women a voice, in projecting a feminine point of view. I have this idea that, during the day, our shops are shops, about shopping for fashion. Then, during the night they are about a community.

SF: Have you missed your teams during this period? Have you felt restricted?

MP: For the past 18 months, I have worked on Zoom. I don’t know if I miss my teams physically because I am discussing with them all the time. Sometimes when I am at work, there are so many distractions, so many empty moments, so many boring moments. Now at home maybe I’ve found the excuse to do other things. And that is fantastic. I want to be careful not to lose that privilege. Also, I can do so many more appointments. Before, you had to go to the office, to a bar. A ten-minute discussion might take two hours. This is easier, simpler. Also, I am lazy. I like staying home very much.

SF: So there is an element of relief?

MP: I am happy here. This pandemic has changed my way of thinking on so many levels. I’ve had more time to consider things. We were so afraid, there were so many difficulties – all the shops were closed and everything was a disaster. We were forced to react, to find new ways of doing things, new ways of taking care of clients. When we were closed there was a real sense of solidarity between human beings. Perhaps we had arrived at a point that was repetitive, generally decadent. When the world changes it signifies the rebirth of something, there is a new energy.

SF: Do you have a sense of it being wonderful to spend your life making beautiful things?

MP: For sure. And now I have much more time to do my job and to do it well. Before I was distracted. Even though I have barely any social life there were still too many distractions. And the idea that I could maybe stay in one place, for just one day, and think about clothes – that was such a joy.

SF: You have been one of very few designers who have actually changed our aesthetic, changed the way people – women and men also – dress. At the beginning, you had to fight to be understood, people described your work as ugly, and certainly it played with received notions of taste. Now though, with Prada and Miu Miu, there is an understanding, and a love of the things you have done and still do. Do you feel proud of that?

MP: Of that, yes, I am proud. I think that if I have achieved anything it is that. But it wasn’t revolutionary. It was subtle. Early on the avant-garde thought I was not avant-garde enough, the classicists thought I was very disturbing. And I loved that. It is the in between that interests me. In that sense, little by little, probably because I didn’t come from the fashion world, I changed things. It was only in fashion that there was this obsession with beautification in a conventional sense. In art, in the movies, in books, those ideals were questioned. And I too thought that was so old-fashioned, so conservative. Now it’s normal to question those values. I think I have contributed to that.

Hair: Paolo Soffiatti at Blend Management. Make-up: Luciano Chiarello at Julian Watson Agency. Models: Corinne at Street People Casting, Elena Burgin and Yu Shan Chen at Persona, Mira Nora Nagy at Why Not, Valeria Pavesi at Fabbrica and Anita Salinsky at Rebel Management. Streetcast models: Myrsky Kerko, Lucy Marega, Garfield Pagani and Ludovica Richiello. Casting director: Julia Lange at Artistry. Casting associate: Olivia Langner. Additional casting of Anita Salinsky by Florinda Martucciello, Sara Casana and Mara Veneziano. Photographic assistant: Cecilia Byrne. Styling assistants: George Pistachio and Fabiana Guigli. Production: Nicola Catterall and Sophie Hambling at Farago Projects. Local production: Alessandra Gabbetta, Eleonora Giammello and Alberto Angeloni at Hotel Production. Black and white printing: Peter at The Image. Retouching: Simon Thistle

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.

BALENCIAGA Cover AW21 Lisa Williamson BALENCIAGA COUTURE

Inside Demna Gvasalia’s Revival of Balenciaga Couture

In a series of interviews through the spring of 2021, Alexander Fury explores Balenciaga’s past and future with Demna Gvasalia, looking at the house’s rekindled couture and its first visitation since 1968

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

“Fear.” The designer Demna Gvasalia is talking about the emotions, namely his own, triggered by the daunting task of presenting his first couture collection. It’s May 2021 – the show is in July. “This is a little bit like a therapy session,” he’ll later add, laughing. His feelings are heightened because this couture collection is not just for himself, but for the august, austere house of Balenciaga, where couture – arguably – was raised from applied to pure art at the hands of its founder, Cristóbal Balenciaga, a legend in his own lifetime, deified since. He retired in 1968 and died in 1972. Couture bearing the label Balenciaga has never been designed by anyone other than him – until now. “This is the house where couture for me is kind of like innate, the essence,” Gvasalia says. “I felt it was my obligation.” But still, there’s fear. “Fear of not being enough. Fear of having to fill these very big shoes, left by ‘the master of us all’.” He isn’t laughing. “It’s not just a legacy – it’s Cristóbal Balenciaga’s legacy.”

Gvasalia has every right to be afraid, given that the history and prestige of the house of Balenciaga is, possibly, unparalleled in modern fashion. Others come close, granted. Christian Dior ensured his name’s immortality by resuscitating Paris haute couture after the strictures of the second world war, by saving women from nature and creating a fashion moment with his 1947 debut that outmoded all before it. Gabrielle Chanel emancipated women not once but twice, first in the 20th century’s teenage years, and then again after her comeback in 1954, inventing a uniform of modernity, eschewing fickle fashion in favour of eternal style. Yves Saint Laurent, Dior’s dauphin, rebelled in the 1960s and then refined, dedicating himself to the perfection of his craft. They are all couture greats, names whose work changed fashion. Yet the sombre Spaniard Cristóbal Balenciaga is feted as the greatest of all. Even those contemporaries – and others – openly acknowledged it. It was Dior who first called him “the master of us all”, comparing the couture to an orchestra composed and conducted by Balenciaga. “Balenciaga alone is a couturier,” said Chanel – who rarely praised anyone except herself. “The others are draughtsmen or copyists.” Madeleine Vionnet called him “un vrai”; Balenciaga’s friend and devoted disciple Hubert de Givenchy declared he was the greatest single influence on his career.

Almost half a century after his death, Balenciaga is still revered as the most significant figure of 20th-century haute couture, a defining architect of fashion as we experience it today. Balenciaga founded his couture house in San Sebastián, Spain, in 1917 – it was named Eisa, a diminutive of his mother’s surname Eizaguirre – expanded to Madrid and Barcelona, and in 1937 opened as Balenciaga in Paris, at 10 avenue George V. When that address – and the other branches – closed in 1968, the New York Times ran the news under the headline “Nothing Left to Achieve, Balenciaga Calls It a Day”. Nothing left to achieve because, in the 51 years in between, Balenciaga had reinvented how people dressed. His clothes were paradoxically formal and fluid, could appear heavy and architectural yet were magically weightless, “like a sea swell”, wrote Pauline de Rothschild, who, like pretty much every other woman of note, wore Balenciaga.

“One never knew what one was going to see at a Balenciaga opening,” wrote Diana Vreeland, breathlessly, in her 1984 memoirs. “One fainted. It was possible to blow up and die.” Balenciaga’s most passionate client was Mona von Bismarck, who featured in Cole Porter lyrics and Vogue photo spreads, and who ordered everything, including cinnamon-coloured gardening clothes, from the couture house. She was immortalised by Cecil Beaton in Balenciaga’s trapeze-line draped-back satin evening dresses, shot from behind to show the collar elegantly dipping at the nape. When the house closed she retired to her room for three days, to mourn.

In May, when Gvasalia and I meet at the Balenciaga archives, held in a vast warehouse on the outskirts of northern Paris, he has already been preparing for his couture debut for 18 months. Balenciaga had originally planned to present the line in July 2020 but was stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns that achieved what two world wars and the Nazi occupation could never do in halting the Paris haute couture shows for a year. With hindsight, however, Gvasalia says he’s been thinking about couture for six years – since he first began designing for the house in 2015. Surprising, because you wouldn’t immediately connect Gvasalia’s designs to couture, for many reasons. They are ready-to-wear obviously, their slick surfaces and sharp silhouettes revelling in an industrial quality inherent to their manufacture, while aesthetically and ideologically they sit as far away from the fluffy extravagance that characterises most modern haute couture, focused as it is on event dressing. When Cristóbal Balenciaga closed the fashion house in 1968 he reportedly told a distraught client, “Why do you want me to go on? There is no one left to dress.” Ready-to-wear, he recognised, was the future, but he had no interest in it.

“This is the house where couture for me is kind of like innate, the essence. I felt it was my obligation” – Demna Gvasalia

People store priceless fine art in the out-of-town repository where Balenciaga keeps its archive, a space segmented into aircraft-hangar-sized spaces crammed with stuff whose collective worth is equivalent to the GDP of entire nations. The Balenciaga archive houses some unusual things alongside clothes – the remnants of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s personal library and art collection, the furniture from his homes piled on shelves, even an elevator padded in cordovan leather that once ferried clients in his couture house. It has examples of ready-to-wear clothes by Cristóbal Balenciaga’s successors – lesser-knowns such as Josephus Thimister, who designed Balenciaga from 1992 to 1997, and the famous 21st-century trio of Nicolas Ghesquière, Alexander Wang and Gvasalia. There are also pieces actually made by Cristóbal’s own hands – holy stuff. Each collection, Balenciaga purportedly sewed one black dress entirely – he learnt the craft directly from his mother, a seamstress, and was venerated for his faultless technical ability alongside his creativity. Balenciaga would frequently make clothes for himself to wear, including such oddly un-Balenciaga garments as a ski anorak, sewn together on the eve of his departure for holiday. One 1960s collection featured a coat with sleeves that were based on Balenciaga’s own raincoat – Women’s Wear Daily, which often snubbed its nose at Balenciaga’s hauteur and the reverence with which he was held in the fashion industry, dubbed it a “Balenciagaberry”. Balenciaga wouldn’t sketch, rather he worked directly on the fabric of toiles, manipulating material in three dimensions until they achieved the effects he craved – a methodology echoed in Gvasalia’s own, where he chops up existing garments to shift forms on the body.

Anoraks, raincoats, brand mash-ups, high and low – there’s a whole bunch of unanticipated parallels you can find there between Gvasalia and Balenciaga. The most enduring connection between the two, however, is their quest for modernity – although the meaning of modernity in 1960s Parisian high society and circa 2021 is, of course, fundamentally different. Back then, it revolved around haute couture – today, women wear tracksuits rather than tweed suits, sportswear for everyday that can perhaps be traced back to Balenciaga’s revolutionary semi-fitted suits of 1951, which traced an eased line that foreshadowed not just the silhouette of the 1960s, but a whole modern idea of comfort in dress. “Parkas, denim jackets, five-pocket jeans,” says Gvasalia. He’s talking not about ready-to-wear here, but his couture. He’s talking about how he can make couture feel modern, for him.

“When I started, there were a lot of Cristóbal dress references because that is the base,” Gvasalia says. “I need to bring that elegance into this time. But I also want clients who don’t walk through a palazzo in Venice, in the robe manteau of Mona von Bismarck.” He laughs. “It’s somebody who, I don’t know, travels in haute couture. Because there are people who do that – I don’t know them, but I hope to know them.” Gvasalia has always been superb at unpicking his thought processes: he makes for an incredibly engaging interview. Here, next to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s old furniture, he is giving an ad hoc synopsis of his new take on couture. “It’s a trench coat. It’s a tailored suit. I will even have a couture T-shirt. I need to extend it. For couture to be modern, it has to be a wardrobe.” He pauses. “We cannot get locked into the ballroom.”

When you enter the Balenciaga archive, you are given a small oxygen monitor: the airflow is controlled and the climate, generally, is maintained at -7.8C (18F), a temperature so low fire cannot ignite. Off to the side is a rail of new (old) acquisitions from auction houses: a sculpted sheath dress in searing yellow duchesse satin from 1962, a black cashmere evening coat from 1951. In the back, there are several racks from which recent Balenciaga collections hang. Gvasalia won’t look at those, he tells me. He is wearing a long black coat, like the inverse of the traditional white couture worker’s smock, his hair closely cropped. He’s looking at an elaborately embellished bodice, contained in a grey cardboard archive box – the type known, in the trade, as “coffins”, because dead clothes sleep inside them. The bodice, swollen with tissue padding as if still inhabited by a living body, is pale silvery blue silk jacquard, a base for embroideries of strewn flowers in glass beads with crystal droplets. It’s a little raggedy, threads plucked and hanging loose, as if it’s been bashed about, with uncharacteristic disrespect, for half a century or so. Only it hasn’t: the piece is new, the top of an evening dress from his forthcoming couture collection. “This we have been working on, I think, for two months,” Gvasalia says. Its decoration is executed by the young French embroidery atelier Jean-Pierre Ollier and painstakingly sewn to seem, for want of a better term, a bit fucked up. Other pieces from the collection are too, like a sack-back evening coat in a poison green silk taffeta that is permanently crumpled, as though it slid off its hanger to the bottom of a wardrobe long ago and was left to moulder.

“I like the idea that couture is an effort to come as close as possible to perfection,” Gvasalia says, incongruously, staring down at the plucked surface. “I think Cristóbal’s idea of couture was that. He was a perfectionist.” Understatement of the century: Balenciaga was an absolute obsessive, “a haunted man” according to his parish priest and confessor Father Robert Pieplu, “haunted by a great plan, a vision of the world”. That vision accepted nothing short of perfection. Sleeves were a fixation, his couture house resounding with anguished cries of “la manga” as Balenciaga ripped his garments apart with his own hands, remaking again and again. He would not permit anyone else to pin his designs in his presence and, when he was asked to design the uniforms for Air France in 1968, he wanted to fit each of the 6,000 outfits himself. Conversely, Gvasalia has never been interested in achieving perfection. “Perfection doesn’t really exist. I don’t really believe in that,” he says. “I feel I always look for beauty in places that are not conventionally understood as that.” Gvasalia’s clothes, first for the label Vetements (which he co-founded in 2014 and left in 2019) and latterly for Balenciaga, have made a feature of their unusual fabric treatments and odd proportions – inbuilt creasing, bleaching, puckering and mismatched prints, coats tugged across the body and deliberately misbuttoned, shoulders cut to slide forwards, to almost round the back.

Back in 2016, when I spoke with Gvasalia for a profile for this magazine around his first ready-to-wear show, he recounted a story of Cristóbal Balenciaga draping fabric on a client, “of how this woman was transformed. How he changed the posture, the attitude,” Gvasalia said. “For me, that was the most important part. That was, for me, the source of inspiration. How do we do that today? How do we transform the attitude?” Gvasalia, though, is more likely to create a hunch than hide it: a Schiaparelli-pink satin faille coat in this couture collection looks a bit like it has a sofa cushion stuffed between the shoulder blades, an extension of a collar line Gvasalia drew from the stand-away collars of Balenciaga’s 1960s suits and translated into his clothes right from the start. His Oxford stripe shirts and denim jackets dip delicately at the nape, a nod to Mona von Bismarck.

“Perfection doesn’t really exist. I don’t really believe in that” – Demna Gvasalia

Attitude is all-important to Gvasalia. Attitude can mean both a physical posture – a gesture, a stance – and a mindset. It can also denote truculent behaviour. All three are evident in his approach. If today Gvasalia is in a reverential mood, it hasn’t always been the case. He has affixed Balenciaga’s name to tracksuits and trainers, to T-shirts with reconfigurations of the election merchandise of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders. Cristóbal Balenciaga was, by contrast, avowedly apolitical: he fled the Spanish Civil War in 1937, yet the final dress he created was a wedding dress for General Franco’s granddaughter Carmen Martínez-Bordiú in 1972. When Balenciaga decided to close his couture house, it was in the midst of sociopolitical upheaval – news breaking of the May 1968 Paris student protests, the world transforming before his eyes. However, Gvasalia reacts to those streets, translating the attitude of its founder into unexpected clothes, including hooded sweatshirts, leather jackets and jeans. Born and brought up poor, Balenciaga was a snob: he declared his house must dress only thoroughbreds and quoted Salvador Dalí – another Spaniard – when he stated, “A distinguished lady always has a disagreeable air.” So you may think he wouldn’t like sweatshirts labelled with his name – even if they’re cut with a cocoon back or to mimic the hip-thrust stance he instructed his models to adopt. Yet many of Balenciaga’s garments also have humble origins: his semi-fitted suits were based on the smocks worn by sailors in Getaria, the coastal village in Basque country where he was born. His father was one of them.

Gvasalia’s father repaired cars; his mother was a housewife. While Balenciaga was apolitical, Gvasalia wasn’t permitted that luxury. He was born in Georgia, though his family was displaced via a process of ethnic cleansing by Abkhaz separatists that ultimately expelled a quarter of a million Georgians from their homes between 1992 and 1993. He and his family relocated first to Ukraine and, with the Iron Curtain having fallen, Gvasalia’s father shifted, unexpectedly, to a lucrative business of importing hitherto restricted goods into Russia – mineral water, caviar. Fashion wasn’t such a great leap for Gvasalia, although he first got a degree in economics before going against his parents’ wishes and studying how to design clothes. He then began to work with other brands in Paris – namely Maison Martin Margiela and Louis Vuitton – before starting Vetements. It’s a far cry from the apocryphal origin story of a precocious Balenciaga, remarking as an 11-year-old on the elegance of the Marquesa de Casa Torres as she passed in a tailleur by the turn-of-the-century couture house Drecoll. Sometimes he’s 13, sometimes she’s wearing Worth. In all the stories, she allowed him to copy it, which he did with prodigious skill, and a star was born.

As Gvasalia and I speak, surrounded by remnants of the maison’s past on the outskirts of Paris, preparations are underway to disinter the literal house of Balenciaga on avenue George V. The man himself didn’t live there, of course – although his directrice of couture, an icy woman referred to only as Mademoiselle Renée and a fervent acolyte, had an apartment on the top floor. Cristóbal Balenciaga’s own home was around the corner on avenue Marceau, at number 28, but his life was in 10 avenue George V. There’s a charge to the building – an imprint remains of the events it bore witness to. Balenciaga sat there, brooding and melancholy, devising silhouettes, inventing fabrics, shifting fashion. His clothes were sewn there, in stark ateliers that his former assistant André Courrèges described in religious terms: “Pure white, unornamented and intensely silent. People whispered and walked on tiptoe, and even the clients talked in hushed voices.” Those clients saw Balenciaga’s clothes in fashion shows from which the press was habitually excluded, in oddly fanciful white salons with stucco scrolls, Louie-hooey curve-backed couches and urn-shaped lamps on plaster pedestals. In complete silence, a cabine of models of unconventional beauty – less flatteringly dubbed “monsters” by the press – paraded clothes that, in their masterful cut, transformed not only the direction of fashion, but also the ways in which people saw themselves. Sleeves sliced at three-quarter length elongated arms; collars shrugged away from the neck extended the profile – silhouettes breathed easy, bodies were free.

For the past 30 years or so, those stately salons where Balenciaga showed clothes that redefined fashion, had been stripped back to brick. Most recently, they were stacked with boxes of Balenciaga’s bestselling Triple S trainers – a symbol if ever there was one of the couture house’s recalibration to the demands of the 21st-century luxury market. “Blasphemous,” is the word used by Gvasalia. Now the boxes are gone, replaced by a breathtakingly precise facsimile of the original interior – stucco, sofas, urns and all – less reproduction than resurrection, executed by a Berlin architectural practice named Sub and based on plentiful archival footage and photographs. But it isn’t exactly right: the walls are grimy, white darkened to a dingy grey, the silken curtains tidemarked. Like those creased silk dresses and plucked embroideries, its attitude is disrespect – as if the house of Balenciaga has been left to rot.

The inspiration, Gvasalia said, was the relatively recent unearthing of an apartment in the 9th arrondissement of Paris once owned by an actress named Marthe de Florian. It was closed up at the outbreak of the second world war and only opened again in 2010: water had leaked in, staining walls, curtains had faded and greyed with dust. Gvasalia wanted the same in George V. “It has to really feel like the passage of time, which I think is the most beautiful thing,” he says. Hence a ‘patination’ team spent the month before the show basically living from the space, “spilling Coca-Cola in the morning, smoking, dipping ash a little bit everywhere”, according to Gösta Andreas Lönn Grill, one of the team’s designers, to speed up the ageing process and make it seem as if 53 years had elapsed since the white carpets were last trod. “It’s a time machine, somehow,” says Gvasalia. Or like a tomb cracked open: the Norwegian “olfactory artist” Sissel Tolaas even created a scent by taking molecules from that leather-clad elevator, from old textiles and from the key notes of the fragrances worn by clients attending those final couture shows. “They really smell like the past,” Gvasalia says.

Gvasalia’s couture ateliers are based not at avenue George V but at Balenciaga’s headquarters on the Left Bank, a cruciform building that formerly housed a hospital, built around an old chapel. Surgery meeting religion feels very Balenciaga – and Gvasalia and the atelier workers all operate wearing white cotton coats, the face masks necessary for such up-close and personal work in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic giving the scene an undeniably clinical bent. Each garment is fitted on a new cabine of models who, like Cristóbal Balenciaga’s, are unconventional: a forty-something digital-marketing strategist named Susanne Theimer from Cologne, a collector of avant-garde art called Karen Boros, the contemporary artist Eliza Douglas (who opened this couture show and also Gvasalia’s first ready-to-wear show in 2016), and Kamala Harris’s fashion-conscious, newsworthy stepdaughter Ella Emhoff. Other faces are hidden under the collection’s many giant flying saucer hats by Philip Treacy. There are also men – Gvasalia proposing couture inspired not only by Cristóbal Balenciaga’s designs but his own attire. The house collaborated with Huntsman, Balenciaga’s Savile Row tailor, on suiting in crisp barathea and fresco wools, like he would have worn. One alone required three weeks of hand-stitching to perfect. “There is not a single machine stitch on it,” Gvasalia says. “That, for me, is kind of the epitome of craftsmanship.”

“We tried to step into those pictures from the past” – Demna Gvasalia

Couture on any model’s body is a proposition for a client – an unreality, even if it isn’t worn by a supermodel. Yet Gvasalia doesn’t intend this to be a vanity project: this is couture to be bought and sold. The house has engaged a directrice, formerly of Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent. She was gardening when she received the call. “I think that’s the challenge of couture today,” Gvasalia says. “It’s far from dying out. Of course, if you see couture as something for old rich ladies and don’t dust it off, then it doesn’t have a future. But if you put that craft in the spotlight, it can have a relevance. Even for the younger generation – especially when everything is available, when every brand does a logo T-shirt, that’s exactly when people start to value other things. I’m not talking about masses, it’s a small circle of people who can appreciate this, but they are there. And it does balance the rest.” By the rest, Gvasalia means the rest of Balenciaga’s offering today – the ready-to-wear, the handbags, the trainers and logo T-shirts. But the couture – which has its own label and logotype, its own packaging, and shows independently from the ready-to-wear, and only once a year – stands alone. “I like the idea of it being two separate things,” he says. “There is more of an aesthetic influence that I believe will be transmitted to the ready-to-wear. This sophisticated elegance. But not trying to mimic the complexity of craftsmanship that I can have in couture. Because it will never be possible, within the price range as well. This is why I don’t even want to try that.” He pauses. “I’d rather have couture as an inspiration.”

Relaunching Balenciaga’s couture operation is a tricky business. Haute couture requires phenomenal investment – prices begin in the upper five figures, and soar, due to the hours of handwork invested in every piece. It is entirely made to measure, for each individual client, so no corners can be cut. Balenciaga has not only employed a directrice but has assembled, from scratch, workrooms devoted to tailoring and flou – the evocative French term for light dressmaking – in the most traditional and formal manner. Every sample garment is labelled with the name of the atelier in which it is produced and the model’s name it is specifically fitted to. As Cristóbal decreed, each model wears only garments specially made for them. The house has also collaborated with craft houses and fabric manufacturers who originally worked with Balenciaga to devise new weaves and techniques: the embroiderers Maison Lesage and Atelier Montex, the textile houses of Dormeuil, Jakob Schlaepfer, Taroni and Forster Rohner. “It’s quite touching to go back to the craft,” Gvasalia says. “It died out, in a way.”

The archival references, by and large, aren’t the milestones that fashion dorks would expect Gvasalia to reimagine. There’s no rehash of the 1950 evening gown of two balloons of taffeta, the feather-embroidered extravaganzas of the 1960s, the extraordinary trapezoid four-sided cocktail dress of winter 1967 that made sitting impossible. There aren’t even the Spanish laces, the embroidered toreador boleros, the cocoon coats, those semi-fitted little skirt suits. “I didn’t use my brain so much, I used my instinct,” Gvasalia says of the design process. “Every time I listen to my gut, it’s always a decision that makes sense in the end.”

Back in the archive, off to one side, there is a massive, blown-up publicity portrait of Cristóbal Balenciaga propped against a concrete column. It is Balenciaga in the 1950s, when he was in his sixties – no longer matinee idol handsome, as when he first opened his house in Paris, but still good-looking, albeit with deep frown lines, one hand hiding a receding chin of which he was always self-conscious. Portraits of Balenciaga are rare – he was the first couturier who refused to bow after his shows and declined interview requests until after his retirement. He also never employed a press attaché. His photographic likeness seems to stare dispassionately at a beyond-life-sized mid-century portrait by Bernard Buffet of his wife, Annabel, regal in a 1959 Balenciaga ballgown. She looks like an infanta, albeit painted in a spiky, expressionist style rather than the faultless technique of Diego Velázquez, whose stately Las Meninas constantly echoes in Balenciaga’s clothing. He also admired Francisco de Zurbarán, whose work depicted not the richness of the Spanish court but the simplicity of nuns, monks and martyrs. Perhaps it was to emulate the almost sculptural draped fabrics of Zurbarán that Balenciaga challenged the Swiss textile firm Abraham to invent a new fabric, gazar, an architectural and crisp silk that held its shape like plywood. Inspired by cotton bandages, it took them three years to perfect. For a decade after its creation in 1958, Balenciaga carved shapes out with gazar, transforming women into walking bubbles, upturned pyramids or arum lilies of fabric.

An example of the latter, a sculptural wedding dress from 1967, will be revisited by Gvasalia as the finale look for his couture show. It’s an unconventionally direct homage – one of those well-avoided milestones. “I couldn’t not do it,” Gvasalia says. “It’s impossible without that. But we tried to do something else with it. We were like, ‘OK, let’s do it like this, or let’s do it like this. Let’s change the darts here.’ Trying to be more clever,” he rolls his eyes. “Or, I don’t know, like more construction conscious than Cristóbal. And we just ended up replicating the dress. There was no way it could be better.” They did change the fabric – the silk-wool mix has a worn feel, as if it had been drawn from the archives. “And we did change the hat, that particular hat, into a veil.” The headpiece, originally, was known as the “coal scuttle”, a helmet of fabric that resembles something out of Star Wars and has been ripped off endlessly since. “There is something quite absurd about the wedding dress in today’s context,” Gvasalia says. Which is strange, given that bridal gowns are often seen as contemporary couture’s raison d’être – if you’re going to spend six figures on a dress, it’s probably for holy matrimony. After all, that last dress Cristóbal Balenciaga ever made, after his couture house closed and just months before he died, was a wedding dress.

Gvasalia taps the box holding his newly made old-looking bodice, its neckline scooping shallow across an imaginary collarbone. It will later be attached to a wide skirt, worn over men’s wool trousers. “In that dress, I do reference Cristóbal’s silhouette of the Infanta, where he references Velázquez paintings,” Gvasalia says. “Luckily we do have this history, so we can build on that.” A reference to a reference – you find that elsewhere in the collection. Sometimes the reference is even to Gvasalia’s own work at Balenciaga, his translation of Cristóbal’s couture attitude into ready-to-wear bouncing right back to couture again. Take look 17, a hazmat-orange gabardine suit with the jacket shrugged off the shoulders, neck wrenched wide open – it’s an open reference to his debut Balenciaga show, where he pulled the necks apart on trench coats and padded jackets to emulate the shape of grandiose opera coats. “But this orange jacket, it required so much work that could never have been done in ready-to-wear,” Gvasalia says. “In my first collection for Balenciaga, when I started opening the shoulder line ... that was a very easy construction. You made a huge dart, basically, swinging the shape to the back. But when you wear it, it doesn’t behave the same way. This was like an upgrade, completely crazy, pattern-making acrobatics.” He smiles, shrugs. “It’s couture.”

“For me, it was the beginning of a new era. I’m not talking about Balenciaga, but about myself as a designer. It was a moment I have been looking forward to and been quite afraid of” – Demna Gvasalia

Two months later, the first Balenciaga couture show since 1968 – the 50th in total, a satisfying number – takes place at 11.30am on the 7th of July. The context is historical: the recreated salons are filled with spindly gold chairs, a carnation placed on each. The air does indeed smell old. “I wanted to underline the timelessness of couture,” Gvasalia said. “We tried to step into those pictures from the past.” The show was staged during the first physical haute couture presentations since January 2020. That was important for Gvasalia – he waited to showcase the collection until he could do so in person – what’s another few months when you’ve waited since 1968? “The screen makes everything so flat – and of course, you cannot see that broken embroidery, the craft,” he says. “There is something quite majestic about couture being worn.”

When the show began, no one really realised. It began without the thud of music common to most shows, and especially to those of Balenciaga under Gvasalia – his husband, Loïk Gomez, a French musician under the moniker BFRND, creates all the soundtracks. This collection, however, would be shown in silence, another unexpected homage to Cristóbal and to haute couture tradition. “Cristóbal loved silence,” says Gvasalia. It’s quite intimidating. “Here it’s all about the garments.” Silence, he says, makes the experience not less but even more intense. “I wanted to use microphones, to amplify. But that would be fake. With a lot of fabrics we’re using, you do hear them. There are trains, a carpet that rubs. It’s almost fetishistic.”

The collection dances between those different interpretations of attitude, between respect and repudiation. Models wear embroidered evening gowns, sure, but also the tailoring based on Cristóbal’s personal wardrobe, while Mona von Bismarck opera coats morph into the ski anoraks he sewed in his own ateliers. Male models walk in high heels – Gvasalia wanted them to change the posture and deportment of the wearers, many of whom had to be specially trained. “The gay guys were fine,” Gvasalia says. The collection’s striking, sometimes searing colours are even drawn from Balenciaga fabric swatches in the archive – the orange, the pink, an electric blue, sealed in cardboard boxes so untouched by time. Polka dots come from the archives too. Gvasalia’s couture T-shirt is in padded silk, with a matching stole. It’s an accessory he uses a lot, a couture gesture. There are also lots of gloves, sometimes built into tops to streamline and perfect. Jewellery is based on original pieces displaced, so elaborate spherical brooches can become earrings or perhaps cocktail rings. Pauline de Rothschild once stated that the wit was on the head chez Balenciaga – Cristóbal’s milliners were also his life partners, Ramón Esparza and Wladzio Jaworowski d’Attainville, so they were perhaps afforded more liberties than most. Here, the sole headpiece is a Treacy dome, like a shallow inverted fruit bowl, flocked with velvet or high-gloss lacquer. “It’s like a car varnish,” says Gvasalia. “I wanted to have some kind of almost futuristic touch. A bit alien.”

Jeans in Balenciaga’s couture salon are also alien and futuristic. Gvasalia’s denims are woven in Japan, riveted and buttoned in sterling silver, lined in silk. “People think I literally just take one thing and put a brand name on it,” Gvasalia says. “It’s not that at all.” There is, perhaps, a sense that Gvasalia – still, after six years – feels the need to prove himself worthy of the Balenciaga name. “Accepting the wedding dress – the ingenuity of how this wedding dress was made in the 1960s – was letting go of that fear of not being innovative in every look. Not transforming everything that I took for this collection as a reference from Cristóbal into something completely new,” he says. “For a designer like me, that’s difficult.” Following Gvasalia’s rumpled Astroturf-green opera coat and the fucked-up Infanta evening gown, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s wedding dress swept through the salons of his house. He hadn’t changed a thing.

After the show, a lull. The evening afterwards, there’s a dinner in the new art foundation established by the Pinault family in the centre of Paris. Gvasalia wears the high-heeled men’s shoes he had debuted barely nine hours earlier. There’s a performance by Bryan Ferry – “I thought he felt quite couture,” Gvasalia said, laughing. The next day, he travelled back to Zurich with his husband.

“For me, it was the beginning of a new era.” Gvasalia sounds a bit fuzzy on the phone from Switzerland. But he’s pleased. “I’m not talking about Balenciaga, but about myself as a designer. It was a moment I have been looking forward to and been quite afraid of.”

Is he still afraid? “I feel at peace,” Gvasalia says. “I never really knew that feeling within the context of my work, to feel at peace. I always felt quite agitated, nervous, before the show, anxious. I had this anxiety before the show yesterday – I forgot how it feels, actually. It’s been over a year since I had to do a show in real life. It felt again like the first time – something physical, in your stomach, almost. I couldn’t understand if I liked it or not, and just before the show I realised I love it. It’s the tension – fashion is about a tension, and then you release. I felt like I released something that has been incubating in me for a long time. Not only one year, I think much longer. That release brought me to this feeling of peacefulness.”

Gvasalia breathes out. “It’s not really about that collection so much as my personal relationship with fashion. Through couture, I found peace with it.”

Hair: Akemi Kishida at Blend Management using ORIBE. Make-up: Anthony Preel at Artlist. Models: Binta Diacko at Fever, Marie Agnès Diène at The Claw, Adama Konate at Girl Mgmt, Azenor Le Dily at Supreme, Gritli and Sori at Keva Legault, Marius and Boris at Tomorrow Is Another Day and Lisa Williamson at The Face. Casting: Julia Lange Casting. Casting associate: Mathilde Curel. Photographic assistant: Léa Guintrand. Styling assistants: Emmanuelle Ramos and Matthieu Bertorello. Hair assistant: Yulia Pantiukhina. Make-up assistant: Azusa Kumakura. Production: TheLink Mgmt. On-set producer: Gwenaelle Wieners

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.

Taira, B, Sakeema, Tom and Charley Vivienne Westwood cover

A New Generation of Fashion Designers on How Vivienne Westwood Inspires

In a shoot by Casper Sejersen and Ellie Grace Cumming, pieces by Vivienne Westwood and her former pupil Andreas Kronthaler are joined by garments by 12 new designers whose approaches echo her working methods

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

Before she began her career in fashion, half a century ago now, Vivienne Westwood trained as a primary school teacher. It’s a mindset that has informed her work from the outset – occasionally, she still describes herself as a teacher, and has always created clothes that reflect that – to communicate a theory, to educate. Great teachers inspire: through her unparalleled creativity Westwood has tutored entire generations. For more than a decade her focus has been to draw attention to the plight of the planet through her clothes, of course, and also powerful graphics that trace back to her work in the 1970s. Her latest is a pack of playing cards that lays out a strategy to save the world. Across these pages, pieces by Westwood and her former pupil Andreas Kronthaler – today her husband and the creative director of her top-line collection – are joined by a new group of designers whose garments echo her working methods and draw infinite inspiration from her.

“We are looking through the lens of a changing world.
If the human race does not turn the telescope around we face mass extinction.
Climate change will reach tipping point.
I’ve been trying to save the world from climate change since the foundation of Climate Revolution 15 years ago, and now I’m up to Card 37 – back and front – I’m nearly there.
I’ve got my message across.
We’re already working on it! Follow me”
– Vivienne Westwood

Inheritance

A new generation of fashion designers on how Vivienne Westwood inspires.

CHARLES JEFFERY

“There’s no denying that Vivienne and Andreas have paved the way for me and my work. I feel like I’m from the same planet as them and have my own little island on it. Matty, too. It’s like we are sending smoke signals to each other and sending ships across the sea, with good tidings.”

MATTY BOVAN

“Growing up I saw the world a bit differently, and I believe Vivienne did too. She doesn’t believe in conformity, and she and Andreas like to push the idea of what is acceptable. That is a great, great thing to do and why their work speaks to so many people world-wide. Vivienne has taught me to truly believe in myself and to gain knowledge of how and where things are made. To question.”

JUNTAE KIM

“For me, her clothes liberate the body. When I first designed menswear, I used to come up against the limitations of what men’s clothes should be. But Vivienne has helped destroy these stereotypes, the idea that certain clothes are only for certain genders and classes. That means freedom.”

MARVIN DESROC

“I love Vivienne’s resilience. I can’t think of one time that she’s bent to the rules of the industry – even the word ‘industry’ can’t be associated with her. When we talk about Vivienne, we talk about art, emotion, design – that’s what I’ve always loved about her. She’s an artist, yet has been able to last in this business without ever compromising who she is. Meanwhile Andreas’s energy and spirit are out of this world. It’s so refreshing to see – I love unconventional men.”

“I feel like I’m from the same planet as them and have my own little island on it. Matty, too. It’s like we are sending smoke signals to each other and sending ships across the sea, with good tidings” – Charles Jeffrey

CECILY OPHELIA

“Vivienne is the first fashion designer I remember remembering. When I was 16, I found the phone number for the Vivienne Westwood office and rang up, asking if I could come to the studio for a meeting about an internship. I went the next day. Attending fittings with Andreas taught me so much – he is unpredictable yet meticulous, a very good combination. And Vivienne has helped me to recognise the importance of craftsmanship and sustainability. Valuing the process of time serves both as a therapy and a protest against the voracious cycle of the fashion treadmill.”

JULIAN CERRO

“My favourite show is Spring/Summer 1994, Café Society. Kate Moss, topless, licking a Magnum ice cream, wearing the shortest skirt ever, with 18th-century make-up. What more could you want?”

HASEEB HASSAN

“Growing up in Pakistan, I wasn’t really aware of fashion, let alone the idea I could choose it as a career. Vivienne and Andreas have helped me open up and explore ideas while also being unapologetic about my background. For me, studying fashion is going against the grain – Vivienne and Andreas’s work taught me to be myself and to believe in what you do if you feel passionately about it.”

STEVEN STOKEY-DALEY

“Vivienne Westwood represents the characterful unpacking and subversion of the British wardrobe – the art of dressing, of reappropriating content within garments, of reinterpreting that into fashion.”

“She paved the way for people like me – with courageous moves like opening a store with ‘SEX’ written out the front in giant pink letters. She helped open the door for provocative female designers” – Michaela Stark

A SAI TA

“What’s so special about Vivienne is her spirit, her attitude and the fact that she didn’t come from a traditional fashion-school education – you can see that she plays by her own rules. Vivienne taught me to do me, to speak my mind, to be brave and fearless. Education doesn’t only have to come from school – if anything, you must unlearn what education systems have taught and search wider.”

MICHAELA STARK

“It is, I’m sure, glaringly obvious how much Vivienne has influenced my practice as a designer. She paved the way for people like me – with courageous moves like opening a store with ‘SEX’ written out the front in giant pink letters. She helped open the door for provocative female designers.”

FLINT J MCDONALD

“It’s the appreciation of the past for me, how she translates that to the now. I’ve always been into history and historical garments – the construction and cut of those clothes is so interesting to dissect and play with. Westwood triumphs at that. Playing with British heritage as she and Andreas do is a real turn-on for me. And their appreciation of quality – I’m a sucker for a luscious fabric.”

EMMA CHOPOVA & LAURA LOWENA

“Westwood was a designer we always looked up to as kids. The combination of preferences, punk and historical dress has had a very strong impact on us and has shaped us so much as designers. The DIY attitude inspired us to get into fashion – to just try making stuff without the fear of everything [having to be] perfect.”

Hair: Eugene Souleiman at Streeters. Hair for portraits of Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler, and Michaela Stark: Kei Terada at Julian Watson Agency using OUAI. Make-up: Janeen Witherspoon at MA and Talent. Models: B at Idal, Charley Dean Sayers at Premier Model Management, Nicola Dinan at Xdirectn, Tom Goddard at Contact, Kyra Kaur and Taira at Storm Management and Sakeema Peng Crook at Crumb. Casting: Nicola Kast at Webber. Casting assistant: Julia Gilmour. Set design: Amy Stickland at Webber. Digital tech: Nic Bezzina. Digital tech for portraits: Sam Hearn. Photographic assistants: Matt Moran, Bradley Polkinghorne, Sean Morrow and Jack Storer. Styling assistants: Isabella Kavanagh, Ioana Ivan and Cari Lima. Hair assistants: Claire Moore, Massimo Di Stefano and Carlo Avena. Hair assistant for portraits: Takumi Horiwaki. Make-up assistant: Elizabeth Owen Perry. Set-design assistants: Harry Stayt and Molly Marot. Set-design assistant for portraits: Lizzy Gilbert. Production: Artistry.

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.

Louise Robert model cover Jackie Nickerson AnOther Mag

Jackie Nickerson Captures the Season’s Boldest, Bravest Looks

See Jackie Nickerson and Katie Shillingford’s wild distillation of the Autumn/Winter 2021 collections – both in image and film

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

Hair: Soichi Inagaki at Art Partner. Make-up: Anne Sophie Costa at Streeters using MAC. Hair colourist for Louise Robert: Tasha Spencer at Bleach London. Models: Louise Robert at Viva London and Zinnia Kumar at The Society Management. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Digital tech: Christopher Blythe at Lightmill. Photographic assistant: Pierre Lequeux. Styling assistant: George Pistachio

Cinematography: Lightmill Media. Editor: Carolina Aguirre Barrandeguy

This shoot 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.

Kiki Willems Craig McDean AnOther Magazine cover 2021

Cover Story: Inside the World of Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen

Ten years after her first solo collection for Alexander McQueen was shown in Paris, the house’s creative director speaks on craft, community and the power of femininity

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.

A little-appreciated fact: Sarah Burton first arrived at Alexander McQueen in 1996. She has been with the house for 25 years now, a quarter of a century and more than half her life. It remains the stuff of fashion legend that, back then, the Prestbury-raised, Saint Martins-educated designer – then named Sarah Heard – was on an internship, introduced to McQueen by Simon Ungless, her print tutor and his friend and collaborator. While she went back to finish her degree – she was diligent from the offset – she returned to McQueen in 1997. And never left.

Despite that background, this has undoubtedly been a formative decade for Burton. Her first solo collection for Alexander McQueen was shown during the Spring/Summer 2011 Paris season, exactly ten years before this one. Throughout that time, she has been widely celebrated – even loved – making the transition from first assistant to her mentor to creative director of an international fashion brand. She helms an awe-inspiring and closely guarded legacy that she helped to create, today perpetuating and reinventing it season after season. And she oversees absolutely everything – womenswear, menswear, accessories, campaigns, communications, retail concepts. Burton has created an educational studio space – home to presentations including Unlocking Stories and Roses – opening up the layered and complex process behind the creation of McQueen collections past and present on the top floor of the Bond Street flagship store. She conceived the design of that too, along with the architect Smiljan Radic, using a concept that has now been rolled out across the world to 65 McQueen stores. She has held workshops for students covering everything from research to sketching to draping. More recently, Burton has worked with young teenagers, producing smaller sizes of McQueen designs for them and giving them materials with which to customise their pieces, encouraging them to style themselves and be photographed with their contemporaries.

Burton does this because she is driven, and always has been, by a love of her work, by a dedication to her craft and a belief that a human being’s potential to create is vitally important. She says herself: “I think we are very lucky to have a creative way to express how we feel. Through our jobs, we say how we feel.” And there is great joy in that. And this despite any past sadness, though that was considerable too. She would like the act of creation to give children “a sense of release with no fear attached to it – and that’s a great thing”. She would like “to give something back”.

Burton’s Spring/Summer 2021 womenswear collection for Alexander McQueen marks something of a departure, both in its appearance and the way in which it was shown. In place of a catwalk presentation came a film, First Light – a collaboration with the director Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin, Sexy Beast). It was shot, as the rather beautiful name suggests, at dawn, on the banks of the River Thames, against the London skyline and pale autumnal skies: a backdrop that feels meaningful to this fashion name above all others. Glittering modernist structures jostle for position by the magnificent 18th-century dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the destruction caused by the Great Fire of London, it is a metaphor for the beauty that may come from tragedy. It feels apt today. In September 2010, St Paul’s was, of course, the location for a memorial service for the house’s founder, Lee Alexander McQueen, who died in February that same year. There are Victorian bridges in First Light, too: lovers embrace and picnickers recline beneath their heavy iron girders. McQueen himself and Burton with, and then after him, continuously looked to that era for inspiration. Victorian bodices, elaborate embroideries, savagely beautiful corsets and sharp gentlemen’s tailoring – for him, and for her – are constant McQueen references, all juxtaposed with modernity: experimental fabrication, proportion and cut. Like those skyscrapers next to Wren’s cupola, this evokes a sense of timeless beauty, a comforting familiarity alongside an arresting, exciting strangeness.

In First Light, a woman sits in the mud by the water dressed in a deconstructed corseted dress in softest pink with an asymmetric skirt in layer upon layer of raw-edged tulle. Said skirts are well and truly muddied, then, and this too is an image that evokes quintessential McQueen. The raw and the refined, the old and the new, the elemental and the urban, the fragile and the strong. Those contrasts – paradoxes – are central to the house’s handwriting.

A move forwards, perhaps, but Burton refers to this collection as “a homecoming” of kinds. That is at least partly a result of the circumstances in which it was created – McQueen himself famously started out with next to nothing in terms of resources – fabrics were sourced from anywhere and everywhere, often bought cheaply from market stalls, used to create magic. Alexander McQueen in 2021 is very different to Alexander McQueen in the early 1990s – yet this season, there were parallels. Certainly, Burton and her team had less immediately to hand than usual, in every sense. Without the initial inspirational research trip – Wales, Ireland, the cities and countryside of the north of England, the wilds of Cornwall and Wiltshire have all been visited in recent times – the McQueen team instead looked inwards. They made the collection’s initial toiles in their kitchens, dyed fabrics in their gardens, and cut, draped and sewed pieces from start to finish at home. Much of their work was done by hand.

Homecoming, at home. Sarah Burton was raised in the north of England, but home for the label means London. It has always been based in the city – though it usually shows as part of Paris’s biannual prêt-à-porter. That location emphasises the couture quality that characterises Burton’s work: by contrast, this is a collection inspired by the capital’s deserted streets, by the spirit of a city that is loved by all who work at Alexander McQueen. And it revealed hidden depths that may once have been taken for granted but that, at this point in its history in particular, shine. If Paris means the fantasy of couture, London means reality – not necessarily harsh, but with grit. Men’s City tailoring, workwear, denim, the leather jackets of punks, mods and rockers, the trench coats of the Great War – all, incidentally, modern wardrobe archetypes, ripe for study. Some are cross-bred, like Victorian botanical specimens: they become hybrids, that word is also a part of the McQueen vernacular.

Necessity became the mother of invention, but also intention. The result of this work was a collection more essential, less embellished, though far from straightforward. Aesthetically, there are none of the fairy-tale embroideries more recently associated with the label – exquisite for sure, yet to the woman behind them, not as central to the fashion conversation for now. But the core of McQueen – its heart and soul – is evident throughout, is seen in every garment. That soul is, of course, the cut: this refers back to McQueen in its nascency, at which point pattern-making drove it, whether that pattern was cut in Prince of Wales check or indeed rubber, metal or wood. Perhaps with that in mind, the aforementioned toiles themselves, the process of fashion, became part of the final result: couture silhouettes realised in humble fabrics, every detail of cut, proportion, finish and, most importantly, shape emphasised in their purity. Decoration was replaced with structure, garments turned inside out to expose the labour – and love – that went into them. Today, they seem more lovely than any embroidery.

For Burton, who learnt first-hand from McQueen, there was a sense of liberation in going back to this way of working, to “stripping back”. She told this magazine in 2012: “I realised almost immediately – pattern-cutting, that was what it was all about. As the stories go, you’d go home in the evening and come back the following morning and there would be these incredible things that Lee had stayed up all night to make. It was never just a job. And I never stopped learning.” She describes this collection as “a study of clothing and a study of character”. Garments frame the faces and hold the bodies of the people wearing them, empowering never overpowering, characterful and revealing character indeed. The only motifs, meanwhile, are doves – symbols of love, birds of peace – and a digital and photographic print of an archive McQueen boned tulle corset: a dress on a dress, a skirt, a T-shirt. It feels like the ghost of a garment.

Today, Burton makes more than a few incredible things of her own. Working with a still relatively small and close-knit team of people – she calls it a creative community, and if she is proud of anything, she is of that – she cuts, sews and weaves her form of magic. Hers are instantly recognisable pieces, intense and exceptionally special – individual. Increasingly there is a reality to her designs that perhaps belies the workmanship that goes into them: even the most apparently simple garment may be toiled four or five times to ensure it fits precisely how its creator wishes. These are garments inspired by a belief in the value of handwork, in the emotional power of clothing and an unwavering conviction to keep going: “to perfect and perfect and perfect”. Burton is a shy and modest person, which, given her profession, might be considered unusual. She is brave too, though, and perhaps more McQueen in her sense of purpose and ability to make the seemingly impossible happen than she has ever given herself credit for. There is a sense of freedom in her more recent work that makes that all the more evident, a feeling of her own personality in the work that she does. While she is entirely sensitive to the foundations this modern, British house is built on – indeed she has long been pivotal to it – Alexander McQueen, the man, thrived on beautiful chaos and hers is a quieter, gentler universe. Still, “I’m a woman, but that doesn’t make me a fluffy romantic,” she says.

Burton’s allegiance to the house of Alexander McQueen runs deeper than mere respect for a world-renowned brand or excitement at the opportunity to examine and recode its meaning. Creating in her central-London studio – where at least some members of the team have been with McQueen as long as she has or “since he was here” – she produces work for the label that is a labour of love, inspired by craft, community and the power of femininity in every incarnation.

AnOther Magazine: Rather than talking to the press after you showed Jonathan Glazer’s film of your collection, you wanted people to make up their own minds, to have feelings this season. That was interesting because that’s how it used to be. People who wrote about and edited fashion didn’t talk to designers after each show. It all felt more remote in some ways, but freer in others. Do you think that the time we are living in – the distance created by the pandemic and the lockdowns – almost gives us more space to think in that way again. To have feelings.

Sarah Burton: I think this has been a year when there has been so much noise and so much constant media, 24 hours a day, that it felt to me like information overload. I felt numbed by it. I wanted to do a film that moved people and therefore wanted them to have their own opinion, to know what they really thought. Sometimes I think the system undermines that, undermines brilliant writers by telling them what to think. Lee always used to say he didn’t care what people thought as long as they felt something. It was important to me that people felt something this time.

AM: How was the process of shooting the film? How did it compare to staging a show?

SB: I loved working with Jonathan Glazer. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work and he has such a clear vision. It was very exciting, inspiring and creative, in the purest sense, to do something different in a year when everything changed. Making a film instead of a show made it somehow very important to talk about human connection, it was about a series of intimate moments and people coming together. It made me think about characters and clothes more, and how those characters moved in the clothes, who those characters were. It opened up a whole world of McQueen women and men.

AM: You talked about coming home, shooting in London, against the London skyline. Perhaps part of the reason for shooting here was practical, but it seemed to mean more to you than that.

SB: Pretty much the first thing that Jonathan and I discussed when I showed him the line-up was that we wanted to shoot the film in London. It was much more than just a practicality. It would have been easier to shoot in any park or in nature. Because I knew hardly anyone was going to be able to see the clothes in the flesh, it was more important than ever to give them a three-dimensional appearance. They had to look like a silhouette. I didn’t design them for a flat screen, they had to move. We always design like that. The clothes have to work from every angle.

AM: It’s a cliché maybe, but perhaps having so many things taken away from us makes us appreciate the things we do have more than ever.

SB: The whole situation with Covid-19 made me really appreciate my brilliant team and how amazing working in London is. Everything was shut and, even though I have lived here for years – for most of my life, in fact – I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. It was as if an amazing peace had descended on London. Lee was born in London and the city is so integral to what the house is about that it felt like the right place to be. It has such spirit. We also went back to designing in the way we did when we very first started out, looking at the essentials of what we really needed to make something work. We made the film very early in the morning. It was magical. The sun was rising, which made everything look more sharp, more intense. The Thames is a part of London that has never changed, it’s a place where the old and the new come together, where St Paul’s is next to very modern structures but the overall effect is somehow timeless. It’s not perfect but there’s beauty in that too. Whatever else has happened, the Thames remains the same. It’s like a lifeline, a vein – it breathes. It makes you think of paintings and poems. And because it was so empty, everything seemed more intense – amplified.

AM: The idea of the old and the new coming together is also very much at the heart of Alexander McQueen, the past informing the present and the future, and a sense of history being embedded in the clothes has always been part of the storytelling process.

SB: I think it’s exactly that. We always look back to go forward, whether it’s looking back at a period in history or looking back at McQueen’s own history, looking back at a show or a technique or even a pleat or a dart ... The important thing is that it then twists and becomes relevant to people now. Especially at the moment, you want to understand that there are things you can rely on, things that are familiar. The whole world is in chaos, so you want a sense of stability. So, taking a trench coat and subverting it, or taking a white shirt and changing it to the point where it becomes McQueen enough to be a piece in itself.

AM: You showed menswear and womenswear together in the film. Why?

SB: The process of designing the collections was very much linked. It was about characters and the way they interact, about how characters – and people – relate to one another. Increasingly we are bringing McQueen womenswear and menswear closer together, there is an ongoing conversation between the two. There are references to women’s in the men’s and vice versa. We’ve been doing that for some time now.

“Making this collection was pretty much the one thing that I wasn’t worried about when we first went into lockdown. Then, once we finally came back into the studio, these characters appeared. The clothes themselves were almost like characters – individual. Maybe because people had more time to work on one piece, they almost became more special. You had to be more decisive about what you wanted, about what you really wanted to say” – Sarah Burton, January 2021

AM: In some ways the collection marks a return to the spirit of early McQueen – the relatively humble fabrics, the stripping of embellishment, the idea of London, inspiration from street culture and British tradition. Did you feel that?

SB: It was about stripping back. It felt right to do something very pure in silhouette, something about form and construction. For me, this is not the right time for ostentation or fantasy in clothes. You want something that is very human, very real. It’s like, this is where we are, this is our reality, and you can’t escape from that. It felt wrong to flee. We still had access to incredible fabrics but it felt really good to use more straightforward materials – polyfaille, denim, cotton poplin. And upcycled fabrics – parts of some garments were made in stock fabric, others were made out of remnants of lace and tulle from past collections. And the way we saw it develop wasn’t about a girl in a field but in a studio, against a plain white background, with no one on the streets outside. It’s actually much harder to make things that aren’t embellished look beautiful, because there’s nothing to hide behind – you are reliant on pattern-cutting, you can see every single detail, every single mistake. We had to perfect and perfect and perfect.

AM: You began the collection during the first lockdown. How do you think that affected the end result?

SB: During lockdown, when we were all working separately from home, I saw the team’s ability to cut patterns and make beautiful things on the stand. Lee was always about pattern-cutting and I learnt how to do that from him. Lee very much taught me how to pattern-cut and how to sew. There was something refreshing about going back to the way we worked at the beginning, about working with things that we already had. It was like, OK, we’ve all got a mannequin at home, we can all talk to each other. Let’s drape. It was very three-dimensional in approach.

AM: There is something about this moment, in a wider sense, that harks back to the early days of McQueen, to the Hoxton Square era. You were, of course, very much part of that. Do you remember that time fondly?

SB: I remember it very fondly. And the situation now heightens the fact that that was a very special time, heightens the sense of creative freedom that time represents. We were in a basement in Hoxton Square, the fabrics and looks were made on the stand with what you had to hand. Lee could make something out of what appeared to be nothing – a piece of wood, rubber, metal, inexpensive lace. We couldn’t afford to make endless toiles. We made one, draping fabric on the stand, and then the garment in the real fabric. It made you think outside the box – made you focus on pattern, shape. I remembered being part of that when we went into lockdown and felt very lucky to be used to making clothes and creating, just making things that we really believed in. I learnt so much from being in the studio with Lee. I don’t even know if those jobs exist any more, it was so hands-on. You got to touch the clothes, touch the fabric, and it’s easy to forget how rare that is.

AM: There’s an engineered tulle toile print of a McQueen dress in the collection, almost as if the ghost of a dress is printed onto another dress.

SB: I always have the feeling that clothes should be timeless and, if they’re beautifully made, stripped to the bare bones and essential, that will hopefully be the case. It’s also nice to look at the insides of clothes, which are often as beautiful as the outsides, and at how to make clothes feel relevant for today. How do we make clothes that are more considerate to the wearer, more emotionally resonant? With London feeling completely deserted – bereft – I wanted people to be able to relate to the clothes. I also wanted the collection to be bolder and stronger. I wanted to say, “It’s OK – we are carrying on.” I wanted to be brave, to make things I love and to challenge myself.

AM: You have opened up the processes behind your work in the educational space at Bond Street to students in particular. Why is that important to you?

SB: I was fortunate enough to be a student when Lee took me on and Simon Ungless, my tutor at Saint Martins, introduced me to him. I had an amazing opportunity to work as a team, as part of a creative community. It was very much like that at Hoxton Square. I wanted to show students that there are so many roles you can play within a team that are important, I wanted to demystify the idea of fashion being unapproachable as an industry. Sometimes, to work in fashion can be challenging, but I want young people to feel that anything is possible.

AM: You also work with younger communities who maybe aren’t used to being immersed in fashion. I’m thinking about your recent project in Wales in connection with your Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. You sent young teenagers looks from the collection in smaller sizes and your team travelled there and held workshops to help and inspire them, sent them packs of embroidery so they could customise their clothes, style themselves and then take pictures.

SB: I felt like we’d been to Wales and been inspired by their culture, their history and their narrative and, in the first instance, we wanted to invite some of the schoolchildren there to the show. By the time it happened, Covid-19 had kicked in so it wasn’t possible. We had already made and sent them the clothes. They customised them and styled themselves and each other and we worked with Clémentine Schneidermann and Charlotte James, who had been photographing them for a while, to document this project with us. I think we are very lucky to have a creative way to express how we feel. Through our jobs, we say how we feel. We wanted to help children understand that you don’t have to go into fashion or art but you can be creative, you can draw a picture, you can take a picture, you can style your friend. You don’t have to want to be a fashion designer, it’s a way of being heard without having to be literal. It’s a sense of release with no fear attached to it, and that’s a great thing. I also think that by the time you get to college you are already in a position of privilege and you want to be a fashion designer, but it’s not just about my job, the designer, that hierarchy. I wanted to reach out to younger children to show them what’s possible, to show children who might not otherwise understand that there are lots of different roles in fashion – whether that’s in embroidery, styling, photography. It’s not just about being a designer.

“Lee could make something out of what appeared to be nothing – a piece of wood, rubber, metal, inexpensive lace. We couldn’t afford to make endless toiles ... It made you think outside the box” – Sarah Burton

AM: You also work with specialists in highly specific techniques – many of them have been in their fields for generations. William Clark, one of the last linen beetlers in the world, for example, who treated the linen in your Spring/Summer 2020 collection.

SB: What was really great with William Clark and the work we did with linen was finding an old tradition and making it new. We asked them to beetle whole garments, which they hadn’t done before, taking the technique a step further. We produced so many of the black beetled linen jackets that they bought a new beetling machine especially for us. These crafts are becoming extinct and it’s so important to keep them alive.

AM: You often talk about community and creative community in particular. What does the word mean to you?

SB: It means my team and working together. We are a community.

AM: I’m interested in the idea of the character of women – or men – and the character of clothing, which seems to be the way you are thinking when designing collections now. Can we talk more about that?

SB: At the beginning of this process, I thought about how it is not just one woman or man we are dressing. There are all these different characters, in the studio and in the collection. The garments become these characters. They needed to live and breathe, which goes back to the idea of making a film. Each garment is an individual. The fact that people are so complex, their vulnerabilities and strengths, brings clothes to life.

AM: This collection is about wardrobe archetypes too – a trench coat, a trouser suit, a shirt dress, a pink party dress, a lace dress, a denim jacket ...

SB: It’s a study of character and a study of clothing. McQueen is always about taking something and subverting it, and I hope there’s always a sense of beauty in what we do too, a sense of reinvention and beauty in the unexpected. We are designing hybrid garments but it’s not just about two things – two familiar garments – being forced together, but about things we can immediately understand and relate to becoming something else.

AM: You often talk about the McQueen woman – your McQueen woman – being grounded. Is that part of the same conversation or something different?

SB: As a woman you have to be able to do so many things. I love that and the layers of complexity it involves. I always want to empower women, not in the obvious ways, but in ways that speak to all sides of them.

AM: Over the past decade you have done so much. You have completely rethought the collections and how they relate to each other, the campaigns, the retail concept, the social media platforms. I know that you have your team, but you are personally involved in absolutely everything, in every last stitch in a garment, every last image in a lookbook, every last comma in any written communication. When you look at what you have achieved at Alexander McQueen, how do you feel?

SB: McQueen is like my family and my life. It is like my home. People really care about each other here. My team is incredible, they’re all such different, strong personalities. Throughout this whole situation, I’ve felt that I am so fortunate to work with people I really love and respect and it’s a conversation, a conversation about making things that mean something. It is a community and quite a lot of people have been part of it since Lee was here. And that also goes back to the whole thing about not throwing away the past. It’s about constantly evolving, not discarding. It’s not about changing things as much as finding my voice in them.

Hair: Christian Eberhard at Management Artists using ORIBE. Make-up: Hannah Murray at Art and Commerce. Model: Kiki Willems at Viva London. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Manicure: Laura Forget at Artlist. Digital tech: Nicolas Fallet. Photographic assistants: Paul Jedwab, Loc Boyle and Margaux Jouanneau. Styling assistants: George Pistachio and Christelle Owona Nisin. Tailor: Sebastien Pleus. Production: Julie Sanchez at Works Production. Production assistants: Julie Rondeau, Bertrand d’Amiens and David Smit. Post-production: D-Factory

This article originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale from 8 April, 2021. Pre-order a copy here and sign up for free access to the issue here.

Adwoa Aboah Jack Davison AnOther Magazine cover 2021

Cover Story: Adwoa Aboah & Jeremy O Harris In Conversation

AnOther Magazine brings the model and playwright together over Zoom, where they discuss shifting gears, seeking pleasure and finding community

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.

As her one million Instagram followers know, there are few subjects Adwoa Aboah won’t talk about. Her candour and willingness to be openly fragile have fuelled an outpouring of overdue conversations – about mental health, social justice, sexuality and more. Her platform, Gurls Talk, founded in 2016 following Aboah’s own struggles with depression and drug addiction, is a taboo-busting, judgment-free space for young people to grapple honestly with issues large and small, both online and – pre-pandemic – in the all-welcome forums she has held around the world.

It’s a sign of Aboah’s increasing reach with her Gurls Talk mission that, these days, mention of her phenomenally successful modelling career sometimes runs a close second to her activism. A born and bred west-Londoner (albeit with an unhappy stretch spent at a Somerset boarding school), Aboah grew up around fashion – both her parents work in the industry. She signed to a model agency at the age of 16 and, a decade later, was immortalised in plastic as a Barbie, complete with her now-unmistakable freckled skin, tattoos and shaved head. It was partly that liberating buzz cut – a rebellion against the looks-driven world she was working in, and a venting of frustration after years of feeling she had to tame her ginger Afro for the camera – that catapulted Aboah onto magazine covers and into campaigns for the likes of Chanel, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Dior. She has used her position in the public eye to hold her industry to account, campaigning for safer spaces, greater inclusivity and body positivity. (She will happily swerve the filter and post a bad-skin day.) But there’s an equally important flipside to Aboah’s vocal advocacy: her ability to listen. That skill is frequently put to use in her raw and intimate Gurls Talk podcasts, during which she guides guests such as the Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo and Black Lives Matter international ambassador Janaya Future Khan through a kaleidoscope of topics with empathy and humour.

Aboah finds an unguarded, kindred spirit in Virginia-raised, New York-based playwright Jeremy O Harris. Around the same time the seeds of Gurls Talk were planted in London, Harris was writing Slave Play while still a student on Yale School of Drama’s MFA playwriting programme. The ferocious, funny and profoundly uncomfortable interrogation of the ghosts of white supremacy that resulted from his fevered late-night writing sessions found its way well beyond Harris’s classroom and even the intellectual circles of the New York theatre world – towards the end of its sold-out run off-Broadway, the likes of Rihanna, Madonna, Anna Wintour and Jake Gyllenhaal could be spotted in the audience. A few months later, his play Daddy – an exploration of the relationship between a young Black artist and an older white collector that unfolds beside a Bel Air infinity pool – also opened off-Broadway, while Harris commuted back to Yale for classes. In 2020, Slave Play caused a small cultural earthquake when it transferred to Broadway and was nominated for 12 Tonys, the most received by a non-musical play in the awards’ 74-year history.

Much like Aboah, Harris immediately set about sharing the spotlight, using his success (including a handsome deal with HBO) to support grants for young Black playwrights and donating works by Black writers to libraries across the US. He has an indefatigable way of persuading others to support his causes – he once challenged the talk-show host Seth Meyers in front of a live audience to buy and distribute 20 tickets to Slave Play; Meyers duly coughed up.

Aboah and Harris had never met in person before AnOther Magazine brought them together over Zoom, but Aboah had already identified a like-minded soul. “What I’m always wanting in a conversation is someone completely unfiltered and unafraid, and I see that not just in Jeremy’s work, but also his Instagram and the way he presents himself,” says Aboah. “I just knew our conversation would flow in a different direction.”

Jeremy O Harris: I’m so excited you asked me to do this, because I try to do things where I’m following pleasure, and from everything I know about you, you also seem to be a pleasure-seeker. It’s also wild, because I’ve been on two shoots with your sister. What is it like to be in a family that is celebrated for its beauty? That feels like an interesting family to grow up in. Did you guys always know?

Adwoa Aboah: That’s such a good question. I think you do know, because you hear grown-ups say things like, “Your daughters are so pretty.” But the way I looked at myself was so blurred and confusing I didn’t link that to, “I feel pretty and beautiful.” So I was aware that was a conversation going on around me, but it wasn’t how I felt at all.

JOH: Also, growing up anywhere in the west, it’s going to be difficult for a Black person to feel completely beautiful all the time.

AA: It was when I moved to boarding school that I felt, “I need to start dressing like that,” or, “I need to relax my hair.” Before that I don’t remember caring. But this idea of beauty has taken me a long time. Now I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fit!” It’s not even the modelling, it’s a feeling now.

JOH: You’re about the same age as me – late twenties, early thirties?

AA: I’ll be 29 this year.

JOH: I think that’s the moment you start to feel, “This is the face I have and either I’m going to love it or not.” And choosing to love it is the thing that took me into my thirties.

AA: You’re so right, it’s a choice. I have an acceptance there’s never going to be a week where, every day, I feel gassed about myself. But more often, as I’ve got older, I’m happier to be myself. Don’t get me wrong, I can be trailing through my phone and say, “Fuck, I wish I looked like that.” But there’s something reassuring about deciding that this is what I have to work with.

“The most important thing for young artists is to stay sensitive and open and vulnerable, even in a dark time. It can be very alluring to be closed off right now” – Jeremy O Harris

JOH: I’ve started collecting photographs of writers I’m obsessed with at the same age as I am now, and other pictures of them older. And I’m getting excited about leaning into the fact of being a writer, and less into the worlds I’ve also been a part of, like acting or modelling. I’m really starting to appreciate the idea of ageing gracefully as an artist. My biggest insecurity is the bags under my eyes, which are evidence of the fact that I live a life where I stay up for close to 18 hours a day. If I got rid of those, the evidence would be gone, I wouldn’t look like a writer any more!

AA: I love that idea. It’s the same with smile lines. When I see them on other people, I think it’s so sexy – I think they’re a happy, fulfilled, expressive person.

JOH: So what have you been doing during quarantine to keep up? I know this is the question everyone asks, but I’ve become obsessed with my friends who got new hobbies or really engaged with reading again. What did you do?

AA: I’ve gone through different phases. I tried to paint by numbers. I tried arts and crafts, but I didn’t like it at school and I don’t like it now. Reading, I’ve always been obsessed with, so I’ve thrown myself into that. I’m such a night owl, I’d much prefer to stay up all night and sleep half the day. Having three-hour phone calls with friends has been nice, because I never had the time to do that before. And cooking – I cooked an amazing curried crab soup the other day.

JOH: I feel like a 1950s housewife when I go food shopping. I’ll be in the aisle and get overwhelmed by all the choices and my heart will start beating really quickly – I feel like I’m in a Todd Haynes movie with a camera coming down the aisle at me. I’d rather go to a restaurant and have someone do that for me. I spent the first lockdown in London, so I got to imagine I was some writer with agoraphobia in a new city. But I had a secret, small birthday party where someone came and cooked for me. That was the ideal gift in the pandemic because I hadn’t eaten food I hadn’t made in seven months. 

AA: I’ve been spending a lot of the day dancing, from the moment I get up to the moment I go to sleep, with really, really loud music.

JOH: That’s something I miss the most – being in a nightclub, cooped up in the corner, drinking and gossiping, but having that energy of being around other people dancing.

AA: I hope we can do that soon. I also rewatched Game of Thrones for the second time.

JOH: I watched the first season begrudgingly. Then I got hit by a car walking through West Hollywood –

AA: What?!

JOH: Yeah, someone hit me, left me for dead and kept driving. This was how I found out my body rejects OxyContin – I’m really allergic to opioids. So I had to take ridiculous amounts of weed gummies instead. And being as high as I was, in a cast from my knee down, the Game of Thrones universe made sense to me all of a sudden. But I don’t think I could watch that final season again. Speaking of weird endings, how are you feeling about the fact that, this year, everything in your job – the filmmaking, the modelling – has slowed down? Have you started to think, “Maybe this could be a graceful exit for me. I could say goodbye to that and do something else when the world picks back up.”

AA: In the beginning, I needed the break. I felt quite poisonous in my body, and I had no sense of reality because I’d been on a plane and hadn’t stopped for so long. So it was a moment of calm and clarity. But it was quite uncomfortable because I haven’t known me without work for a long time. I had to start rethinking who I was without being busy. And now it’s not necessarily an exit, it’s more that I know what parts of my job I enjoy and I know I need to give space to other things. If I want to pursue acting, I have to say no to more modelling jobs and not let my ego get in the way by thinking I won’t be ‘relevant’ any more. It’s a compromise I’m willing to make. I don’t want my life to only be work any more. I need to have room for my personal life.

JOH: You mentioned ‘relevance’ – I wonder what relevance means to you? Because I had to have a big confrontation with that in the midst of Covid-19. The pandemic started right when I was supposed to have the London premiere of Daddy, which was going to lead into me announcing that Slave Play was coming to London. Then I was going to do a brand new, experimental play in New York that I thought was going to continue elevating some sense of me being ‘the voice of new, exciting theatre’. And in lockdown I was forced to think about myself and my work, and I started to realise that all the ideas I was having weren’t coming from that same, free place that Slave Play or Daddy came from. They were coming from a place of, “What else can I do to freak everyone out? Or stay in front of the conversation?” I realised relevance was the thing I was actually addicted to. What does relevance, or a lack of relevance, look like for you?

AA: In the fashion industry, and definitely being a model, relevance is quite warped and a bit poisonous. The moment when you get your break happens so fast, you’re straight on that hamster wheel. And because it’s so quick, you’re completely terrified that if you don’t say yes every single time, you’re going to lose it. Relevance to me is definitely associated with ego. Recently I’ve said no to things so I can do my acting classes, or my American-accent classes, or things related to Gurls Talk. But then ego gets in the way. I go online and watch a show I’ve said no to and think, “I should have been in that! People will think I’m not relevant any more!” I think relevance is also related to having an opinion. But it got to a point in lockdown where I didn’t necessarily have anything to say. With the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, I felt I should speak, but I was processing so much I didn’t even know how to articulate it all from a personal position.

JOH: My ears pricked up when you talked about your personal life. This year my partner moved in with me, so this relationship that could have fallen apart during Covid-19 got really close, really quickly. But because I was an ocean away from my family, my personal life as a son, as a brother, as an uncle, took a hit. And I felt that even deeper with Black Lives Matter. I felt, if Black lives really mattered, why the hell am I not living in Virginia with my family and my cousins and helping them build their lives differently? Do you think taking a moment to make sense of these questions around Black Lives Matter also brought you to thinking about your family in different ways?

AA: Oh, 100 per cent. It was definitely a much-needed conversation with myself, and one I have a lot with my sister and my dad. But it was really uncomfortable. I had let a lot of things slide for too long and I felt my soul had been chipped away. I had to look at people around me, and it was like the blinkers had been taken off. I was looking at what it meant to be both Black and white, and I was feeling quite alien. There were days when I felt, “I have no idea who I am.” Situations came up where I didn’t feel Black enough and I didn’t feel white enough. Having to look at my identity in that way was really painful and uncomfortable. But it was good, actually, because I took a step back. And going back to relevance, I think relevance is the thing that keeps you trapped. So when life slowed down, I had the time to say, “I don’t need to test myself.” I’m quite an overachiever and I love a challenge, but I thought, “We’re all in fragile states and I don’t need to test myself right now.”

“Keep that empathy. I think we’re allowed to feel what we feel right now. There is so much uncertainty for all of us and it comes in many different shapes, so sit with that and don’t push it away. Be frank with yourself and don’t feel like you’re not justified in feeling whatever emotions you’re feeling” – Adwoa Aboah

JOH: I’m trying to shift gears and figure out how I can make this year different for myself. I have this space where I come every day for five hours straight to journal, read and write whatever the fuck I want to write. Do you have any plans?

AA: That thought didn’t even cross my mind until February. January was dire – I was binge-watching, not sleeping, I overdid the exercise and fucked my knee. I was not in a great place, isolated and living by myself. But now I feel more willing to figure it out. I have daily talks with myself – I say, “It’s OK if today wasn’t good, tomorrow will be better.” There are little things I can do – I’ve been mood-boarding projects, going on Pinterest and creating a jewellery collection or a made-up fashion brand or a documentary idea, just putting things together. Because what I’ve found hard is I always felt like I had lots to talk about. But in January I felt I didn’t have anything to offer – “Today I stared out the window, I have nothing to report back on.” So now I’m just trying to be curious.

JOH: I was so negative at the top of this year. I could go into deep detail about how everything anyone liked had no worth. But I thought, “Jeremy, you were gifted with a critical mind, don’t waste that criticality on negativity.” I realised so much of that was about me feeling upset about the work I wasn’t doing or wasn’t able to do. And shifting those paradigms in my mind helped me feel better. My chest lifted, but it was really dark for a while. And it’s a darkness I was seeing a lot on Twitter.

AA: Really? What were the conversations about?

JOH: Every week it was, “The worst film ever came out and these actors should know better.” And a lot of it was about Black work, which really enraged me. Because I want us to feel excited about people being able to fail publicly again. The most important thing for young artists is to stay sensitive and open and vulnerable, even in a dark time. It can be very alluring to be closed off right now. Finding those people in your community who can be an extra arm to lift you up, and you can be that for them, is the most important thing. That’s what Gurls Talk is about too, right? One of the things that social media and the search for relevance does to a young artist is make it feel like this is a one-sum game, and a game you can only win by yourself. But I know that if I hadn’t had the committed friendships I’ve had for the past decade, none of the stuff that’s happened with me would have happened. It seems so lame to say, but make good friends, cut out the ones who don’t matter.

AA: I think so. Keep that empathy. I think we’re allowed to feel what we feel right now. There is so much uncertainty for all of us and it comes in many different shapes, so sit with that and don’t push it away. Be frank with yourself and don’t feel like you’re not justified in feeling whatever emotions you’re feeling.

JOH: Adwoa, I could Zoom with you all day.

AA: I could with you too. This is exactly what I thought would happen – we went nowhere and everywhere.

Hair: Virginie Moreira at Management Artists. Make-up: Celia Burton at JAQ Management using Rouge Allure Laque and Le Lift Lotion by CHANEL. Model: Adwoa Aboah at Tess Management. Casting: Noah Shelley at Streeters. Set design: Alice Kirkpatrick at Streeters. Styling assistant: Rebecca Perlmutar. Production: Mini Title

This article originally featured in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale from 8 April, 2021. Pre-order a copy hereand sign up for free access to the issue here.

Lila Moss Sharna Osborne AnOther Magazine cover 2021

Cover Story: A Portrait of Lila Moss

In a story titled Moonage Daydream, the artist and filmmaker Sharna Osborne and the stylist Robbie Spencer capture the model in Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection

This story is taken from the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine. To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are making the issue free and available digitally for a limited time only to all our readers wherever you are in the world. Sign up here.