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Faye is wearing a mohair cardigan by Miu Miu. Silk pongee dress by Chloé

14 Actors, Artists, Designers and Musicians on Their Greatest Inspirations

Taken from AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2020’s AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You – a series of interviews with some of today’s most exciting creative forces – 14 people, from Honor Swinton Byrne to Mowalola Ogunlesi, on their greatest inspirations

Lead ImageFaye is wearing a mohair cardigan by Miu Miu. Silk pongee dress by Chloé

Faye Wei Wei (above), artist, on Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together

“To me, Happy Together is the perfect film. It’s about two boys, Lai and Ho, who move to Argentina to find the Iguazú Falls, but get stuck in Buenos Aires for years, falling in and out of love. The film explores their tumultuous relationship, the complexities and the pain of it. There’s one moment when Lai’s love has left him and he befriends another boy, Chang, who gives him a tape recorder and says, ‘Speak from the heart.’ But Lai doesn’t know what to say to it, he just holds it to his forehead and starts to cry. It’s so beautiful. Sometimes when I’m painting, it feels like I’m telling secrets to the canvas. No one can ever unlock them, apart from me – paint is never going to betray you and start speaking. But it’s funny, when you do finish a painting it’s never as you intended – it can show you secrets you didn’t even know you had.”

If she weren’t a painter, Faye Wei Wei would like to make films. She sees an affinity between the canvas and the screen: each offers a portal into another world. The British artist watches director Wong Kar-wai’s vivid, hyper-stylised cinema in the original Cantonese – her family came to England from Hong Kong before she was born, and she relishes the small claim over her ancestry that his directorial oeuvre gives her. As for her own practice, Wei Wei creates large-scale, lyrical paintings that look at modern romance through a classical lens. Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2016, she has had solo exhibitions at Cob Gallery in London, SADE Gallery in Los Angeles and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, as well as many group shows further afield. From her studios in London and Berlin, she is now embarking on a new body of work, incorporating ceramics and printmaking into her evolving language. Text by Maisie Skidmore

Honor Swinton Byrne, actor, on home

“I’ve lived in the Highlands my whole life. I’ve always loved it there, but particularly since starting university. My mum’s house is a three-floor, white country house, medium-sized, with ivy up the front, a beautiful kitchen garden and a wee driveway with hedges on both sides. Opening the front door, to me, is so exciting because you know you’re returning to yourself. I wake up naturally there, with the light, or to a plate being dropped downstairs or a dog barking. Waking up at home, I can feel everything I know and love is around me. You feel held – if you wake up and feel ill, you’re going to have a bath and feel fine. You don’t need to perform because you are safe. There are always flowers in the kitchen, loads of pots and pans, and jugs of juice on the table all the time. And there’s a sketch to the right of the Aga – a wee charcoal of a boy on a horse jumping over a fence by Charlie Mackesy, and the quote says, ‘“What is freedom?” cried the boy. “To be loved as you are” said the horse.’”

Honor Swinton Byrne’s earliest exposure to film was at her mother Tilda’s local DIY cinema, The Ballerina Ballroom, in the Highland town of Nairn. Aged about eight, Swinton Byrne and her twin brother, Xavier, would watch old Agatha Christie movies in their pyjamas with their five springer spaniels and the rest of the town. But it wasn’t until 12 days before The Souvenir started filming in 2018 that she had even considered acting. Director Joanna Hogg was visiting and, “she’d cast everyone else by that point and said, ‘I wanted you to think about maybe playing the lead’”, says Swinton Byrne. “I literally had no clue about acting, no experience. She said, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what I want – it’s about someone who’s uncomfortable in front of the camera.’” Swinton Byrne’s portrayal of Julie in Hogg’s semi-autobiographical film is indeed uncomfortable, but also mesmerising and natural. The Souvenir: Part II sees Julie “getting back up”, and hits screens this summer. Text by Sophie Bew

Mowalola Ogunlesi, designer, on MTV

“When I was growing up in Nigeria, we didn’t really have the internet, so the only way to find out about music, and know what was happening in the rest of the world, was through MTV – I guess it was my own kind of CNN. The music videos, the TV shows – Pimp My Ride, MTV Cribs, 16 and Pregnant … They had the wackiest shows. I remember this one where kids would undergo serious surgery to look like their favourite celebrity – it was crazy to know that there were people out there so extreme about different things. And it introduced me to all these artists – Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey. And Aaliyah, she was my queen. They were women who were overtly sexual but powerful at the same time – these women were dominating everything. They just showed me a different way of empowering myself through what I wore and not being afraid, not trying to dress for men but dressing for myself. They were the kind of women I wanted to be.”

London-based Mowalola Ogunlesi first caught fashion’s attention with the exhilarating menswear collection she produced on completing her BA in textiles at Central Saint Martins in 2017. Drawing on the psychedelic rock scene of her native Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s, it was a frenetic composition of hand-painted leather jackets, exposed lingerie and racing motifs inspired by Lagosian petrolheads, and presented a renewed vision of contemporary African manhood: fluid, sexy and free. A rapid ascent has followed – under namesake label Mowalola, she has shown two lauded collections as part of Fashion East and gathered an impressive roster of fans, from Naomi Campbell and Steve Lacy to grime MC Skepta, who performed at the opening of Silent Madness, an immersive solo exhibition of Ogunlesi’s work at London’s Now Gallery, at the end of last year. As for what comes next, the headstrong designer is reluctant to make plans: “I might not even be doing fashion in a year. I’m just on a journey and whatever happens, I’m with it.” Text by Jack Moss

Greta Bellamacina, poet, actress and filmmaker, on John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands

“I ended up watching one of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands’ films by mistake. I was on my way to a play at the National Theatre, and when I got there, I looked down at my ticket and realised I was a day late. So I walked along the South Bank to the BFI, which was showing a retrospective of their films, and watched 1977’s Opening Night. I was totally blown away, not just stylistically – there was just something liberating about watching them perform together. The film was more free than traditional cinema – it was electric. [Cassavetes and Rowlands] follow no rules whatsoever. Everything is done so beautifully, every shot is like Pasolini. It’s so homemade, it’s like a family video. When they’re together it’s familiar, but also unfamiliar at the same time. I became fascinated – I’m obsessed with those romantic, creative dynamics. There’s something really sacred about working like that. Especially in film. There’s an intensity that you only get when you work with someone you love. You can’t fake it. It feels like a greater risk of your heart, in some way.”

Serendipitously, Greta Bellamacina stumbled upon the husband-and-wife duo Cassavetes and Rowlands, thought of as the father and mother of independent cinema, just before she started shooting her own debut directorial feature, Hurt by Paradise. A stylish and intimate exploration of female friendship, predominantly in black and white, it premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last summer, where it was nominated for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film, and then for Best UK Feature at the Raindance Film Festival. As with Opening Night, making Hurt by Paradise was a family affair: as well as directing it, London-born Bellamacina stars as protagonist Celeste, while it was produced by her husband, the poet and artist Robert Montgomery, and features their young son, Lorca. Bellamacina has just published Tomorrow’s Woman, a book of poetry about life, London, bodies and beauty. Text by Maisie Skidmore

Flora Starkey, floral designer, on Judy Blame

“I met Judy when I was 18 and, from that moment, he was just always there, cheerleading. He saw me through all the different incarnations of my work, which started with illustration, went through fashion design, and then he moved into my studio and worked there for the last nine years of his life, so he saw me start to work with flowers. Judy was a true creative, in the sense that he just needed to create. And he was just so completely generous with his support, encouragement, inspiration and integrity. He was a punk, too – he didn’t give a damn what people thought – but underneath he was the sweetest, most loyal person. Once, he was working on this Buffalo hat for Boy George, which was covered in blue bottle tops, blue netting and blue carrier bags. He caught me looking at it and said, ‘That’s my Blue Planet hat. Don’t throw me in the ocean, wear me!’ There was a message in everything he did. He was the original recycler … He was the best of human nature.”

Flora Starkey is well deserving of the epithet ‘fashion’s favourite florist’. With a list of clients that reads like a Who’s Who of the industry – from Cartier and Alexander McQueen to Chanel, Dior and Comme des Garçons – the London-based floral designer is beloved by the industry for her fantastical arrangements. Working as sustainably as possible, she strives to use seasonal blooms, growing many of them herself at Westhill Farm, her 30-acre plot on the Devon-Dorset border, not far from Lyme Regis. With a particular fondness for native British flowers, she often uses overlooked varieties – plants many people might deem to be weeds. What unites Starkey’s work, though, is a staggering, sublime kind of natural beauty. Text by Ted Stansfield

Shona Heath, set designer, on fake flowers

“I’ve always liked creating things that look like they’re growing – unfurling, like tendrils moving across a page. If there’s an opportunity to make flowers for any job, I will. I love fake flowers, whether they’re from the petrol station or the pound shop. I like them if they’re hideous – not all of them are, just specific ones that make me think, ‘God, they’re exciting.’ Some are made out of sponge or foam. They’re horrendous and meaty, with petals sort of like pigs’ ears – thick, a bit fleshy and human – and I’m still drawn to them. You can’t better natural flowers – they are extraordinary, the ultimate gift. I’m utterly fascinated by them, always trying to recreate them somehow, but making them slightly abstract and weird. I want to make them gigantic or furry or plastic or scary-looking or dead-looking – almost the antithesis of what they really are. I also like that people are horrified by fake flowers. That’s a great snobbery that I quite like to fight against.”

Shona Heath has “a thing for flowers”, citing memories of making gingham blooms with her mother and grandmother as a child. Where “people are so afraid of kitsch and chintz, I’m drawn to them”, says Heath; her work often incorporates overblown prints, textures and props to create surreal and sublime worlds. The set designer, who didn’t know there was such a job when she studied fashion and print design at university, has crafted intricate, transporting scenes for fashion editorials, campaigns, stores and exhibitions over the past two decades. Her first shoot was for Dazed & Confused in 2000, “messing around with one of my best friends [and then-fashion director of that magazine], Cathy Edwards”. As well as forthcoming collaborations with famous-for-florals companies Liberty and de Gournay, her imaginative landscapes have been presented to the public through a number of exhibitions, most recently Wonderful Things, the V&A show dedicated to the work of Heath’s long-time collaborator Tim Walker and designed by her. Text by Belle Hutton

Damson Idris, actor, on his mother

“My mum is my queen. We grew up in Peckham, on an estate called Dursley Court. My mum worked two, three jobs. Now that I’m in my twenties and I look back, I was in la-la land, and that’s all a testament to her – she never let us know what poverty we lived in. She single-handedly raised six kids to be lawyers, project managers, actors, bankers, IT engineers. She performed a magic trick. It was all about prestige. She would put me in these gold-embroidered suits for my birthday, while all my friends were in tracksuits and Reeboks. You don’t want to be a bad boy when you’re wearing a three-piece suit. She turned 70 on New Year’s Day. I was on the phone to her yesterday, and she was talking about legacy and what people will say about you when you leave this place. She’s always told me – and John Singleton told me this, too – never forget where you came from.”

Damson Idris was still new to the world of on-screen acting when the late Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton invited him for a walk in South Central, the underbelly of Los Angeles; Idris could have the lead role in his new crime drama Snowfall, Singleton joked, if he survived. Idris’ Angeleno accent was so impeccable that not only did he go on to embody determined LA native Franklin Saint for the first three series of the show, with a fourth about to begin shooting, but many of Snowfall’s viewers still believe the 28-year-old is able to feign an impressive British accent outside the series. In London, Idris can walk down the street mostly unrecognised – though with The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror behind him, and new film Outside the Wire due out shortly, perhaps not for much longer. Text by Maisie Skidmore

Farshid Moussavi, architect, on Deleuze and Guattari 

“I’ve learnt a lot from the work of the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. For a long time people asked me about women in architecture and gender issues, which was a difficult subject for me because I’ve never wanted to think of myself as a female architect, rather an architect who happens to be female. I was asked to make a little speech when Zaha Hadid was getting a women in architecture award, which forced me to think about it, and I found that Deleuze had written about what he called ‘becoming-woman’ – being a woman is the opposite of being a man, but becoming a woman is about disengaging from anything that is normative. Even beyond gender, it is about putting away ideas of dualities – man versus woman, insider versus outsider – to open it out and think completely differently, reconsidering conventions. Through that you see new possibilities. I’m interested in individuality and always trying to see things with exteriority, from the perspective of an outsider.”

Farshid Moussavi likes that her eponymous architecture practice does not specialise in one type of building. The Iranian-born architect relishes the opportunity for a “fresh perspective” that taking on a museum and then housing, or an office building then a department store, might offer. Moussavi’s large-scale, award-winning projects are found across the world – they include Japan’s Yokohama ferry terminal and Ohio’s Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland – and she splits her time between teaching at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and running her London-based practice. Moussavi also engages with London’s fashion vanguard, wearing Richard MaloneMolly Goddard and Simone Rocha (she wore the latter to receive her OBE for services to Architecture in 2018), alongside favourite pieces by Comme des Garçons. “Trends are about creating similarities, but the fashion I am interested in is about difference – in the same way I embrace difference in architecture.” Text by Belle Hutton

Christelle Kocher, designer, on London

“I’m still very nostalgic about the time I spent in England. It’s funny but I don’t really consider my brand to be French, and I think that’s got a lot to do with my time, my learning, in London. I first went there in 1996 – everyone was talking about John Galliano, Alexander McQueen. I lived in Brixton, just on my own – I was 17 years old. I saw the early exhibitions of Tracey Emin, Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas. I remember seeing the Chapman Brothers. In Paris you would never see anything like that. It was exciting, it was relevant. It was an education and it shaped me. And then there was Saint Martins. In France, you learn art and history, but you don’t touch on gender, sociology, philosophy, feminism. They just don’t have that kind of approach. For me, it was so brilliant. Of course, fashion was important for me but I’m still convinced today that it is part of the wider world. That idea of openness is still very important to me and my brand. London was like a small world in one city. I do come back to London – I wish I could come back more.”

Christelle Kocher is a designer who paradoxically straddles the cutting edge and the ancien régime of fashion: as well as leading her own young label, Koché, established in 2015 and exploring an intersection of streetwear and couture, for a decade she has been the artistic director of Maison Lemarié, the 140-year-old plumassier and textile flower-making atelier that has been one of the Chanel Métiers d’Art houses since 1996. Born in Strasbourg, Kocher attended Central Saint Martins and then went on to work for Giorgio Armani, Dries Van Noten, Bottega Veneta and Martine Sitbon, all while honing her design skills and love of technique, before Virginie Viard recruited her to revitalise Lemarié. The house’s workload now includes creations for Dior, Louis Vuitton and the execution of some 40,000 camellias for Chanel. “The work I do is so classic, so Chanel, but I want it to be representative of my generation, to perpetuate a heritage, to keep it alive, but relevant – it’s not for museums,” Kocher says. Text by Alexander Fury

Noémie Merlant, actor, on keeping notebooks

“What helps me the most in my acting is observation. As a technical process, that started 10 years ago, when I was at theatre school – it was not a book at the beginning, just notes on my phone. At that moment, something quite hard was happening in my life, so I really wanted to remember the emotions, and I wrote what happened, but more technically, because I thought it might be useful for another time. Then I started doing it all the time – sometimes just in the street, or when I watched a movie – writing all these little things down. It can be a way of opening the eyes, the mouth, the way you touch someone with your hand or how your voice goes really low or really high, or how we all respond to events using different words – it’s all the details. So my notes are emotional, but also technical. I just directed my first feature, and it helped me to instruct the other actors. With a difficult emotion, you can watch it with a certain distance, which makes the emotion really beautiful.”

Having risen to fame in French film over the past decade, Noémie Merlant is introduced properly to worldwide audiences this month, via Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. An 18th-century period piece, it seemingly defies that genre by breaking new ground for queer storytelling: the magical thing about the film isn’t only the romance between Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) and Merlant’s character, the painter commissioned to execute her portrait, but the atmosphere of female solidarity – what women do together when they are alone – so rarely witnessed on-screen. To get there, Merlant found her own long-term practice of note-taking matched Sciamma’s minutely detailed script. “Within this frame you can find your freedom,” she says. “I know that I have to take a single breath, but I have a thousand ways to take a breath.” Text by Claire Marie Healy

Bella Freud, designer, on language

“I think really great language is the most powerful, important and world-changing thing. People say love is everything – and that’s true – but it’s language that conveys that. People who are masters of language are almost a spiritual force. Look at the language of Desmond Tutu next to that of Donald Trump. They’re both very powerful, but Tutu’s language opens the mind, opens the heart. It feels like it changes everything – a visceral change. The language of hatred and fear shuts everything down. My father was really good with language – I remember listening to him and Frank Auerbach talking, and somehow … for both, it was their second language, but they were so specific. It was such a revelation, listening to the words they chose. They were both particular, but not fussy – these outlandish descriptions. It changed my way of looking at things. There were things my father hated – he couldn’t bear it if people said ‘we’ if they were standing there alone. The most convincing people are those who don’t try to convince, they just illuminate something through their language. It’s really devastating, moving and mind-blowing. I love that.”

Daughter of the painter Lucian Freud, Bella Freud first began putting words on the fashion she designs when collaborating on a 2002 film Hideous Man, directed by John Malkovich. She knitted the phrase ‘Ginsberg is God’ into a sweater for a beatnik girl to wear, which said it all for the character. The sweater caught on, and is now a bestseller, alongside others that have phrases such as ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Close to my heart’ emblazoned, of course, across the chest. Freud established her own label in 1990, having worked for Vivienne Westwood – another master of creating clothes with an ingrained message – and studied fashion in Rome. She speaks French and Italian, as well as some German and Arabic. “It’s that feeling of freedom, when you’re in another country and can speak the language,” she says. Text by Alexander Fury

Yoon Ahn, designer, on her cats

“I first remember holding a kitten in a supermarket – in the US, where I grew up, they would take strays there for donation. We took two but we lived near the woods and after a few years they ran away and never came back. Now, I have two of my own: a red Abyssinian, named Ariel – people think of The Little Mermaid, but actually the Hebrew meaning is related to lions – and a Russian blue, called Casper. Ariel is more introverted, but can really sense my emotional state. When I’m super-stressed he’ll sit next to me and fall asleep and purr – there’s something about the frequency of it, it’s really healing. You realise cats can be really in tune with us – it’s what I like about having animals. They are so simple and so pure, they just appreciate your presence, they like being around you. I mean, they need to be fed and taken care of, but it’s never something premeditated. We just can’t help but give love to them.”

Korean-American designer Yoon Ahn first created jewellery to wear on Tokyo’s club scene in the early 2000s, rising to fame when a slew of musicians, including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and her now-husband Verbal, of Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz, wore her designs. With the latter she co-founded Tokyo-based label Ambush in 2008, selling idiosyncratic, pop-culture-inspired jewellery – often featuring replicas of everyday objects, such as zips, padlocks and lighters – before expanding into an LVMH Prize-nominated unisex fashion line in 2017. The following year, she was appointed design director of jewellery for Dior menswear, joining her long-time friend Kim Jones at the label. Having collaborated with other brands, too, including Uniqlo, Nike and Converse, the in-demand designer is far from fatigued: “When you put things out into the world, and people like them, it just pumps you up to do more.” Text by Jack Moss

Paul Hameline, artist and model, on Arthur Rimbaud

“When I was younger I preferred Baudelaire – I think I was too young to understand Rimbaud. If you don’t have experiences with a capital E, you’re too young to comprehend. It doesn’t touch you. But I read Rimbaud one time and tears fell from my eyes – the only thing I cry at usually is Disney movies. It made me feel things I hadn’t felt before. Baudelaire is more about beauty and aesthetics, Rimbaud is more emotional. It’s part of my sentimental education. Your persona that you have created – by what you read, what you surround yourself with, your friends, your family – everything you see has an impact on you. Most things change you slightly in the long term, and you just live with it – it’s like the scent of a perfume. It’s like when you get home after having been away for a long time and it has a certain smell, that’s you. Then there are things that have more of a sharp impact.”

Having graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Central Saint Martins, Paul Hameline is in the midst of applying for a master’s in philosophy. Since first modelling for Vetements in 2014, Hameline has worked with Saint Laurent, Prada, Comme des Garçons and Maison Margiela. He is discerning about who he collaborates with, although “when I [first] got cast, I was very surprised because I never considered myself a beautiful boy, and I still don’t”. He has acted in projects such as Gaspar Noé’s Lux Æterna, alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg, but he is also an avid collector of texts and images. His own projects – including an upcoming New York exhibition of seven young painters that Hameline discovered at degree shows – centre around curation and its ability to transform ready-made art in a Frankenstein-like fashion. Text by Charlie Gowans-Eglington

Klein, musician, on film composer Stanley Okorie

“Stanley Okorie is a Nigerian composer – I knew his work well before I even realised who he was. Since I was young, I’ve watched a lot of movies that were made and distributed by the Church – essentially, horror films about its supernatural enemies, like the devil or child witches of Nigeria. A lot of the Nollywood films have these epic, forward-thinking sounds because they’re so DIY and old school, and Stanley has been the Church’s go-to guy. His music is dark, intense and scary, and it works perfectly in films like End of the Wicked, with its insane battle scene between the Church and true evil. A friend said my live sets remind them of Stanley’s work – very spooky. He uses eerie field recordings, super-1990s vocal regulations – techniques I like to use. He also has the same heritage as me, and I’ve been subconsciously absorbing his experimental music all my life – ‘experimental’ that’s not just some London bro on pedals. The comparison made me feel good, like I’m not alone, I’m not a weirdo that’s come from nowhere.”

From Nollywood to 1990s megastar Brandy, Nickelodeon and a Nigerian Pentecostal upbringing, the work of London musician Klein fuses these references and many more into a nebulous signature sound. Her fearless album Lifetime, released last year, is a sublime blend of R&B sensibilities and experimental, elasticated palettes, as though they’re intimate diary entries of an artist reflecting brutally and lovingly on family, faith and entrenched vulnerabilities. Klein says she’s focusing next on her first proper hometown headliner show, which Mark Leckey is supporting. A compelling artist with a blazing vision for experimental music and whatever soundscape she wishes to explode and remould, Klein has planned a “freaky” set that sits somewhere between Slipknot and Britney Spears, sparkling xylophones curling around metallic drones. Text by Anna Cafolla

For the shoots with Faye Wei Wei, Honor Swinton Byrne, Mowalola Ogunlesi, Greta Bellamacina, Flora Starkey, Shona Heath, Farshid Moussavi and Bella Freud: Hair: Sophie Jane Anderson at D and V Management using Living Proof. Make-up: Jimmy Jones at D and V Management using Glossier. Set Design: Lianna Fowler at Lianna Fowler Studio. Photographic assistant: Michael Rudd. Styling assistants: Ruby Cohen and Fleur Van De Merlen. Hair assistant: Harriet Beidleman. Make-up assistants: Ellie Morris and Eddy Liu.

For the shoots with Damson Idris, Christelle Kocher, Noémie Merlant, Yoon Ahn, Paul Hameline and Klein: Hair: Sébastien Richard at the Wall Group. Make-up: Carole Colombani at the Wall Group using Kosas. Photographic Assistants: Stan Rey-grange and Christian Bragg. Production: Rose Paris.

These stories originally featured in AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2020, which is on sale internationally now.