Coach Girl Hari Nef on Her Top Films and Starring in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

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Coach x Tom Wesselmann
Coach x Tom WesselmannPhotography by Juergen Teller

As she appears in Coach’s new campaign, Hari Nef discusses her role in Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie film, her love of Vaquera, and working with Juergen Teller

Hari Nef’s steady ascent from Tumblr it-girl to trailblazing actress and muse feels apt. Whether appearing in season two of Joey Soloway’s cult TV show Transparent, or making a screen appearance as a ’trans rabbi’ in the Sex and the City reboot, Nef’s presence has peppered popular culture in just the right places. Now, she has surfaced once more to star in the campaign for the Coach x Tom Wesselmann collection.

The campaign, which also features poet Kai-Isaiah Jamal and model Manami Kinoshita, comes together in a miscellany of joy. Injected with signature – if mildly hysterical – vitality the campaign’s photographer Juergen Teller seems to rouse in all the subjects he lenses, it echoes the radical Tom Wesselmann-inspired artworks printed and stitched onto the Coach apparel and bags. Wesselmann, who passed away in 2004, was an American artist who (despite rejecting the label) played a key role in New York’s Pop Art movement, having his breakthrough with The Great American Nude series which included his famed piece, No. 48, selling for $10.7 million at Sotheby’s in 2008.

Merging themes of American consumerism and the female form both on canvas and sculpture, Wesselmann became known for his reductionist nudes that draw focus to specific bodily zones – a pair of red-hot puckered lips, an ebon triangle of pubic hair, or an erect nipple. Paired with the all-American, optimistic spirit of Coach, under the creative direction of Stuart Vevers, the collection gathers and embellishes Wesselmann motifs on garments in a way that honours the essence of the late artist and the legacy of the American brand, and is assured to pique interest among the pop-fashion populace. Hari Nef, who was photographed by Teller previously for the JW Anderson A/W22 lookbook, is no exception. As both a contributor and consumer of pop culture, Nef simply loves fashion – and the feeling is mutual.

Here, she speaks to AnOther about the new collection, her favourite films, and what’s next for her.

George Pistachio: How do you relate to the art of Tom Wesselmann?

Hari Nef: Tom’s work is playful and naughty – he distilled classic American iconography to its essence, zesting the familiar with innuendo. A pair of red lips is classic: Marilyn Monroe, The Rocky Horror Picture Show … but then we’ll re-encounter that red on the toenail of a woman’s foot, her leg in the air. What mischief! I'll need that intarsia shearling … you know the one!

GP: You’re also quite the film buff. What films do you always seem to find yourself returning to?

HN: Jonathan Glazers’ Under the Skin, Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz, Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, Frank Simon’s The Queen, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman, Paul Morrissey’s Women in Revolt, and, perhaps ultimately, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

GP: Are there any particular characters in film or television that you feel have shaped who you are today?

HN: I think this would be a great moment to pay respect to Greta Gerwig, who just directed me in the upcoming Barbie film. Greta’s performances in films like the aforementioned Frances Ha and her sharp direction of Ladybird and Little Women ... I see her as an architect of what I’ve heard referred to as ‘the complex female lead’ of 21st-century film. It’s kind of a meme now, but Greta laid the groundwork for what we not only have come to expect from women on screen, but crave from them. Greta’s women are sticky and amorous, intelligent and glamorous, chaotic and attentive. Frankly, I stan!

GP: Could you tell us what film projects you have coming up? 

HN: My new film 1Up, directed by Kyle Newman, premieres on Amazon Prime next month on July 15. Next comes Extrapolations, an anthology series for AppleTV+, which is on the way. And of course, Barbie shows next July. I shot another film in January and February of this year – it’s a secret for now, but it’s coming, and it’s terrifying. Right now I’m in LA shooting a new television show ... but it’s still a twisted little secret!

“Shooting And Just Like That … I felt like I could let my hair down and have fun and really play with my scene partners because I understood the assignment! One understands the assignment after, like, 20 rewatches“ – Hari Nef

GP: What was it like starring in the Sex and the City reboot? What was your defining memory from the experience?

HN: When I walked onto the set of Charlotte’s apartment – the sight of so many iconic scenes – I got a head rush. I had spent so much time there in my head over countless rewatches! Shooting And Just Like That … I felt like I could let my hair down and have fun and really play with my scene partners because I understood the assignment! One understands the assignment after, like, 20 rewatches.

GP: Are there any emerging fashion brands you’ve fallen in love with recently? 

HN: Vaquera is it right now. When I’m out late in New York, it’s always the intelligent queer hotties dripped out in Vaquera head to toe. I’m also hopelessly devoted to Collina Strada’s playful colours and effortless shapes, and all-in on their commitment to sustainability. Ditto to Conner Ives, the new guard of occasion dressing. Pia Davis’ No Sesso is rising fast: her fabrications marry tender craft to wicked glamour. New York is it for me right now when it comes to the fashion map. Stuart [Vevers] and Coach lead the way on what makes American fashion great.

GP: You’ve worked with Juergen Teller quite a lot before. What’s it like working with him? 

HN: The freak in Juergen sees the freak in me! I can pull some crazy shape, explode into some left-field emotion, dance, scream, jump, collapse … and Juergen’s there to twist it around and bottle it up! He’s a 360-degree collaborator, and so is his partner Dovile. They flip chaos into imagery that feels both candid and uncanny. And they are kind and fun and funny people. Frankly, I stan!

GP: You’ve defined yourself as someone “wormed by two years of internet use”, and I certainly remember you as Tumblr royalty. How have online communities shaped who you are today? 

HN: Online community creates a space for shared knowledge, and knowledge is power. That’s what the world wide web is all about, I think. I hate my phone most days, but it is quite frequently a receptacle for my passion and curiosity, which can lead to adventures offline. I only go online to get offline.

The Coach x Tom Wesselmann collection is available to shop at store takeovers and online now