1. 2022
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  10. 2013
  11. 2012
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Celebrating AnOther Magazine. All of the covers, all in one place.

425008

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Ana de Armas

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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424976

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Steve Lacy

Photography by Joshua Woods, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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424905

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Björk

Photography by Nick Knight, Styling by Edda Gudmundsdottir

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424925

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Tiffany & Co

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Burnett

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425136

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Comme des Garçons

Photography by Harley Weir, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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425164

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

John Galliano

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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425273

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Valentino

Photography by Nadine Ijewere, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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425255

Issue 43

Autumn/Winter 2022

Obsessed/Possessed

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Marie Chaix

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AN42_COV1 MARGARET QUALLEY_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Margaret Qualley

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Emma Wyman

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AN42_COV2 WILLEM DAFOE_2-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Willem Dafoe

Photography by Joshua Woods, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN42_COV4 COLLECTIONS WOMEN_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2023

Maverick

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN42_COV5 WELL1_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Maverick

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN42_COV7 WELL2_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Maverick

Photography by Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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AN42_COV8 SWAROWSKI_3-HR

Issue 42

Spring/Summer 2022

Swarovski

Photography by Elizaveta Porodina, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Zoë Kravitz

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Avena Gallagher

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Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Travis Scott

Photography by Joshua Woods, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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page-000011

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Gucci Aria

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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page-000007

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Miu Miu

Photography by Jamie Hawkesworth, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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page-000005

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Balenciaga Couture

Photography by Ola Rindal, Styling by Marie Chaix

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page-000009

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Vivienne Westwood

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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page-000013

Issue 41

Autumn/Winter 2021

Hindsight

Photography by Jackie Nickerson, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN40_COV4_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Kiki Willems

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN40_COV2_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Adwoa Aboah

Photography by Jack Davison, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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AN40_COV3_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Lila Moss

Photography by Sharna Osborne, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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AN40_COV5_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Ottawa Kwami

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Ibrahim Kamara

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AN40_COV1_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN40_COV6_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Malick Bodian

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN40_COV7_1-HR

Issue 40

Spring/Summer 2021

Eliot Sumner

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Alister Mackie

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AN39_COV1 SUSIE CAVE_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Susie Cave

Photography by Alasdair McLellan, Styling by Ellie Grace Cumming

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AN39_COV5 JANAYA_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Janaya Future Khan

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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AN39_COV2 MARGIELA_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Anok Yai

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN39_COV4_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Adut Akech

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN39_COV3 HUSEBY_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

MJ Harper

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

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AN39_COV6 ART PROJECT_2-HR

Issue 39

Autumn/Winter 2020

Kim Kardashian and Michèle Lamy

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

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webcover2

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Laura Dern

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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webcover1

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Lily James

Photography by Casper Sejersen, Styling by Katie Shillingford 

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webcover3

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Kelsey Lu

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Nell Kalonji

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webcover4

Issue 38

Spring/Summer 2020

Lola Nicon

Photography by Sam Rock, Styling by Katy England

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cov4web2

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Indya Moore

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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cov4web6

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Naomi Scott

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web5

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Marte Mei Van Haaster

Photography by Viviane Sassen, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web4

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Veronika Kunz

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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cov4web3

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Jonas Gloër and Kiki Willems

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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Cov4web1

Issue 37

Autumn/Winter 2019

Medea Morton

Photography by Harley Weir, Styling by Jane How

AN36_COV1_LupitaNyongo

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Lupita Nyong’o

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN36_COV2-Burberry

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Theo Sion, Styling by Max Pearmain

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AN36_COV3-Comme

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Anok Yai

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN36_COV4-CroppedForWeb-Hires_Page_2

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Bo Gebruers

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Hannes Hetta

AN36_COV5-Brianna-Capozzi

Issue 36

Spring/Summer 2019

Fran Summers

Photography by Brianna Capozzi, Styling by Jane How

AN35_COV1_TildaSwinton

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Tilda Swinton

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Olivier Rizzo

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AN35_COV2_DakotaJohnson

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Dakota Johnson

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV3_MiaGoth

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Mia Goth

Photography by Viviane Sassen, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV4_ChloeMoretz-180807

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Chloë Grace Moretz

Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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AN35_COV5_YohjiYamamoto

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Martina Boaretto

Photography by David Sims, Styling by Katy England

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AN35_COV6_ColinxJane1

Issue 35

Autumn/Winter 2018

Laurien van der Holst

Photography by Colin Dodgson, Styling by Jane How

an34_cover_ig_vertical_1a_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Saoirse Ronan

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_1b_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Saoirse Ronan

Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Katie Shillingford

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_2_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Versace

Photography by Willy Vanderperre, Styling by Katy England

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an34_cover_ig_vertical_3_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Karolin Wolter

Photography by Zoe Ghertner, Styling by Jane How

an34_cover_ig_vertical_4_saoirse

Volume 2 Issue 7

Spring/Summer 2018

Rianne Van Rompaey

Photography by Paolo Roversi, Styling by Robbie Spencer

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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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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

Mila van Eeten is wearing Prada and Balenciaga

Alasdair McLellan’s Teen Horror-Inspired Story for the New Issue of AnOther

For AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2022, Alasdair McLellan and Marie Chaix capture Mila van Eeten and more in a story titled ‘The Geminis’

This story is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

See the full story in the gallery above.

Hair: Anthony Turner at Streeters. Make-up: Lauren Parsons at Art Partner. Models: Mila van Eeten at Viva Model Management, Etienne Maclaine at Select Models and Rubuen Bilan-Carroll at Supa Model Management. Casting: Piergiorgio Del Moro DM Casting. Photographic assistants: Lex Kembery, Simon Mackinlay and Andrew Edwards. Styling assistants: Arnaud Buisson, Tamara Prince and Letizia Maria Allodi. Hair assistant: John Allan. Make-up assistant: Eddy Liu. Production: Art Partner. Production assistant: Abbie Cockerell

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.

AN43_COV7_CinemaInferno

John Galliano on the Personal Meaning of Maison Margiela’s Cinema Inferno

In the new issue of AnOther Magazine, John Galliano talks to Susannah Frankel about returning to the stage with the Maison Margiela’s Autumn/Winter 2022 Artisanal collection – and the show of the season

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Susannah Frankel: Why did you choose to show in this format? To stage a play?

John Galliano: I was listening to my instinct, Susannah. Following the lockdown period, which pushed us all to investigate the possibilities of digital formats, I sensed a profound desire for physicality. But after everything we experienced during the pandemic – our collective discoveries and evolvements – it didn’t seem relevant to return to a runway. I wanted to create a proposal informed by the investigations made through our filmic work with Olivier Dahan and Nick Knight, a multidisciplinary format that would reflect the connectivity for which we all hanker, whether we’re on the front row of a show or watching it on a screen. Cinema Inferno was my way of embracing the cultures of fashion, performance and the virtual world through a construct at once digital and physical. It transcended the traditions of a play, but because geography required a space in central Paris, we chose to present it in a theatre.

SF: In some ways, a theatre with an audience is a more extreme return to physicality than a traditional runway show. Was the idea a reaction to not having shown physically for more than two years?

JG: If it were a reaction to the events of the past two years, it was a yearning to stay on the path of exploration that the lockdown period instigated. It didn’t feel natural to ignore those discoveries and return to what we once knew. Leave those runway glasses – those one-way glasses – at the door. Theatre played a part in that transition, but my intention wasn’t simply to stage a play. With Cinema Inferno I wanted to embrace and unite many different cultures and formats and propose a different way of seeing. It was narrative storytelling presented on a stage and captured in film but revealing – and integrating – all the makings and mechanics of theatre and filmmaking in a way true to the genetics of Maison Margiela.

SF: Although at Margiela, on the runway, the theatre has principally been in the clothes. You have always been interested in a theatrical element and over the past two years you have worked with the narrative of film. Why does that interest you? Why, perhaps, is the traditional fashion-show format not enough?

JG: The two are in symbiosis. They have been intrinsically linked from the day I left school. More than a theatrical element, it is a narrative approach – a way of mapping out the soul of a collection to guide one’s clarity of vision. To me, it’s instinctive. Dressmaking is in dialogue with storytelling and the two invigorate each other. In the past, the narratives I’ve worked with have unfolded on the runway, but at this moment in time, I felt from my surroundings a longing for a greater connectivity.

SF: How did you decide to collaborate with the award-winning theatre company Imitating the Dog?

JG: Over the past year, Kevin Macdonald has been directing a documentary about me. During one of our conversations he mentioned Imitating the Dog. Shortly afterwards, Alexis [Roche, Galliano’s partner] and I found out that the troupe was staging Dracula in Schaffhausen [in northern Switzerland], so we immediately jumped on a plane to see it. I was taken by their approach, and shortly afterwards I met with [Imitating the Dog’s co-artistic director] Andrew Quick to discuss my early ideas for the Artisanal show. It evolved into nearly 12 months of development, with rehearsals in Leeds with the principal cast before we relocated to Paris with the full ensemble.

SF: People so often talk about a multidisciplinary approach to art and craft now. In some ways it characterises this age. How does the reach – and indeed any limitations – brought about by working in collaboration with artists from a different medium inspire you? Is it about employing a fresh approach to create something new?

JG: Fashion is driven by ideas and previously unexplored proposals, which are brought to life through collaborative efforts. Whether it’s the artisans in the ateliers, the muses, the hair and make-up teams, or the artists and craftspeople who help to build and frame those ideas, it is always inspiring to work with people with expertise different from your own.

“In my process, I tap into emotions to create memories. It generates an intrinsic link between dressmaking and storytelling, which becomes the foundation for my approach to haute couture” – John Galliano

SF: There is something very new, too, about the seamless fusion of the elite – the limited number of people attending a fashion show or play – with the democratic, in other words showing to anyone who would like to watch online at the same time. How and why does that interest you?

JG: You always hope that all your audiences will be able to connect with what you create. This is what shapes the community that surrounds the maison, whether they’re sitting on the physical or virtual rows. In the digital age, footage from fashion shows new and old has become accessible with the tap of a finger. This evolution opens the doors to so many possibilities when it comes to formats and presentations. It’s something that invigorates me.

SF: How much does the story dictate the clothes and vice versa? Should clothes always tell a story?

JG: The story never dictates the clothes. In my process, I tap into emotions to create memories. It generates an intrinsic link between dressmaking and storytelling, which becomes the foundation for my approach to haute couture.

SF: And what is the story here?

JG: It is a story centred around the abuse of power. We follow our two protagonists, Hen and Count, who are on the run from events that are revealed to the audience through flashbacks and cinematic dream sequences. Each of these scenes portrays a different depiction of the abuse of power in patriarchal society, while also touching on experiences, emotions and situations rooted in fundamental fears we all can relate to.

SF: There are so many echoes from the past in this performance – your professional past but also perhaps your personal past. Can you talk about that?

JG: As a dressmaker I am impacted by my own personal experiences, past and present, as well as the realities that unfold before my eyes. All these impressions are innately expressed in what I create, so if there are autobiographical elements to the story it’s because it’s driven by instinct.

SF: It feels all the more personal because of the reimagination of so many of your obsessions – Blanche DuBois, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Pierrette, teddy boys, gunslingers, sailors, wicked stepmothers, zombies, nurses ... What is it about these characters that makes you want to revisit them?

JG: All these characters – these genres, these creations – exist within me. They are founded in memories and impressions that I express consciously or perhaps subconsciously. Sometimes they are communicated more heedfully than others, but they are always a part of my imagination.

SF: They are all, in entirely different ways, representative of otherness. Are you drawn to otherness?

JG: I am interested in spirituality and in finding ways of tapping into spirituality. It connects with ideas of instinctiveness and awareness, which are motivations and values I continue to draw on and express through my work at the maison.

“The muses – the super-muses – are deeply personal choices. Their characters feed into the narrative and make it come to life during the creative process as well as the unveiling” – John Galliano

SF: You have always put one look on one model – you are one of the few designers to do that – which of course directs the emphasis on to character. Do you know who will wear the clothes while you are designing them?

JG: Yes, imagining which muse will be wearing the expression you’re working on often feeds into the symbiosis between dressmaking and storytelling.

SF: Can we talk about the casting, the amazing mix of supermodels you have cast in the past and your current casting ... 

JG: The muses – the super-muses – are deeply personal choices. Their characters feed into the narrative and make it come to life during the creative process as well as the unveiling. They carry the shapes and volumes with authority. You develop a shorthand with them, a silent tongue through which you can communicate a silhouette through body language and gestures. I was taken with the dedication and craft of Leon Dame and Lulu Tenney and all the other muses who took part in Cinema Inferno. And I was happy to invite back the muses who have been there for pivotal points in my career and who have, likewise, actively taken part in my creative processes. They embody the story and inspire me to create. They are our community. Let’s hear it for the super-muses!

SF: Why is the past important to inform the present and the future?

JG: The memory of something leaves a trace of information, of know-how, of knowledge. I think all those things are integral to building a maison, or anything else for that matter.

SF: Why did you choose to set the story in Southwestern US in the mid-Sixties? Why is that period interesting for you?

JG: The genre draws on literature and film related to the southern gothic style, which has its own associations when it comes to geography and time, but it isn’t about a specific period as much as it is a loop narrative that really transcends time. At the end of the story, Count and Hen realise they are stuck in an eternal loop, forever destined to relive the horrors of their past. Setting the story in the Arizona desert was a fragment of my own memory.

SF: Can we talk about the extraordinary sense of colour – canary yellow and violet, pale jade and blood red, coral and pistachio. Where does that come from, do you think? Is it something you are born with?

JG: The palette was informed by the work of Andrew Wyeth, a 20th-century realist who portrayed the American heartland. It triggered my own recollections of travelling through this dark, poetic scenery. In the flashbacks and dream sequences, of course, that changes. Those colours came from the realm of cinema.

SF: The guns, the blood, the sexual abuse, the alcohol ... In many ways it is all about taboos. We have talked before about the fact that there isn’t – and shouldn’t be – anything politically correct, or even political, about great fashion. Do you still believe that?

JG: This is make-believe, not reality. But to me these elements are not taboo. I believe we should have the ability to bring problems to the surface and face the world with consciousness and awareness. The imagery you mention is founded in concerns that are fundamentally challenging society today. The issue of gun violence has become a constant presence in our lives, and fashion is a reflection of our surroundings. Art evokes emotion. Only when things are brought to the surface can change begin to occur.

It’s true that I always choose to amplify the truth in the matter. That’s important to me” – John Galliano

SF: Of course all the above is treated in a deliberately plastic way but still ... It feels brave in the current climate.

JG: I can only say that it comes from the heart, Susannah.

SF: You are so brave, always. Where do you get that from, do you think? And why is it important to be brave?

JG: It’s true that I always choose to amplify the truth in the matter. That’s important to me. But I wouldn’t relate the motifs of Cinema Inferno to taboo-breaking bravery because I don’t think they are, or should be, taboo. It’s a piece that reflects on patriarchal society’s many abuses of power through dressmaking and storytelling, amplifying – or highlighting – very real circumstances and conditions that affect us all. I think it’s important that we try to be conscious about these issues rather than labelling them as taboo.

SF: In the end, this performance is a love story. A romance. And the clothes are so, so romantic. Again, where does that come from?

JG: If the story is romantic, it’s a decidedly dark romance. I think the love story of Hen and Count is more a framework for the themes that play out within it – traumas of the past, the abuse of power, escape and the inescapable. Every motif is expressed within the garments and accessories themselves, in the power cut of the Spectral Cowboy looks – where I evoke the memory of Geneva bands [formal neckwear worn by lawyers and members of the clergy] – or the classic haute couture volumes imbued with the grammar of surgical scrubs, or different techniques applied to the prom and communal looks – such as essorage ageing and splicing – to evoke a sense of the unsettling. Where does it come from? From a desire to connect with the consciousness.

Show creative director: John Galliano. Show artistic director: Alexis Roche. Adapted for stage by Imitating the Dog. Hair: Eugene Souleiman at Streeters. Make-up: Dame Pat McGrath. Manicure: Elsa Deslandes at Majeureprod Agency. Muses: Konrad Bauer, Malick Bodian, Jan Krivdic and Thomas Riguelle at Success Models, Frederic Bittner, Peter Frackowiak and Moritz Thoma at Tomorrow Is Another Day, Kit Butler at Bananas Models, Valentine Charrasse, Anna Cleveland and Olga Sherer at Select Models, Elise Crombez, Karlie Kloss and Mona Tougaard at Elite Models, Leon Dame at Viva London, Karen Elson at CAA Fashion, Beauise Ferwerda at Platform Agency, Mateen Ismail at The Claw Models, Kate McNamara at Premium Models, Hannah Motler, Puck Schrover, Lulu Tenney and Caroline Trentini at Ford Models, Sherry Shi at IMG Models, Adrians Smats at The Bro Models and Amber Valletta at Women Management. Casting: Jess Hallett at Streeters. Photographic assistant: Romain Dubus. Post-production: Stéphane Virlogeux

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.

AN43_COV4_Comme

Rei Kawakubo on Black Roses and the Importance of Freedom

The Comme des Garçons designer talks to Susannah Frankel about her Autumn/Winter 2022 collection and wanting her clothes to speak for themselves

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Susannah Frankel: Why did you choose to reference black roses in this collection?

Rei Kawakubo: As a symbol of freedom.

SF: Is there any significance to the fact that, in nature, true black roses don’t exist?

RK: The strength of the symbol lies in the very fact of its non-existence.

SF: Black roses are a symbol of mourning but also of anarchy. These are two recurrent themes in your work. Why?

RK: Always in an unreasonable world I feel anger at life.

SF: You have always been so passionate about freedom. Can you explain why?

RK: I need freedom to be myself.

SF: Do you feel that you would look at the notion of freedom differently if you were a man?

RK: Don’t understand the question.

SF: Do you feel that things have changed for women, that they are more free now?

RK: Don’t understand the question.

SF: A fashion show can be banal, it can also be an expression of extreme emotion, provoking equally extreme reactions in the people watching it. Is it important to you to provoke, to express emotion and to cause an emotional reaction in others? Is that why a live show is important to you?

RK: The point of the live show is for people to see the clothes in real life. It is part of the business.

SF: Why is fashion important?

RK: It’s one way to express oneself.

SF: It is only recently that Comme des Garçons has started sending out notes immediately following collections. Is that to stop people like me sending you questions like these? Are you interested in talking about your work?

RK: I thought it was helpful to tell the theme to a few select journalists. And as you know, I don’t like talking about my work. I want people only to look at the clothes and feel something.

SF: Our issue theme this time is Obsessed/Possessed. There’s a fine line between the two words. What are your obsessions and what does the word ‘possessed’ mean to you?

RK: I don’t have obsessions and don’t feel possessed. I just have never changed my sense of values about how I make clothes.

SF: You work in an essentially commercial industry, where possessions – with a slightly different meaning – are central. But how important are material possessions to you?

RK: I am not interested in owning anything.

SF: You have had huge influence – over other fashion designers and, more broadly, over what people wear. Do you feel a sense of pride, or if you don’t like the word ‘pride’, at least achievement?

RK: I cannot answer because it is not true.

Hair: Shiori Takahashi at Streeters using WELLA PROFESSIONALS. Make-up: Thomas de Kluyver at Art Partner using GUCCI BEAUTY. Models: Jules Volfu at XDirectn, Mina Serrano at The Hive Management, Mica Kendall at Milk Management and Rachael Carruthers and Luke Clod at Storm Management. Casting: Julia Lange at Artistry. Set design: Alice Kirkpatrick at Streeters. Manicure: Lauren Michelle Pires at Future Rep. Digital tech: Jeanne Buchi. Lighting: Alexa Horgan. Laser operator: Mark Randall. Photographic assistants: Joe Reddy, Charlotte Ellis and Tamibé Bourdanné. Styling assistants: Isabella Damazio and Roshni Rai. Hair assistants: Yuri Kato and Cher Savoy. Make-up assistants: Abbie Nourse and Josh Bart. Manicure assistant: Amy Thomas. Casting assistant: Anna Pkhakadze. Set build: Tommy Aitcheson, Toby Morrison and Tris King. Set-design assistants: Columbia Williams and Sophia Wilcox. Printing: Sarah England. Production: Partner Films. Post-production: Output.

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.

Tiffany & Co Autumn/Winter 2022 AnOther Magazine

Collier Schorr Captures a Diverse Cast of New York Figures

In AnOther Magazine Autumn/Winter 2022, Collier Schorr presents a portfolio of artists, students, families and friends wearing jewellery by Tiffany & Co

This story is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

Hair: Mustafa Yanaz at Art and Commerce using ORIBE. Make-up: Yumi Lee at Streeters using CHANEL. Models: Dara Allen at Heroes Models, Aya Brown, George and Nicole Eisenman, Arta Gee at APM Models, Vas Halastaras at Stetts Model Management, Parker Kit Hill at IMG Models, Capri Jones, Joaquin and Santiago Knepp, Owen Ley at Ricky Michiels, Dede Mansro at Next Models New York, Bako Seville, Orion Sun and Angel Zinovieff. Casting: Nicola Kast. Digital tech: Jarrod Turner. Lighting: Ari Sadok. Photographic assistant: Dylan Garcia. Video: Steven Rico. Styling assistants: Shant Alvandyan, Alex Hall and Sage Johnson. Hair assistant: Karen Zamor. Make-up assistant: Yui Sakamoto. Production: Jemma Hinkly at Artist Commissions. Post-production: Two Three Two.

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.

AN43_COV1_AnaDeArmas (2)

How Ana de Armas Became the Most Famous Woman in the World

In an interview with Hannah Lack, de Armas discusses playing Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s much anticipated adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s Blonde, alongside her own fractious relationship with celebrity

This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:

The deluge of doorstop biographies, tell-all memoirs, rumour and conspiracy theory dedicated to the riddle of Marilyn Monroe’s life has never conclusively solved it.

But we know where it ends: in Brentwood, Los Angeles, on 4 August 1962, in a scantily furnished hideaway with a kidney-shaped pool, a clutter of pill bottles in the bedroom and listening devices planted in the walls. The star was buried in a peppermint-green Emilio Pucci dress four days later, and today her marble crypt is regularly covered in lipstick kisses from fans born long after her premature death. Ana de Armas made a pilgrimage to this quiet corner of Westwood Village Memorial Park on the day she began shooting Blonde, Andrew Dominik’s visceral, heart wrenching fictionalisation of the screen idol’s turbulent life. “We got this big card and everyone in the crew wrote a message to her,” de Armas says as we find a table in the restaurant of a downtown Manhattan hotel on a washed-blue summer morning. “Then we went to the cemetery and put it on her grave. We were asking for permission in a way. Everyone felt a huge responsibility, and we were very aware of the side of the story we were going to tell – the story of Norma Jeane, the person behind this character, Marilyn Monroe. Who was she really?”

For more than 15 years, de Armas has sought roles that swerve the domestic and push her outside her comfort zone.The 34-year-old Cuban-Spanish actor has played intrepid spies and femme fatales, a Dominican sex worker fighting for her life, even a hologram glowing in a neon-drenched, smog-choked dystopia. But it’s hard to imagine a more demanding role than the one Dominik offered her in 2018 – on Valentine’s Day, as it happened. Five years on from the #MeToo watershed, Blonde is an entirely 21st-century take on a 20th-century icon, a confrontational reckoning with the pitch-black stories of Monroe’s treatment by the Hollywood meat grinder. In many ways de Armas’s task was to play not one person but two: the clunkily named Norma Jeane Mortensen, the product of a traumatic and rootless childhood in multiple foster homes across the sprawl of Los Angeles County, and her alter ego Marilyn Monroe, the siren with the ingeniously murmurous moniker who swallowed her up. 

Never mind the daunting logistics of stepping into the teetering Ferragamos of Hollywood’s still-undimmed goddess, whose grip on our collective dreamlife – and continued bankability – reached another apex this year when a Warhol portrait of her sold for $195 million. The hours of experimenting with fire engine-red lipsticks and wigs in platinum shades, the months studying Monroe’s swaying walk and megawatt smile might not have amounted to much without one, impossible-to-fake ingredient that happily de Armas has in abundance: the kind of charisma that changes the weather of a scene when she steps into it. Monroe’s own, strange, mercurial talent was legendary, rendering directors infuriated by her pathological lateness and inability to memorise lines awestruck by the alchemy she could work on camera. (Her acting coach Lee Strasberg named only Marlon Brando as having equal gifts.) De Armas’s indefatigable work ethic has little in common with the reported chaos of Monroe’s, but that internal light bulb is something they share. There is an electrifying moment in Blonde when a panic-stricken Norma Jeane is painted and powdered by her make-up artist to coax her bombshell persona from hiding. When the icon emerges from the depths of a dressing-room mirror – heavy-lidded eyes, candy floss hair, jingle-bell laugh – it’s like a match being struck. “She would shine from within,” says de Armas, who is looking pretty luminescent herself today, in a vanilla-coloured dress and loafers, her usually dark hair long and blonde, her eyes an impossible-to-pinpoint shade of both honey and green. Over the next two hours, as waiters come and go with grapefruit juice and coffee, it becomes clear that the months she spent inhabiting Monroe’s cryptic, interlocking selves still deeply affect her. “The more famous Marilyn became, the more invisible Norma Jeane became – Norma was this person no one ever actually met,” she begins. “And Marilyn was someone even she herself talked about in the third person. In some ways Marilyn saved her, gave her a life, but at the same time she became her prison.”

That cavernous split between public and private self is the focus of Blonde – “The story of an unloved and unwanted child who became the world’s most wanted woman,” as Dominik has put it. The director is known for layered explorations into male violence and its consequences, plumbing the psychological waters of gangsters, murderers and outlaws. His 2007 feature, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, shattered the myth of the Wild West and its cartoonish stereotypes, showing bloodshed that was blunt, grisly and inglorious. James was something of a celebrity too – the subject of breathless newspaper headlines and dime-store novels, who, like Monroe, was described as stopping time when he walked into a room. If that film questioned America’s preference for legend over history, Dominik’s latest, produced by Brad Pitt’s company Plan B, puts the myth of the screen goddess in its sights, peeling back its glittering surface to reveal the unspeakable truths that might lurk beneath. “It’s about the things we haven’t seen, the moments when the cameras aren’t flashing or rolling, when Marilyn is not ‘on’,” de Armas says. “It’s fiction. We don’t have proof this happened. But it fills the gaps in the things we already know with a version of events that we should at least consider.”

Traditional biopics might chronicle dates and milestones, but they can fall flat in capturing the messy, nebulous texture of internal lives. Based closely on Joyce Carol Oates’s masterful, Pulitzer-nominated novel of the same name, which imagined Monroe’s life as a macabre fairy tale of cursed princesses and gold-spinning Rumpelstiltskins, Blonde is more spectacular hallucination than faithful record. It mixes pieces of undisputed fact with hearsay to conjure a disorientating hall of mirrors. Much like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, it drills into its protagonist’s subconscious and into the psyche of the City of Angels, digging beneath the chromed convertibles and plush leather booths to reveal a nightmarish underworld of reptilian moguls, carnivorous press and vampiric doctors all too generous with their prescriptions. “A place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and 50 cents for your soul,” as Monroe herself once said. The story unfolds like a fever dream, from a childhood gripped by her mother’s frightening mental illness (a film-negative cutter on the fringes of Hollywood, Gladys was committed to an asylum when Monroe was eight; she never knew her father) to her insomniac final years, thoughts muddied by a glossary of chemical substances. Telephones shriek, flashbulbs splinter, the mouths of ghost eyed paparazzi stretch to monstrous proportions and a febrile soundtrack courtesy of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis only deepens the gnawing sense of dread. “So, this is a horror movie, right?” de Armas said, only half-joking, the first time she met Dominik to discuss the role.

For the director, Blonde has been a decade-long obsession: he began writing the script in 2008. Since then, potential Marilyns have come and gone – Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts included – but when financing finally aligned with Dominik’s vision, it was de Armas he wanted, no matter her Cuban accent. “It was pretty surreal I even got asked to audition, but that just shows how progressive Andrew is,” she says of the slice of history she’s making as a Latinx actor playing the most all-American of idols. “I grew up watching everything from Titanic to The Terminator, but I always knew that reality was so far from my reality. Kids in the US, they believe they can be princesses because you can buy a princess dress and a princess crown and become one. I never had that. I didn’t even know what an apple tasted like. Cuban actors were more relatable to me – Daisy Granados, Isabel Santos, Verónica Lynn – those were the actors I looked up to. I thought I’d be doing that, not Marilyn. But of course I went for it, because I love challenges, and I knew that emotionally I could get there. I didn’t know if the hair, the make-up would, but I understood what we were trying to say. Andrew called me after the audition and said, ‘It’s you. It has to be you.’ But then we had to convince everybody else.”

Convincing everybody else translated to months of work with a dialogue coach to capture Monroe’s breathy, marshmallowy voice, itself a creation by the star to overcome a stammer. “It just wasn’t working when I tried to imitate the sound or the pitch,” de Armas says. “Marilyn’s voice, her expressions, were a consequence of the speech classes she took herself, of her insecurities, of her not having any boundaries and letting people in, of playing this part of having to be rescued all the time. So I had to know what she was thinking and feeling every time. Because the way she rounded her lips for the ‘O’s, or how much of her lower teeth she would show, what her eyebrows were doing, all these expressions were a consequence of Marilyn in survival mode. They were tricks that she was pulling in desperate circumstances.”

“The whole [acting] process was overwhelming for me. Most of the time I thought I was doing it wrong. I was thinking, what are these American actors thinking of me?” – Ana de Armas

To climb inside her character’s head, de Armas devoured a cornucopia of written material: Oates’s immense novel, of course, each page read and reread two or three times, but also anything that offered a glimpse of Monroe’s energy off-duty – a favourite was Truman Capote’s gossipy jewel of a story, A Beautiful Child. Meanwhile, Dominik created a 750-page bible of Monroe photographs that mapped every emotion he wanted to conjure, scene by scene. Blonde is built on a trove of that iconography, much of it burned into our collective imaginations, stretching from early cheesecake pin-ups to Life magazine spreads to paparazzi shots – all while hypothesising what it might have felt like to be the mortal woman behind that mythical projection. “Almost the entire movie exists in photographs we were either recreating or referencing,” de Armas says. 

“Almost every scene starts or ends exactly like an existing photograph.” The recreations are breathtaking, switching formats or from monochrome to colour depending on the source. Dominik was fetishistic about the minutiae, commissioning exact reproductions of Monroe’s outfits – more than 100 wardrobe changes – tailored to the last stitch. “It gave me goosebumps,” de Armas says, “and changed everything about the way I moved and felt. Andrew never stopped filming, so he dressed the sound person, the prop guy, my dialect coach, all in period costume too, so the camera could follow me anywhere. And anywhere I turned was ready to be filmed because we were shooting in her real houses.” Those homes include the peeling apartment block a young Norma Jeane lived in for a time with her mother; the orphanage on North El Centro Avenue with its fabled view of RKO studio’s lightning-bolt sign, which flashed through the night like a siren song during her two years there; and the final, hacienda-style home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, the modest and only house Monroe bought, at a time when studio magnates filled their gabled mansions with shrieking peacocks and priceless art. “It was a full immersion in her world, in LA, in those studios – spooky and beautiful,” de Armas says. “Andrew loves actors to improvise, so a lot of the time he was on his knees beside me and I was just reacting to what was happening around me.”

When it came to replicating some of Monroe’s most indelible performances, though – including the moment a Manhattan subway breeze meets her white cocktail dress in The Seven Year Itch, and a snippet from Some Like It Hot – there was no straying from the script. De Armas is chillingly good in scenes that left her nowhere to hide. “Andrew had two monitors, the real Marilyn in the scene and me. And everything, every angle, had to be exactly the same. So that was me watching these films hundreds and hundreds of times.” In each recreation, the screen fantasy is stripped away to imagine its fallout. We see Joe DiMaggio’s violent rage, fuelled by the leering crowd who gather to watch his wife’s white dress fly into film history (the couple divorced soon after). And, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ effervescent musical number Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, a take is cut short by Monroe’s screams of anguish – she’s hustled into a dressing room and subdued with a needle. It’s well documented the actor suffered from paralysing stage fright during the making of that Howard Hawks film; on the set of Blonde, de Armas faced down her own spectres of self doubt. “I experienced a lot of fear and insecurity,” she says. “I felt in a very vulnerable position. Not just in specific difficult scenes – the whole process was overwhelming for me. Most of the time I thought I was doing it wrong. I was thinking, what are these American actors thinking of me? They know this person better than me, they’ve grown up with her. What are they thinking about my accent? Andrew could sense that discomfort and right away he told me, ‘That’s how she felt. Embrace it.’ She was feeling insecure and unprepared and judged and undervalued all the time. So I had to trust my emotions were adding to the layers.”

This year, a DNA test of a strand of Monroe’s hair indicated her father was Charles Stanley Gifford, her mother’s colleague at Consolidated Film Industries in Los Angeles. But during Monroe’s lifetime he was a blank space that bequeathed her a bottomless well of unfulfilled need. At first, de Armas struggled with Monroe’s inability to set boundaries between herself and others, finding her own instincts racing in the opposite direction. “In some early scenes I played it way too strong,” she says. “I got defensive and angry and Andrew said, ‘You’re not allowed to get angry. Ever. Anger is not something Norma can afford.’ Well, can you imagine what that does to a person? At its heart the movie is about her looking for an absent father. Part of the reason I think she became Marilyn Monroe was to be so visible there’s no way he could not find her. You see how a childhood of feeling unloved and unwanted led her to need love, attention, need someone with her always. So I thought, OK, if I can’t get angry, what are my options? How else can I survive? And I started to explore all these other feelings.”

If it was her childhood that set Monroe up for destruction, Hollywood swiftly saw to the rest. Both Oates’s book and Dominik’s film chart her vertiginous ascent as coming with an obligation to the casting couch. “I met them all,” Monroe wrote in her unfinished memoir, My Story. “Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.” In Blonde, men treat her like a sexual party favour: there are harrowing scenes of assault by a sadistic tycoon and a certain doomed president. Those scenes, and a torturous abortion (it’s never been established she had one), are evidently the cause of tussles over the film’s edit, and its eventual NC-17 rating. De Armas is unflinching in her defence of them: “We tried to show the fight she had to put up, not just to be successful, but to survive,” she says. “What she went through was dark. So dark. When you know that, fuck, I love her more. So the whole point is not bringing down the myth, the point is humanising this icon and making her real, a real woman going through all these different kinds of abuses and situations. And as a woman today I can easily understand how you could find yourself in that situation. So, yes, there are scenes that are hard to watch. But I don’t think this movie has anything sensational or exploitative or gratuitous in it. In many of the scenes people are talking about, you don’t actually see anything. You just know what is happening and that it’s coming from a place of zero love. I do think the audience will feel uncomfortable – because she is uncomfortable. When she feels dirty, you feel that the scene is dirty. It’s all in the way it makes you feel.” 

When Oates’s novel was published in 2000, it was feted for its rich imagining of Monroe’s inner world and its excoriation of the patriarchal society that snuffed her out. It also drew antipathy from those who saw it as another exploitation of a woman who has become more property than person. (See Kim Kardashian’s controversial Met Gala photo opportunity in the crystal-scattered nude dress Monroe wore to serenade JFK.) Blonde the film might prove as divisive as the book, but post #MeToo, its unvarnished take feels more relevant than the kind of melancholy tristesse so often attached to tellings of Monroe’s story. For her part, Oates has championed the film, describing it as “… startling, brilliant, very disturbing and [perhaps most surprisingly] an utterly ‘feminist’ interpretation … ”

“I was thinking of her so much, some days I would go home and have dinner and as I was washing the dishes I would just start sobbing, crying and crying, because I had this terrible feeling” – Ana de Armas

“And absolutely, I agree with her,” de Armas nods. “Inspiration is a very different thing from taking. If there’s a reason she’s still not resting, it’s that she’s been taken from so much. I knew as soon as I met Andrew that he was going to take care of her. So for the film to go places like the point of view of the abortion, a depressed mother and how a child deals with that, the desire of all these men over Marilyn, the way they look at her like meat – like a room service delivery – and, yes, the way she allows herself to fall in love and be disappointed again, it’s unapologetic and brave and feminist. Andrew shows pain and nudity and vulnerability and he doesn’t sugar-coat it. I’ve been told by people, oh my gosh this scene is so long! And I think, well, yes, and now you can imagine what she was feeling.”

De Armas isn’t a method actor, but grappling with that darkness inevitably spilled into her life off set; the experience still seems raw. “Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun. I wasn’t by any means in character for nine weeks, not between takes, not in my lunch break. I was Ana,” she says. “But emotionally? The weight of it stayed with me for sure. There was no way to unplug because I’d get home and study for the next day and then Andrew was on the phone until midnight. I would go to sleep and dream I had long conversations with her, or little things – like once we were choosing which colour vase we’d put flowers in. I don’t want it to seem like I’m saying, ‘Marilyn and I were connected’ – not at all. But I was thinking of her so much, some days I would go home and have dinner and as I was washing the dishes I would just start sobbing, crying and crying, because I had this terrible feeling – I knew I couldn’t fix it.”

Paloma, the deceptively wide-eyed CIA agent de Armas played in last year’s No Time to Die, the film that closed the era on Daniel Craig’s brilliantly disgruntled take on James Bond. De Armas went straight from shooting Blonde under the stars on Santa Monica beach onto a red-eye, arriving at London’s Pinewood Studios to break more ground as the first Cuban actor to play a leading Bond woman. Her first takes, though, came out in Monroe’s whispery flutter. “I wasn’t ready to let her go,” she says. “In my heart I wish I’d had a few more days to say goodbye.” Still, she went on to deliver a firework of a performance, dispatching at least ten Spectre villains in the space of 12 minutes on a lavish replica set of Havana, Cuba.

De Armas, of course, was born in the real Havana, Cuba, in 1988, before moving aged three to Santa Cruz del Norte, a small, palm-filled town on the country’s northern coast where her father worked in a government office. Minus internet and social media, her childhood played out in the street. “You’re in a country where you don’t have much contact with the world, you’re kind of in a bubble,” she says. “But in some ways that makes you focus on life and friendships instead of all the noise. I grew up barefoot, running on the rocks by the beach, swimming. Me and my friends performed plays for the neighbours. I had a thing for climbing lamp posts and trees, and I was obsessed with rescuing cats and dogs from the street – every day I’d come back with a new animal and drive my mom crazy.”

When she was ten the family returned to Havana, a move that alerted her to the capital’s prestigious, and rigorous, National Theatre School, an arts complex with soaring architecture. De Armas badgered her parents to let her audition, but they tried to dissuade her at first from a dream with such slim chances of success. “Big mistake!” she says with a laugh. “I became determined.” After six long days of improvisation-based auditions she was among the handful of candidates who won a place, enrolling at 14 and often hitchhiking to get there each day. By 16 she had landed a lead role as a teenager longing to escape pre-revolutionary Cuba in the feature Una rosa de Francia – much to the irritation of her school, who disapproved of their students juggling acting studies with acting jobs. “But I didn’t care,” she shrugs. “In my opinion there was no better school than a movie set. So I did both – I would often fall asleep in class but I would catch up with what I missed.” Even at that age, her ambitions were reaching beyond the shores of her homeland; a few months before graduating, she made the decision to uproot her life and relocate to Madrid alone, courtesy of a Spanish passport through her maternal grandparents. It was a tactical move – had she graduated, she would have faced several years of national social service while watching her career stall. “My heart belongs to Cuba but I knew I had to get out of there to grow,” she says. “I was always aware of the very low ceiling that unfortunately Cuban artists and people in general have. I knew I had more to do, more to learn.”

When she arrived in the Spanish capital aged 18, de Armas barely knew anyone except her agent, but the gamble paid off: two weeks later she won the role of a fearless schoolgirl in the homegrown television series El Internado. Set in an elite boarding school teeming with murky secrets and ghoulish happenings, the show put her on the covers of teen magazines and made her famous nationwide overnight. At two series a year, it was an acting bootcamp, but also provided the still-adolescent actor with a surrogate family to assuage her homesickness. “Thank God I had that support network,” she says. “Being alone in Spain was really tough. It never crossed my mind to go back, but it was hard. I’d never been anywhere else before and it was a huge culture shock. To be honest, I just started eating candy, chocolate and donuts – everything I’d never had when I was younger.” She stuck with the series for three years, “and then I was like, OK, I’m not learning anything new”. By then, though, the financial crisis was biting in Spain and new film productions had ground to a worrying standstill. (“If no solutions are found, it could spell the end of many a promising career,” wrote the Spanish newspaper El País in a 2012 article entitled No Money, No Movies.) De Armas, already conscious of being typecast in teen roles, was getting restless. In 2014, an opportunity arrived that she grasped with characteristic tenacity. She was shooting Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Hands of Stone, playing the wholly undutiful wife of the hell-raising Panamanian boxing champ Roberto Durán, a part that transformed her into a hot-pink-Lycra-wearing mother of five. “De Niro was in it, and his agent came one day to a table read when we were shooting in Panama,” she remembers. “Afterwards they called up and said they wanted to represent me. I went back to Madrid, gave away all my stuff, packed a suitcase and left for Los Angeles.”

“Acting is my passion and what makes me happy, but it’s not who I am. That’s one of the reasons I left LA. I want to go there, see my friends, see my industry, but it’s not my life” – Ana de Armas

It was another roll of the dice: when she touched down at LAX, she had none of the profile she had built in Spain – instead she now faced auditions in a language she didn’t yet speak. “When I had my first meeting with my agent, I couldn’t say anything,” she says. “I just nodded and smiled. It was starting from scratch.” And yet she kept winning roles, showing up to auditions with her lines learnt phonetically. There was Eli Roth’s horror Knock Knock, in which she schools a beleaguered Keanu Reeves in stranger danger, then Todd Phillips’s black comedy War Dogs, based on the true story of two coke-fuelled Miami hustlers who made millions brokering shady arms deals for the US military in Iraq. As the girlfriend at home with the baby, de Armas made far more of her role than was on the page, but the language barrier was suffocating her usually expansive range: “In one of the scenes the director wanted to change the dialogue. It was one of the worst moments of my career. In front of the entire crew I tried and tried and just couldn’t do it. Todd went, ‘Forget it, just say it the way it was.’ I was so sad and frustrated because I couldn’t be myself, and I had no freedom as an actor. But it was a great reality check. I was like, ‘I have to do better. Work harder.’ And I did.” She signed up to a four month crash course in English and plunged back into auditions, continuing to make a name for herself – occasionally in films that didn’t deserve her – as an actor capable of rearranging our emotions with lived-in performances brimming with humanity.

Her breakthrough, though, came by way of a nonhuman role. In Denis Villeneuve’s ravishing, perpetually raining neo-noir Blade Runner 2049, she morphed from manga to geisha to Fifties housewife at the touch of a button as AI projection Joi. Despite her hologram’s ability to vanish inside a handheld console or stretch into a building-height advertisement, de Armas invested Joi with three dimensions and found tangible chemistry with Ryan Gosling’s sad-eyed, replicant-hunting gumshoe. The film won a couple of Oscars, put de Armas on genuine billboards and then on the red carpet, between Gosling and Harrison Ford. So it must have been a little exasperating when soon after, she was asked to provide an audition tape for a secret project that described her character in two words: “‘Latina, caretaker’,” de Armas says, rolling her eyes. “I was like, I do not have the energy, what is this?” She was in the midst of a gruelling threemonth shoot for Greg Barker’s biopic Sergio, pinballing from Thailand to Brazil to Jordan as the partner of peace-broker and human rights crusader Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the UN diplomat who was killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad in 2003. “I said, you either tell me why this is worth it or I can’t. I passed on it twice because of that description. In the end, they sent me the whole script and I thought, oh shit! Right away I did an audition.” The film was Knives Out, Rian Johnson’s sly Cluedo game of a murder mystery, and her pivotal turn as the nurse to a millionaire crime novelist wove a critique of Trump’s immigration policies that subverted that cliché of a character description. It won her a Golden Globe nomination and the admiration of co-star Daniel Craig, who engineered the role in Bond that transformed her into one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors.

Today she has a home in Havana (“My friends come over, we cook and play dominoes and what starts with some pork and rice and black beans ends up in a huge music jam session”) and an apartment in New York, shared with her boyfriend, Paul Boukadakis, and her two dogs, Salsa and Elvis. The latter canine is also now a movie star: when Dominik met Elvis, he was struck by his uncanny resemblance to Monroe’s own Maltese terrier, Maf (short for Mafia), given to her by Frank Sinatra the year before she died. And so Elvis was hired to play him – you can see the silky white terrier in the spectral, hazily lit scenes depicting Monroe’s bleary final hours behind the bougainvillea-laced walls of Fifth Helena Drive. When I mention struggling to sleep post that haunting ending, de Armas nods and her voice drops a little. “Those final scenes at her house – I know she was there with us,” she says. “We all felt it. And I think you can feel that in the movie.”

During her lifetime – and even her afterlife – Monroe was reduced time and again to a caricature of herself, despite her formidable talent and ambitions. Blonde’s intricate, knotty portrayal of her, de Armas says, sets out to reconstruct that diminishing narrative. “It’s the story of the double standards and hypocrisy of the culture we live in,” she says. “People obsessed over her body and shamed her for it. They criticise you for the same things they celebrate you for. There’s no way of winning. Marilyn was one of the first actresses who broke her deal with the studio and created her own production company, to make her own films. This was massive at the time. She wanted to be taken seriously. But no one was listening. They just wanted her to keep repeating the same thing forever.” In some ways, though, Monroe might help de Armas avoid that impossible trap herself. With Blonde, the actor who has already shapeshifted from lamp-post-climbing kid to Havana theatre student to Spanish teen star to Hollywood action heroine looks poised for another reinvention. “So many action roles have come my way from those few minutes in Bond,” she says. “If Blonde now brings me all these intense, dark roles, I will be happy. Blonde was hard on my head and hard on my heart, but I want to confront these issues. I want to talk about taboos and uncomfortable things and figure out how we really feel about them. And I think telling stories is a beautiful way to do that.”

Hair: Orlando Pita at Home Agency. Make-up: Francelle Daly at Home Agency. Set design: Piers Hanmer. Manicure: Megumi Yamamoto at Susan Price. Digital tech: Tadaaki Shibuya. Photographic assistants: Nick Brinley, Alex Hopkins and Shri Prasham. Styling assistants: George Pistachio, Molly Shillingford, Rosie Borgerhoff Mulder and Cornelius Lafayette. Tailor: Eliz Diratsaoglu at Lars Nordensten. Set-design assistant: Louis Sarowsky. Producer: Gracey Connelly. Post-production: Gloss.

This story features in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Buy a copy here.

Fran Summers Swarovski Another Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

The Ethereal Beauty of Fran Summers

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

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

See the full story in the gallery above.

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

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

AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022 Robbie Spencer

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Photographs Dancers as Human Sculptures

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

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

See the full story in the gallery above.

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

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

Vincent Rockins Spring/Summer 2022 AnOther Magazine

A Personal Portrait of Vincent Rockins, by Alasdair McLellan

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

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

See the full story in the gallery above.

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

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

AN42_COV4 COLLECTIONS WOMEN_3-HR

Craig McDean Captures the Season’s Most Magnetic Looks

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

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

See the full story in the gallery above.

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

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

Pieter Mulier: Alaïa for AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodie Turner-Smith for AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

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

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

Jodie Turner-Smith AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOH: Oof.

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

JOH: Yeah. Anyone that was married to Henry.

JTS: Henry was a sociopath.

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

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

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

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

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

JOH: I love the punctuation of complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JTS: Me too, Jeremy. Me too.

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

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

JOH: Exactly.

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

JOH: Yes, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOH: What kind of Bahamian are you playing?

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

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

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

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

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

JOH: Yes, exactly.

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

JOH: Oh my God. That’s you guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Yang is out now.

WILLEM DAFOE FOR ANOTHER MAGAZINE SPRING/SUMMER 2022

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

Joshua Woods and Ellie Grace Cumming capture the chameleonic actor

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

WILLEM DAFOE FOR ANOTHER MAGAZINE SPRING/SUMMER 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret Qualley Chanel Spring/Summer 2022 Another magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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