Todd Selby and I met at a New Year’s party (well, I guess you could call it a party) in a small town in the Yucatan Penninsula a half decade ago. A mutual friend, who we love but is a little bonkers, had promised a disco rave in an old school Aztec village. What we got was an iPod dock and some Red Bulls in an abandoned town square. But, wow was it fun. Todd is the sort of guy who can have fun anywhere. Which is the reason why I like his style of photography so much: He notices the little things, shoots the quirky things, has an eye for something special when it might be easy to miss it. His newest book, seen here, is all about fashion people. Here, we talk about it.
Derek Blasberg: I have to be honest: I love going to people’s houses. I will go to the house of someone I don’t even like, just to see their house. Are you the same way?
Todd Selby: I’ve always been curious about getting to know people and I always thought the best part of being a photographer for a magazine was seeing peoples houses and learning about them through that.
DB: Have you ever been shocked by someone’s house?
TS: I do my research and never agree to shoot a place till I have seen photos. I have never shot a place just on word of mouth.
DB: Oh, but I bet now everyone wants you to shoot their place. Do you get a lot of requests?
TS: People come to me all the time, but the vast majority of what I do is still finding the subjects I want to focus on.
DB: When you go into people’s houses to take pictures, do you have a good ice breaker? Do you sit for a cup of tea and make them relax? Or do you go straight in and start snapping what they have in their cabinets?
TS: My ice breaker is to ask for a tour of their house. This gives the subject a chance to off the bat tell me and show me what’s in their house and I start to get a sense of things in the house are especially important to them.
DB: How long does a tour take?
TS: The tour usually takes 5 to 10 minutes and I do start casually taking photos of some of the items the subject mentions.
DB: Do people need some wooing? Or are they typically game from the get go?
TS: If there is someone I really want to shoot, now I just send them my other books so they get a feel of what I am looking to do with them. Having the previous books definitely helps me a lot.
DB: How did you start taking pictures of peoples’ places in the first place?
TS: started shooting my friends and their places on my time off and it evolved from there.
DB: Who were some of the first people?
TS: My buddy William Eadon was the first person, which you can see here
. Carols and Marico were another one and what was funny is that Marico feel asleep during the shoot. The first and last time this happened to me thank goodness!
DB: This newest book is dedicated to fashion people. Why fashion?
TS: Fashion is a world of kooky colorful people, such as you, Mr. Blasberg. It’s a natural fit for my photography.
DB: Who’s the kookiest fashion person, if you had to pick?
TS: Definitely me! I am up to all sort of kooky stuff all the time.
DB: In your experiences, are fashion people tidy at home? Or more messy? I like to think creative people have really messy homes. But maybe that’s because my house is really messy.
TS: It totally varies, some creative people are in the messy camp and some are ultra organized or minimalist. It runs the gamut.
DB: Anyone shock you by being particularly messy-minded, but very organized at home? Or the other way around? Do you think that most people ‘clean up’ for you?
TS: People generally do clean up and even I think art direct their homes before I come. I’ve caught people putting together perfect piles of books and neatly arranging their shoes, just for me.
DB: Most of the spaces you photograph are extremely eccentric, so you must be somewhat immune to too much zaniness. But, has there been a place that you’ve just been floored by in terms of bonkers design?
TS: The goal for me is that someone picks up the book and no matter where they start, they see one of the crazy kooky places I shot.
DB: Any funny stories on the job?
TS: I’ve been really into the cat t-shirt style for a long time, and then I met Natalie Gibson who has 18 cats and has been wearing cat things for many, many years. She is the originator of the cat in fashion movement.
DB: You travel all over the globe for work, is there one place that you think has a tendency to produce more noteworthy spaces?
TS: London and Japan are where I found the most out there spots!
DB: What’s the most random spot you’ve venture for a fashion person’s home? Any distant, far off place?
TS: For one shoot in the book, I went out to Yuima Nakazato’s tree house two hours outside of Tokyo where his family lives. That was pretty epic!
DB: I think Manuel is the jam. You tried on those jackets, didn’t you? You must have.
TS: I was definitely considering it. But I just didn’t know how I could pull it off.
DB: Missed opportunity. Has anyone ever given you any amazing home souvenirs?
TS: I definitely get a lot of little presents. Louis Vuitton has definitely showed me the love over the years with bags and all sorts of camera accessories.
DB: Simon Doonan wrote the forward in your book. How did you get involved with him? Have you ever been in his closet? Tell me the truth: How many feathered boas does he have?
I shot him for ‘The Selby is in Your’ place and have known him for quite a long time. I’ve photographed him in his closet so you’ll have to check it out yourself!
Captions, from top: The cover of Todd’s book; an interior from Virginia Bates’ bonkers space; some rad jackets from Manuel Couture; works from Written Afterwards; a Natalie Gibson sketch from the book; Todd, shot by Mark Seliger.
UPDATE: Since I’ve posted this, the New York Times has done a fabulous review of the xx at the Armory. But be warned: There are spoilers.
We weren’t given that many details. The woman from Burberry who had invited us sent this scary email that said if we weren’t on time we wouldn’t be let in, which gave me a bit of anxiety. It was a Vogue party. Who can’t be fashionably late to a Vogue party? But I followed directions, showed up on time, turned off my phones, left my camera at home. And I was happy I did. We were lead through an underground tunnel of the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and then emerged in a small tent with the band The xx. I won’t tell you what happened next. It wouldn’t be fair to the band, or to someone who is reading this that goes. Suffice it to see it was emotionally fulfilling. It was epic. It was a live gig that melded an art show with a light installation. There was a reception afterward and the band came in, and I was something that I haven’t been in a long time: Speechless. Last night was the first night of a 10 night gig in New York. Do whatever you have to do to get tickets. But if you don’t, do what I did for most of today: Just watch their videos on Youtube. Here, I’ll help you out.
I felt like a schoolboy playing hookie: This season, I skipped Paris fashion week to be in LA, replacing fashion with art and the Academy Awards. There are a few reasons for this, mind you. First of all, the artist Taryn Simon had an opening at the Beverly Hills outpost of Gagosian. And secondly, I hadn’t been in LA for Oscars weekend in a few years and I could have used an injection of sunny glamour after such a brutal winter. (The irony that it rained for most of the time wasn’t lost on me.) Besides, I had just been in Paris for the couture shows last month, and I had already done Milan.
Oscars weekend in LA is a very peculiar thing. It’s like all four fashion weeks combined into one, but stripped of fashion show runways and replaced with red carpets. The faces are just as beautiful but more familiar. In fact, the quotient of famous people in a small space becomes to intense that suddenly the existence of fame itself becomes a desensitizing commodity. It hits the saturating point where it becomes, Eh, who cares? Suddenly, seeing Lupita Nyong’o in the Chateau Marmont lobby isn’t as impressive because you just bumped into Olivia Wilde’s baby bump waiting for your rental car at the valet. (Though, for the record, my highlight of the weekend: Literally being in a corner with Baby from Dirty Dancing.)
For someone who doesn’t work in Hollywood, the pressure is off. In fact, it’s all fun and jolly and – this is a pretty perfect for it – gay. I spent the first part of Oscars night eating pizza in bed with my friend Jacqui, and then threw on a tuxedo after I watched Jared Leto accept the Best Supporting Actor Award. I adore Jared, a friend I had interviewed about the part of Rayon for the cover of Candy magazine last year, when she was just a character and not a career defining role. (READ THE ARTICLE HERE.) Then I went first to Elton John’s viewing dinner (I was there when Kelly Osborne strangled Lady Gaga in the ultimate photo op); then to the Vanity Fair Oscar party, which involved two security checkpoints and a level of glitz that is to be expected from the legendary party. My night ended – or rather the next morning started – at a party high in the Hills that I probably shouldn’t talk about if I ever want to be invited back. (Suffice it to say a legend who’s name starts with the letter M was the mistress of ceremonies.)
Before the Oscar weekend festivities, the weekend was anchored in something serious: The American artist Taryn Simon’s opening at Gagosian. Titled ‘Birds of the West Indies,’ it’s an obsessive observation at creating the legacy that has become the James Bond franchise. From the show notes: “In 1936, an ornithologist called James Bond released the definitive taxonomy of birds found in the Caribbean, titled Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming, an active bird watcher living in Jamaica, subsequently appropriated the name for his novel’s lead character. This co-opting of names was the first in a series of substitutions that would become central to the construction of the James Bond narrative. In a meticulous and comprehensive dissection of the Bond films, artist Taryn Simon inventoried women, weapons and vehicles, constant elements in the films between 1962 and 2012.”
My father has been a fan of the Bond films for as long as I can remember. Watching ‘Live and Let Die’ at our condo, which smelled like mildew, at the Lake of the Ozarks is one of my most wonderful childhood memories. So to see the components of these films, like Jane Seymour (who was Solitaire in ‘Live and Let Die’) and the speed boats and the handguns, was a peculiarly touching experience. This being LA, however, Taryn’s opening was as star studded as ever. Jared was there, and so were a bunch of other West Coast lumanaries, like Cameron and even Gwyneth. (Taryn is married to Gwyneth’s brother, Jake.) Seeing all that Bond memorabilia reminded me of the depth and the warmth of my childhood in Missouri, which are emotions that are sometimes hard to find in this town on this weekend.
CAPTIONS, from top: The prince of the weekend, Jared Leto, and I at Taryn Simon’s opening; Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson and Leslie Mann at the Vanity Fair party; Behati Prinsloo, Hilary Rhoda, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lily Aldridge; Poppy Delevingne and Sienna Miller at the Chanel dinner; the French filmmaker Alexandre Espigares, who won best Short for “Mr Hublot,” with his wife and Jason Stathom, who he said he had a shrine of at his house and was nearly shaking when I introduced hem; Rosie and me making a Gayle King sandwich at VF; the highlight of my weekend: being in a corner with Baby from Dirty Dancing; Tayrn Simon after her opening; Jacqui Getty, Wendi Murdoch and Eva Chow at Taryn’s dinner; Elle Fanning, Terry Richardson and Jared at Taryn’s opening; coming up Rosie; the Oscar nominated Barkhad Abdi and his friend, who I bumped into on the street walking up to the Vanity Fair party; Anne V, Ashley Green and Angela Lindvall with Dan and Dean from DSquared2 at Elton John’s party; Rosie and Erin Wasson causing trouble; Sean Avery and Noah Mills; Rosie and four K’s: Karolina Kurkova and Karlie Kloss; me and Annie Hathaway
I’m not a Milan fashion week regular. In fact, before this season, the super stylist Katie Grand had only got me to the Italian fashion capital for 24 hours to launch her Hogan collection. But this week, since I was missing the shows in Paris (more on that in a future post), I figured I should pay homage to the Italian capital. Another reason? Three of my favorite people celebrated their birthdays.
‘Twas an above average Saturday night of fashion week. First up was Meenal Mistry, who had an Italian and pizza dinner (carbs? What carbs?) at the writer JJ Martin’s house. Sped through that one and then headed to Margherita Missoni’s birthday dinner. (Margherita has been like a sister to me, and who could forget how lovely she looked on her wedding?) And then my final stop: The infamous nightclub Plastic, where W’s Edward Enninful was celebrating his birthday with a midnight dance party. I checked every box this night: a sweet and intimate casual affair, a seated Italian feast, and a sweaty dance party that ended mere hours before my first show.
Edward owned this season: Not only was it his birthday, his ‘Iconoclast’ collaboration with the Prada stores debuted. It was a sensation: He turned to the Harlem Renaissance for inspiration, so there was colors and textures and a feeling of excited extravagance. At the mens store, a live jazz band played while Maria Carla Boscono and Jamie Bochert cut a rug. Also, to be noted here: The Prada show earlier that afternoon was a sensation. It was all deep V-necks with giant coats and sheer dresses.
Confession: I did briefly escape the Milan collections to attend a friend’s dinner in St. Moritz. That was an ordeal all of its own because, umm, I crossed the border without a passport. Somehow, my Missouri driver’s license sufficed after some begging, pleading, lower lip puckering.
When I got back to Milan, it was a decadent ending: Dolce & Gabbana’s show of fairy tales, armor clad power girls and even a little red riding hood finale. The shoes at D&G were works of art in themselves. That was followed by Missoni, which proved a colorful ending to my Milanese weekend.
Captions from top: Margherita Missoni and Jamie Bochert sandwiching Edward Enninful; the last look at Dolce & Gabanna; three generations of Missoni women: Angela and her daughter Margherita, and her mother Rosita; Stefan Beckman, Edward, Joan Smalls and Pat McGrath; Franca Sozzani and Giancarlo Giammetti; me and Margherita; Hanne Gaby on the Prada runway; the group shot at Meenal Mistry’s birthday party at JJ Martin’s house; Margherita on her birthday; Edward at his birthday; Joan and Georgia May Jagger at the Principe Hotel; my favorite fashion week females: Vogue’s Tabitha Simmons, Vanity Fair’s Jessica Diehl and WSJ. Magazine’s Kristina O’Neill; Cara Delevingne on the Fendi runway; handsome fellas George Cortina and Magnus Berger; the dinner scene at Margherita’s birthday; Kate King coming into the Dolce & Gabbana show; Anna Dello Russo, Lily McMenemy and Sophia Hesketh at Plastic nighclub; a Principe pileup in the bar with me, MariaCarla and Joan
London was hit with a double whammy this week: In a glamorous snafu of schedules, it was both London fashion week and the BAFTA awards, which meant that the British capital was infiltrated by the world’s biggest movie stars as well as its top models. I’ll just come out and say my highlight now: Sharing an elevator with Brad and Angelina at the Edition Hotel after the BAFTA’s. I had thought of all these really creative things to say: “Brad, I’m from Missouri too.” Or, “Angelina, I used to date women too.” But instead I just pressed my floor and sucked in the famous air. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The biggest trend in New York – crappy weather – continued on the first day of #LFW. The winds in London diverted a few planes, including Anna Wintour’s, who ended up in Newcastle, and The New York Times’ Kate Lanphear, who ended up in Dublin. Somehow, I managed to land as scheduled (for once in my life, good flight kharma), and then the rest of the weekend was sunny and sweet.
My first show? My friend JW Anderson. I sat next to Amanda Harlech, who has become one of his most ardent supporters. Jonathan, the designer, and I met through mutual friends and I’ve watched with pride as he’s become a toast of London and – soon enough – Paris, when he debuts his first collection for Bally next season. LVMH invested in him last year, and this season his show was expectedly unexpected. Later that day, I caught another friend’s show, Henry Holland, who always puts a smile on my face. His shows are always silly, colorful and have a wink to them. It’s clear to see why he’s one of the London fashion scene’s most popular boys. That night was Charles Finch’s pre-BAFTA dinner, cohosted by Chanel. The perfect way to end a debut of fashion week. Again, I was sat next to Amanda, and on my other side was the impossibly beautiful Elisa Sednaoui. We gawked at Bradley Cooper, mainly, and probably drank too much.
Cara Delevingne owned the following day when she debuted her own handbag with Mulberry. It’s in three sizes, but my favorite was the largest, which turned into a backpack. Cara showed up at dinner at the Claridges wearing it. That dinner was, err, interesting, since I had to reconcile the fact that I’m finally an adult. Cara sat me next to her father, Charles, who’s as charming as ever, a seemingly family trait.
If Cara owned the day, the BAFTA’s owned the night. When we got back to the Edition Hotel, Ian Schrager’s fabulous new property on Berners Street, just off Soho, a BAFTA after party was in full swing. (This is when I not-so-accidentally ended up in the elevator with Brad & Angie.) Nupita and Oprah and a bunch of familiar faces were all there – and so was someone who captivated everyone’s attention, Michael Fassbender. My friend Jessica and I ended up fake-smoking cigarettes in a top-secret conference room on the second floor, just to watch him. That’s normal, right?
Monday at London Fashion week is a packed day. It starts with Christopher Kane, which was subversive and sweet and full of trash bags and fur coats; then to Erdem, which was polished and lacey and embroidered; Burberry was tricky for me because, well, some lady was in my seat and wouldn’t move (so I had to watch the whole thing on Instagram); and finally Tom Ford, which was expectedly glamorous. But the ensemble we’re all going to remember from tom’s show was the one that was a sequined sports jersey mini dress that paid homage to Jay-Z’s lyric that he doesn’t pop molly, he rocks Tom Ford.
London fashion week ends with the Elle Style Awards, and this year I was the date (well, one of the dates of) Lily Allen, who won for Most Stylish Recording Artist wearing a dress by Roland Mouret, who was another of her dates. She’s their March cover, after all. Which is the fourth time she was on the cover. As far as fashion ‘do’s go, this one was pretty fabulous. You can get by with so much more in London than you can in other cities. There’s an irreverence that you lets you get by with almost anything. Or so it seemed with some of the one-liners that popped out of host Nick Grimshaw’s mouth. Katy Perry was Woman of the Year. Tom Ford gave an award to David Bailey, who said that he liked the awards show because the set reminded him of the opening sequence of the Fox cartoon Family Guy. If that’s not British irreverence, I don’t know what is.
Captions, from top: The London eye in the distance of Poppy Delevingne’s London eyes; Katy Perry, who was the Elle Woman of the Year, with her stylist Johnny Wuchek and Henry Holland; me and Joan Smalls; Roland Mouret and Lily Allen; an antiquity in Spencer House; Camilla al Fayed and her father, the Egyptian businessman Mohammed; Joan and Jourdan Dunn getting frisky at Cara Delevingne’s party; Karen Elson, Katie Grand and Luella Bartley at the Love party; Karen on the Tom Ford catwalk; Elisa Sednaoui, me and Lady Amanda Harlech at the Chanel dinner; Mark Ronson at Chanel’s dinner; Tati at the Firehouse; Laura Love, Geordon Nicol, Harley Viera Newton and Atlanta de Cadenet; Camilla and Elisa in a sandwich with Lucas and Benji; Charlotte Stockdale and her Dries van Noten dress; Fran Hickman and Caroline Sieber at the Chanel dinner; a kissing sandwich with Kelly Osborne and Cara Delevingne; Jourdan getting snuggly with Charles Delevingne, Cara’s dad; Kelly being unzipped by Joan; Hamish Bowles in the front row at JW Anderson’s show; Angel Haze; Poppy offering some glamour to a city block; David Thielebeule and Kate Lanphear at the Edition Hotel; Edie Campbell and Stefano Tonchi; Henry with Jonathan Saunders and Christopher Kane at Hoi Palloi; Elizabeth Saltzman and Jefferson Hack; Poppy and the BFC president Natalie Massenet at the Style Awards; Leigh Lezark, Daisy Lowe and Lily at the Firehouse.
I’m a recent Chelsea transplant. (After living amidst yummy mummys and bankers in Tribeca for a few years, being so close to art galleries and the Highline was a welcomed change of pace.) My buddies at the mens label Berluti asked for a tour of my new New York neighborhood, and I was only too happy to give it to them. Even if we nearly froze our fingertips off. Watch me wander around my favorite hotspots, including the 192 Books shop, both Gagosian galleries, the Chelsea market, Cookshop restaurant and the abrasive symphony that is New York City traffic.
No matter how self important we fashion people may become, Mother Nature proved that she’s the one calling the shots during New York fashion week. The defining trend this season: The cold. Not in recent memory has there been so many women wearing down jackets and Wellington boots during fashion week. Pity the street style photographers.
Despite what was happening on the streets, however, the city still brought the glamour the industry has come to expect from New York, the first stop on the month long fashion season.
Red was big this season: There was the last look at Donna Karan, which was Karlie Kloss in a flowing chiffon cape. And then there was Tabitha Simmons’ birthday dinner at the Bowery Hotel where she found herself in a ginger sandwich, courtesy of fashion’s favorite red heads Karen Elson and Grace Coddington. (Also at Tabby’s birthday, I met the actor called Kit from Game of the Thrones. I haven’t yet seen that show, but Kit was reason enough for me to add it to my Netflix queue.)
Perhaps the most poignant moment during fashion week was a dinner that Barney’s organized at the Swiss Institute on Wooster Street to celebrate their spring campaign, which Bruce Weber photographed using exclusively transgendered models. Fashion week dinners can be tedious, and using transgendered models could be seen as a gimmick. But Bruce’s 35 minute film, served during the first course, was an endearing tribute to some of the world’s strongest, most inspiring young people. I was sat next to a girl called Valentijn, who had been born a boy and started taking hormones when she was 5. She wanted to be a ballerina, and has used the poise she used as a young dancer to grow into an elegant – and extremely tall – model based in Holland.
Other memorable moments? Alexander Wang’s dance party, which was held in a much more convenient venue than his fashion show. Grace Jones performing at AMFAR. Moncler’s presentation at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which had an acapella group on stilts swinging around a stage that was filled with a Hollywood Squares-inspired grid of their outwear. Prabal Gurung had a streaker at his show, which was amusing and sort of annoying. (To work for six months on a show, and then some Urkanian douchebag mucks it up? Not cool.) The Purple party was cooler than school. And just as the snow started to come down, Proenza Schouler hosted an afterparty for their show — which was one of my favorites of the week — at Westway.
Finally, on the snowiest, slushiest, coldest day, it all ended: Marc Jacobs presented a sparkled and ruffled fantasy of a show under plushy clouds. It made me think that even on a cloudy day, in fashion we can find beauty. After the show, I ended fashion week in the most fabulous way I could think of: At a crappy midtown karaoke bar to celebrate my friend Kristina’s birthday. Not to brag, but I killed it on the mic to ‘Fergilious’ and ‘Jesus Walks.’
Captions, from top: Karlie at Oscar de la Renta; Karen, Tabitha and Grace at Tabby’s birthday dinner; Kit, me and Gus at the Bowery Hotel; Grace Jones at the AMFAR gala; Carine Roitfeld and Julia Roitfeld at the Altuzarra show; Natalia Vodianova at a dinner for Berluti’s new store on Madison Avenue; The faces of The Man Repeller and Into The Gloss at the Prabal Gurung show; Prabal after his show; The front row at Altuzarra, from left: Jenna Lyons, Courtney Grangi, Phillip Grangi, Liberty Ross and Sofia Sanchez; DVF having an exciteable moment at her post show dinner; the Moncler presentation; Caroline and Alexia at Theory; Leigh and Randi at the Darby; Margherita Missoni on the front row; Gina Gershon and Gia Coppola at Zac Posen’s show; a model on Zac’s runway; Simon Doonan and Valentijn; Matthew Moneypenny and Magnus Berger at the Barneys dinner; Bruce Weber and Barney’s Dennis Freedman with two of the models; me and Karlie; Olivier Zahm and Mario Sorrenti; the Brant brothers and Harley Viera Newton; Julia and Liberty; The Hiltons: Paris, Nicky and Barron; Chrissie and Alex at the Purple magazine party; The Dorff; Lauren and Dasha having an uptown moment; Gaia Repossi, Gia and Samantha Traina at the Proenza Schouler show; Lisa Love, David Armstrong and Pamela Hanson at the Proenza party; Jack McCollough and Trish Goff; Rita Ora feeling frisky at the DKNY show; Hanne Gaby at Alex Wang’s party; Chanel Iman and Karlie at the Berluti dinner; Klaus Beisenbach and Cecilia Dean at the Marc Jacobs show; Kristina O’Neill with Clare Richardson, Elin Kling and Andreea Diaconu at Kristina’s birthday.
My good pal Emma asked me if I’d interview her for the newest issue of Wonderland magazine, which is on stands now. As with everything she does, she took on the project of a guest editor of the magazine with gusto. And I was only too happy to get lost in her enthusiasm. Below is our chat.
Emma and I together at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013
My mother is the first person to say I always wanted a little brother or sister. I was the youngest in my entire family, and I always felt like it was a disservice to humanity that there wasn’t someone after me onto whom I could dispel my pearls of wisdom. So, when Emma Watson – then a smiley, sweet, super smart teenager – and I became buddies, I felt like my childhood prayers had been answered. There was only one striking difference: Emma, wise beyond her years, already knew more than I did about just about everything and didn’t need any such advice. Emma is one of those rare breeds of people who have an intuition, a good head on their shoulders, a quick judgment. I can’t be certain that, as her adopted big bro, she’s learned any of that from me, but I will say she’s taught me a thing or two. She is concise, put together, organised, forthright and reliable. (Which are not the sorts of adjectives that apply to most child actors.) Back when I’d visit her on the Harry Potter sets, her dressing areas would be tidy(ish) and her well worn and bookmarked books would be stacked everywhere. She navigated the pressures of filming the world’s most successful cinema franchise with elegance and grace, and she didn’t forget to do the little things, like send funny postcards from vacations and fruit baskets at the holidays. After Potter, I watched her grow into a beautiful young woman who is navigating a career that’s entirely her own. It’s been an interesting transition: As she herself says, she felt she was an adult even when she was in the body a little girl waving a magic wand. Now, it’s as though she has caught up with herself. In the film Perks of Being a Wallflower, she charmingly captured the end of an American innocence. In Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, she made me smile as she poked fun at the pitfalls of teenage American materialism. In the upcoming Noah, she tackles the role of a biblical daughter-in-law in an epic adventure. Behold: Emma, a thoroughly modern woman.
DEREK BLASBERG: Where are you right now and what are you doing?
EMMA WATSON: Right now I’m on holiday. I’m stood on the balcony of my hotel room and I’m scratching my feet because I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitos. I look like I have a disease. I’m told I have sweet blood.
D: Well, I’m freezing in New York, so you won’t get much mosquito sympathy from me.
E: Well, I miss New York. I loved living there.
D: You were in New York during Hurricane Sandy. How surreal was that?
E: It was surreal for a couple of reasons. It delayed the end of our shooting for a few weeks, so we got the irony of filming an epic biblical movie about a flood, and then a storm comes and floods much of New York. It even damaged the ark, which was what set us back. The other reason that it was surreal was because you and I were on the Upper East Side, which was completely unfazed by the storm. We had high speed Internet and our phones. All the shops were open and, even weirder, people were shopping in them. The Carlyle Hotel was packed with people getting drinks. I remember calling you and asking, ‘Isn’t there something we can do I feel like such a waste of space?’ And you took me on a meal delivery with Citymeals on Wheels. That was amazing that we could do that. Do you remember Pearl?
D: How could I forget Pearl?
E: She was the spritely 90-year-old woman who was listening to Elvis Prestley records when we knocked on her door and delivered her food. Pearl was a babe.
D: Were you ever scared during the storm?
E: I remember not taking it very seriously, and then my dad called and said I should fill the bath with water. And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ He said to put on the news and then I realized it was going to be a serious thing in some areas. When I showed up at Brown they warned me that it was going to get cold, and I said, ‘ I’m from England. I know what cold is.’ But I soon learned that, no, I didn’t know what cold is. My first semester at Brown [in Providence, Rhode Island], when it got into the negative temperatures, I just didn’t want to leave my dorm room. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I’d only go out to get supplies. The cold makes me miserable!
D: Speaking of Brown, I’m very proud that you are going to be an official Ivy League graduate soon.
E: Yes! I’m going to graduate in May, which I can’t believe. I can’t. I just can’t! Very exciting.
D: So, tell me: What do you plan on doing with that major?
E: Tough question… I’ve been very fulfilled by my studies. English has helped me think in an analytical way. It’s helped me see the world from new perspectives. Diving into these stories and characters has given richness to my own life. And now, when I read scripts or look at stories, I have these references for a larger understanding of humanity. I’m sure it will make my job as an actress more interesting.
D: I visited you on the Harry Potter set a few times, and it was like a little family and everyone knew each other.
E: It was. I miss the people too. I miss the familiarity.
D: And to go from that to a new place, a new school, with new friends – must not have been easy, right?
E: I really wanted a new experience. I loved not knowing anyone. It felt very exciting, and I felt like I was striking out on my own in a very real, very new way. But there’s this thing called the Sophomore Slump, which is a phenomenon that is apparently known and recognized, though I had never heard of it. It caught me by surprise. For the first year at university, everything is new and exciting. You don’t realize that you don’t have your support structure, your home comforts, and all those touchstones that help keep you on track. Then, after the first year, when the adrenaline wears off, you find yourself in a slump. That’s what happened to me by the end of my third term. I felt very unsettled and lost.
D: My mother always told me that in struggles we find strength.
E: She’s right. Now I really know how to take care of myself, how to be alone, how to deal with stress. If I hadn’t been through that time, I wouldn’t have got there. I never knew I had limits. You make good friends and you make bad friends, and you have to figure it all out. You realize you can’t do everything. I really did think I could do it all – commute back to the UK for Potter filming and press, then go to Brown for finals, and keep up with my friends and family. You can’t do by the way. You do have to take breaks. It’s how I became interested in meditation and yoga. I developed bedtime rituals.
D: Like what?
E: You’re going to laugh, but now every night before I go to bed I make a hot water bottle. It’s a ritual that makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself, and that’s important.
D: Learning how to be alone is a good lesson, and one I don’t think a lot of actresses learn.
E: I realized that. When you’re on a film set you’re watched and you’re never alone and there are all these demands on your time. Everyone knows where you are at every moment of the day. Then, I went to Brown and suddenly I was all alone. At first I hated it. Now, I’m happy to be by myself. I can be calm and productive and content, alone in my apartment.
D: Now, be honest: Have you ever wanted to go off the rails? Like, get drunk and get a tattoo?
E: Ha, I love tattoos. But I love them on other people. In fact, I have a Pinterest account and a whole board of tattoos that I like – but I would never want one for myself. I don’t think I could pull it off. My own self-image would not allow it.
D: But you’re not as puritanical as that, Emma.
E: I feel like I’ve been given a lot of credit where it isn’t due that I don’t like to party. The truth is that I’m genuinely a shy, socially awkward, introverted person. At a big party, I’m like Bambie in the headlights. It’s too much stimulation for me, which is why I end up going to the bathroom! I need time outs! You’ve seen me at parties, Derek. I get anxious. I’m terrible at small talk and I have a ridiculously short attention span.
D: That, I have noticed. Is part of that because you’ve become this big public figure?
E: Probably. I feel a pressure when I’m meeting new people because I’m aware of their expectations. That makes socializing difficult. Which isn’t to say that when I’m in a small group and around my friends, I don’t love to dance and be extroverted. I am just extremely self-conscious in public.
D: On that note, I’d like to formally apologize for being so shocked when you cut off all your hair.
E: Why? I loved that you were one of the first people to see it. I loved your reaction. You were utterly shocked. It was an appropriate reaction for a big brother.
D: You caught me off guard. It was so unexpected.
E: It wasn’t unexpected to me. I had been crafting it in my mind for years. So, when the time came, I went ahead and did it.
D: Have you ever thought of the psychology behind it? Like, did you do it because you were done with Harry Potter and you wanted to craft yourself a new image? Like Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games?
E: I think Jennifer Lawrence needed to cut hers off. But I see the parallel you’re trying to make. Maybe Miley Cyrus is a better example?
D: Ha! Exactly.
E: My mother always had really short hair, always had a pixie. So for me, it wasn’t as crazy as it was to you. To be honest, I felt more myself with that haircut. I felt bold, and it felt empowering because it was my choice. It felt sexy too. Maybe it was the bare neck, but for some reason I felt super, super sexy.
D: So, one day you’ll cut it again?
E: Absolutely. I miss it so much. The minute I get pregnant, the first thing I’m going to do is cut my hair off because I know I won’t be working for a time. If I wasn’t an actress, I’d keep it that way. I could wash it in the sink and shake it out like a dog. It’s so low maintenance!!!!
D: Let’s continue discussing appearances. Has fashion been any sort of fulfillment for you?
E: I love fashion as a thing. And I very much still follow it and find it interesting and when I come across something really great I get excited and I’m inspired. But there was a moment when I took a step away from fashion.
D: I was once sat next to Gwen Stefani at some fashion event, and she told me she always often feels like she’s in a Saturday Night Live skit at those things.
E: I find it slightly surreal too. I can remember my first Paris fashion week, and the insanity and hysteria that went along with it. Just to get into a fashion show? It’s more intense than a movie premiere. Sometimes people ask me why I don’t go to more shows, but to be honest I’d rather watch it on the internet. Fashion is this massive, huge industry, which I like to dip my toes into. But it’s not my industry.
D: That’s true. Film is. Do you remember the day that you and me went to see the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Tate, and I told you that I could see you being a producer or director one day? And you looked at me like I had ten heads.
E: Yes! People say that to me a lot now. Maybe I will one day.
D: Are you still looking for something else you enjoy doing?
E: Do you remember that time I called you up and asked if you knew anyone who needed an intern? And you almost died laughing?
D: Yes. You asked if I knew anyone who wanted you to be their personal assistant for a week.
E: I was serious! I am interested in everything!!! This year, I’m turning 24. A lot of my friends are really worried about turning 24, but I like that I’m getting older. In a way, I started out like this old lady, and now I feel like my age is catching up with me. And I’m excited by all these new things for me to do. I feel like I have so much more to accomplish as an actress. I’d love to try theater and that’s a whole other thing. But when I finish my degree, I will have a lot more time to pursue other passions, and I want to figure out what those will be. I love having something completely unrelated to the film industry. I want to find something that will let me use my brain in another way. I like connecting people who aren’t part of that world too.
D: I’ve seen your paintings, they’re swell.
E: I love painting. So maybe I hone in on that and do more art classes? Or maybe something different.
D: Well, I know you’re great at yoga.
E: Then, there you go. I can be a full time actress and a personal part-time yoga teacher?
D: It’s a plan.
[See more from the story here]
I’m often asked who’s been my favorite interview of all time. It’s a long list, but the name that always pops to mind is Tom Ford. And that’s for a variety of reasons: He’s handsome, he’s polite, he’s seductive, he has that special thing when he talks to someone it feels like he’s looking into your soul and you’re the only person in the entire world.
I remember the first time I interviewed Tom. It was for the London Sunday Times. He had just opened the Tom Ford store on Madison Avenue in New York. It was during a chubbier phase in my life when I was wearing bowties. (Don’t get me started.) And after his legendary tenure at Gucci, where he redefined modern sexuality, I had to ask: “So, what do you think is sexy now?” Without missing a beat, he said, “I think bowties are really sexy right now.” I blushed like a school girl. Since that moment and in the numerous interviews we’ve had since, I’ve been hooked. Hooked on Tom Ford.
Another reason Tom is the ultimate interview? He goes there. In the below interview, which I did exclusively for 10magazine, he didn’t hold back. We were asked to discuss movies – which we did: His first movie was the Wizard of Oz; he liked Great Gatsby, which isn’t a surprise – but as with any chat with him, things veered into hedonism. Like, that smell of cocaine that really isn’t a smell but you can definitely smell it? (That was an anecdote from Studio 54, which we get to eventually.) He’s also not the biggest fan of Honey Boo Boo Child. Above all else, though, he loves making movies, especially the writing process when it’s still in his mind and everything is perfect and before the real world fucks it up. All this and more. Happy reading!
Tom Ford and I at his store opening in London.
TOM FORD: “I’m warning you, I’m so comfortable with you I may have a hard time making the effort to answer the questions properly. It takes a lot of energy to think of an answer that’s going to mean something.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “But you’re a pro. And we’re talking about film, which you know a thing or two about. I’ll go easy on you. What’s your earliest cinematic memory?”
TOM FORD: “The Wizard of Oz. When I grew up in America, they only ran it once a year. I was probably three. It was a big deal. We had color television by then because I remember seeing it in color. And I remember my parents telling me that day, ‘Wow, tonight there’s this great movie coming on – The Wizard of Oz.’ We watched it and it terrified me.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “What! How?”
TOM FORD: “The wicked witch? The flying monkeys? And the little dog, too! The witch melts at the end! That’s terrifying.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I thought you were going to say you loved it, and you’ve dreamt of sequined red shoes ever since. Are you still scared of that movie?”
TOM FORD: “No, I watch it now and enjoy it. By the way, we couldn’t have had The Great Gatsby without The Wizard of Oz.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “You’re the first person I’ve heard make that comparison, but it makes sense. I’ve found that Gatsby has become such a polarizing film.”
TOM FORD: “Everything is divided these days. Some of my friends hated it and some loved it. I loved it. I thought the casting was good, I thought the drama was good. I thought it actually told the story of the book in a more accurate, intense way than the one with Robert Redford. I saw it in 3-D. The layers and layers of camera work it took to make that is impressive. And I loved the way he always uses contemporary music in his films because it gives us, today’s audience, the same rush that a 1920s audience would have had while listening to jazz, which was totally new at the time. That’s not a new trick because he’s used it in every one of his movies. But, let’s stop this. I don’t want to review Baz Luhrmann’s film because I wouldn’t appreciate him reviewing my clothes.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “As a film-maker yourself, when you watch a film, can you detach yourself from a director’s point of view?”
TOM FORD: “I always dissect it. My emotional life is absorbing what’s happening, but I am also very aware of the shots and the cutting and the clever use of something or the depth of field or the shifting. I won’t name films, but sometimes performances that people think are so spectacular are actually the result of innovative sound design or editing.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Can a film be technically terrible but still great?”
TOM FORD: “Oh, absolutely. Sometimes those are even better. Like ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Don’t kill me, Tom, but I’ve never seen that film.”
TOM FORD: “What? How can you call yourself a self-respecting homosexual and not have seen this film?”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I know!”
TOM FORD: “It’s not even an old 1940s movie that people of your generation don’t watch any more! Marc [Jacobs] has done collections based off of it. I’ve done collections based off of it. Shoots based on it. Let’s go on YouTube right now. [Tom gets his computer and plays the trailer for the film.] Now, aren’t you dying to see that? It’s shocking you don’t know it.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I told you I was embarrassed!”
TOM FORD: “[The director] Russ Myer is a genius. The camera angles are inspired and it was so innovated for its time. Even though it was made as kitsch, camp send-up, it’s still great. It was on the dawn of pop, just as Warhol and Lichtenstein were blowing up.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “What other films would you consider works of genius?”
TOM FORD: “I could pick genius films from every period for a variety of different reasons. If I had to pick a decade it would probably be the 1930s. Most of my favorites that I would watch over and over again would be from the 1930s and early 1940s. I like Hitchcock, too.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “What about that particular time period is so amazing? The silhouette?”
TOM FORD: “The silhouette? Derek, not everything is about fashion.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “But I thought that with you it would always come back to the fashion. Designer first, director second?”
TOM FORD: “I know I’m not giving you a tight answer. Let me think this through. There was a moment when I was shooting my film that really hit me – I was watching Colin [Firth] and Julianne [Moore] together in the scene when they have their fight. We shot it over two or three days. While I was watching them on the monitor, I could remember sitting in my bed and writing exactly what I was looking at. Right there were the things I had made up in my head actually happening. Here was this woman walking through this door exactly as I had written it. Saying exactly what I had written. Dressed exactly as I had imagined. So while we can say everything in these movies didn’t really happen, they did happen! Someone filmed them. They happened. They occurred because actors and other people made them happen. They existed. One of the reasons I love Los Angeles so much is that it only exists in the world of film. Am I making any sense? [Silence.] Ha! All the films that create an imaginary life and only actually happened on film were real, are real, in some capacity. And this imaginary world of film is part of my life and my culture, so it’s hard for me to say, ‘Yes, I was inspired by this film to do this dress.’ Yes, there are particular dresses in particular films that, while I’m watching, I go, ‘Fuck!’ and I get up and I get out a piece of paper and say, ‘That shoulder looks great again’, or ‘Oh, it’s time for that waist again.’ But there is a giant file in my head of this alternative universe where thousands of films and women exist, and they are as real to me as the women I know in the real world. Now am I making sense?”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Yes, and I understand. I’ve fallen in love with people in movies, too.”
TOM FORD: “Nowadays, though, it’s not people in movies. We still live in a world of parallels. As a lot of people have fewer real-life friends, they try to connect with unreal ones. Maybe they’re online friends, or maybe it’s watching The Real Housewives. That’s why there is this fascination with the minutiae of other people’s real lives. The Housewives are now the women that live down the street that the mothers in the neighborhood would gossip about. They just don’t live down the street any more; now, they live in New Jersey or Texas, or wherever those shows are filmed. But you’re fascinated because you don’t really know your next-door neighbor any more. You watch them intimately because other people’s lives are fascinating.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “So it’s in the films of the 1940s that you find your friends and inspiration?”
TOM FORD: “Yes. The chic people from the 1940s are my friends. My parallel life is Barbara Stanwyck in 1942. Henry Fonda. That’s where I am. I’m hanging out in the desert with those crazy girls [from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’] and I’m still drinking and smoking and maybe doing some drugs. But, ‘Honey Boo Boo Child’ is not my friend.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “You said in film that you are gratified when something you envision comes to life. Do you have the same experience when you design a collection?
TOM FORD: “I have it at the fitting before the fashion show. The way we work today is really weird. We don’t work like Yves [Saint Laurent] used to work. Couturiers used to buy a bunch of fabrics that they liked and put them in the closet and when they were ready to design a new collection they would go in that closet and say, ‘Oh, that pink taffeta looks pretty. What’s going to look good with that? Orange chiffon? Okay. That one.’ It was built organically. The way we do it today – even at the highest level of design – is that you sketch something for the leather factory and off they go. You sketch your tops and your shoes and whatever else, and off they go. You have an idea of how it’s going to come together, but it’s all done compartmentally – and then 10 days before the show, it happens! And then it’s luck. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it all arrives and the shoes look wrong with the skirt and the shoulder pads look off. So the great moments of ‘wow!’ are in the fitting. When a girl puts it on and she walks across the room and it works. That’s when you get it. Besides, during a show, I’m not out there watching it. I’m sitting backstage and worrying, ‘Shit! Did the lighting cue work? Is the music on time? Where is that girl? Is she dressed? WHY ISN’T HER SHOE ON?’ And then after the show, I step out and think, ‘Fuck. Was it terrible? Was it good?’ And then I’m thinking, ‘Fuck, if it’s bad, how is it going to sell? If it’s good, what am I going to do next season?’ Actually, now that we’re talking about it, I can tell you I get depressed – no matter what – for two or three days after a show.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “What do you do in the depressing days?”
TOM FORD: “Well, in the old days at Gucci and Saint Laurent, where I worked less hard than I do now and I didn’t own the company outright, I took to my bed. Always. And just kind of slept for two or three days. In the new world, I have to drag myself here to the office and go through the collection with the merchandisers and make sure the pricing is right and the showroom looks beautiful and alter anything I can at the last minute before the buyers come in. Then I’m working on the next collection. It doesn’t stop.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Well, how are you going to make another movie with that schedule?”
TOM FORD: “I’m dying to make another one! I naïvely thought, ‘Yeah, I can make a movie every two years and do women’s collections and men’s.’ But I was wrong. Maybe this August I’ll deal with it. I have options. I have a couple of books I’ve started adapting. I thought I haven’t made another movie because I haven’t had the time. But the reality is I haven’t found the right project. It’s like when you’re first in a relationship and you have sex all the time no matter what you’re doing, no matter how tired or busy you are. But then a few years in, it’s, ‘We’re not having sex because I’m really tired and I’ve been working too hard.’ That’s bullshit. You’re not having sex because you’re just not having sex, and then you rationalize why. Maybe it’s not that I don’t have the time. Maybe it’s that I’m not making the time because I’m not inspired.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “What’s your favorite part of that process of moviemaking?”
TOM FORD: “Writing. I loved all of it, but writing was the most satisfying because it doesn’t exist yet. So, when you write ‘She was the most beautiful woman in the world’, she really is. Then the actress could come in and she’s bow-legged and we have to shoot from the knees up. Reality rarely lives up to the imaginary perfection. As you write it, it’s perfect. You’re not up against a budget problem or the fact that it’s supposed to be snowing and you’re shooting in the summer and the heat is melting your fake snow.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “That’s when you still have a fantasy.”
TOM FORD: “That’s when it’s perfect. That’s when it’s in your head. And, of course, in your head everyone loves it, because it’s so perfect.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Do you miss writing?”
TOM FORD: “Of course I do. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. There were some moments at Studio 54 that were pretty fun, but this topped even that.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Oh, Tom, tell me about Studio 54.”
TOM FORD: “Every now and then, when I hear a certain song, I remember having a vodka tonic in a glass and a bottle of poppers in my nose and jumping up and down on the dance floor, and it’s so clear in my memory.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I don’t have that sort of triggered memory from music. I get that from smells. Like, if I smell CK One, I think about being in love with the wrong people in high school.”
TOM FORD: “Well, if I smell poppers, I think of the late 1970s. Studio 54 reeked of poppers.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Really?”
TOM FORD: “Yeah! There was a very definite smell to it. Poppers, alcohol, cigarettes. Cocaine doesn’t really smell, but that’s kind of in your mind, so it smelled like coke, too. It was fuelled by coke. The whole place was coke. No one was mopey because the whole place was on drugs.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Have you seen any of the films about Studio 54?”
TOM FORD: “Yes, but none of them capture it. When you look at the photographs you see a wood floor, but I never saw the floor when I was there. It was dark and there were neon lights that glowed. You just saw flashes and had smells and knew people. Nothing has ever truly captured that. Baz Luhrmann came the closest to it in his party scenes in Moulin Rouge, and in Gatsby, too. That’s what it was like. My memories of 54? There is Brooke Shields over there with Michael Jackson. Over there are two guys fucking. And there is a naked person wrapped in Saran Wrap dancing. And that’s Princess Grace. I couldn’t get enough of it. Marc Jacobs can tell you about it, too, because his boyfriend at one time owned Xenon, the rival club. We used to go back and forth between Studio and Xenon because they were both in Midtown. Then you’d go downtown to the Mudd Club. The Mudd Club was new wave, a more glamorized version of punk. It was way downtown, which used to be a drag. But Studio was open until dawn, so when Mudd Club slowed down and you had done so much coke you didn’t care and you had tons of energy, you would go back uptown. And then you slept all day. You’d paid some guy down the hall to write your term paper and you’d go to class at 4pm and hand it in. Then you went home for a nap and woke up and did it all again. Took a ‘disco nap.’ Those still exist, don’t they?”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Yes. I’m familiar with the disco nap. But I hate this feeling that I missed everything, Tom.”
TOM FORD: “No, you didn’t! Your generation had something equivalent.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I guess we had the Beatrice Inn. Everyone compares it to Studio 54.”
TOM FORD: “I don’t ever go to New York! I go once a year for the Met Ball for 24 hours.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “Why don’t you like New York?”
TOM FORD: “I loved New York when I was young and single. Maybe I don’t like it now because the only time I go is for work. I don’t like making performances. I don’t like signing perfume bottles at stores. I don’t like that stuff. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “You prefer LA.”
TOM FORD: “Totally. I prefer it because you can get in your car. You can be really anonymous in LA.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I grew up in Missouri with cars and yards and dogs, and I miss that.”
TOM FORD: “I love to be able to get in my car and go somewhere. I like those 20 minutes all alone to listen to music and be by myself and get my thoughts together and be alone before I get somewhere.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “I like being able to change in a car.”
TOM FORD: “Well, a car is a giant handbag! You don’t have to carry anything anywhere; it’s all in your car.”
DEREK BLASBERG: “We’re getting off topic, Tom. We’re supposed to be talking about the movies.
TOM FORD: “I love film, Derek, but what I love about real life is that it’s a movie you can only see once.”
Tom Ford and I at a dinner in London. I was getting an earful.
For more from Tom, check out: www.tomford.com