It’s time for the second installment of James Franco’s collaboration with Seven For All Mankind, an interactive experience that lets we viewers decide what happens in the a love triangle of three really hot people wearing the company’s denim. (Have no idea what I’m talking about? Click here to check out the first chapter and hear James tell me why he liked the Choose Your Own Adventures book series when he was a wee boy here.)
I’m not a new fan of Franco’s. We’ve had him on the cover of VMAN twice, and I’ve made pilgrimages to see his artwork on a whole spectrum of platforms, from the Venice Bienale on the sinking city in Italy to a basement in Terence Koh’s now defunct gallery space on far, far east Canal Street in New York. (The one he showed in Koh’s gallery was my favorite for a variety of reasons. I can’t really get into it here, but remind me another time and I’ll tell you all about it.) And here I find myself a fan yet again. Not just because it stars Elise Crombez, one of my favorite models from my early fashion days, and Sean Avery, a current partner in crime. And not just because we, the audience, gets to participate in the final outcome of their fictional romance. No, the reason I find myself applauding Franco again is because he’s taken a jeans campaign and made it something interesting.
Specifically, I’m talking about the work of William Blake, a Romantic era poet who wasn’t even yet born when denim became the fabric of our lives. Only a twisted guy like James would be commissioned to do a sexy viral video about jeans and be inspired by a guy who wrote long, lyrical love poems about the changing of the seasons. “I like bringing these other references, both high and low,” James tells me, adding that one reason he was drawn to Blake is because it was a more enlightened and intellectual concept of sensuality. “Focusing on someone like Blake, or on poetry in general, takes me away from the impulse to just make something sexy. That’s often everyone’s solution nowadays: Just make it sexier. But when you have these other references, it pulls it in unexpected directions.” Was he ever worried that mixing a long dead romantic poet with a contemporary priced jeans line would seem jarring? Nope. “It’s not like were pulling down William Blake, it can only elevate our material. And inspire it.”
But back to the video: Who does James want to see the bride-to-be hook up with? He’s keeping his cards close and won’t tell me. Though, I must say that it sounds like he had a little more fun planning the more devlish version of the marriages of heaven and hell. “I went and shot my own wedding of hell. I’m not sure that will make it in there,” he laughs, adding he used Kenneth Anger as the priest. Want to see the king of twisted underground cinema (Don’t know Anger? Google him now. My copy of Hollywood Babylon is one of my prized possessions) officiate a darker romance? Well, start voting!
Do you believe in happy endings? Get involved in the odyssey by clicking here and going to the 7 For All Mankind’s Facebook page.
What I’m about to say may upset my gay brethren: For the past few years, I’ve sort of been over Madonna. When she started dating that teenage dancer and when she started flashing her 50-year-old nipples at concerts and driving around Italy dressed like a trampy nun sitting on the trunk of a convertible, I started to lost interest. A few months ago, when she was moaned and screamed at a crowd of fans who had come out in the rain to watch her during a sound check and then dared smoke in an outdoor arena, I thought I had had enough. This was in South America. I’ve been to South America. You can smoke in a baby nursery in some places down there. I was even asked by a few friends to go see her concert when she was playing at Yankee Stadium and I thought, meh, Yanke Stadium is so far away, I’ll stay home. Don’t get me wrong: I had always respected her for the gay icon she has been for decades – she gave us Vogue, after all – but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
But that changed on Saturday night. I had a come-to-Jesus (or should I say come-to-Madonna?) moment. Milla Jovovich asked me and two more of her favorite boys, Chris Brenner and Chris Bollen, to all be her dates to the the 24th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Awards in New York. She was presenting an award and drumming up some financial support on the podium. (She practiced what she preached when she texted a donation for $20,000 and then walked away with two of the auction items.) Madonna had agreed to introduce Anderson Cooper, the recipient of this year’s GLAAD Vito Russo Award, and when she walked on the stage I was hypnotized. I was a fan once more.
First, there was what she wore. She showed up dressed as a Boy Scout, which I thought was ridiculous and amazing. I was reminded of a time (perhaps she is the last in a long line of women dressed with gusto?) when celebrities would dress up to be noticed, to court conversation. Nowadays, when so many actresses are intimidated by anonymous comments on the Internet and the possibility of being on worst dressed lists, most red carpet looks come out so bland. But Madonna has always used her wardrobe as a weapon of controversy, and this night she put on a cub scout shirt, Dickie’s cargo shorts, combat boots, fingerless gloves and a mountaineers helmet over perfectly coifed locks as a commentary on the Boy Scouts of America’s refusal to accept homosexuals into the organization. She may have looked ‘better’ in a cocktail dress, but Madonna has never been boring. And it gave her the opportunity to use the one liner: “I know how to scout for boys.”
She came on stage and the queens went wild, hooting and hollering and everyone’s mobile phones were snapping away. Then she launched into a 10-minute speech, which you can see above, that was absolutely moving. Milla put it best: “She can fill a room with electricity.” No one in that room was whispering or checking their phone or going to the bar when Madonna was on stage. And that’s saying something: This was a room primarily filled with narcissistic, overly groomed gay men – and she had their undivided attention.
What did she talk about? Gay rights, of course. And it was a long winded, well researched, powerful message. She said that while we feel closer to one another with the growing power of social media, we’re actually further apart from having a real dialogue. That discriminating people based on who they fall in love with is as un-American and inhuman as discriminating people based on their skin color. She also said that Putin would want to “fuck” Pussy Riot if they were in a room alone together, but she also explained that if people used compassion more the world would be a happier place. “I would wager that if we just took the time to get to know one another, did our own investigations, looked beneath the surface of things, we would find that we are not so different after all,” she said. Then, later, Madonna, a woman once condemned by the Vatican, quoted the Bilble: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (If you don’t have the full 12 minutes to devote to Her Madgesty’s ramblings, you can skip to about 2:30 mark. The first part is general riffing and grandstanding, though Madonna has always been good at both.)
When I got home — which was a few hours later, which was a few drinks later) — I was still thinking about Madonna. She had inspired me and impressed me. At times, when she flirted with Cooper from the stage – pointing at him, saying he had the most blue eyes, winking – I even thought she was adorable and playful. Was she perfect? No, of coruse not. Her face was a little too plumped and of course she was a little to self involved. (Maybe she didn’t need to reference herself so often, even if 85 men were arrested in St Petersburgh for being openly gay and coming to her concert.) But at the end I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. She left me and the rest of the room energized, excited and motivated. She called for a revolution and she may actually get it.
Madonna is no fool. She understands that playing up to this audience will ensure her place in the halls of immortal gay icons, but I really do believe that she does want, desire, believe and strive for acceptance. I don’t think she was at the GLAAD Awards just to be provocative. I honestly think that beneath her costumes and her provocative acts is a woman with a strong point of view who has a heart that’s in the right place. In addition to being provocative, driven and self serving, she is also loving.
Toward the end of the video she says she wrote her own speech. “No one can write my copy,” she gloats. And I believe that. She’s a diva, she’s a genius, and at the end of the day she’s a compassionate woman. That’s what makes me respect her. Again. For now.
Captions, from top: Madonna’s speech; Madonna on stage; Milla with the Vito Russo Award recipient Anderson Cooper and his partner Benjamin; me and Milla at Anderson’s afterparty at the Boom Boom Room.
Lauren Santo Domingo is one of the chicest woman I know. If not the chicest. Which is why, when we were sat next to each other at the Proenza Schouler show this season, I was shocked when she plopped down next to me in a white one-pocket T-shirt. After all, this was fashion week. This was our dear friend’s fashion show, which turned out to be one of the best fashion shows of the New York collections. Why so blasé? The reason, she explained, was the spectacle of fashion week dressing and fashion week street style photography had become such a monster she had lost interest in pumping a look. With so many girls, some of whom had no business being at a fashion show other than to be photographed at a fashion show, wearing everything and the kitchen sink, her instinct was to slip into something simple.
I was reminded of our chat when I was working on my Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list for the week, which you can see here. My favorite looks from fashion week were all simple, monochromatic and minimalistic. Only Kate Moss and Nicole Richie embellished themselves a little: a straight-off-the-runway Saint Laurent sparkle and a Givenchy ruffle, respectively. Jessica Chastain was in a black dress I would have called conservative; Milla Jovovich wore simple black slacks and a white blouse to the Chanel show. This is a major departure from the Paris fashion week’s of yester-years, when my favorite looks were the sorts of things that would pop up on street style blogs around the world: Veils and headbands and bows and tongue-in-cheek handbags and girls wearing flourescents and bright colors and mismatched plaids and textures and more furs than a zoo. That’s what we all thought passed for fashionable in seasons past.
My friend Dasha Zhukova was recently thinking about the spectacle that has become fashion week when her magazine, Garage, produced the below documentary, ‘Take My Picture,’ which debates the issue of street style photography as both an annoyance to the people there to do their job and a celebration of the democratization of this industry. In the film, Tim Blanks wonders what it’s all for, and wonders if one day someone is going to get hit by a car posing for the perfectly unposed fashion shot. The video also speaks to the divine Tommy Ton, and the likes of Susie Bubble and Phil Oh. I like the documentary because it helps identify the mayhem, and shows that there is a difference between the bloggers (who everyone likes) and a pack of women who borrow bright, clashing clothes in hopes of being photographed (who some people like and some people don’t).
I am torn who to support because, yes, I’ve been shoved by photographers outside of fashion shows, and it’s annoying and insulting to those of us doing their job during fashion week. But on the other hand, I adore what many of these street style photographers have created, an entire industry onto themselves that has created its own celebrities and drawn more attention to an industry that I love. The ‘bloggers walk,’ which is how many call the stroll from the gates of the Tuilleries to the tents where a fashion show is held, can be the most irritating, invasive, aggravating walk there is. But it would be elitist and arrogant for anyone, including me, to think they have a right to be there more than someone else. To be fair, many of the people in this video are friends of mine, and this is not a judgment to be passed on their style or their social skills. But it does beget the question: When will too much be too much?
Trends happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a social commentary, sometimes it’s a reaction to other things happening in other places of the world. Remember when Christophe Decarnin introduced Balmain’s new shape a few years ago? Those short, sparkly skirts and those giant, football player-sized shoulders? In 2009, I wrote an article for Bazaar that said it was a direct result of the recession. When times are tough, sex sells. (This article is on Bazaar’s website, and you can read it here.) When Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein reinterpreted minimalism at the end of the 1990s, it wasn’t because people were showing up at their fashion shows dressed in turbans and fluorescent gypsy skirts. It was a reaction to larger social gratuitousness. But is it possible that minimalism is creeping back into the zeitgeist because so many of this industry’s creative minds are getting overloaded with the pictures we see on every blog of overstyled show crashers? Will someone please ask Phoebe Philo why she is making such clean, well cut fashions all my girlfriends are obsessed with?
While I am curious to see how this pans out in another six months, when the industry will be again trudging up to Lincoln Center for another round of fashion shows, it’s interesting for me to hear from so many of my friends how “over it” they all are. It used to be a thrill (even to those who won’t admit it) to be recognized, stopped and photographed walking into a fashion show, but not any more. I know many girls who would rather sneak in unmolested.
Well, that’s a wrap, fashion fans. With Paris done, my fashion month odyssey has drawn to a close. But what a trip it was: I was inspired, I was wowed, I was shoved by bloggers and after London I was told by my doctor I “needed an effin’ nap.” But it’s so hard to get worn down during fashion week, darling.
Paris was a sensation for the senses: Karl Lagerfeld took us around the world, quite literally, at Chanel. Jessica Alba and Nicole Richie took me around town, quite literally. Alexander Wang started his own journey at Balenciaga. And Hedi Slimane took everyone for a ride at Saint Laurent, creating one of the most controversial and buzzed about shows in recent memory. (For the record, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Who doesn’t like sparkle tight?)
Back at home in New York – where, much to my dismay, it is snowing – going through my photos was nostalgic. Once again, Carine hosted a ball of legendary proportions. Once again, Karlie Kloss proved to be the perfect wingman (or should I say wing-woman?) And once again, Kate Moss proved why she’s so super. Scroll down to see all the festivity from Paris’ fall collections.
Captions, from top: Jessica, me and Karlie at the Kenzo party; Paris at sunset; Queen Carine and King Karl; Alice Dellal and the new prince of Paris, Alexander Wang; the coolest couple I know, Josephine and Mark Ronson; Margherita is back and better than ever; me and my date, Vanessa Traina, at the Purple dinner; Nicole cruising; Hanne Gaby and her doppelganger Kelly Sawyer; Princess Elisabeth von Thurn and Taxis with the Emporer, Valentino; Vincent, Malgosia and Edita at the Purple dinner; more doppelgangers: The New York Times’ Kate Lanphaer and Robyn; Lady Miss Kier live; a secret admirer taking a whiff of the roses; Coco and LSD; DJ Alison Mosshart has had enough; Valentino’s Pier Paolo and Gio; Olivier Zahm in a pensive pre party moment; Joan Smalls giving banquette glamour; Natalie Massenet and Carine; the chicest Italian women since Sophia Loren: Margherita and Maria Carla; Jessica Diehl, Giancarlo and Kristina O’Neill; secret sisters Jess Stam and Leigh Lezark; the chicest novelist there is, Danielle Steele, flanked by Gaia Repossi and her daughter Sami; a crown at Dior; me and Giovanna Battaglia cleaning up our acts; Magnus and George; gift wrapped and gorgeous Jess Alba; Jefferson and Jamie taking Lila Grace to see Momma Kate Moss in a fashion show for the first time; Kate the great getting a kiss from Marc the marvelous after the Louis Vuitton show
So it turns out James Franco and me have more in common than I thought. I’m not a wildly handsome, successful, world famous modern Renaissance man with their fingers in the film, art and publishing worlds, mind you. But, when we were both little boys, we had a fascination with those ‘Chose Your Own Adventure’ books. Remember those? The books where you, the reader, decide what the characters would do as the story unfolds. (James preferred the Tunnels & Trolls series, whereas I was more into the Lone Wolf.) My mom ended up refusing to read me these books when I was little because I never had the confidence to fully commit to one choice. I guess that says a lot about me.
But back to James: There is a similar concept to the new Seven Jeans for All Mankind advertising campaign, called ‘A Beautiful Odyssey,’ which James directed. You, the viewer, can decide what happens to the characters in the story, which include Elise Crombez as a bride choosing between her happy fiancé and a bad boy ex-boyfriend, the latter of which is played by my buddy and former Ranger rabble rouser Sean Avery. All of the footage is shot, but it’s up to we viewers to decide how it’s played out. It’s up to us to decide if the bride gets her happy ending or if she jilts her man at the alter. (This is sort of like therapy: What you chose will say a lot about you.)
When I speak to James about the project, he reads me a laundry list of references for this project: From the Romantic poet William Blake to Guns N Roses’ November Rain, from Kenneth Anger’s art videos to scenes from Jim Morrison’s movie HWY. (Feel free to Google all of these, kids. They’re worth it.) “They wanted a wedding, that was fine with me. Who doesn’t like a wedding?” James explains. “But I wanted more of a variety. And I like to bring in references of all levels, both Hollywood or literary.” When he looked at William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the concept began to fully take shape. Morrison’s HWY was the finishing touch: “It’s just Jim waking up near this waterfall and he walks thru the desert and hitchhikes from LA to Malibu and there might be a murder involved, but it’s very vague. It’s really a good metaphor, and an inspiration for the way that we shot it.”
James is no stranger to art projects. In addition to starring in both independent and blockbuster films, he has created video works and collaborated with contemporary artists on video series for years. But he told me this specifically was an exciting prospect. “It’s one of the most fun shooting experiences I’ve been able to have. We get all the great things about making a film as far as performers and equipment, but there aren’t the same kinds of requirements to make an entertaining narrative,” he said. As opposed to the Hollywood system, this success isn’t measured in the box office but rather in viewer entertainment, which is what should really be the point of moviemaking in the first place. “It needs to be appealing, we’re not selling tickets. That’s not how success is defined, so that the narrative and the experience can be more unusual.” Just how unusual? Well, that’s up to you.
Get involved in the odyssey on the 7 For All Mankind’s Facebook page. (Am I the only one hoping for a little pre-wedding drama?)
Another month, another Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list. In the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, I talk about three important things: Menswear, a good haircut and the superest supermodel, Kate Moss. It was over New Years, when I was maxing and relaxing in St. Barth’s that I noticed the first trend of the spring season. Although, as any self respecting Marlene Dietrich fan will tell you, women borrowing from a man’s wardrobe is nothing new. My kid sister and 2013 Valentine Karlie Kloss inspired my second sartorial observation this month, which was about chic ladies bringing back the bob. (Vogue and the New York Times were also all over this new ‘do, and my brother even forwarded me an article that said Michelle Obama had ganked Karlie’s look at the inauguration.) And finally, I ended on Ms. Moss. (Click here to see a gratuitous shot of the super sitting on my lap and telling me about her knickers.) I’ve been having a real Kate moment, begging her for an autographed copy of her new book and then chatting with her and Rihanna for their couple’s cover of Vmagazine. When you’re done with this article, you have to read that one too.
PS. I’m working on next month’s column now, so leave any favorite fashionable moments in the comments! And to read my weekly Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list, go to www.harpersbazaar.com/bestdressed
It was a story too hot to hold. Or at the very least, too hot to keep under wraps. Mario Testino’s pictures of Kate Moss and Rihanna, the bad girls of fashion and music, respectively, naked and laying on top of each other were taken months ago and stored away for our March issue of V magazine. But some hackers broke into the files and released them, which got Rihanna in a stir and she ended up posting them herself. We at V magazine were in a tizzy, but for no reason: Even with this sneak peek, the story behind the pictures was just as good as the visuals themselves. How the girls met, what they like about each other, who are their favorite designers? (Who would have thought Rihanna was a big Michael Kors fan?) I had the divine pleasure of speaking to these two icons. Scroll down past the covers and Testino’s backstage video for my entire article, and go to www.vmagazine.com for more from the shoot and our March issue.
Last November, my phone was cha-chaing across the table with unnerving frequency. What was the dilemma? Family drama? Saucy gossip? The vibrations, I discovered, were a direct result of the countless music and fashion blogs erupting over the images that you see here. Hacked from an insider’s computer, the saucy pairing of Rihanna and Kate Moss engaged in S&M-esque poses melted everyone’s brains and even Rihanna’s Instagram account. “I posted them because I was so excited,” she revealed during our interview, adding that she deleted them when she realized it was the result of hackers. “I was so bummed because I thought they were so sick. It goes to show how badly people wanted this cover. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me!” We received requests from all over the world for the rights to reproduce the pics, but weren’t ready to give them up or the story behind them, until now.
The truth is that someone unexpected is to thank for this blessed pairing of fashion’s and music’s favorite bad girls: Kate Moss’s young daughter, Lila Grace. “I was a fan,” recalls the model of the pop star, “but what really started it was my daughter and her friends running round the house singing all the words to her songs.” So when Moss cohosted the 2009 Met Gala with Marc Jacobs and found herself sitting next to Rihanna, she did what any mother would do and whipped out her phone and sheepishly asked for a picture together. “I was, like, Are you fucking kidding me?” remembers Rihanna. “I was so starstruck. I’m not going to lie.”
When Moss explained that the photo was for her kid, Rihanna was even more gobsmacked. “I didn’t know she had a child, and she still looks like this? So there’s hope for people who want babies and still want to be sexy,” she laughs. Moss remembers Rihanna that night too—“those amazing eyes”—and got her shot for Lila. Rihanna took a picture of them on her phone too, which she still proudly shows off today.
The two bumped into each other again last February at another fabulous fête: Stella McCartney’s presentation for a one-off dress collection, held at an old London church. Stationed at different tables, models and dancers had secretly learned a choreographed number, which turned into a surprise flash mob that included Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, and Yasmin Le Bon perched on dinner chairs and vogueing to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” That should have been enough excitement for the fashion-heavy crowd, but an equally thrilling collusion was developing nearby. The chemistry between Kate, in a body-hugging cutout minidress, and Rihanna, sporting a long bias-cut slip dress, was brewing.
Mario Testino had a front-row seat to their girlish antics, and when the photographer asked Rihanna when they could schedule a shoot, Moss was keen to participate. “Kate overheard us talking and she said, ‘I want to do it with you!’ Again, I was like, Are you fucking kidding me?” says Rihanna with a laugh. “I was dying on the inside. All my fantasies were coming true all at once: Mario, V, Kate Moss. I was like, This is an amazing threesome!” (On the subject of that night, Moss is a little more cryptic. “I can’t remember what we talked about,” she says, then with those trademark wide-set eyes dancing, adds, “It was a really good night.”)
Moss—famously discovered at 14 by a modeling agent at New York’s JFK Airport and then revolutionizing the concept of high fashion and beauty—and Rihanna—the Barbadian babe turned pop sensation and nonstop hit machine—might not at first seem a likely pairing. One is the queen of London cool, the other a hip-hop fantasy. But it turns out the two have more in common than fashion-icon status: meager beginnings, careers that started in the trenches of industries only the toughest can survive, and climbing to the absolute tops of their fields amid both cultish worship and criticism.
Both women have made entirely their own choices, and done a terrific job at keeping writers for high-fashion glossies and down and dirty tabloids extremely busy. They have been bold, beautiful, and unapologetic. They are, put bluntly, our culture’s favorite badass bitches. Though when I ask Moss if she would call herself a bad bitch, she shuts me down: “That’s not very English, darling.” Rihanna, not surprisingly, was a little more into the classification. “That is true!” she cheers. “I know for sure I’m a control freak. I am definitely in control. That’s the kind of woman I am.”
Moss is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the media, and though she loosened up a little to grant a few interviews last year, in conjunction with the publication of her eponymous book, she remains mum today on the topics of tabloids. Rihanna’s personal life has always been part of the public domain. “But I don’t read it anymore,” she says, adding that all the opinions coming at her via the Internet and her active social-media streams can sometimes overwhelm her. “I already have too many voices in my head right now! I don’t have room for that other stuff. If I let that other stuff in, it’ll take the space of productive shit, and that isn’t good.” Has she ever posted anything on the Internet that she wanted to take down, or tried to correct a rumor? “It wouldn’t make a difference. There’s nothing we can do about that. There will always be them, and there will always be me.”
The two love fashion as much as fashion loves them. How does Rihanna describe her personal style? “It’s an expression of my mood. I’m more of a spontaneous girl. I find myself drawn to the things that come together at the last minute. I hate when a look looks over-thought. I hate when fashion looks too contrived. I just throw myself in the closet and see what happens.” When asked who her favorite designers are, Rihanna cites Tom Ford and Michael Kors. “Tom Ford is just pure sex,” she explains. “Only the baddest bitch can wear that. And he knows how to tailor things to women to make them look so desirable. Michael Kors is just easy fashion that works for any age group. A girl can look sexy in the same dress when she is 20 as when she is 50. He is timeless.”
Asked what designer inspires her now, Moss offers only one: “Hedi [Slimane]’s new collection for Saint Laurent. Obviously. Living for…”
On the set of the shoot, these bad girls kept it playful. “That was hilarious,” Moss says, her nose scrunching up like a feline vixen. Afterward, they’re still gushing about each other. “She is just an awesome, cool little rock star,” Rihanna says of Moss. The concept of playing with each other using masculine and feminine identities evolved organically, she says, and then, naturally, at the end, they got naked. “And that was the best shot,” Rihanna laughs. “Take her top off and put that bitch in my lap!”
So the obvious question: would they get topless with each other again? Kate’s response: “In a heartbeat.” Rihanna: “That depends on the terms,” she laughs. “But I’m sure Kate knows them.”
An obligatory tourist shot in the guard station outside St. James Palace following Tom Ford’s show in the Palace’s Stables
London fashion week wore me out. Literally. In fact, I’m whipping up this text whilst wearing a full body of thermal clothing and two scarves tightly wound around my neck. Somehow, between my aggressive New York fashion week and then the festivities you’ll see here, my immune system was beat up and I’ve succumbed to the evil germs of strep throat. Not that a little thing like painful swallowing (feels like glass shards, guys) will keep me from reporting from the highlights of this year’s collections.
Perhaps I should start with what was undoubtedly the biggest highlight for me and my St. Louis sister Karlie Kloss, which was a little photo op with Mick Jagger at the small dinner the rocker threw at the recently opened Café Royal Grill Room for his girlfriend L’Wren Scott after her show. Can you imagine, us two little ladies from some small town in Missouri eating grilled chicken with a Rolling Stone? Rita Ora was a big part of this season too. I had met her a while ago when she performed at a swanky Cartier party, but the Yugoslavian-born, London-based singer has absolutely blown up since then, showing up at shows like Henry Holland and Burberry. (She’s so lovely I’ll even forgive her for calling me Dave on Twitter.) Henry’s show was on the first day of the collections, and his afterparty was perhaps what set the pace for my immune system’s destruction in London. Can I blame it on jet lag? Or should I just blame Nick Grimshaw and Alexa Chung, who are the real culprits here?
Let’s talk about the fashion’s now. The best analogy of the London fashion spectrum was seen on the second to last day of the collections, with a 7pm Tom Ford show at St. James’ Palace followed by an 8pm JW Anderson show in the basement of the Tate Modern. For the record, both shows were memorable and sensational, from men with points of view. But how different were they? Tom’s was decadent, beaded, drenched in furs and beads and exotic everything in an actual palace with gilded chairs and spotlights featuring suited male models at the entrance and a runway full of supermodels. Jonathan’s was sharp, short and minimal, held in the basement of one of the most important modern art museums in the world. See, London has something for everyone! Erdem and Christopher Kane reminded why they’re at the top of their game in this town, and I loved Giles’ gilded girls. Burberry’s show too was one of my favorites, with their heart patterns (which I’m convinced were taken from the Instagram ‘like’), rubber trenches and sharp tailoring.
And finally, I have to give major props to Net A Porte’s Natalie Massenet, the recently elected president of the British Fashion Council. She didn’t mess around this season, making sure visiting journalists were well taken care of and that the schedule was running smoothly. (I won’t say which show it was, but there was one that was starting too late and I watched her march backstage and crack the whip, much to everyone’s gratitude.) I have spent a large part of my life in London, so I’ve always been a big proponent of the creativity and the people who work in this town. So it’s been exciting to see the city regain its position on the international fashion scene. Cheers!
Captions, from top: Rihanna’s stylist Mel Ottenberg (woop woop, big boy!), Henry, Nick Grimshaw, Miss Rita and me at the House of Holland after party at the Graucho club; Alexa at the Another Magazine party at Café Royal; Two Guinnesses and Glenda: Daphne, Glenda Bailey and Lulu; Two of the best Brits, Erden and Chris Kane; A Rolling Stone with me and Karlie Kloss; the charming and well choreographed lunch service at L’Wren Scott’s show; Carine and Olivier; Hanne Gaby at the Giles show; Kristina showing off her beloved Balenciaga rings; a beloved phone booth in Primrose Hill; me and one of my first bosses, Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley; Natalie and Rita flanking Will.I.Am at the Café Royal; Miss Aimee Phillips, who may be my favorite person alive; Harley and Leigh in bright colors at Burberry; Anja on the Tom Ford runway; Tom’s bow; Eugenie and Noor at the club LouLou’s, which is pretty fabulous and fabulously pretty; my drinking partners at Jonathan Saunders’ afterpaty, Jack and Alice Eve, and the Oscar-winning film director Tom Hooper; Cesar, Lily, Charlotte and me at the Another Magazine party; Annabelle Neilson and Sophia Hesketh in similar but not the same Alexander McQueen dress, narrowly avoiding a fashion disaster; Atlanta and Daisy at Giles; Yasmine Le Bon, who looks just as heavenly as she did when she ruled the runway in the 1990s, and Alice Temperley; the last supper of London fashion week, when Jonathan and Panos and I started dozing off at a dinner at Café Royal
For the January issue of V magazine, I met my newest fashion obsession: The saucy, sweet and utterly Australian Bella Heathcote. Below are some of Ben Weller’s images of the actress and my story.
When the bright-eyed and impossibly gorgeous 24-year-old actress Bella Heathcote made her red carpet debut in a splashy Gucci dress at the Cannes Film Festival last May, many assumed it was her Cinderella moment. Here was this fresh-faced new thing from Australia who got lucky and scored a part in cult filmmaker Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, as the love interest of none other than Johnny Depp. But to hear Heathcote tell it, the experience was hardly a fairy tale. “Oh, yeah, I remember that,” she laughs with a hearty twang. “The Gucci people didn’t want me to move off the carpet because they wanted a shot of the dress, but the photographers wanted me to get the hell out of the way because they wanted pictures of the famous people. It was hysterical and humiliating, which is how I think it should be.”
It’s a relief to hear some self-deprecation in her voice, to offset the beautiful-girl cliché. (Burton actually cast Bella after he saw her runway-caliber looks in a magazine.) Not only that, but she’s fun! Asked to define Australian culture, she deadpans: “We like to drink.” And she’s discreet. When pressed—and I mean really pressed—on some juicy Johnny Depp gossip, she’ll only profess that “he has a dark sense of humor, he’s really generous, he’s really normal, and he doesn’t have any pretensions. Look, he’s just a nice guy, okay?”
Heathcote grew up in Melbourne with a lawyer father who was hardly impressed by filmmaking and not much interested in his daughter making a vocation of it. “So I did a year of college, and he was happy I tried,” she sighs. Then she was off, making a few independent films and doing a brief stint on the cult TV program Neighbours. “That was a good learning experience. It’s a soap opera, so it’s a pace I’d never seen. One take, two takes if you’re lucky. They churn it out.” She played Amanda, a school bully. “That’s a tip: if you’re going to be on a soap opera, be the baddie. It was hilarious.”
Her road to Hollywood was a quick one, helped in no small part by a compatriot that she never had the chance to meet. In 2010, she won the Heath Ledger Scholarship, a fund for Australian performers set up after the actor’s death, in 2008. She credits the scholarship—for which she applied online, first sending in her reel and then meeting with a jury panel—with igniting her career: an unofficial benefit of the contest is the opportunity to network with nearly every Aussie in the business. The prize was $10,000 and a round-trip ticket from Sydney to L.A. “But, luckily,” she says, “I never had to use the return leg.”
She currently stars in Not Fade Away, which, ironically, she filmed before Dark Shadows. (Only in Hollywood can time be so warped that an independent film takes twice as long to finish as a big-budget production.) The film is set in the 1960s, and Bella plays Grace, the pretty, popular girl living in a New Jersey suburb who dates the football player in high school but falls for the moody, broody rocker when they graduate and their real lives begin. “I was drawn to her humanity,” she says. “She has real reactions to real things.”
When the actress first got to L.A., she went out for everything that came up. “But this was the first script that stood out, and kept getting better and better with every read. It was a part I really wanted.” What she liked most about it was the feeling of wonderment. It’s a tale of adolescence and the baffling process of growing up. “It makes you feel anxious, a bit anxious, unresolved. And that’s what growing up feels like.”
When we talk, Heathcote is prepping herself for the film’s promotion, a media ritual she would have liked a little more practice with back in her Dark Shadows days. She remembers another stop on the Dark Shadows premiere circuit, the one in London, where she had to trot down a never ending red carpet in a Pucci minidress, facing her own likeness on a jumbo screen, in the middle of Leicester Square. “I felt like I was in Hunger Games. It was surreal and so full on, and I was in a state of shock,” she says. “And then I had a drink. Remember, I’m Australian.”