For their spring campaign, H&M were inspired by the supermodels of yesteryears when they cast four fabulous new fashion faces as this generation’s icons. The dreamboat photographer Alasdair McLellan shot them and I interviewed them for these four short videos. So, without further ado, meet Joan Smalls, Liu Wen, Daphne Groeneveld and Lindsey Wixson!
A little backstory: When Mr Valentino or his business partner Giancarlo Giammetti ask you to do something, you do it. Whether it’s an invitation for an intimate Valentine’s dinner in New York or a snowy gala at Mr Valentino’s villa outside Paris, you go. So when I was asked to work on a new special feature for the fashion icon’s online museum, I happily did what I was told. Our first candidate for the Mr Blasberg Questionnaire, which is an exclusive to the museum’s website, is Hugh Jackman, the burly and beautiful leading man. What did we find out in the Aussie’s answers? He’s a devoted father and husband, he doesn’t look good in capri pants and he wants to die naked. See more of his responses below, and be sure to check out Valentino’s online museum.
Who do you think is the most stylish woman in the world? My wife, Deborra-Lee Furness.
And the most stylish man? Tom Ford.
If there’s one person’s closet you would like to raid, who’s would it be and what would you take? Tom Ford. His dark suit and white shirt: classic and simple, but when he is in it, it leaps out.
Do you have a biggest fashion regret? The ¾ pants some shop owner convinced me to wear to my first film premiere. It looked good on the model, but I couldn’t pull off the Turkish designers look. I got a few laughs, though!
Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to wear, but have had never had the courage or opportunity? Nope.
When a friend is dressed terribly and asks how they look, do you tell the truth? Hmmm. There are maybe 4 people on the planet I would be completely honest with.
Is there a fashion era that you wish would comeback? The 50’s. I did a production of Sunset Boulevard and loved all the fashion for that.
Do you have a favorite Mr. Valentino moment? Meeting him the first time. He was so open, passionate and direct. I love unbridled creativity and he oozes it.
Have you taken a tour of the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum? What did you think? I have. It is stylish, surprising and definitive.
What is your favorite ensemble in the museum? I love the sea of Valentino Red dresses. That is something you can’t see anywhere else.
To tan or not to tan: That is the question? As an Aussie, I am now against it for my kids. But to be honest I still indulge. The feeling of lying on a beach and the sun drying the seawater is one of my favorite things.
What is your favorite color? The color of the ocean. I am a complete water baby.
What is your favorite scent? The smell of baked bread.
Newspapers, magazines or blogs? All three.
What is the greatest piece of fashion advice that you’ve ever received, and from whom did you receive it? From the author Herbert Ypma: If you haven’t worn it for an entire season, get rid of it.
Who would you like to play you in a film about your life? Ha! I can’t believe I am talking myself out of a job! But probably Ryan Reynolds. I would be a hell of a lot funnier in the film than in real life. But no offense to Ryan: I wouldn’t be seeing it.
If you were not doing what you are doing professionally now, what do you think you would be doing? I would host a TV show.
What do you love to do? Eat. Eat. Eat.
What do you hate to do? Photo shoots.
If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be? My head. It looks too small on my shoulders.
Where and when are you happiest? Always with my family. I come from a large family so wherever they are. But if it can be in Byron Bay in Australia or on the ski slopes – that takes it to another level.
What would you say is your most marked characteristic? Versatility.
What would those who know you well say is your most marked characteristic? I’m bad at saying no.
What would you say is your largest character flaw? The above.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date? My family. My marriage and my kids.
Where are you most inspired? I am a meditator and have been for 20 years. After meditation is when ideas flow for me. Or when I travel.
If you could go back in time and speak to your teenage self, what would you tell him or her? Your legs won’t always be skinny, don’t worry about it.
Do you believe in love at first sight, and if so, have you experienced it? Yes, I have, but not since I was a teenager. Maybe as adults we lose that ability to give ourselves completely on first meeting.
It has been said that when we die we can’t take anything with us; but if you could take just one thing, what would it be? My family.
And more importantly, when you die, what would you like to be wearing? I’d like to die peacefully while skinny dipping or in my sleep. Since I wear clothes to neither places, I may be meeting St. Peter in my birthday suit.
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was never my favorite play. With Shylock going on and on about “”Hath not a Jew eyes?” Too controversial. Give me a tragic love story any day. (That reminds me: How can we make sure that Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby is more like Romeo + Juliet and less like Australia? But I digress.) While it may not be my favorite play, Venice is without a doubt one of my favorite cities. The history, the sinking, the drama. The only thing I don’t like is the tourists, which I know is outrageously hypocritical since I am one.
I’ve been to Venice a fair share of times: Off the top of my head I can remember coming for a school trip in high school, for a Chanel show with Karl Lagerfeld and for two Venice Bienale’s. And oh, once for the Venice Film Festival, which my friend, Interview editor Christopher Bollen, made the world’s most embarrassing film of our Venetian adventures. (You can watch it here. But be warned. It’s amazing.) Every time I come I fall in love with it all over again.
This most recent trip was with the fine folks at Louis Vuitton. As an avid reader of this blog will attest, I’m a fan of Louis Vuitton’s entertaining capacities. In the past few years, I’ve gone with the French luxury label to Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Rome, and all of the adventures are chronicled on MrBlasberg.com. This excursion was just as wonderful. The first night was a religious experience. Literally. We had a private tour of the cathedral in the Piazza San Marco, with it’s gilded domes. We sat on the floor and they warmed the lights so that the gilded glow bounced off the centuries old mosaics like fire flies. I’m not the most religious man, and I’m certainly not a Catholic. But I would go to mass every day if I lived in Venice. We had a fabulous tour guide who kept us well informed on the history of the church, and a little bit of spicy gossip. Did you know that some scholars believe that it’s not the body of Mark in the tomb, but of Alexander the Great?
The new Louis Vuitton store is outrageous. In a city where most shops are the size of postage stamps, this one is four floors of shiny, delicious retail space. On the last night, they hosted a dinner for in the royal halls of Princess Sissi, which were covered in brocaded satin and centuries old murals from Grand Masters. As an American who is used to traveling abroad and feeling like our nation’s history is dwarfed by Europe, I felt infantile in these lush surroundings.
Some of my favorite people were on this trip too, like Dianna Agron. So sweet, so pretty. Even as a red head. Ha! Clemence Posey is divine too. Even though she’s French. Ha, ha! The Italians too were in full force, like Coco Brandolini, Anna Dello Russo, Luisa Orsini and Antonine Peduzzi. And I met new friends, like the dreamy and gregarious Englishman Christian Cooke and some nutter English girl called Bip, a handsome local Italiano called Mattia and my friend Dree’s punk and pretty little sister Langley Hemingway. We drank red wine, ate fish and went on a vodka-searching mission over bridges and under buildings to find outrageously adorable holes in the walls. It’s sad to leave Venice, but the good part of leaving that place is knowing that you’ll come back.
Captions, from top: Sunset on the Grand Canal; Dianna and Christian, a lovely couple if there ever was one; Micole, Anna and Candela in their Vuitton finest; a sweet canal; Mattia, Christian and me; Coco in San Marco; Clemence at the Hotel Bauer; me and Antonine getting frisky; the spot where Peggy Guggenheim, who founded such a wonderful museum in Venice, was laid to rest, next to her 14 doggies; the gilded ceiling of the Cathedral; Langley and Luisa in the Sissi Apartments; Vivi Courtin Clarins reading up in the new Vuitton store; the chicest transportation; the one and only Bip; Lizzy, Alexia and Delfina staying dry on a freak rain shower; the story of Genesis told in gold in the foyer of the Cathedral; Dianna and Maggie; Piazza San Marco at sunrise.
I’ve been a very lucky pal of Dita von Teese this week. First, I saw her perform her infamous feathers and birdcage routine in Sao Paulo. And while we were down there, she said she was doing a surprise appearance a few days later in Brooklyn. Intrigued, I said I’d go. I showed up at the Musical Hall of Williamsburg to discover she was making an expected cameo at a Mika concert. That Mika. So cute and talented. An added thrill? It was the first time that Dita has ever incorporated her voice into a performance. (Burlesque is all about the body, darling.) Mika’s suggestion on Dita’s performance: She leave the Michigan in her voice because, well, you can’t hate a girl with a body like this if she has a voice like that. So, behold Ms. von Teese coming out and taking off as an added visual for Mika’s hit song, Big Girls.
I’ll be honest: I own one Patti Smith record. It’s not been listened too very often and I bought it because I was too embarrassed that I didn’t already have one. However, while I’m not the biggest fan of her music (what? I have the musical tastes of a spoiled teenage girl, and I’ve made peace with that), I can without hesitation say that I think she is one of the smartest, most admirable and most inspirational artists that New York City has ever molded. Have you read her book, Just Kids? I have. Twice. (And you should too. In fact, if you haven’t read it, open a new browswer window and order it online this second. You will be feel things and miss a time you never knew and weep for people long gone.) I stumbled upon this Youtube video of Smith at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art last summer, and it stopped me in my tracks. She is a living legend, and like a good legend, she extoils the virtues of her life to a spellbound audience. She is funny, like when she explains that all artists should want their art to be widely experienced. “It’s importance to be embraced by the people. People think, ‘You’re a punk rocker, you don’t want to have a hit record?’ Fuck you.” She recounts good advice, like when William Burroughs told her when she had no money that a reputation is more important than a bank account. “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.” She observes how times are different now for artist then when she was sharing a room in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe. “It’s a time of the people. Technology has democratized self expression.” But, most of all, she’s a punk rock bad ass who – and this is what I find so wonderful – genuinely cares about the happiness of other people and the inspiration of creation. “Life is really difficult,” she says. “It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s never going to be perfect. But it’s all worth it. Believe me.” The video is six minutes, which I know feels like an eternity in online video terms. But they’re worth it.