You may not know his name, but you’ve probably seen the work of the illustrator Risko. If you’ve ever read an issue of Vanity Fair, for example, you’re familiar with his work because it’s on the last page of the magazine. He does the celebrity portraits which accompany the Proust Questionnaire. So when V magazine sought out the most important illustrators for its May issue, Risko was an obvious inspiration. I met Risko in New York, and we dished on how he got started (Warhol, of course) and what makes an easily illustrated face. Read my interview and see four of his works inspired by four of the most important faces of fashion — Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld Lagerfeld — below. But first, Risko’s portrait of me, which hangs proudly in the loo of my New York City apartment. (I wanted to hang it somewhere I was sure everyone would see it.)
Many artists have idolized Andy Warhol, but few have had the guts to walk up to him at a signing and ask for a job. Such was the all-or-nothing approach of illustrator and artist Robert Risko, then 22, now known only by his last name. “I was pretty ballsy back then,” says the world’s most celebrated caricaturist, 56, who like the King of Pop Art grew up in Western Pennsylvania. “Of course Warhol was the hero of Pittsburgh. He was my role model. I mean, my God! When I saw his Marilyn Monroe, I thought…I get it.”
Risko’s talent for composition emerged when he was five years old in profiles he drew of his sister and again a few years later in sketches of his teacher, Sister Monica, at his Catholic middle school. At Kent College in Ohio, he thought he’d be a fine art painter and was influenced by Van Gogh and the Cubists. Yet friends always asked for his caricatures, and he found himself earning pocket money by drawing funny faces for passersby on the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore and Provincetown, Rhode Island. “But I wasn’t happy drawing caricatures for people on the street for $5 when I knew I had talent as a painter. So when I moved to New York, in 1976, I said, I’m going to fuse these things together. I’m going to take my love for Cubism and combine it with the ability to do likenesses and raise the level of taste of the average man.” The result was a style influenced by Picasso, the Bauhaus movement, and 1930s Vanity Fair caricaturists Miguel Covarrubias and Paolo Garretto.
Which brings us to Warhol. “I met him while I was out for the day on Fire Island and he was signing copies of Interview with Halston,” Risko says. He waited in line with his copy, and when it was his turn to get Warhol’s signature, he showed him his portrait of Diana Ross. “And he said, ‘It looks exactly like her. That’s great.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think I should work for your magazine.’ That was that.” It was 1978 and he started doing caricatures for Interview, including an infamous cover of Dolly Parton. In the early 1980s, Risko was working part-time as a retoucher at Vanity Fair when the magazine poached him from Warhol’s Interview, much like they poached Annie Leibovitz from Rolling Stone. In the past four decades at VF, he has drawn politicians, actors, artists, divas, and anyone else of note; since 2002 his work has appeared on the back page of the magazine, with its Proust Questionnaire. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Esquire. Next up is a series of specially commissioned pieces for the Macy’s flagship in New York, which is currently undergoing a $40 million refurbishment. His portraits of Macy’s pioneers, like Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes, Florence Henderson, Al Roker, and Martha Stewart, will be hung in the top tier eatery, Stella 34 Trattoria.
What makes someone easy to draw? Clearly defined and contrasting facial features. Risko says he looks at the architecture of the face, which goes beyond decoration and makeup. “I think that’s what makes my work stand out, it’s anatomically focused,” he says, adding that sometimes subjects don’t recognize themselves at first. “Without all of the superficial icing, some people don’t know who they are.” Certain blondes, like Goldie Hawn and Jennifer Aniston, can be tough, because their public images rely so much on makeup (can you imagine Goldie without her false lashes?) or they have very soft features. But, he says, someone like Bill Cosby or Meryl Streep is fun to do.
One perk of being drawn by Risko is that his medium naturally flatters. “I’m the best skin doctor a person could ever have,” he laughs, likening his work to Egyptian hieroglyphs. “I’m convinced that Queen Nefertiti was a squat, four-foot-tall, short-necked woman who told whoever was drawing her picture, ‘Give me a longer neck. Longer!’ Sometimes I think I’m in the same business.”
In the second installment of my Mr Blasberg’s Questionnaire column, which is an exclusive feature to the Valentino Garavani Museum, I meet one of modern fashion’s most outspoken icons: Italian Vogue’s editor in chief Franca Sozzani. Her presence is familiar at fashion shows, her calm demeanor and long blonde hair folded into the front row wearing whatever Alaia garment her friend had made for her. But beneath the calm of the sea is a torrent of ideas, opinions and convictions. Here, she gave us a peek into some of them.
Who do you think is the most stylish woman in the world? Tilda Swinton.
And the most stylish man? Sean Penn.
Do you have a biggest fashion regret? To have been at too many fashion shows.
Was or is there a trend that you’ve never understood or never followed? Sorry, but I usually anticipate them.
How long does it take for you to get dressed? Hours.
When a friend is dressed terribly and asks how they look, do you tell the truth? I say, “You look awful!”
Is there a fashion era that you wish would comeback? Renaissance.
Do you have a favorite Mr. Valentino moment? His life.
Have you taken a tour of the Valentino Virtual Museum? What did you think? I presented it in NY when it opened and I love it.
What is your favorite ensemble in the museum? (And why?) The animal prints. Valentino did it 30 years before any other designer.
To tan or not to tan: That is the question? I love white.
Heels or flats? Flats.
What is your favorite color? Dark Blue.
Do you have a favorite fashion memory, perhaps a fashion show or a shoot? Steven Meisel’s “Make Over Madness” story in Italian Vogue. It was about plastic surgery.
What is the greatest piece of fashion advice that you’ve ever received, and from whom did you receive it? “A white shirt is forever” is what my father would say.
In the debate over whether fashion can be art, where do you stand? Fashion is fashion.
If you were not doing what you are doing professionally now, what do you think you would be doing? I never thought about doing anything else.
What do you love to do? Read.
What do you hate to do? Meetings.
What would you say is your most marked characteristic? Curious.
What would those who know you well say is your most marked characteristic? “Open.”
Where are you most inspired? Everywhere.
If you could go back in time and speak to your teenage self, what would you tell him or her? Never get married.
How much importance do you place on the personal style of a significant other? I care only about my personal opinion.
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 dog’s ashes.
Photo: Franca with Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino on Valentine’s Day of this year
Who remembers ASmallWorld? I remember joining the social networking site sometime after Friendster, which I was an early adapter to, and before Facebook, which I’ve only been on for about a year. Most of my posh, toffy English friends were on it, and I wanted to fit in. The website sort of fell through the cracks in recent years with the onslaught of so many other social networking sites and apps (can someone please explain to me what the hell Snapchat is, and what the point is of sending a picture you can’t keep is?), but it’s making a comeback. The site has a new chairman, Patrick Liotard-Vogt, who is teaming up with its CEO Sabine Heller to remind people that ASmallWorld is a fun world. And they’re not messing around: This weekend, they brought a slew of fun, fabulous folks to Marrekech to celebrate the site’s relaunch. Why Marrakech? Because, I was told, it’s the chicest travel destination and still authentic. Sure, I’ll take it.
I missed the first night because of a few obligations in New York, which was a shame because that’s when the snake charmers came out. But I more than made up for it in the following days, which had me riding camels (they stink and they spit, but aren’t they adorable?), drinking mint tea that was so sugary I think I have diabetes and at least a few cavaties, and stalking the local souks for some tangines that I will bring home but never cook out of. It was a good casting too. Olivia Wilde was beautiful, charming and non-annoyingly passionate about sex trafficking activism; Dianna Agron is sweet and a wonderful swing dancing companion; and there were even a few unexpected rocker chick moments, courtesy of Alison MOsshart and the legendary Marianne Faithful. (You could hear the latter’s raspy growl all through the pool of the Taj Palace Hotel, not that anyone was complaining.) Another important moment: The return of DJ Duo Harley Viera Netwon and Cassie Coane. Cassie came out of her two year retirement for this gig. It had been a long time since I harassed them about playing my requests (who doesn’t have Ricky Martin on their playlist!?) from the floors of such sophisticated hunts in New York as Lit and Avenue. So it seemed the paradise of Northern Africa was a good place for a nostalgic reunion.
Captions, from top: The view from my room at the Taj Palace; Olivia Wilde and Kick Kennedy kicking it at dinner; Alison and Dianna at cocktail hour; the girls at the pool, from left: Natalie, Laura, Laure, Josephine, Valentine and Harley; Natasha Lyonne and I getting our humps on; Catherine Baba and the great Marianne Faithful; Waris and Meredith; Alison at a restaurant that taught her how to work a candelabra hat; Atlanta in repose; The Baba in her poolside look; Andrew and Natasha; The lovely Love’s, Nathalie and Laura; Sabine and friend; mint tea for the ladies Mary Charteris and reunited DJ duo Harley and Cassie; Valentine and Josephine on the dancefloor; Waris and another friend; Henry Holland at sunset; Henry, David, Poppy, James and I in the hotel’s top secret (and empty) disco; Laure and Lily; Ben and Chelsea; a disgruntled nut seller in the market; Cassie’s party trick is poorly balancing a drink on her head; Ashley Avignone’s flower toss on the dance floor; me and the most beautiful Dianna
Last weekend was a doozy. In fact, I’m still recovering. (Apologies for the delayed nature of this post, but I couldn’t get myself together any sooner.) I am fatigued from the fashions. In merely 72 hours of each other, I had my own birthday party and the Met ball. I can’t say they were equally glamorous — Anna Wintour, you beat me again! — but both involved costumes, dancing, high drama and the imbibing of spirits.
I love a good theme, and so does Giovanna Battaglia, the stylist who threw my birthday party at home with her boyfriend, Vladimir Roitfeld. We had been trying to think of a good theme party for months now, and my birthday seemed like a good enough excuse. (But even if I wasn’t born a Taurus, I think Gio would have still thrown this party.) It was her idea to do a 60’s theme, so we settled on Peter Sellers’ seminal 1968 film The Party as the inspiration. I was happy because I’m always looking for an excuse to wear a turban with a jewel on it. And lucky for a few of my girlfriends – Karlie Kloss, Lauren Santo Domingo, Jacqui Getty, Anne Hathaway, Kristina O’Neill and Giovanna among them – Marc Jacobs turned to the 1960’s for his spring collections of both Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, so they’re costumes were sorted. The focal point of the evening was an eight foot tall pink elephant made of carnations, a present from my friend Fabiola Beracasa. And the whole thing came together under the watchful eye of my Southern sister Rebecca Gardner.
The rest of the weekend was a bit of a blur: Lauren did a dinner for Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing the next night, followed by the Dolce & Gabbana store opening; and then on the Sunday night I went to the Rihanna concert. She was late, of course, and would grab her crotch on every song, even the ballads, but I still love her music. Then it was back in drag for Monday night’s Met gala. Surely, you’ve seen some pictures from the Met. (And if you haven’t, go to www.vogue.com right now because they have hundreds and hundreds of the best ones from the night.) The Met gala has been referred to as the East Coast Oscars because Hollywood teams up with the New York fashion crowd for a night of glamour and excess. This year was more fabulous than last, but not as fabulous as next year. There were afterparties at the Boom Boom Room and Giancarlo Giammetti’s house. No one went home without aching feet and eyes exhausted by the splender.
I was quite proud of my ensemble this year. The theme was ‘PUNK: From Chaos to Couture.’ So my friend Taylor Tomasi Hill commandeered me a last minute harness, and then my friends at MAC came over to apply some temporary tattoos to my hands and neck. I had PUNK on my right knuckles and THIS on my left. (I had thought of a variety of four-word options, but I thought those were the most appropriate.)
It was one of those weekends in New York that just feels kinetic. Annie Hathaway went from brunette to platinum blonde from my birthday to the Met, for example. People know that the aesthetic stakes are high. How high? Let’s just say that I had to use paint thinner to remove my tattoos. It stung like hell, but it was worth it. For the record, I’m not just talking about the paint thinner here.
Everyone has a The Great Gatsby story. Some of us were forced to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in high school, some of us discovered it on our own. Some of us thought Gatsby is a pathetic lying shrew, some of us thought he is a helpless romantic. My experience with Gatsby was a dynamic one: Assigned it in a high school English class, it was the first book I was forced to read and then fell in love with. I didn’t like books as a young man. Believe it or not, I was a jock. (Stop laughing.) But Fitzgerald was the writer that ignited a literary passion in me that blazed through the rest of his books and on to the rest of the great American writers, and still burns today. Even when I shopped at strip malls and wore Old Navy sweatshirts to school dances back home in Missouri, I strived for glamour. And Gatsby gave it to me. That book reads as a film. When I was a teenager reading it for the first time, I fantasized about how I’d want to see it on the screen. In fact, that’s what Truman Capote famously said when he was assigned to write a (never-made) screenplay of the film: The book is a movie.
Because we’ve all imagined our own versions, to make the book into a film is bold. But Baz Luhrmann did it. Not that this is news. There are billboards and bus signs and magazine covers and Prada parties and Gatsby inspired pink seersucker Brooks Brothers suits and every entertainment show in the world was in New York last week for the splashy premiere at Lincoln Center. I was at that premiere too. My first impressions? I found it absolutely invigorating and optically exhausting. It was basically more saturated version of Moulin Rouge but without the singing and spruced up in 3D. (I say this is a compliment, but I’ve read reviews that say the same thing as a complaint.) Luhrmann gave all of us who read the book as a young person with childhood fantasies of fancy flapper bashes exactly what we wanted: Glamour. The pearls literally flew off the screen. When Gatsby is famously ripping his beautiful shirts out of his closet they feel like they’re falling on the audience as well as Daisy.
Leonardo DiCaprio was swell as Gatsby. But then again, I’ll support any film that gets Leo wet. (See: Romeo + Juliet’s balcony scene, the second half of Titanic, all of The Beach. In Gatsby, when he first meets Daisy he does so in a wet white suit.) I’ve always been a fan of Tobey MaGuire’s ability to act almost exclusively with his eyes too, despite finding his Carraway character in a sanitarium to deal with alcoholism a little far fetched since he is the moral compass of the book. I at first had some trouble reconciling Carey Mulligan with the part of Daisy because, well, I always had a distaste for Daisy’s disingenuous fragility and false innocence. But despite Mulligan reading too smart to play that sort of ditz, she gave a strong performance. (Her best line? “I love large parties. They’re so intimate. Small parties don’t have any privacy.” Luhrmann has said that some of the dialogue in the film came from the book, but since there isn’t that much dialogue in the book he also pulled from letters between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, as well as other books with similar characters.) The supporting roles were suburb too: Joel Edgerton (who, randomly, I just watched in Kinky Boots on an airplane and fell in love with) was strong and surprisingly likeable as Tom Buchanon, and he has the best opening sequence in recent cinema history; Isla Fischer does a fabulous floozy; and the Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Daisy’s BFF Jordan Baker came out of no where and held her own.
The day after the New York premiere, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and The New Yorker’s David Remnick hosted a luncheon for Luhrmann and the cast. Luhrmann said something during his (comedically animated and unscripted) presentation that I thought was spot on: “Now is the time to look at Gatsby as a social behemoth in modern culture.” The director first got the idea to do the film while taking the Orient Express train through Siberia. The idea was solidified after the recession of 2008, which was similar (though much less drastic) to the self-reckonings many were forced to make when the Roaring ‘20’s moved into the Great Depression. The things we are seeing happening today — “the moral elasticity of Wall Street,” as Luhrmann put one example — were happening then too. Was The Great Gatsby not a warning sign of unchecked materialism in a superficial world? Can we not say the same about today? A girl at my table at the luncheon compared Bernie Madoff to Gatsby. Yes, that was a stretch, even for me who loves some exaggeration. But it did get me thinking.
Some people are arguing over the morality of the character of the great Gatsby in this film. Is DiCaprio gross? Is he gross enough? Should he be that likeable? That’s a longer debate and one that has, and will, go on for generations. Luhrmann said at the luncheon that he thought Fitzgerald predicted the end of the Jazz Age and the oncoming Depression. I’m not sure if that was conscious or not as Fitzgerald was a raging alcoholic who reportedly was barely conscious, especially at the end before he died of a heart attack at the age of 44. But lets not forget that the book ends (spoiler alert!) with the murder of a man all alone in the gilded pool of a big empty house, a man who made himself through tricky deals and lies and loves a woman who has selfishly just saved her own skin. Luhrmann said something so beautiful about Nick at lunch: “He came to work in bonds but he ended up writing a book about a guy everyone forgets and his life began.”
It was inspiring to have Luhrmann’s insight into his movie. One of the biggest criticisms of the film will be his use of 3D. (Indeed, in the car chases in the film I was reminded of Janet Jackson’s music video for ‘All For You,’ where she and her back up dancers vogue whilst riding colorfully graffitied carriages on imaginary animated subway rides through the future.) Yet, he made a good point: Fitzgerald was fascinated by the modernities of his time, most obviously a fast lifestyle and affection for jazz music. To the latter, he brought up Jay-Z, which at first seemed like an unlikely fit for a film about the Roaring 20’s, but again Luhrmann insisted Fitzgerald would have been a Beyonce fan. “The music? I knew there would be eyeball rolling but Fitz, if he was anything, he wasn’t nostalgic. He put jazz and pop front and center in his text,” Luhrmann said at lunch. “It made the text immediate, he made it now.” And specifically about Jay-Z? “One of the most professional people I ever worked with.” Jay-Z ended up a producer of the film.
I must say this film was well researched. Luhrmann took liberties, but he wasn’t irresponsible with them. The guy even took an ocean liner to New York from London because that’s what Fitzgerald would have done, and then took a helicopter ride around Long Island to get a feel for the suburban beach mansions that Gatsby and Buchanan would have driven by on their rides into town. He took Mulligan down to the Princeton Library in New Jersey, where there is a trove of Fitzgerald’s letters, to fine-tune her awareness of the dialogue.
At the end of the day, the question all movie reviews ask is: Should people see this film? My answer is yes. Oh, absolutely. It’s good fun (who doesn’t love a good pool party scene?) and even if you skip (you shouldn’t) the moral lesson of an unchecked American Dream the costumes are wonderful. Personally, I love too that the film has snapped Fitzgerald’s book back into the zeitgeist, and has gotten people excited to read it again. At Luhrman’s lunch, they gave out copies of the book and, unlike most goodie bags at these sorts of functions that people throw away, everyone took theirs with them. Hell, I think it’s great when anything reminds people that there are these things called books sold at these things called bookstores. And the fact that The Great Gatsby is back on the best sellers lists is incentive enough for me.
My Grandma Betty (who’s real name was Grace Almeda Clark Egendoerfer, and I still don’t know how you get Betty from that) was a fair skinned red headed beauty who was born on a farm in Ruble, Missouri. She left school at 4th grade, moved to the big city of St. Louis, married a man who worked at the Anheuser Busch brewery and started a hair salon called Touch of Glamour in their basement. When she was still a young woman, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 6 months to live. She wasn’t having that, though. She beat the fucker with radiation and the determination of a generation who redefined what it meant to be a modern American woman. Skin cancer is scary stuff. Betty was constantly diagnosed with melanomas (basal cell and then epidermoid) and was constantly having them removed. And it was that awareness that kept her alive into her 90′s, which I was particularly grateful for because it meant I was able to meet one of the strongest, sweetest, most stubborn, most courageous women I have ever known. So when SkinCeuticals asked me and a couple of my friends (Sean Avery, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Rebecca Minkoff, Padma Lakshmi) to appear in this awareness video, I thought of my Granny and said yes immediately. Watch the video here, and check those spots!
Every time I come to LA, I ask myself the same question: Why doesn’t everyone live here? I was there for over a week and didn’t see a single rain drop. I was drenched in sun and sunny people. I saw friends and their babies and had long lunches of healthy food and went on hikes and bought a whitening toothpaste. If that’s not paradise, I don’t know what is.
I flew straight to LA from Venice, where I was with Louis Vuitton. It was no easy commute, let me tell you. But oh, was it worth it! After changing into a Gucci floral suit in the confines of a tiny airport toilet, I went straight from the airport to the MOCA gala, which had a fabulous Hans Ulrich show. Robert Pruitt designed bongs because it was 4/20 (don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t partake) and me and Harry Brant tried to climb a giant inflatable panda bear that was a sign for the portable toilets. There was a marching band and then a performance from the Go Go’s. I got home a little worse for wear, with all my luggage, to bunk at my friend Jacqui Getty’s house.
Jacqui is, essentially, the mother hen of all wayward West Coast youths. She is kind and compassionate and hysterical. She also knows how to throw a mean Mexican themed birthday party, which she did for me. (The bar was set high for her, especially after my ‘country bumpkin couture’ birthday party. Did you see the videos from that? Or did you see the sweet Polaroids that Karlie Kloss took for me at the party?) She opened her home – and a bunch of tequila bottles – to the coolest, sweetest, funnest girls on the planet. Even the legendary Linda Ramone came dressed in a red velvet cape, Cavalli tiara, and she gave me a birthday present I always wanted: Beverly Hills Hotel pajamas. My worst best friend Kelly Sawyer brought a cake with the best worst picture of me on it. I can’t thank Jacqui enough for that party.
The day after my birthday party I did something that would become an often event for me in LA: I changed my flight. I was having too much fun. Besides, Armani was having a party on Thursday. (I later changed my flight for another friend’s birthday, and because I wanted one last hike up Runyon Canyon. What? It was the weekend.) And who wants to miss an Armani party? It was in celebration of Sean Penn’s relief efforts in Haiti, and the actor made a speech that was touching – and probably horrifying for his publicist. He praised Hugo Chavez and made jokes about being a single man. His best line: Actors in Hollywood know how to get narcotics, but not in bulk.
The next night was a dinner for the photographer Brian Bowen-Smith that Marc Jacobs hosted. My friend Selma Blair’s face was on the T-shirt, which the waiters were all wearing. Somehow, I came home with three of them. The Los Angeles excitement didn’t end there: The following day, my friend Milla did a bar-b-que where I ate my body weight in kebabs and that night was Jessica Alba’s birthday party. A fellow Taurus. Is it just me, or is there a disproportionate amount of birthdays this time of year? What was happening nine months ago? Summer loving?
Like all passionate love affairs, however, this one too came to an end. Toward the end of the week, the LA veneer started to wear thin. I got lost in the underground garage of CAA’s Death Star of a building. On my way to the Paramount Lot for Armani’s cocktail party there was so much traffic I thought I was going to explode into a puddle of anxiety. (I hate when little old ladies walking down the street faster are going faster than you are in a car.) And after a week, I was tired of having kale salads for dinner at 7pm and being the only one who ordered dessert while everyone else was talking about stem cell facials. Though, to be fair, I will say that the lady who told me about them – and you know who you are – did have fabulously taunt skin.
I flew back to New York to a grey sky and grey days. And just as soon as I thought I was over LA, I missed again. Which only means I need to find a new excuse to go back. Anyone have any birthdays coming up?
Captions, from top: Me with a bevy of birthday babes, including Kiki D, Kelly, Nicole, Jessica, Rachel and Lauren; the worst best cake ever; Terry and China at MOCA; Harry and a panda; Cyrpien on a refridgerator; me with my favorite English flowers, Poppy and Lily; Milla and some bubbly; Nicole’s fake ‘I like you’ face; Linda and JD; Dianna and Byrdie; PC and JT (they like initials); Alessandra; kisses for Mario and RJ; the outdoor dinner table; Patrik with two Getty’s, Rosetta and Jacqui; Joy and Sam Ronson; Dianna and me; Gela and John Taylor; Noah Mills, the most handsome handy man that ever existed; Sam giving me a kiss, much to the surprise of Kelly and Jessica; the one and only Kiki D; Natalie and my wife Gia; a group shot of boys being boys; an ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ inspired selfie at Runyon Canyon; Liz and Alex Olsen, the supremo skater, at the Armani event; Sean Penn and Josh; Fergie, Rachel and me at dinner; Frankie and Miley at Marc’s dinner; Selma and Selma’s face; Milla, a BBQ hostess with the mostest; my college friend Dagny is all grown up with her hubby Cory and baby Hazel; me and Hazie; Tara and Amanda at Milla’s BBQ; Kelly and Hilary in the lawn; last call, literally, at Jess’ birthday
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.