An interview by One Mgmt‘s Christopher Michael for models.com
PHOTOS BY Rad Hourani
MAKE UP BY Hung Vanngo
HAIR BY Wesley O’Meara
ANNA DELL RUSSO IS WEARING RAD HOURANI
Christopher Michael: Anna Dello Russo… This is your real name?
Anna dello Russo: Yes (laughs), it’s mine.
CM: At what point in life did you realize you were as obsessed with fashion as you are now?
ADR: I was born in the south of Italy where there is no fashion, and as young as I can remember, I started to wonder how I could work with fashion because where I was from, there were no opportunities to do something with it. Where I’m from, there is just one mini boutique, nothing else…so not having access to it all had caused me to become quite obsessed. I thought for a moment that I should start my own boutique but then my father said “No way! After university!? You should go for it all the way, go to Milan and become what you want, a journalist.”
CM: What did you study at university?
ADR: Historic art, of course that was another reason I loved fashion. If you notice in all of the antique art, there are all the styles, proportions, colors and composition that are used in fashion. I studied all historic art, no contemporary.
CM: In the documentary called “CATALK” Andre Leon Talley was asked if he thought fashion was art, and his response was. “No fashion is not art, fashion is hard work!” I wanted to ask you this same question…Do you think that fashion is art?
ADR: No, absolutely not. I think fashion is a muse, like music, like art, they are all muses. Fashion is a popular communication, whereas art is more of an elective communication. I don’t believe fashion is art, no.
ADR: Yes, I was invisible! I was a beginner, first of all, and secondly I was a hard worker. At the time I didn’t have time to show off. I spent all my time and energy learning about photography, about shooting, about modeling. I didn’t ever think to dress up or put make up on myself because I was just working as much as I could to understand fashion and the images of fashion. I worked with the best photographers in the world, if I was next to Helmut Newton, I couldn’t think about hair and make up on myself! I was such a beginner, but I believe everything comes at the right time. That’s why I always say to young people now, visibility and blogging and all of that, it is not enough; don’t think this is the work. That is a beginning, it is a starting point. After that you have to put your energy into the job, and not just in parties and showing up to shows. I never used to come to New York for the shows, it was always only Paris. I remember, if Franca would take us to Paris, it was an incredible season. We didn’t have time to go and see the shows. I remember thinking, those people are so lucky to sit on the bench! After the shows in Paris, we would always work right away.
CM: So you would just pull directly from the shows you were watching for the shoot happening right after the week was done?
ADR: The first day of shows was fantastic…The second day, we would be choosing the looks from the collections for the stories already. Every month I was doing a shooting. Back then I was working with about 10 luggages, no assistant. I remember one time, it was quite funny, one of the American based editors called and said “Hello may I please speak to the shoe editor?,” and I remember looking at Alice [gentilucci] going, “Shoe editor? What are they talking about shoe editor?,” because it was just the two of us in the fashion department, that was it. It was a whole other level. Italians, we did an incredible job with no money and no assistants. Now it’s like having revenge, I come just to see the shows and I have time to dress myself up and all of this, it’s like a miracle.
ADR: I spent 12 years at Italian Vogue as Fashion Editor, after that Franca asked me to become the editor in chief of L’uomo Vogue and of course I said yes. I spent another 6 years at L’uomo Vogue, after which I left because I wanted to sort of, start my own career. I really wanted to go back to working on women. Then I was offered the position at Japanese Vogue.
CM: It seems that you are the real Matriarch behind the birth of the fashion blogger fame, after originally suggesting to Stefano and Domenico that they sit the bloggers front row… How did you come up with this idea?
ADR: I was talking with Stefano and Domenico saying that I believe there is a big evolution happening right now from the background. With magazines being so expensive, it was hard to reach the younger audiences and these bloggers were reaching those young people with their sites. I never felt the power of this evolution as much as now. We are always talking about the industry and trying to understand where it is, where it is going, etc. I said, “To me, this is an incredible, incredible phenomenon.” I’m lucky in that Stefano and I grew up together, we are the same age and he’s the best friend I have in the fashion industry.
CM: What was the catalyst for you where you decided to really come out and become your own brand?
ADR: I didn’t come out and talk about my brand, I talked about my freedom. At that time, I was thinking about my own expression, because of course I love Japanese Vogue, but in any case, I was thinking to express myself. I thought, I should really jump in this world and have a voice to really express myself. With magazines, you don’t really express yourself; you express a corporate vision, you express the vision of Conde Nast. It’s not really your point of view. You can’t say in the magazine what you really like, it’s all a very political vision. So I thought, maybe I should spend some time and energy to finally have my little voice, and now it’s happening.
ADR: In the beginning I was so uncomfortable with it all, but now I love things like twitter; it’s very immediate and you can reach people NOW. Also, during fashion week it can be very informative. Sometimes if I miss something or forget something I’ll end up seeing it on twitter. Another example is when I found out that Nicola Formichetti became the new creative director of Thierry Mugler via twitter. That’s what makes it incredible, you are staying in touch with your job in a spontaneous way. It’s really great.
CM: So it goes without saying then that you are a fan of how fashion has evolved into a much more accessible industry in place of the sort of closed off elitist world that it used to be…
ADR: Yes, because we spent 20 years closed up in our cage; in the past we sometimes didn’t go after the shows to say hi to the designer, even. It was more of a snobby attitude, it was too much. Now I completely love the fact that young people come to me and talk and you feel that sort of audience. I remember the years I was at L’uomo Vogue and I didn’t feel the audience. I’d find myself asking, who is the reader of this magazine? Straight, gay, old, young I had no idea. There was no way to really experience your audience. I find the way fashion has become now to be far more real and approachable.
CM: Being fascinated by the industry as a whole and its evolution, with bloggers having been a huge part of that constant change, what do you see as the next big evolution in our business?
ADR: That is a good question, I really don’t know where we are going, I really don’t know. To me, the speed of fashion is slowing down a little now, everyone seems to be getting to the roots. For example, everyone talking about heritage, roots and the history of fashion. This is nice.
ADR: Yes, I love him! He’s from the same city as me. For me, I get very excited when working with young people and to see how they see things. For me it’s about getting new and fresh air, and to not get stuck in my position, otherwise it’s already done. Giampaolo is an example of that fresh air, and at the same time going back to the excessive fashion of the past but doing it in a modern way.
CM: Who was the first magical moment for you working with a photographer…
ADR: Two moments, one was a moment with Helmut Newton; he took a picture of me, he was the first one to take a picture of me actually. That was in 1996. He said to me, “listen, after we finish shooting, I’d love to photograph you.” I was afraid thinking, is he going to want to shoot a nude picture of me? And said, “Are you sure Helmut?” and he said “Yes, take your long long black coat…” and we did the picture. The second was with Steven Meisel. I remember the first time I was so hot it was as if I had a fever, just from the nerves. Then he arrived and he had black hair and I said “oh my god, HE looks good too. What do I do!” He was so beautiful and, of course he was speaking English to me at a time when I did not speak English so well. During those years there was only one that I missed the chance to work with, which was Avedon, Richard Avedon.
CM: With all this talk about the 90′s, what sort of changes do you feel have occurred in magazines today in comparison to publications during the 1990′s…
ADR: First of all, in the 90′s everything was TOP…Top model, top photographer, top designer, all top. I felt like a little mouse, everything was huge in terms of proportion. When I used to come into the studio I always felt like such a little mouse, because you used to arrive and Claudia Schiffer was there, Linda Evangelista, Francois Nars… Everything was in huge scale. Now, the approach is much more democratic in a way, much more easy and cool, more approachable. There is a possibility to have different kinds of levels simultaneously. At that time, the level was pretty pretty high across the board. I remember some clothes were only reserved for Vogue, no other magazine was allowed to use them. Now, every magazine looks good because they have access to all the collections. Of course the economic pressures are starting to become more and more obvious since the recession, the client and the magazines both have to sell. In terms of how the work is approached, things are more ‘easy’ now.
ADR: It’s not about one being better than the other, it’s about each time being different.
CM: Anna Dello Russo, the lady of looks, going through so many outfits in a day and over the entire show season. What goes into the selection of your clothing?
ADR: It has to be top level. I love catwalk outfits because they always have a lot of creativity. Full looks are good, I don’t like mixing. I share the passion with the designer, why should I mix it? They do very well with the catwalk pieces. I love when you can look and say “Oh this is a Givenchy, this is Balenciaga,” I love when it’s flashy clothing.
CM: You travel quite frequently but you’ve managed to keep your base in Italy, do you think that will ever change?
ADR: Yes because Italy is such a nice place to live, the quality of life here is so wonderful. First, of course I have my family here and secondly because it’s such a great place to live. When I travel around the world I love it, but how you can live in Italy is so easy. When I’m home in Italy, I don’t need anything, and the best city to go shopping is still Milan. The best selection, most of the clothes are done in Italy, the best place to go shopping is in Italy because you have an incredible selection of everything. Easy access, I still love to travel but I can tell you, in a couple of years I hope to be in one place and just enjoy the life.