Do you ever look back in retrospect and think “this was a big moment”?
When you’re having the moment, you don’t know if it could be big.
Until it hits.
You know I did Bazaar. We knew it was big. Kate Moss in America – nobody had done her that way. We did a cover with Linda Evangelista and we thought we were major. In retrospect, people look back and exclaim oh my God that first issue but when it first came out people were like “meh, it’s good.” When Madonna’s book came out people were like, it’s good. You talk to your contemporaries in fashion and we’re all very onto the next thing. Very rarely will you get someone who will just flat out say “Oh my God! Major!” It’s just the nature of fashion people who are much more chill and subdued.
I guess it’s the anxiety to always be thinking about the next project. Although you might have a great project rooted in the now, is there a pressure to always better it?
You know, I’m from the old school. I was married to this woman Kezia Keeble and she would always tell me, “just do the thing in front of you”. So my entire career, whatever presented itself is what I would do. To me it was what made my career kind of work. When I worked at Vogue, I would style a lot of the normal clothes.
I wouldn’t think that Vogue was anywhere near the idea of normalcy.
It depends on the presenting. For me it became, how do I solve this? That’s really what our job is. My job is to solve problems. You have to do colored dresses, many colored dresses and say you have to edit them, if you have good taste you can figure out the seven or twelve you need. Then it’s how do I present it in a way that makes you look at it and go, “that was brilliant!” I want that. Our job is to make it covetable and to make it so that you want to buy this. It’s hard to be thinking about the next thing because it’s case by case. It’s almost like being in an emergency ward. Did you ever see that show ER? Do you remember how they would have the gurney going through it?
Yeah you saved one person but now you’ve got to keep going and going…
Except it’s not the same sickness, you’ve got a whole new sickness. A whole other set of circumstances, a whole other set of people. So, I’ve never really planned. I just kept doing what was in front of me. 40 years later it’s a lot in front and a lot behind me… ** laughs **
And when did you first realize that styling was a job?
You know, when I started it was a job that had just started to be a real thing. There were stylists but mostly when a photographer would get an advertising job, a stylist would then put the clothes together or the designer would come and do it. Occasionally, they would seek out an editor secretly to do the shoot and then I came. I started working in ’76 and it was just before then that they started to have stylists. There were no guys doing it unless you were an editor. Robert Turner was an editor at Vogue. Andre (Leon Talley) was an editor, and he did some shoots but there were no freelance. People didn’t credit stylists like they would do the hair & makeup. Kezia had worked at Vogue and they asked her to come back and do freelance under (former Vogue Editor-in-Chief) Grace Mirabella so that’s how it all started. I got to work with Bruce Weber. My first real advertising job was with Bruce.
What was the ad?
Daks! Daks is a suit company from London. He hired me to do it and it was the 70’s and it was great! Then I worked with Patrick (Demarchelier) and then I worked in advertising. People weren’t specializing in menswear and people would wonder who to use on a shoot and someone would say, oh you should use Kezia’s husband, he’s doing menswear styling. For the first few years that’s what I did mostly. I did freelance for Vogue, market editing…
The market editor for men…
They would call me and say I need ten black pants, ten black shoes, ten black shirts. I just did what they wanted. Now that I look back, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was not with any finesse. But anyway, I got it done.
What you’re describing is kind of how it’s done now. Obviously now you have much more structure where you have the market editor and the stylist that comes on set and takes what you found in market and pieces it together, right?
We set it up because everybody had at some point worked for a magazine or had modeled for a magazine. You had your assistants who would shop for you, you would go into the market and shop. Kezia and I would shop also…
So no borrowing? There wasn’t a system where you could borrow?
You could borrow for credit!
You had to go through traditional retail stores?
Yes, you could buy it because it was advertisement. Usually the ad was before the manufacturing. First the product was given to you, but then you had to buy socks or buy shoes. It was similar to how it is now, but now it’s much more organized. The Irene Albright Library hadn’t happened which was probably the first of its kind where you could actually go and it’s just racks and racks of beautiful clothes that you could rent and use for anything.
It was great to be young, it’s similar now to probably being on the internet. It was all uncharted territory. We started KCD because Kezia was always called by an art director and asked who do you think we should use for this project and she’d reply I think we should use Steven Meisel or this hairdresser or XYZ. One day she thought, why am I giving away all of this information for free? We should just start this company. Kezia to me was like a genius so I was like you wanna go there? I’ll go! Whatever she wanted to do, I was on. So we started this company, we were divorced at this point and she was married to John Duka who was a writer. We started as advertising and thought we’d just do press kits. Then people said, why don’t you do PR too and we said okay. But then Julie (Mannion) had been working with us from the styling aspect and Ed (Filipowski) came on too. They came in as kids but they were great! They have changed everything and they’re part of the DNA – people always say it’s Kezia, John, and Paul but they were there so early that they’re part of what it was. It was so organic the way we all worked together.
It seems like they really took the essence of what you guys started.
Oh they took it to another level. What they were doing didn’t exist while they were doing it. They just kept growing it and being part of the world of fashion as it kept evolving and morphing. It’s a brilliant thing they were able to keep going, not get stuck, just keep growing and changing and shifting. I’m not their parents, I shouldn’t be proud of them, but I’m proud of them. It doesn’t resemble at all what it did when it was this baby company.
It’s like a start up…
They really made it theirs. They made it their own.
Going back to when you guys eventually parted ways in ’91 and you got the call from Harper’s.
I made the call to Harper’s… ** laughs ** I had been working on the Sex book for Madonna and it was with Fabien (Baron), Steven (Meisel), and Francois (Nars). Fabien said Liz Tilberis is coming to America to work for Harper’s Bazaar, I’m going to go, and you should come too. He said to me, “this train is stopping at this station now. I don’t know if this train is ever going to come back to this station so you might not be able to get back on at another time.” So, I just thought, this is kind of the perfect timing. I was doing a lot of styling at the time. They were running the KCD business with me but Ed and Julie were really equipped. They didn’t really need me. I called Liz Tilberis and I said, I want to be your fashion director. She responded, “oh, I have the offer out to someone. I don’t know what to do.” The person turned it down and she called saying, “Do you want to do this?” Absolutely. Then she called me a few days later and said, I just spoke to Paul Wilmot about Tonne Goodman and he thinks she would be a great fashion director too. How do you feel about sharing it? I was like, “I’d love to!” We were friends. We knew each other and we had had dinners together. It ended up being the most fabulous years. Working there was a dream and Tonne was a dream beyond. They had to split us up one time because we used to share an office and they were like, you two need to be separated! Liz was incredible as a boss.
What moments particularly stand out from your time at Harper’s Bazaar?
First of all, the first issue was with Kate Moss. I had her almost every issue because I was obsessed and she was like a doll I could just change her. Working with David Sims. My first shoot with him and Linda Evangelista. We laughed so hard. Mostly I laugh at all of my shoots because I think there’s something really funny about life. I want to have a good time. You just have to let it go and I think we had a really good time and the pictures were extraordinary.
Interesting approach. Sometimes fashion gets the reputation of being very serious.
I think the thing is, if you’re that person then that’s who you are. You would be serious about stocks and bonds. I probably would be in the OR laughing. I’ve always had the great fortune of working with really nice people. People always ask, what happened on the shoot? Nothing ever happens. We’re working, we’re laughing. We’re seriously trying to do something. The thing is, even though we’re having a good time it doesn’t mean that we aren’t trying to push for what we want. Can I take this piece, a bunch of shoes, a model who is just herself. A hairdresser that has a thousand products and wigs. A makeup artist who has a thousand products. That moment of creation is always the beginning process. During that part, we’re not laughing, but as you keep going you tweak your part and look at it. Hopefully you create something that you haven’t created before. That’s the goal.
It’s all that question about inspiration. Trying to create a picture that you haven’t see before but you’re still relying on references from the past.
I do. I’ve looked at everything. I’ve copied pictures, everyone has copied pictures. I look at people now that are working and I’ve actually looked at something and thought, I worked on that picture but I didn’t work on that picture at all.
You worked on the picture that they sourced!
Yeah and they too can look at my pictures and go, oh yeah that’s a full on knockoff. I’ve done pictures based on images I would see in National Geographic’s or Life Magazine and you just put them all together and you have this idea. What happens is, I’m just the editor. So I show it to the photographer like this. It goes through his filter so by the time it happens it has nothing to do with that original picture because everyone is trying something. It’s always an interpretation. That’s the great thing! Fortunately I have friends that are very inspired and inspiring. Like Anna Sui goes to see a movie, a museum, or art shows. Just everything. She’s inspired by the entire universe.
She brings whatever she sees or whatever she’s doing it and brings it into her sector. Her world of 1960’s psychedelic, right?
The thing is, sometimes she doesn’t. She did a show and her description of the show was “Tibetan-Hiphop-Surfer.” Three things that have nothing to do with each other. The show happened and it was tibetan hiphop surfers. How she got this, don’t ask me.
No matter what anybody else says, they have their vision.
It’s great to be inspired by other things. Sometimes you are and sometimes you’re not, you’re just inspired by nothing. Especially now with the internet you have the access to everything. Have you ever seen the movie The Conformist? Maybe a person would say no and say well tell me about it. I’d describe and say well it’s backlit, she’s wearing grey, a top with a flannel pant, mind you that’s not what she was wearing at all but that’s how it looked in my eyes. Now I can get it on the internet and instantly go “hmmm not at all.” I’m saying that to them and it’s not backlit but the photographer goes okay, I do the clothes based on this thing that I think that doesn’t exist but I thought it did. He’s doing his thing based on what I said to him, but he doesn’t know what it is because he doesn’t have a picture of it. Then you have a picture that had nothing to do with anything, but now you have a new image.
So, then the transition to Vogue happened. How was that then going to Vogue? Did you always want to do it?
It was a validation for me. What happened is I was offered the job, Kezia had been offered the job like, I think it was maybe 17 years prior to that. She didn’t take it because she was pregnant with our child but I was able to take the job because our daughter was grown up. I so wanted to do it! All I wanted was one Vogue cover. I thought one Vogue cover would give me a validation. I had already done an Italian Vogue cover. I did a lot of the covers for Harper’s Bazaar but I wanted an American Vogue cover. And I did most of the covers with the exception of a very few for several years. I did almost every single one.
Do any covers particularly stand out?
Oprah with the one where she was in the field.
She’s laying down.
To be honest I always take for granted Oprah’s magnitude and cultural reach, but was it the same when you shot her?
No, it was major. One day, I was working on putting the clothes together in the closet. My office wasn’t near the closet, so I had to walk to it. My phone rang, and I always answer my own phone but I was away, so my assistant answered the phone and heard, “Hi, this is Oprah.” It was not like, “Hi, this is an assistant for Oprah.” My assistant went, “Uh…he’s down the hall, can I have him call you back?” Oprah, “No, I’ll hold.” She came to get me at lightening speed and the two of us raced back panting, “Hi…*breathes heavily* Oprah…” Like, Oprah just called me!
When a celebrity calls me because I want them to talk to someone before they get onto set, and when they call me I still laugh! Out of nervousness I think, Oh my god I am talking to whoever it is, Angelina Jolie or Kate Hudson. Like I remember when Madonna called me for the first time, gigantic. The first time I shot her was for her Rolling Stone cover. She called me and I was so tickled pink that I didn’t know what to do with myself. So when Oprah called me I was like, she just called me directly. She was divine and the shoot was heaven. She had her hairdresser who she’s had for a million years who does the most beautiful job, she has the best quality hair. It’s thick, soft and silky. But I told her, if you’re going to do Vogue you need to have the full Vogue experience. Kezia used to always say to me, and I said this to Oprah, you can’t jump in the pool and leave your leg on the side. You’re going to break it. And she just went all the way in. Her hairdresser who was adorable too, he came on set just to make sure everything was OK. It was a major moment! This is a not-skinny black girl on the cover of Vogue.
I remember! That was the fittest that she was.
She wanted to do it. I said, you’ll do this? and she did it. We had, it was such a sweet time. So nice. She cried, I cried. Everything about it was heaven. She was heaven.
How was it working with Anna (Wintour) as far as a boss?
She was incredible. She’s very adult. As goofy as I am, I’m still an adult. I get the work done and I’ve got things I want to do. She would say, can you do this and I’d say yeah. It was business. She wanted things done artfully. Just do what you think is beautiful. She was very good with me about, everything. I have to say I loved working with her but she wasn’t always easy. She knew what she wanted and my head would be spinning.
It was very difficult because she has very high standards but as a boss she was great. You knew where you stood. She pushed me a little bit, but I always knew what I had to do. I did a shoot that I thought was great once, and she didn’t really like it. She just said, it’s Christmas let’s call it in. I think she respected the fact that I was very straightforward.
So when the call came in to do Allure and to jump on that train, why did you decide to go that route?
For me, it was the opportunity to be a part of the art department and have a say in the way the magazine in total looked. Linda (Wells) was great about it, asked if I wanted to do it and it was heaven. I worked 16 or 16 and a half years there. She was a great boss and a great collaborator. I like distinctness. I don’t like collapsed things, I like everything to be distinct. A parent is your parent, I’m not your friend. She was my boss. So I’m always good which is why it was good with Anna because I wanted to always know what the final word is. I might not always agree with the final word but I will align with the final word. They chose covers where I wanted a different cover, but they have the last word and I’m good to take a backseat. I mean really, I’m good as an editor with the photographer in the lead and I’m the second.
So your final cover for them was March of this year – how has that whole transition period been? Now you’ve worked for so many years within editorial do you ever want to go back to editorial?
I’m doing it, that’s what I’ve been doing. You mean like, a job? A full time job? It depends if it was the right one. I don’t know what that would be at the moment. But the world has changed. Fashion is changing, the magazine industry is changing, the internet is changing. We’re in this wonderful moment of change. Whatever opportunity comes up might not be what I think it’s going to be. It may not look the way I think it’s going to look. It never turns out what you think it’s going to be. So, if the right thing came up, yes. I’ve been doing a lot of editorial and I’ve been liking it. It’s been good to exercise that muscle again. While I always did editorial I was doing a very specific thing and now I’m able to do something stranger.
I just worked with Bruce Weber recently and I haven’t worked with him in like 16 years. When I first worked with Bruce at the very beginning of my career, we would say to each other, “How far can we push this before they kill it?” That was always our thing. That was always how I did editorial at first. I think the reason that I like beauty so much and I was able to go to Allure was because I trusted the artists. I’ve always worked with really great people so it’s always pushed further. If it runs, I don’t care. If they kill it and it costs money, it’s not my money.
Is that two sided? Is it art or is it commerce?
To me, it is commerce. We are doing commerce. It may be that we’ve done it and it is artful and it becomes art. But our job is commerce. It’s walking that line, if it’s too safe, it’s too commercial and if it’s too far over, it’s too edgy. So we have to be right in the middle and I think someone, like Steven Meisel, you always see the clothes. He does it beautifully but he is taking a fashion photo, he is doing fashion and he is clear.
He’s not trying to hide it.
He’s not camouflaging any of it. It is beautiful and covetable. Hats off to this man who has done that. If everyone were like this, maybe we would not be in the state we’re in.
I mean he has championed and discovered so many great muses that are still relevant today.
Outside of the industry, people look at models as mannequins. They’re the girls who fit the clothes, they’re tall and pretty. What they really are, just like the hair and makeup artists, are collaborators. If the model is allowed to model and allowed to really put forth her contribution she’s putting in work just as much as the stylist, hair, and makeup, if not more. Linda Evangelista was a brilliant collaborator. Kristin McMenamy, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss. Even the ones now like Liya Kebede. They’re creating that picture. Whatever expression we’re giving to the clothes or beauty matches with whatever expression they’re giving to their body language. How they’re reacting to the space, whether it’s a studio or on location. It’s a collaboration. To make it any less than that, makes me crazy. When people are like oh she’s just a model. You try modeling! See how hard it is to do a selfie and look beautiful. See how hard it is to know what your light is. See how hard it is to convey a thing you’re supposed to convey. Really they should be paid more than they’re paid. That’s what I think!
How was it in the 80’s or 90’s? Was it more extravagant? Was there more money?
The crews weren’t as big. Most of us didn’t have assistants. The photographer maybe had 2 assistants. Now he or she has 4 and a digital tech. Then there’s a digital crew and a lighting crew. Hair and makeup have assistants. I have, you know, one assistant and there were times when I didn’t have an assistant for years. There’s people doing video and suddenly there’s all these people on set. Is it going to cost more? Of course. Was there more money? Maybe there was or maybe it just cost less. A dress cost less. You buy a dress now it’s $2,500. Are you kidding me? That’s your rent! It’s just a sign of the times.
Do you think the onset of digital has brought that on? Do you think it’s hindered the industry?
I think if you probably asked people, when I first started if what I was doing was hindering the industry, they’d probably say yes. So, I think it’s just the world. The natural order of things change. That’s just the way the world works and thank God it changes. The best part about change is that if you’re having a bad time, you know it’s going to change. Also we have a good time it’s going to change too but that’s not so great but it will change back! It’s all a part of life. People’s concentration is on the monitor, rather than on the model has changed the relationship.
A lot of people seem to be dedicating energy into trying to figure out what’s right for them. The Public School guys were like, we’re doing 2 shows per year with men and women together.
The thing is there was no extravaganza in shows. The girls were the extravaganza. That’s the reason Pat Cleveland was such a sensation. She would twirl and she was the show. Billie Blair was the smile who they’d call the clown princess of the runway. She was brilliant. Bethann came out and you knew it was Bethann. You knew that it was Karen Bjornson. They had their thing and they were all different.
It changed, and it should change and everything does change, and it’s going to change again. But I think you’re right, I think there’s a feeling of “we can’t keep this up, or should we keep this up? Should we be chasing everything?” I’m about to say something that’s going to make me sound very unpopular, but we’re chasing millennials. Designers are chasing millennials who can’t afford the clothes, because they’re kids. The clothes are beautiful – you want a Prada, so you should save for a Prada. We’re chasing all of this and we’re forgetting the people that can afford it. How do you marry both things? How do you include everyone without sort of, making each of those two things coil? And feel left out? Every conversation is about being inclusive. Diversity and inclusiveness.
Ageism definitely comes into play.
Ageism, everything. How do we do this? This is our challenge. How do we as a race of humans keep our planet going? I’m not lofty, I’m not smart, but I understand inclusiveness. As a family, you have to include all of you. Babies, old people. I’m a grandparent now, I have to include my grandchildren and I have to include me. The industry, we have to include all of us. How do we do this without alienating everybody?
This has been the great thing about being fired – they can call it laid off or whatever the fuck they want to call it. I was fired. I made too much money and they fired me. So it’s like, as an older person suddenly I’m in a new world, and now I’m just a historical thing. I’m being interviewed now because I have a history. Do they forget that I’m alive and still doing things? I’m glad I have a history and I’m glad I’m not dead. All of my friends are dead and I’m alive. How does anyone become part of this new world? How does the youth embrace what happened before them? I think we’re forgetting that we have to marry all of this. That’s inclusiveness. It’s not just diversity or pieces, it’s everything.
Coexisting. Anna Wintour with everything that she’s done from when she started all the way up to the current point. Why is that a novelty?
It’s not a novelty, we should be able to do this. You just have to look at your own family to see that you can coexist. Families are very complicated so there’s a whole other thing, but you know to me that’s my challenge of being in this new era. I can keep styling, doing freelance and editorial and I’m grateful for all of that and I’m doing it, but I also have to think what is the next thing in life. As a parent, or as an older person it’s like… I have to figure it out because I also have to show someone how to do this. I fortunately have a very smart child, so she’s taught me a lot always. She has taught me and inspired me a lot so I’ve always known about music because I had a kid. When hip hop happened I knew about hip hop because my daughter was a DJ. It was fine, she had a hip hop station in college so I knew what the music was. It was fine, but I also worked with young people so it’s like…
Keeps you relevant.
Keeps you alive. Keeps you a part of what is now. Now that the internet is a more scary thing. I think people are treating it like it’s scary but it’s just what is happening. This is what time it is.
I’ve never grown up without internet as a research tool. You talk about a cover that you did in 1991, being able to go google it immediately. That immediacy is an addition to our generation but also a flaw. We want things now.
If we view things as flaws, it’s just what’s so. It’s available to you, so why not use it? We can’t fault it, you have to just go okay this is what it is and how do I take that to move forward? And it’s harder for someone who is older because we have the old thing but in fact, you just have to be present. This is it, this is the what is so now. What am I going to do?
Looking back in retrospect, what would you particularly say was the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry good or bad?
I think the internet. I think that’s the biggest change. How we look at things, how people get information. How the world is going to change a little bit from what’s important information to what is fast information.
Buzzfeed kind of.
Yes, how much is click bait rather than what’s important. This visual is something everyone will click on but what’s really the story here? Fashion is a medium, whether it’s through journalism or not. The media is involved in what is getting numbers as opposed to what is the important part of the story. Click bait versus substance. It’s hard because we think of fashion and beauty as fluffy.
You know, if this industry is ready to throw me away because I’m old, I can be a bartender. It would be hilarious. I could work nights and go take my grandchildren to school, then go to sleep and wake up and start again.
Is there any difference between the models that you see coming up now compared to the ones in the early nineties?
It’s funny, I think always it’s the same. If you want it, you want it. I’ve worked with Kendall Jenner. She likes modeling. She wants to be a good model. She’s working on it. Grace Hartzel. She loves modeling! I did a shoot which was so nutty. They were lots of girls and we had someone who was just a body model. She was going to be a nurse with a mask on so we weren’t going to use her face. We ended up using the real model and then Grace asked to me, can I be the nurse for a little while too? And I said, why? Your face is going to be completely covered and she was like, it would be so much fun! She just wanted to be part of the experience of doing the shoot. So, she wants it. There’s no difference. Looks change, but our standard of beauty changes a little bit too.
Is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do already because you’ve been in the box as far as responsibilities or you have a quota to fill or you have a deadline?
I would love to do a movie. I’ve done a lot. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to do so many things.
Would you ever want to do one of those things where you style a celebrity full time?
I’ve done it. I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities. I think someone like Kate Young is brilliant. I don’t understand the 360 degree perspective. To me you’re going to sit down, you’re going to stand up. I’m never going to see the whole thing. She can do the whole thing. If you’re going to turn around, we’re going to see the whole body. I’m always like, when we do a picture it’s two dimensional don’t worry about it we’re going to work this shit out. I’m not interested in that. I’m not sure that I’m that focused on making the body that beautiful with all of its flaws. Could I be good? Maybe. Of course I’ve learned a lot about fit that I didn’t know, but I like fashion as fashion.
And, this is my final question. What stands out as iconic to you? Whether it’s a model or a person working in fashion. What do you think defines that statement? Saying “you are iconic because…”
You know it’s funny because I think there are so many iconic moments. Thank god for Steven Meisel. Thank god for Linda Evangelista. Thank god for Christy Turlington. Christy Turlington let us know that you could look ethnic and still be gorgeous. Naomi Campbell, the first black woman to model where you didn’t think, “oh let’s get a black model.” It was like, “Oh let’s just book Naomi” or “let’s just book Christy” She was the same thing! Icon.
You’ve gotten to work with them, yeah.
Anna Wintour. These are icons. Antonio Lopez! I look at my life and think, oh my god. I never ever thought that this would be my life. I knew I wanted something different, I wanted something alluring. I didn’t think it was going to be given what my circumstances were but this is what I’ve got to see. Did I save any lives? No. But oh my god, it’s been such a great life. And on top of this I’ve had an amazing family. The fact that I was fired, which to me was horrifying and at the same time it’s like, oh my god I’ve had that! This too has happened to me. I’ve been hired for great jobs and I’ve been fired for something. It’s kind of great. I’ve gotten it all.
And it’s not the end! It’s not the end of the world.
None of it is! This is all just a part of life. Having lost Kezia. Having lost my family. I lost John, I lost my Dad, my grandma, I lost my entire family in three years. Having lost all of that and still being able to go on, it’s kind of great and kind of good. I have this.
There were so many times I thought it was the end! Like when Kezia died I thought, I am done because my whole thing was tied up to her. So many people have helped me through all of the hard times. I have an incredible child who has helped me. Like, you have to be grateful. For me I’m grateful that I have a child. I don’t think that she’s as grateful that she has me **laughs**