Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu

Top by Christian Lacroix, Earrings, Bracelet, Necklace and Ring all by Harry Winston.

Lynn Wyatt has invited us to afternoon tea, an invitation one makes sure they are not late for. Our team has flown in from New York to meet with the juggernaut philanthropist and international socialite to discuss details of her upcoming photoshoot, also to be held at her home in River Oaks. Greeted by her butler, we are whisked through the foyer with it’s elegant curved staircase and ushered into her formal sitting room. Traditional furnishings in buttery yellow and pear greens are juxtaposed with modern and contemporary art which punctuates the room. The two Warhol portraits of Wyatt proudly greet guests as they enter the room, and we are seated in front of the fireplace which wields a colorful painting done by artist, Helen Frankenthaler, hung expressly above the mantle. Just then, we hear the voice, an instantly-recognizable southern drawl with a husky yet benevolent elocution.

As Lynn enters the room, she welcomes us all charmingly with a firm handshake. Smartly dressed in a Chanel pant suit, there is a lightness of being that radiates from the unbelievably spirited octogenarian. A genteel charisma that is not without its depth, her graciousness spills over into everyone she interacts with, no matter how big or small the exchange. Her genuine gratitude is offered to our team as tea is poured and gingersnap cookies are served. As we begin to discuss the details for the photoshoot, there is nothing that is left to chance by Wyatt, whose perceptibility and forethought is sharply on point. Excitement infiltrates the discussion as the topic of wardrobe and jewelry begins, details about every garment she’s worn on the red carpet are intimately shared with pride. After all, she was inducted into Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed Hall of Fame.

She is the woman most Houstonians esteem as their city’s cultural ambassador to the world. For the past five decades, Lynn has raised millions of dollars for charities the world over. In 1982, she was honored by the Government of France to rank of Officier in its prestigious Order of Arts and Letters, for her significant contribution to the enrichment of the French cultural inheritance. A patron of the arts, Lynn has made it her life’s mission to endow the arts in all of its resplendent forms, and her love of fashion has garnered just as much interest as the galas she’s chaired, honored, or attended. Then there is the trope of A-list international friends comprised of royalty, celebrity, and society with which the Texan rose has kept her company: Princess Grace, Nancy Reagan, Liza Minelli, Sarah Ferguson Dutchess of York, Shirley MacClaine, Elton John, Andy Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, and Mick Jagger to name a few. Privy to even the most pomp of parties, brushing shoulders with the world’s elite, Wyatt’s attitude is anything but aristocratic. And while others might require one, no spotlight is necessary for a luminary as brilliant as Lynn.

Proudly, Iris Covet Book shares a conversation with Houston’s hero to offer a glimpse into the radiant world of Lynn Wyatt.

Leather dress by Talbot Runhof | Earrings and Belt by Emanuel Ungaro Couture.

You’re a native Houstonian and you’ve always been proud to act as an ambassador for this very industrial diverse and innovative city. What specific things do you take pride in about Houston?

I take pride in my hometown because of its people. Houston is a very welcoming city and we have a much diversified population which I think is great. And I take pride in the exceptional first class culture and the arts in Houston. The M.F.A.H (Museum of Fine Arts Houston) is exceptional. I love the first-class Houston Grand Opera and our incredible Ballet, as well as the one of a kind, Rothko Chapel and the Menil collection. To me, I think that the arts are the soul of any city.

Your family owned the well-known department store, Sakowitz, for many years. Was your love of fashion innate, or was it something that you learned more about through exposure to it through the family business?

I think just growing up and being around our specialty stores made me cognizant of fashion.

And did your parents ever make you work at the department store when you were growing up or was it something that you chose to do?

I didn’t have to work, no, but I wanted to work.

What did that experience teach you?

Well, when I asked my father, he of course agreed to it. They had a junior miss department and he said he would place me there to begin. So, on the very first day, a girl came in with her mom and I asked if I could assist her. She had brought in several outfits in the dressing room and had asked me to come in. She asked for my opinion. I thought, “Should I tell her the truth? Or just make the sale?” But to me the truth is always the right thing. So, I told her it really didn’t do anything for her style. So, she asked me what she should do instead? So, I said, “Let me go and bring some things. You can try them on because I think this is more your style.” She then became not only my customer, but she brought in all of her friends and told them to ask for Lynn.

So, the customer isn’t always right, but Lynn knows best.

(Laughter) Yes, and you know the truth is what people like! I mean, women like to hear the truth about when something they’re wearing isn’t very flattering.

Then, at what age did you become interested in philanthropy and humanitarian causes? was gratitude or the act of giving back something that you were taught?

You know what, that is something that was taught to me early, early on because my parents were prominent in this city, and they always taught me to give back to the community.

That’s amazing, what an incredible example. What charitable organizations do you support and are involved with?

The arts have always been my passion. I’ve been the Vice President of Houston Grand Opera for thirty-five years and a trustee on the executive committee of the Houston Ballet for over twenty-five years. I’m also a lifetime trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I am the Rothko Chapel’s Cultural Adviser and I’m a Special Advisor to Mercury, which is a brilliant orchestra made up of strings that showcases young musicians, but of course to me everybody is young. (Laughter)

(Laughter) So then, what is perhaps the most memorable event that you ever hosted and why?

The most memorable event, was for the Princess Grace Awards Gala. Three months, after Princess Grace of Monaco passed away, I got a phone call from Prince Rainier. He asked me to chair the first inaugural gala, and I sort of gulped. I said, “Oh my goodness.” And he said, “No, she loved you. You were one of her dearest friends.” So, I said I was so flattered and accepted the invitation to chair the event.

Then I decided that instead of having it in New York, which always has so many events going on, sometimes three or four things a night, that I would have a three-day affair, and hold it in Washington D.C. The President, and Mrs. Reagan were present, as well as the entire presidential staff. I also invited all my European friends, some were princes or princesses and dukes and duchesses. Even many years after, I still have people remembering it. So, that’s very flattering for me.

Dress by Tom Ford available at Neiman Marcus | Shoes by Yves Saint Laurent

And you will be chairing the official Super Bowl Galas in Houston, Texas?

I am very proud to be a part of the Super Bowl and chair the official Super Bowl Gala on Wednesday evening before the Super Bowl. You know, it’s a big deal in any city but this is my city. So, I’m very proud to be to be involved with it.

Are you excited about the halftime show with Lady Gaga?

Yes! I met Lady Gaga when we were both attending Elton John’s AIDs Foundation Gala in Windsor. Lady Gaga was the entertainer and she was fabulous. Later that evening after the gala at Elton’s home, Elton said for us to go up and put on our bathrobes. We came downstairs and stayed up talking and laughing until four o’clock. She was just terrific. You know, she’s a great entertainer and she was just fabulous. I’ll be thrilled to see her in Houston if she has the time.

It sounds like you are busy preparing for all the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl. I’m curious how you decide what to wear when you’re hosting a Gala? Do you always purchase something new or never worn before? Or do you revisit some of your archived couture pieces from time to time?

People often ask me this question, and the answer is that it depends on the occasion, because sometimes I change what I’ll wear a lot. So, if I say I haven’t decided yet, that makes me look like I don’t want to tell them. If I do tell them something and then change my mind because my mood changes, it makes me look like I’m a liar. So really, for something like the Museum of Fine Arts Ball that I hosted, I had an Oscar de la Renta gown made-to-measure for me. I was excited about that. But you know, I’ll wear my “golden oldies” as I love to call them.

And do you ever mix pieces like that old and new? Haute couture with ready-to-wear?

Oh, I love to mix them!

I would imagine that’s part of the fun, right?

Yes exactly! That’s what I love about getting dressed. A very famous person who was a very good friend of mine, and also one of the most stylish women in the world, said, “The most fun that I ever have is deciding what I’m going to wear. Sometimes even better than the party I go to.” I don’t know if I agree with that last part, but I love her for saying that.

How would you describe your personal style?

I have been asked to describe my style, and I have a little philosophy that I dress by. My style is class with a little bit of dash, but never trash. (Laughter)

(Laughter) Spot on! I was going through some image galleries of your most memorable looks online. There’s several galleries on the Internet that showcase looks that you’ve worn and I couldn’t help but notice that you gravitate towards a lot of playful pieces too. Like the evening dress with the red lips embellished on it.

Oh right, you know who did that? Yves Saint Laurent!

Necklace by Grazia Fortuna Ward | Dress by Ralph Rucci | Photo by Jhane Hoang

Ah! I was wondering who.

I loved Yves Saint Laurent! And I love Valentino. I also loved Emanuel Ungaro, Hubert de Givenchy, and Chanel! She was the first house that I ever went to purchase haute couture from. When I was early married, my husband went to Paris and took me. I decided I would go in and see about having some pieces made for me. They were very, very, disciplined and they take all of your measurements– I mean everything! I thought they were going to measure the size of my finger nail (laughter). They were so perfect about everything. So, I had a daytime suit that was made-to-measure. And I had this beautiful brocade cocktail dress with matching jacket.

Since then, I also have had evening gowns and other pieces made-to-measure, from other designers who I became very good friends with: Valentino, Givenchy, and Emanuel Ungaro.

Do you ever fret over a haute couture piece before you purchase it or do you have an inherit knowing this piece is right for you?

My dear man, before I ever have it made to measure I agonize over it. Because I would think, and think, and think, “Am I going to spend my money on this? How many times can I wear it? How many times can I mix maybe the skirt with another top?” I mean, I agonize over it. First of all, haute couture is a fascinating experience. One can really turn a garment inside and out. The way it’s made is so perfectly sewn and constructed by hand. I used to attend all of the collections in Paris every year and it was always such a great experience. I must admit that I can still wear my “golden oldies” and I feel like they’re just good friends.

Do you still own all of your haute couture pieces? Are they archived?

You know, I still have my first Chanel suit. But then I gave eighteen haute couture gowns to the auction panel to raise money for the Rothko Chapel(in Houston, Texas).

I’m furious with myself for parting with one of them. Hamish Bowles (International editor-at-large of Vogue) came up to me before the auction, and said, “You know, I’ve got my eye on two LW’s.” I said, “You do?! Well good for your collection, I’m so flattered!” And so, he actually ended up buying four! I was so excited they ended up in his collection.

How did you meet Warhol, and how did your portraits by him come to be? Did you have a sitting with him at his studio?

I met Andy Warhol in New York in the 60’s and we became fast friends. We would always go to lunch or dinner together. Sometimes it was just the two of us and other times he would be with all of his talented and amusing friends. I mean Andy was so ahead of his time. At that time, Fred Hughes was the guy that did work with him in the city, and he asked Andy, “Why are all of your paintings the same exact size?” And Andy’s answer was, “Because I can picture them in a museum one day.” How brilliant was THAT! He would come to my parties at our Villa in the south of France, and he would bring a notebook and take notes about me and the people who were at the parties. I thank all the artists who ever asked to do my portrait, because it’s very flattering, but I would always say no to them. But Andy, he was the one that I asked to do my portraits because he was, and I think people would agree, the John Singer Sergeant of our era.

Ring and earrings by Harry Winston |  Sheer Long Sleeve Blouse, Blue Satin Top, Belt and Leather Pants all by Saint Laurent, available at Neiman Marcus

What has given you strength during times of trial in your life?

Personally, I believe that trials and tribulations come into everyone’s life. The way I handle it, I believe in facing them straight on. I know that whatever trial or tribulation it is, it can always be worse. When you think about it that way, it’s like, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.”

What’s been your greatest fear that you’ve confronted and overcome?

I don’t even think of fear. Life is a challenge and I just look at it in the face and go for it.

What does success mean to you?

Whatever I do, I try to do the best job I can. And I’m very happy when it becomes successful.

Have you ever reinvented yourself?

You know I never think of reinventing anything. Especially my life. I believe that we should live life as an adventure, and be grateful for all the gifts one has been given. You know, I’m an adventurer too!

Your family is ancestrally Jewish. In America and globally, 2016 brought to light an alarming rise in xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia and overall feelings of divisiveness. I’m just curious to know what you think it will take for us to unite and celebrate our diversity?

That’s a very good question. You know, my parents taught me that every religion is personal and that at the core, religion teaches us to love and respect all people and religions. So, I’m fortunate that I have a diverse group of friends all over the world and have never encountered any division among them. Be kind and be respectful of others, especially their differences.

You’ve been described by Nicky Haslam to have a “golden aura” and your friend Valentino described you as “a miracle of nature” because of your constant energy and vitality. What’s your secret to maintaining impenetrable positivity and light?

First of all, I’m so flattered by those wonderful, incredible words, by my two dear friends. The truth is, I don’t have a secret. I think that the light comes from within.

Do you think gratitude is an important quality to cultivate in one’s life?

I think gratitude is a very important quality. But I do not think about gratitude as being a quality to cultivate because then one is not truly grateful. It has to come from inside. It has to come naturally. If you have to think about it, then it’s not true gratitude.

Good point. The experience of gratitude must be innate and naturally occurring.Can you describe what “having class” means to you?

If you one thinks one has class, one doesn’t really have it. Because I think it’s the way one lives one’s life. However, I take it as the supreme compliment when some guy yells out, “You’re a classy dame!” (Laughter)

(Laughter) That’s where the “dash” comes in from your style motto! What do you want your personal legacy to say about you?

It’s really quite simple, but I would like them to say, “She lived a lot, laughed a lot, and loved a lot.” .

Ring, Necklace and Earrings all by Harry Winston | Black Top and Pants by Brandon Maxwell | Shoes by Yves Saint Laurent | Throughout this story, Hair using Susan Zindler | Makeup using Dior Beauty, YSL Beauty, Tom Ford Beauty and Chanel Makeup | Fragrance by Hermes



Interview by Miguel Figueroa | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Sophy Holland | Styling by René Garza | Art Direction by Louis Liu 

Hat by Stephen Jones | Cape by Joanna Mastroianni | Choker by Laruicci

Rossy de Palma, born in Palma de Mallorca, was originally a singer and dancer before being discovered by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar in 1986. He cast her in roles based on her unique appearance which are best described as a Picasso come-to-life. In 1988, Rossy de Palma broke the rules of beauty when she starred in Pedro Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and became a model and muse for designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. Her status as an iconic fashion face was further cemented with her role in Robert Altman’s 1994 satirical fashion film Prêt-à-Porter. Today, she is a theater actress, charity spokesperson for the Ghanian Charity, OrphanAid Africa, and the face of luxury fashion ad campaigns.

Hat by Tolentino Haute hats | Vintage Thierry Mugler Jacket | Vintage Dress by North Beach Leather |  Belt by Saint Laurent | Shoes by Iris Van Herpen | Earrings by  Victoria Hayes | Leather Glove by Elena Benarroch

Some of the roles you’ve played in Almodóvar films include talk show host, drug dealer, a daughter trapped in a small town living with a hysterical mother, a snobby woman from Madrid, and now, in Julieta you play a malicious housekeeper who doesn’t know much of the world outside her own. You’ve been one of the most consistent Chica Almodóvar in the director’s filmography. Why do you think he always comes back to you?

Well, not always. Out of 20 movies, I’ve only been in seven. It’s a pleasure to work with him. I mold myself well, and he knows that with me, he can do whatever he wants. I’m devoted to him and that has its advantages because he knows that I’m effective. I’ll give him whatever he wants.

Do you remember the first time you met Pedro Almodóvar ?

Of course. Legend has it that we met in a bar. But, we met during the years of the Movida Madrileña. I had just arrived to the capital from Mallorca with my music group, Peor Imposible and he used to come to our shows. By that time he was already an underground legend. He had just wrapped What Have I Done to Deserve This? and was beginning to work on Matador. He was casting for that film, but I couldn’t make it because I had a concert in Alicante that same day. He was starting to nag me and I decided to play hard to get. I was going to seduce him from afar. He used to come to a bar I was working at, the King Creole and offered me a small role in Law of Desire. He asked me “Would you like to?” and I responded “Yes, yes; I couldn’t make it to the Matador casting” and he replied, “Ok, well, let’s go.”

He was very happy with me. He wanted to portray who I was in Law of Desire. I did my own hair and makeup; I didn’t allow wardrobe to touch my look. I wanted to immortalize who I was aesthetically at that time. I played a TV journalist; but since I was dressed as myself, I didn’t feel like an actress. But, then, when he wrote me the part of Antonio Banderas’ snobby girlfriend in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown it was much more fun because that was the first time I worked
as an actual actress.

Did you work in any other movies between Law of Desire and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown?

No. In the beginning of my career I only worked with Pedro because I was also focused on my music project. Later on, I started working in more films, but in Italy. I haven’t really worked much in Spain until recently. In Spain I only worked with Pedro.

Hat by Graham Tyler | Cape and Corset Belt by Joanna Mastroianni | Feather Shrug worn as Skirt by Harrison Morgan | Ring by Eddie Borgo | Boots by Pleaser

Did you want to be an actress when you were a young girl?

I’ve been an actress from an early age because I acted differently around each person. I noticed that you had to become a different person. I was conscious that you needed to have a different psychology for each person in order to unite each of your complexities. I was also aware of the simulacra of things. I’ve always felt more of an artist than an actress. I like to keep various creative channels open. I would say that poetry was my first love. The Dadaist poets opened up this whole new dimension of thinking that made me aware that there was another world out there waiting for me. I recently worked in a performance called Residencia de Amor that deals with that: how art helps you survive and how therapeutic it is.

Think of it as being the ugly ducking and suddenly you leave, and in this new world you are a Disney character. Tapping into that place of my consciousness without knowing that there was another world waiting for me really cheered me up. Then, also, you need to have music, art and all sorts of things that lift you in order to live another kind of reality because real life is tough.

Have you always been connected to your voice within?

Yes. I’ve always been connected to that spirit that we all have inside. In fact, I’m very rational; but everything I do creatively I do it from my unconsciousness. I like to surprise myself and see things as if they were the first time I saw them. When I have to interpret a character, I don’t like to prepare and study for it. I like to come from stillness. I welcome and work with accidents and errors. It enriches your life. You can’t think that you can control everything.

You can’t control anything.

No, you can’t. I don’t believe in that vanity that some artists who think they are creators. No. I believe that everything comes from a collective unconsciousness and when we allow ourselves to be receptive we become vehicles for it but we are not the protagonists. We can’t think, “Oh, I’m going to sit down and write a song.” No. That song came to you from the thousands of influences you have. You are a vehicle for art. I don’t believe in painters who are so self-deprecating. I prefer the humility behind being receptors and we are vehicles for creativity. We’re all artists.

Julieta is a great film. His female characters continue to be his strongest suit.

Yes. Isn’t this music very 90s? (Forever Young plays in the background)

My partner says that time does not exist.

My daughter tells me, “Mom, you’re so lucky to have lived in the 80s!” Yes, she’s right. No one can take those memories from me; but especially to have survived that decade, because so many didn’t
make it. If it wasn’t drugs, it was AIDS and also the road. In those days the roads in Spain were awful; many fellow musicians like Tino Casal died in tragic car accidents. OD’s, AIDS and the road. Madre mía. All pathways. (Both laugh)

Dress by Marna Ro | Bra worn on top by Zana Bayne | Earrings by Victoria Hayes

And how did you make it?

I was very mature in the 80s. I was in my 20s. My adolescence was in my 30s. I was serious in my 20s. All of my friends were getting high and I was everyone’s mother. I protected my friends. I was “homeless” but I had a daily planner. Pedro was always mesmerized by this; “look at her, she’s so organized!”

Maybe it’s because you’re a Virgo.

Yes, I am. Perhaps it’s that. But I had also moved from Mallorca to Madrid. I left behind my teenage brother and he needed me. My mother was hustling through the market in order to save enough money to send me 3000 pesetas [about $20] in a money order each month. It was so little and it was all she could. With that in mind, I knew I wasn’t there to waste time. I had to pave my road and if not, I went back home. I couldn’t distract myself. I was very clear with my intention. I also didn’t like drugs. Only weed. I don’t like drugs that affect my mindset and take me to other realities because the reality that we live in is already rough enough and psychedelic itself to take me somewhere else. I mean, back in the day we tried everything but weed, the relaxing kind. Sativa’s great but I’m more of an Indica girl. I didn’t get hooked to anything because I wanted to work and build. Let’s be realistic there is no money when you are starting out in music; so even when I worked at bars, I was a bad cocktail waitress because I wanted my patrons to stop drinking. They drank, and drank, and drank. I would tell them, “listen buddy, you just had one…” and the bar owners would come and tell me “This is not Alcoholic Anonymous, you’re here to sell drinks. Be cool. Don’t be such a…” 

Don’t be so conscious…

“Don’t be such a good girl…” I love playing evil characters but in life I’m such a good person. I’m a softy and I’m very sentimental. You know what I mean? That’s my personality. In theatre I like to play the bad girl because I compensate for being so good in real life.

How do you channel it? Your character in Julieta is so malicious.

You can’t judge a character because if not, you wouldn’t be able to interpret them.

In an interview with Almodóvar, they ask him how can he create such evil characters and he says that he humanizes them. He starts living with the characters; what they eat? What kind of music they like?

Yes. Yes. You have to humanize. I already told you that I like playing with the subconscious. I am so at ease to work with Pedro. First of all, he re-enacts exactly what he wants. You have to be careful not to copy him nor imitate him too much because if not, then you look like you’re imitating Pedro. You have to take it to your turf. But, he will do what he wants you to do. Down to a T. He’s very precise.

He knows what he wants. And then you’re at ease because he’s moving you around and if you slip he will say, “No, no I don’t want you standing there.” He’s also obsessed with the tone of voice. “This word is too low. Higher…; This one went too high, I want it lower…,”  “This one went too low, I want it higher.” Or “You’re dropping your voice.” Obsessed. He has an ear that works for him and it’s impressive what he can do with it. I let go. I surrender to him.

Anyone would.

You’d be surprised… Some can’t do it because they don’t have the consciousness to process that Almodóvar is directing them. The important thing is to flow. Absolutely flow. You have to be at ease. Almodóvar is directing you. He will be precise. Really, you just got to play…

We played a lot with this character because the newcomers, Adriana Ugarte (who plays the younger version of Julieta) and Daniel Grao (who plays Xoan, Julieta’s partner) had never worked with him. Before each take, he’d tell me, “Now, don’t tell them anything but when I scream ACTION! You come in expelling and shouting random things like “You don’t have a bathing suit? Well, I have a pair of old bragas that you could use.” They didn’t know what to do. Dumbfounded, they’d ask, “Is this going in?” They didn’t know what was going on! We had so much fun. Even though there was a seriousness in the character, when we were filming we had a lot of fun.”

What’s the thing you like the most about New York?

It’s that thing I was telling you. That the distance between you and yourself is the shortest one. It’s great to know yourself here. No one looks at you. Everybody minds his or her business. There is a connection between you and your inner self that’s very important to know in order to evolve as a person. To get to know yourself and who you are. I almost moved here before I had my kids, moved to Paris and destiny took me somewhere else. But I almost did it with my friend Dorothy who lives here. We almost bought a townhouse. Back then they were so cheap.

Back to Julieta, it is a movie that touches your core.

It leaves an emotional well. It’s hard to swallow. Three or four days after seeing it you’re getting flashbacks. It’s the kind of movie that leaves a scar. Sort of an echo… don’t you think? A few days go by and boom, another flash. I left in a state of shock. I had to drive after seeing it and I was so worried to be on the road; because the film left me a bit loopy. I was distraught.

It makes you think.

The silence. The secrets. All that is dragged down due to miscommunication. But, it’s a movie that you have to let it breathe. Like in the beginning when you see that red creature and you don’t know what it is just to find out that it’s her breathing through the red nightgown. Everything goes in… smoothly. There’s no need to time stamp “three years earlier” or “two days later”. Everything flows. Time just comes in by itself.

Through her hairstyles.

Well, that towel seen is marvelous. Reading that scene in the script was already a gem. I’d think, “what a beautiful transition”. You were excited by reading it. And the ending, which I can’t talk about you’re like “oh my God” A bit shaken. The way he moves the camera. You need to let it breathe…

Everyone somehow, someway sympathizes with Julieta. We’ve all gone through those moments of silence, assuming situations and changing your life in order to carry on.

Or people who never speak again. It’s what Pedro would tell us in order to understand where he was coming from. Try to investigate what makes two people stop loving themselves. They stop communicating. They can’t look at themselves in the same way. They begin
to have secrets. A black hole comes between them.

Veil by Tolentino haute hats | Gold Necklace by Sarina Suriano | Dress by Christian Soriano | Coat by BCalla |  Shoes by Christian Louboutin.

They say that it’s because you didn’t give the other what he or she wanted.

Who knows? Each relationship is unique. I think the root (of couples separating) is misunderstandings. It’s a chain of consequences of misunderstandings and people take it personally when some things shouldn’t be a certain way. And then each one starts to victimize themselves and they start a competition of who suffers the most. Right?

And they don’t sit down to think. “Wait a minute. My partner is suffering too.”

Yep. And then you can’t get close. I am dealing with things in personal life where I cannot tolerate to have my arm twisted any longer. It’s now not a question of “I don’t want to be dominated because I was once a super softy that always ended up forgiving everyone and now I am at a moment in my life where I can’t have relationships that fail me. Know what I’m saying? Even if they are family and people who I’ve loved for years I cannot give them that power any longer. It’s like “enough is enough”. Not even God can fail me now. Anything that drives you forward, yes. Everything that, as the French would say”, baton dans la rue, clipping your wings… I don’t want that.

Even if I adore you; I can’t give you that power. Sometimes if you don’t get to that point it’s like you can’t ever go back but it’s not about that. You need to seal things. Let the other know that you need your space. It’s more of a male to female dominance, patriarchal thing. I’m in another moment of my life. I finally learned to love myself. Just recently, really. To really love myself.

Me too.

And now I can’t lose any of this gained momentum. I don’t want anything that fails nor hurts me. And if you have to re-enforce yourself, you do. You put on an emotional corset, tighten that shell and “nobody gonna come in there. No more, darling.” No more. That’s it. It’s a way of loving yourself without stopping to love other people; of course.

Of course. You have to learn to love yourself.

Of course. I think you really have to learn to love yourself before you can really experiment love from others and let yourself be loved. If you don’t love yourself the right way, no one will. I’m sorry. It’s the truth.

And especially in an industry like this one.

I’ve always been an outsider in every industry. I’m free and willing; I’m everywhere but I’m not anchored anywhere. I like that thing of not belonging. I’m not compromised to any political party. I’m an individualist and an anarchist. I cut it. I eat it. I don’t know… a little bit of freedom… Just having to answer to one person; yourself. 

I’m going through a very similar process.

You see yourself through what I’ve been going through. How old are you?


You’re so young, that’s good! Well, look… it’s better to go through it now than when you’re my age. I’ve taken longer. But the important thing is to make it. I may be 52 but I feel like a young girl.

You need to keep your spirit young.

Absolutely! Curiosity is fresh and although we’ve all suffered and everything; my innocence is still
very fresh.

It’s in your eyes…

…of a child. Yes, yes. I can’t stop being a little girl. When we’re children, that’s when we’re more authentic, when we really get to be our genuine selves. You can’t ever lose that. Ok?

It’s so challenging to live in a world that doesn’t want us to be our true selves.

They want us like cattle; all the same. That’s why you always have to rebel.

How did you start?

I mean, let’s start with my nose… Would you like some? How about a nose and a half! Although, it did help me hide that part of me that was more complex, no one could really see me and they just focused on my aesthetic.

I meant to ask you about that.

Talking about my nose is cliché, but we can talk about it if you like. Beauty is so relative. What is really beautiful is nature; flowers… How can there be evil in the world when we have flowers? A thing as beautiful as flowers.  ‡

Hat by Stephen Jones | Coat by Georgine | Peplum belt by Zana Bayne | Ring by Eddie Borgo | Shoes by Christian Louboutin.
Hair by Elsa Canedo using Kerastase Paris/US, Makeup by Fumiaki Nakagawa, manicure by Aki, Stylist Assistant, Photo Assistant: Michael Prezioso, Production by XtheStudio, Special thanks to Jessica Uzzan @ Hook Publicity and Sony Pictures Classics, shot at Splashlight Studios in NYC.


Interview & Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Grooming by Anthony Joseph Hernandez

Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh

An unassuming leader, not old enough to vote, Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh (pronounced Shoe-tez-kaht Ton-ah-tee) is an undeniable force of change for his generation and those to come. Possessing an intrinsic spiritual wisdom stemming from the traditions of his Aztec heritage, Xiuhtezcatl’s love for the earth was instilled in him from early childhood. As one of the twenty youth plaintiffs suing the United States Federal Government in a historical class-action case for its prior knowledge of climate change and failing to take preventative action, Xiuhtezcatl is a voice among many pleading for us to recognize the magnitude of the issue that we’ve created.

At a time when grassroots movements can be nurtured through the use of technology, social media wields the power to cause both disconnection from our realities, and connection amongst those who will create our reality. It is by this means that the future summons the past for collaboration. As youth director of the non-profit, Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl has already spoken three times at the United Nations on environmental policy, a hefty accomplishment for anyone who is leading a movement. He blends his leadership skills with his charismatic musical talent as a hip-hop artist, to amplify his message on all social media platforms and connect with others around the globe who support his cause. Xiuhtezcatl exudes, “The combination of both generations can create a better world for the future where we can balance ways of life that existed in the past, but also taking advantage of technology and creating societies that are less destructive to the planet but can continue to move forward into the future.”

The implication of the issue at hand, however, is that climate change is a violation of human rights. With peak-consumerism climaxing at the environment’s expense, it’s hard to imagine how one might pursue life, liberty and happiness, if in fact the earth cannot even sustain life. Perhaps then it is a surprise that the seeming-naivety of youth is the one sounding the largest alarm. Xiuhtezcatl beckons us, “I think that reconnecting to the sense that we are part of the whole planet and a species of beings that will not exist anymore unless things change–and that means lifestyle change, policy change, people standing up in our courts, streets, communities, electing officials who will speak with our voice.”

Iris Covet Book had a chance to speak with the “Kid Warrior” on set at his photoshoot in New York.

When did your passion for environmental issues begin and at what age did you start organizing/working with Earth Guardians?

My passion for environmentalism began when I was super little. Growing up, I spent all of my time outside in nature: in the forests, in the mountains and rivers. Just immersed in the beauty of the natural world. From there, I began to learn about the problems facing the environment through my mom and through my siblings.  We were all engaged in that, and I began using my voice to speak up about it.

We started talking about climate change, environmentalism, creating small local events –then in 2009, I thought, what if we got other young people involved? I had an interest to engage in the friends of my community. I was nine years old when I began Earth Guardians, kind of the third generation of my community. It was just me and a group of my friends who showed up to town hall meetings because they started spraying pesticides on our parks, from there we stopped getting pesticides sprayed in Boulder and then were able to get movement on a global level.

It became so much bigger than just ourselves, because the world saw it as a step forward for young people to use their voices to make a difference in the world regardless of the cause.

In your videos online, you attribute your love for nature to your upbringing and the traditions of your father’s tribe. Can you describe when you first became aware that you had this connectedness to the Earth?

There was never really a defining moment because being born into that culture taught me that being with nature was just a way of life. Since I could walk, I was learning traditional dances. Since I could speak I was learning our languages and our songs. All of that revolved around prayer and ceremony for the elements that give us life. That shaped the deep connection that I have with the natural world, and I am apart of it just by being on the Earth.

In regards to modern society, what attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs do you think people in general are missing in their way of life that contribute to environmental degradation?

I think it’s about convenience. As a teenager, growing up and going to high school I saw that in my peers because it is very easy to go through life and not care about anything. Where we are so disconnected from ourselves, from one another, from the planet from what we eat, there’s such a sense of disconnection that it’s easy for us to fall into apathy.

It’s easy to fall into hopelessness because when we look at crises that face the world, it’s incredibly overwhelming. I see a general disconnection with human beings to problems that matter.

Why do you think climate change is a multi-generational issue? How do you think that we can benefit from multi-generation collaboration?

I think it is pretty plain to see. Past generations created this crisis, and obviously we perpetuate it today, but our parents and the generations of the past are responsible for letting it happen. Those in power are responsible for climate change. As young people, we are going to be inheriting the problem that the past generations created. They had a party on the planet and left it for us to clean up. If you look at it that way, if we want to actually create change in the world to fix a global problem like climate change, it is going to take more than just action from our elected officials, and from older generations.

I feel like older people have a wisdom that we can learn from to make things actionable, and the youth have an incredible amount of ingenuity. We are creators, entrepreneurs, thinkers. We are exploring the world in such a new way because we have lightning fast access to information, media, etc. The combination of both generations can create a better world for the future where we can balance ways of life that existed in the past, but also taking advantage of technology and creating societies that are less destructive to the planet but can continue to move forward into the future.

Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh for Iris Covet Book - 2

That brings to mind inventive and visionary solutions like Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Project in China that will turn smog into diamonds by means of a giant “air purifier”. We’re making lots of advancements!

Yeah, I mean you see it every day! Part of what keeps my head above water and keeps me inspired and hopeful is looking at all of the solutions. I see kids all over the world who are improving and creating amazing ideas on how to reduce our impact on the world. Our use of paper, water, etc. We need to focus on long term solutions so we can create a lasting society so that generations in the future have something to inherit.

How has technology and the internet been influential to you as a leadership tool?

Telling my story through the media has been incredibly important to having the world know who I am, what I am doing, the movement I’m trying to spread. As I said, I started this as a kid trying to help my community, and people started to see what I was doing and post things online and share through YouTube and Facebook. I started working with this documentary filmmaker named, Vanessa Black, to make a short documentary called “Kid Warrior” to show my story. That went viral and got millions of people to learn about what I was doing. It went beyond just “Kid Warrior”, but got the attention of the United Nations. Now, I am working with a lot of different media outlets in the fashion industry, Hollywood, the music industry, and using these different avenues to propel the message so everyone has access to find out what we are doing. It’s not just about one person, it’s not just about me, it’s about inspiring leaders all over the world to make change.

You recently addressed both Presidential candidates via YouTube, and even though you’re not old enough to vote, what kind of action do you want to see taken by the next President of the United States?

I feel like as the United States we have an amazing amount of power and influence in the world, and these next couple of decades are going to determine the next several hundred years. That’s not me saying that, that’s scientists all over the world saying that. Based upon the amount of actions we take, carbon that can be sequestered in the oceans and forests and soil – that will determine what our world will look like. As a leader of one of the biggest and most powerful nations in the world, they have an amazing amount of responsibility to address climate change, to put climate recovery tools into place, and to get off of a fossil fuel infrastructure. Fossil fuel is not a sustainable source, it’s cheap and convenient, but it is not sustainable. Unless our leaders take action, there will not be an earth left to pass on. They have to do something for my generation and the generations ahead
to keep the positive momentum going.

Is there a crucial window or time frame that change must happen within?

I just watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s new documentary Before the Floods, and he said that the ice sheet in the Northern Hemisphere will be gone by 2040. The impact that this will have on rising sea levels globally is already evident, we already have island land masses sinking. Climate change is a human rights issue. People are dying, losing their families, etc. It’s really a question of how much time we have as a city, a country–everyone will be affected differently but in extreme ways. We will have food shortages, lack of clean water, national security, all different problems which we will see with more frequency. There’s not really a specific window because unless we take action soon by making drastic changes in the next five decades, things will just continue to get worse and worse. One of the first places that will be affected are island nations, and it will continue to spiral.

You’ve been personally affected by fracking in your town, can you explain what it is and why it is dangerous?

Fracking is a process in which they take millions of gallons of water and mix it with toxic carcinogenic chemical and sand and they shoot it down into the ground at high pressure. We have exploited so many of our shallow oil reserves, so now we have to go deep into the Earth to crack the last of the shale, and it is very difficult to extract because of the way the shale is formed so they have to open up pockets of gas and extract it from there. The impact of shooting millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the Earth is bleaching. It leaks into water reserves, naturally occurring watersheds, rivers, basins, where we get our water from, basically. We have about 130,000 fracking wells in Colorado which have been drilled over the past few decades.

Out in public spaces? Like that park in your neighborhood?

Yes, public spaces, parks, homes, hospitals, schools. We’ve fought really hard to get bans and moratoriums on fracking in specific municipalities of Colorado and we got a five-year moratorium on fracking in Boulder, but this year it will lift and
we will no longer be safe from its impacts. I know kids in other communities where the people are suffering from different cancers, lung diseases, respiratory problems, nosebleeds, migraines–all of these different problems that are affecting children and families. The people living next to these wells are screwed. We have to take action against these oil and gas companies.

Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh for Iris Covet Book - 3

Do you always wear your gas mask when you play basketball?

(laughs) Not always, but when I am in certain areas of Colorado you’ve got to.

What prompted the decision to filethe lawsuit against the United States government, and what was going through your head when you started that journey?

So, I am one of twenty youth plaintives filing against the US Federal Government to keep them accountable for violating our constitutional right to life, liberty, and property because of their lack of action on climate change. I’ve been working on these lawsuits for the last five years, starting with local powers in my state to get statewide action on climate change and those lawsuits are still going on in my state. Now we are in a huge class-action lawsuit against the Federal Government, we are hoping in the next thirty days that we will get a ruling that will allow us to take this case to Supreme Court so we can put the Federal Government on trial for threatening our future. It is incredible to see we have a voice in a legal system where people aren’t represented or heard from. This is not about politics or money, it’s about our future.

What are some of the practical ways that Earth Guardians is making a difference on the issue of climate change and how expansive has the group become?

It’s incredible to see how so many different communities all over the world are taking different actions to make global change. That’s the beautiful thing about Earth Guardians because it is a movement where anyone in any part of the world can sign up and create a community in their homes or schools and begin to make change in small steps—whether that’s through tree planting, or picking up litter, to painting a mural, creating a fashion show out of recycled materials, whatever it is that inspires you. Being a part of Earth Guardians is just being a part of a big global family of people who care and want to make a difference. We have quarterly global events where every young person involved with Earth Guardians has a chance to connect with each other where we can protect our Earth, air, water, and climate. We’ve planted hundreds of thousands of trees, had huge initiatives to clean up our water supplies and educate about water potability. In different countries and different places, we need to work on different things, but it is amazing to see how all of these young people creating small changes individually makes a global impact.

Do you believe that we can unlearn our disconnectedness from the Earth at this point in time?

I think that we all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and we really only have one planet. Culturally we have trained ourselves to be separate from the planet to only view it as an object which we exist on. I truly believe that with the right steps humanity can be trained to fall back in love with the Earth through music, art, culture, nature—these are all aspects of what it means to be human. I think falling back in love with our humanity is what it will take for the human race to understand that we are in danger of going extinct because of our consumption and the destructive relationship we have with the planet.


What are some practical lifestyle changes that people can make to reduce their carbon footprint?

The biggest way is to be more conscious. I think that each and every one of us, regardless of how busy we are, we can all take more steps to be more conscious as consumers—the products we buy and the companies we support—and then looking at the food that we eat. Localizing our diets more and being conscious of what is made locally and organically. Small steps like that are great—change your light bulbs, use less water, take more public transportation, but more than anything be conscious of the fact that every decision you make will impact the world, regardless how small. That means that you have a huge amount of power with how you live your life regardless of age, economic background, where you are from, the color of your skin.

Do you believe it is a principle of us taking collective responsibility that should be our motivation, rather than consumerism and profit?

I think living in this country it is very easy to be blind to the world, because we have everything we want, we are so privileged in this country where it is easy to detach ourselves from the problems that are affecting other parts of the world. I think that reconnecting to the sense that we are part of the whole planet and a species of beings that will not exist anymore unless things change–and that means lifestyle change, policy change, people standing up in our courts, streets, communities, electing officials who will speak with our voice.

How do you think greener living affects the psyche? Does it make you more relaxed, more calm, what are the benefits?

When you do good things for other people or for the environment you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you feel better about yourself. If you look at yourself as a human being with a legacy, then you realize how much power you have. Whether it is being a spokesperson for a movement, or something as simple as just creating art for a cause. I believe that the biggest understanding is that we have so much power to promote change and there is so much hope and opportunity for things to change if we will them to.

How do you see yourself growing and evolving with this work?

People often tell me that I’m an old soul, and you know I am a hip-hop artist and an emcee, and I have a huge passion for art and using this art to reach out to people. We’re working on an album now called Break Through that talks about our experiences over the last two years. I am still growing up, and there’s so much that I am learning every day about life, relationships, being a human being, and life on this earth. I think there is a huge amount I have to learn in order to grow and become the kind of person that I want to be.

Why should we have hope on this issue? What gives you hope?

I think giving up hope turns your back on every single person who has suffered before you, every person who has died. Having hope I think is one of the last things that we have, what gives me hope is seeing people wake up all over the world, and it is slow but it’s happening. Looking at struggles like what is happening at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I was there to play a concert and look at what was going on and to be there to support the protests. I saw families living there and resisting multi-million dollar corporations that are trying to go underneath their river, their land, to transport crude oil.

In the past we have seen incredible injustices to take away the rights of indigenous people, but now these indigenous people are taking back their rights and their land. It’s not about indigenous people it’s about all people. It’s not just about this pipeline, it’s about all pipelines. It’s about the infrastructure that threatens and destroys our ability to live on this planet. This protest is one of the greatest symbols of hope that I have seen in a long time, and it is an example of how when you look at the small things that we often overlook our land, our water, our children, and when we understand that that is what’s at stake then people will stand up to fight.

Look at yourself and your generation to see what it is you want to leave behind and what legacy you want to have. We are not just fighting for the environment and the world, but to protect the things that we love in life so our kids and our grandkids can also have those things.  ‡


Stylist Assistant: Benjamin Price | Production by XTheStudio

For more information visit


Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Photography by Paul Scala | Styling by Thomas Davis

Stephen Jones is an unending source of creative energy. The “mad hatter”, with an illustrious raconteur who has created some of the most iconic moments in fashion, released his new book Souvenirs, published by Rizzoli. It serves as a retrospective of the artist’s life and career. An intimate glance at the process and inner-workings of the mind of a visionaire, Souvenirs reads like a journal with a curated melange of personal artifacts, photos, sketches, and notes. With the foreword written by, his friend, and fellow fashion royalty, Grace Coddington, and peppered
with personal memories and stories, Jones’ invites us into his world.


Souvenirs spans a lifetime, and reflects on different periods and cities formative to Stephen Jones’ career. From his childhood years, to his early millinery days fresh out of Central St. Martin’s while frequenting the Blitz, Jones’ creativity and talent is instantly undeniable. Responsible for looks he created for his friends, Boy George and Steve Strange, Jones helped launch the New Romantic subculture movement.  In a butterfly effect, he caught the attention of the fashion world.

Catapulting into the arena of fashion is where the real fun begins in Souvenirs. Vintage archival clippings of an editorial featuring Jones’ hats in i-D magazine’s second issue chronicle the raw creativity of Jones’ earliest hats and are an intriguing snippet for all fashionistas. Arriving on the Paris scene marked a period of exuberant creative force, and Souvenirs documents this with beautiful photos and behind-the-scenes sketches of Jones’ most significant collaborative works with Gaultier, Mugler, Montana, and Galliano, to name a few. The additional myriads of collaborations that Jones has had with fashion designers around the globe is also well-documented throughout the book’s entirety. Souvenirs also delivers a well-curated visual narrative of Jones’ fashion editorial and celebrity work, with vibrant photos that won’t disappoint.

Iris Covet Book was fortunate enough to speak with Stephen Jones in between fashion shows in Paris.

Souvenirs touches on the influence of your family in the formative moments of your childhood. Has there been a particular family member who has proved most influential in your life and your artistry?

It’s so strange when you are growing up, you think you are being this independent person growing up and doing these things and at one point at thirteen or fourteen someone says “oh my god do you remind me of your mother/father”, and you think “oh wow all is lost!”. Both my mother and older sister, I was the youngest of three siblings, and my older sister who is thirteen years older than me – they were huge influences. When I was a little boy she was a 60’s groovy girl and was at London College of Art and Design trying to pursue art, and I got that from her. My love of art and design and those things I really got from her. As a child I just wanted to play with my toys and my mother would drag me along to art galleries and say “look at this!”, and I was seven. My mother was very driven to show me what she loved, but she did it in a very sort of educational ways like saying “this is a Tudor building, it’s all black and white”.  She wasn’t saying, “I love this because…” It was a bit more Anglo-Saxon than that.

She was also very interested in gardening too, correct?

I think that because gardening was very difficult – we basically lived on a sand dune. We lived in the breeziest point in the entire known universe, it was always so windy and cold even in August, so trying to make a garden out of that was really difficult. So my mother became quite an expert and took me around gardens all over Britain and would teach me about flowers and perspective and who designed the gardens and made the ground plan.

Were both of your parents very supportive when you chose to enroll in Central Saint Martins?

Oh no, they hated it! (laughs) I thought they wanted me to take ove the family company or at least be a nice accountant or a doctor or something like that. You know how your parents wanted you to find a nice job?

Well my parents are no different. My older sister had been to art school and dropped out, so they really did not want me to pursue it. They did not dissuade me from doing it, but they didn’t make things particularly easy for me either. I wanted to find my own way, I didn’t want my parents way. I went to college in 1976 during the Punk movement so I had to do my own thing! The arrogance of a 19 year old, you know your parents’ ways are no longer important.

They were supportive in their own way, and they wanted to push me out of the nest. I think nowadays parents keep their children for much longer, but I rememeber when I was seven years old I used to walk to the bus stop and go on the bus to the next town and go back and I was all by myself! I would have been horrified if my parents dropped me
off at school!

When you enrolled at Central Saint Martins you were their only male student, what was your experience like when you were there?

I was very much the token male. I was the only male student in my year, but there were others in other years. I learned much more from my friends than I did from any of the teachers.

They were all sort of crazy girls, and some of them were just interested in finding a husband and wearing beige, but a lot of them were these young punks who were really into art, appearances,
and they came from all different backgrounds. I just loved it! It was a real mixture of people, which I loved, and we all went and partied.

Then how did you come to choose millinery as your expertise when you were there?

This was all by chance. I had been at boarding school, and I was a big rugby player and so sewing was not something that we did. So I went to college around girls who were fantastic at sewing and I had no idea how to sew. My teacher came to me and said he needed some help at his couture house where I became a tailoring intern, and I was the only person I knew who was an intern. The term had not been invented yet really and my friends thought I was crazy working in the industry. I was getting coffee and picking up things and all of that, and all of the tailors were very, very, grumpy. But I just thought it was a bit of a waste of time.

The milliners working in the studio next door always seemed so happy. Even though they were also working late hours, everyone was always chatting, and it was somehow a great atmosphere. After the first day working in the millinery studio, I realized that it was the most fantastic thing. I didn’t know that was what I was going to be doing as a career, I thought I was going to be a fashion designer. It was out of college that I started to make more hats, and the whole thing started to happen, and then the idea began that I was going to be a hat designer.

So you were instantly smitten once you stepped into that world. Was this your time at Le Chaise? And Shirley Hex was the Head Milliner there correct?

Yeah, Shirley Hex.

What was it like learning millinery from her, because she is quite legendary in the field of millinery?

I would never call her Shirley, I always called her Mrs. Hex. She was always there ten minutes before work started in the morning, and you always had to be immaculately dressed and all of that. I was slightly terrified of her, and she was a real prankster. After the first day, she turned to me with an arched eyebrow and she said, “Stephen, if your hands moved as fast as your mouth does the hat would been made by now.” I did not say another thing for a month! It completely freaked me out.  I just worked really hard and millinery was just something I understood. It was easier than making clothes. It was smaller and it clicked!


You mentioned earlier the influential effect your friends at school had on you. The late 70’s and early 80’s was the beginning of your career as a milliner, when you were going out at The Blitz nightclub. The book mentions Boy George, Steve Strange, Leigh Bowery, and you all later became known as The Blitz Kids. That must have been very inspiring to be around all of those creative people! Were you making hats for all of your friends during that era?

It’s really funny how the club thing worked, because yes, I went to clubs. I went to punk clubs with a few friends of mine from college, but when I started going to The Blitz, there were people there from all walks of life. They were really inspirational, and just doing what came naturally. At that time New York was really the cool place to be, I missed out on Studio 54 and CBGB’s and so we had our own things.

A lot of New Yorkers were coming over and going to The Blitz and places like that, but we weren’t really aware that we were doing something that would be remembered. We created our own world because we knew that the worlds that have come before were somehow not applicable and it was the beginning of popular print media like The Face or i-D or Blitz Magazine and they were showcasing everything we did. I was in i-D #2 just out of college, and you know I wasn’t in Vogue. I thought at the time it would have been the kiss of death to be in Vogue! Who wants to be in Vogue that’s just for old people? It’s very, very different now. Five to six years later all of the older fashion people became interested in our “street fashion”.

Did you ever anticipate it was going to turn into this whole “New Romantic” subculture movement while you were doing it, or was it just a bi-product?

I think it was just a bi-product. It just happened, and we were aware we were doing something really fun. I lived in a spot with a group of other people, and the whole lot of us were photographed for Elle Japan. They printed the address, and on Monday there was a big group of Japanese people waiting outside to see us. It’s so funny and this house was really falling apart, but we were a tourist destination! (laughs)

At that time Kim Bowen was one of your muses, can you describe your relationship with her? How was she influential to your work?

We were in college studying at the same time, I was in my third year and she was in her first year. I had asked if she could come help me during my last collection, and she said she could, but in reality she couldn’t. She did look fabulous, and she was really funny. She left college early to come work with me and we became friends throughout the years and she is now a stylist in Los Angeles and she was on commercials and videos and working with Janet Jackson and Lady Gaga, all sorts of different people.

It’s always great to work with somebody, you listen to the other person and bounce ideas off one another. I didn’t realize that most designers are like that. Dior was like that with his assistant, who actually did the hats for him too. Every creative person has got to have a foil to work against, and Kim was the greatest one.

You later appeared in the Culture Club single for the hit single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and you were recognized by Jean Paul Gaultier. He was really one of the first designers to reach out to you as a milliner. What sort of thoughts and feelings were going through your mind when he called you up?

Gaultier at that point was like the king of Paris. He was the hottest, newest, brightest star in Paris. He was doing real, young, funky club wear. I had seen him at the clubs in London, but he was sort of untouchable, so to have a phone call from him was really extraordinary. He asked me to be in his men’s show, but I wasn’t able to. It was such an inspiring collection because it was about Moroccan men’s dress in the 1950’s. All along the way it has been the kindness of other people and them wanting me to do my work for them. I’ve approached designers before to ask if they wanted to work with me. I asked Christian Lacroix if I could do the hats for him and he said, “No, no, no, Stephen. You can’t do that! That’s the part I really enjoy!”. Whether it’s working with Thom Browne in New York or in Paris at Dior, we all have a great time together and enjoy collaborating.

Because you have had so many designer collaborations throughout your career and so many different design processes for each designer, what kind of qualities have you had to learn that benefit with you collaborating with them so that the vision is actualized? Have you ever had to put your ego aside?

First of all, you have to sort of become friends. You don’t have to become intimate friends. But you have to understand each other, because when I’m making a hat every stitch is a decision. You have to be a bit of an educator because often a designer will know a lot about clothes but how can you expect them to know about the very “alien” world of millinery? You have to explain the possibilities. You know, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with each hat. Just the fact that you are putting a hat on lends a complete different spin to things.

Also, when viewing their collection in the showroom, I question how they envision using the hat? Do they believe that the hat is just for the fashion show, or that men and women should wear them every day? Do they see them as a punctuation in the collection? I have to be a good listener. What’s so crucial to what I do is to make them feel comfortable enough for them to express themselves. It’s not just a brief, they need to tell me in a way that understands their vision, fears—they have to be completely open with me. I have worked with many people, but very few of those relationships have lasted through years and years. You have to be a huge diplomat as well! (laughs)

I remember once asking L’wren Scott during her first season in Paris, which was my first too, and I said how do you work with all of those actresses and the most famous people in the world?  She said, “Stephen, leave your ego at the front door.” And that was such good advice because you have to be a negotiator. You’re a collaborator and it’s not them doing their thing and you doing your thing, but you’re creating something together. That’s why you need so much trust, it’s almost like you need to be in love.

Has any collaboration ever pushed you outside of your comfort zone or helped you to grow?

They always do, every time. If they don’t push me out of my comfort zone then I’m getting blasé about the situation and I’m not working as hard as I should. If you ever find yourself getting into a formula, you’re doing the wrong thing and you’re getting lazy. You never get used to it.

The great thing about what we do is it only lasts a month or a season, you have to create something new all the time. It’s a challenge, but it’s fabulous and exciting, and that’s why we do it!

I want to touch on your collaboration with John Galliano because perhaps no other designer has had the passion for referencing the romance of the past as you have. You both have worked together since 1993 and created a body of work together that has spawned some of the most iconic designs in history. So during your time collaborating together, what have been some of your favorite designs or collections?

There are so many! One that particularly stands out was one where it was all about dressing up; it was like children dressing up in their parent’s clothes and that was amazing. The second collection that I ever worked with him on was also fantastic.

He showed about sixteen outfits in Paris and it was extraordinary and I was very young ; we were fitting Kate Moss into a dress. He was pinning her, and I was pinning her, and we were like an octopus! We pushed her onto the stage and we shared this long look and it was like, “Ooh! We could really work together”. Somehow that was the really magic point. Working at Dior, well there were so many great ones like the very extreme Chinese collection or the Egyptian collection—those were all extraordinary, and we created lots of beautiful things.

I saw in the book the photos from the Egyptian collection, the sketches and the photographs were so amazing. What materials did you use for the Anubis hat, for example?

That was carved in wood by our block maker in Paris. I did my initial sketches then they were reinterpreted in wood. They were actually carved in like a plastic then covered in rubber and the ears were gold leaf and she would look through the neck of the Anubis.

She must have looked like a giant walking down the runway (laughs)

She was huge! And then she had these 7” heels on as well. The weird thing is, you know I’m 5’9” and when you’re photographed next to these models they look like the real thing and you look like some strange subspecies! (laughs)

You also collaborated with Comme des Garcon to create two fragrances. Did you take the same creative approach that you do to create a hat with a designer?

I worked as a creative consultant with Shiseido in Japan for about twenty years and I started really becoming interested in creating a collaborative fragrance. I was the first person really to do it, and I worked with all of the people in her fragrance division, I sent everything to Rei for approval. One silly thing was when it came to the box and I wanted to have a circular box, like a hat box, which is difficult and expensive to have done. Rei said, ”Of course it has to be round! You’re a hat maker. You don’t use square boxes” She saw the concept of what we wanted to do. It’s great to be able to
have different lives, and experience different things because you learn from the different worlds.


Initial crown ideas for Comme des Garçons Spring/Summer 2006.
Copyright © Stephen Jones. Image Courtesy Rizzoli

I want to move on to talk about your eponymous brand and how that differs from working with other labels and designers?

Much more tortured. (laughs) I’m not saying working with designers is an easy thing, but you know I design in my head all the time and then sometimes we get it on paper or a 3-D model. Of course these things tend to be thematic, so every season I ask what is it going to be about? A hat tells a story because it’s the story about who they want to become, not about who they are. They want to have confidence and look cool and be a glamour-puss. They want it to be transformative. So, it has to have a story behind it and every season is meant to be a story.

What are the features of your different lines, because I know you have more than one under your eponymous label?

Model Millinery is more an old-world craft around handmade hats and there’s more of an artistic aesthetic and it’s more complicated. Miss Jones just has a different aesthetic; it can be as grand, but it’s probably easier to wear. Jones Boy is for men but women buy those as well.

Has the Asian market proven to be an opportunity for your labels expansion?

Yes, since 1985 I have had a license in Japan. So, the Japanese people love great hats! Absolutely, on that side of the world Asian people love decorating themselves. It’s a very important part of the cultural mindset—they love dressing up. Hats so often have not been a part of their wardrobe historically, so they really love exploring the world of hats. A hat, in a way, is easier to take on and off, whereas if you do the same thing to your hair it’s much more complicated.

There’s a photo in your book that I was really attracted to and it’s a little black and white photo of your workroom and it kind of looks like Santa’s workshop! What’s the energy or the experience like in your studio?

Productive people are very serious about what they do. People work hard and they play hard! If you want an easy life, don’t become a milliner, but if you want something that is sort of magical and evocative and emotional and rewarding, then yes be a milliner. I have people coming to me from all different walks of life – everybody has come to me because they have chosen to, not because they have some sort of plan mapped out.

Are they like an extended family for you?

Yes, and I love that! It’s always much more interesting to find out about someone else’s life. It’s all ages, all races, all sexes. We have an older lady, Anna, who is a bit like the mother of the family and she is the chicest 75 year-old you could ever see!

So you’re definitely an equal opportunity employer? (laughs)

Oh my god, yes! I think if you were sort of normal and introverted then you wouldn’t be interested, but don’t worry we get that normality out of you within the first few weeks. (laughs)


Models line up backstage just before making their entrance for the Thom Browne Spring/Summer 2015 show wearing hat-dresses that reinterpert their outfits. The hats are made of straw, crin, and metal with embroidered motifs. Photographed by Barbara Anastacio. Image Courtesy Rizzoli 

The book has so many lovely photographs in it, was it difficult to curate all of your work into that format?

Absolutely. We have to have photographs that make sense to me, to other people, and of course the big glamorous photographs of Louis Vuitton with all the girls lined up–pictures like that. I didn’t want to do a book full of lovely, big pictures. I wanted to include all of the funny flotsam and jetsam of everything I picked up along the way.

The book also highlights your work with some of the biggest celebrities and pop stars such as Madonna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna –how does this process differ from designing with a designer of for your own line?

In a strange way it’s very similar because you ask, “Where and when?” There’s a whole list of technical things for different needs. Like for a film, the bill cannot be too big at the front because it will shade the face, but if you’re a singer like Mick Jagger maybe he wants to use the shade to hide his face during part of a song.

Obviously when you are making a hat with a celebrity, you often, nowadays,
are working with a stylist as well. I have to say that every person I work with enjoys hats. A hat can really change their look and they want to look striking and like a star.

Yes, I remember in the book you were talking about fitting the swim cap for Keira Knightley’s character in the film Atonement, and how the fitting process was so important because if you moved it back even a millimeter it changed the proportions of her face.

Especially with film, what may be a millimeter turn into two meters once it is projected on the screen, so those details become hugely important!

How powerful has intuition been in shaping your life or career path? Has it been a tool you have used throughout?

I think intuition is important and I think saying “yes” is even more important because it gets you into lots of scrapes. It can lead you down to terrible places and you learn the resilience to deal with it, but more importantly doors open to you into a whole new world.

How do you think that hat culture will evolve into the future?

I think that hat wearing in the beginning was about a sense of belonging, the reason your grandmother or great-grandmother would wear hats and gloves regardless of where they were or what their status was, that was how people were. I think people see hats as just another item in their wardrobe to have fun with. In a way it is the most special accessory because it is the most visible, but because of that is the most transformative and the most fun.

What do you see for your future?

More of the same I hope! Lots of exhibitions though over the next few years which is really great. Working on a new fragrance with Comme des Garcon which will be my third fragrance with them. Redoing my men’s hat line “Jones Boy” and expanding that. People always ask me when I will start designing evening gowns or a line of tractors or something, but no I’ve got the cherry on the cake already, thank you!  ‡



Interview by Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Johnny Vicari | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu  


The Blonds are injecting fun, glitter, rhinestones, and life back into the fashion industry. With an undying love of all things glamorous and fabulous: the clientele of The Blonds is pretty easy to pinpoint. Born from New York nightlife culture, the fashion label is nothing short of reverential towards The Blondes before them such as Marilyn, Brigitte Bardot, and Jayne Mansfield to name a few, as well as the over-the-top camp produced by drag queens and nightlife performers. With a roster of  A-list celebrity clients from Madonna to Beyonce to Miley Cyrus, their impact on fashion and performance is clearly evident. Inspired by the same musicians they dress, the duo also finds creative ideas in art, film, textiles, and pretty much all that glitters. We are always on the lookout for talent and vision which goes beyond the traditional scope, and Phillipe and David of The Blonds surely do take us to another planet where everyone is blonde, glamorous, and has a twenty-two inch waist.

How did you two meet?

David: One amazing night out in NYC.

Phillipe: I snuck out of a school dance with my best friend Olys and went to the Roxy instead. David and I spotted each other from across the room. The connection was instant, like we’d known each other forever.

David: It was like a movie, the last days of the mega clubs in New York. Magic!

How did you begin as creative partners?

Phillipe: After meeting, we started creating our own looks when we would go out.

David: The Blonds came later, but we definitely planted those seeds with that time spent experimenting on ourselves and friends.

How would you describe your brand’s aesthetic?

Phillipe: It’s all about glamour and fantasy!  We want our clients to escape from the everyday and have fun with their style. You don’t have to be blonde to be Blond! It has nothing to do with your origins or look. It is meant to be a state of mind, and all about expressing yourself and injecting that glamour and fantasy into your life!

David: The Blonds are about a lifestyle, an attitude, a strong look. The corset is the centerpiece of every collection. It is the framework in which we start each season and will always play a huge role in what we create. Quite simply, it is the best way to shape the body and maintain that perfect hourglass silhouette. It is a powerful thing when someone sees themselves in a different light; we always strive to push the boundaries to make people look and feel amazing.

Phillipe:  People have a tendency to forget that the core of what we do is custom made for performance. These are not something we expect someone to wear on a daily basis, even though I might! These pieces are special and they tell a story. 

David: So much work, thought, time and energy goes into everything we do. From the research and experimentation through the toiles and final looks. It’s a process we take very seriously and enjoy each aspect of, but we always maintain that sense of humour about the collections. It’s all meant to be very tongue in cheek.

Phillipe: The point is that your looks change, so just have fun with them!

The Blonds are known as an over-the-top, glamorous aesthetic–what is it about the drama and performance that inspires you both?

David: We find it exciting because those dramatic moments in film, art, a concert, or life are always the most memorable and entertaining. We love being a part of those moments when the volume is turned up.

Phillipe: Which is the main reason music inspires us the most and we love what we do.  It’s the ultimate outlet when we have the opportunity to work on a concert or tour.

When was the formative moment when you both decided to design a clothing line?

Phillipe: It was something we always wanted to do. Even as children growing up we’d take whatever was around us and make it wearable and fabulous. My father taught me how to sew at a young age and has been my biggest supporter since starting The Blonds.

David: Our parents were key supports and encouraged us to do and be what made us happy. Even though it was in the air around us, there was a turning point in our career and the catalyst was Patricia Field. It was her initial vote of confidence that gave us the opportunity which kick started it all. Pat has played a huge roll in our development as a brand and supported us throughout this incredible adventure.

iris04_blonds_onlineOn Phillipe: Gown by The Blonds | Bracelet by Michael Spirito | Shoes by Christian Louboutin | On David: Tank Top by Ann Demeulemeester | Jeans by Trash & Vaudeville |  Bracelet by Stella Trujillo | Shoes by Christian Louboutin 

What was your first big break as designers?

Phillipe: Beyonce wore the first corset we ever made in her “Upgrade U” video.  Later we went onto do work on various performances with her incredible stylist, Ty Hunter. 

David: Each time we get to work with a client is a big break because the competition in the industry is getting vicious! When we started no one was doing anything like this and a lot of people said “no”, “you’re crazy”, “who would wear that?!” etc. Now there are so many new and established designers that cater to this area of the industry. Also, there have been so many “breaks”, but make no mistake they don’t just happen, you have to work for them and make it happen.  You have to focus on what it is you want, understand it, visualize it, then realize it. 

Phillipe:  YAS! Just go for it!


MADE Fashion Week has given us these amazing opportunities and the freedom to express ourselves however we choose without the permission of any establishment.


How did you come up with the name “The Blonds”?

Phillipe: When beginning to start the line, we were going through a “Blond Moment” (and still are), we were bleaching our hair, always shared similar obsessions, and emulated the legendary blondes of the Hollywood Golden Age, along with characters like Barbie, or Daryl Hannah in Splash. The word Blond with no “e” is the masculine version, so it’s a sort of play on the word, as most people relate that word to women.

David: Yes anything and everything to do with this idea, this feeling of being Blond. While discussing what to call the line we were stopped in our tracks by a gallery window. On display were giant Warhol paintings of Barbie and it clicked: THE BLONDS!

The fashion world is known to be tough, stressful, and blindingly fast-paced. How exactly did you break into the industry?

David: As we said there were many breaks, but it can be tough and the fashion world is running at its own pace. However, we work on the edge of this business where the reality and fantasy meet. It’s hard to define what we do in words, but at the end of the day we did things our own way and created a niche for ourselves. Thankfully we’ve been able to maintain the purity of the brand’s vision.

Phillipe: The show aspect of what we do has really become like performance art. MADE Fashion Week has given us these amazing opportunities and the freedom to express ourselves however we choose without the permission of any establishment. What Jenné Lombardo, Mazdack Rassi and Keith Baptista have created with the MADE program is something so profound.

David: We are so grateful for everything this has contributed to The Blonds success. This program defies what previously existed, it’s a revolution of creativity, a family of tribes, a place for
the rebels to run wild!

On Phillipe: Gown by The Blonds: Bracelet by Michael Spirito | Shoes by Christian Louboutin | On David: Tank Top by Ann Demeulemeester | Jeans by Trash & Vaudeville | Bracelet by Stella Trujillo | Shoes by Christian Louboutin.

What icons do you draw inspiration from? Who is the muse behind the fun, exaggerated glamour?

Phillipe: Oh my god, seriously!? It’s so hard to list them all! From Marlene Dietrich and Josephine Baker to Cher, Grace Jones and Marilyn Monroe of course. Glamorously funny women like Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Any personality that has no limits where glamour is concerned!

David: Our clients are the muses, they are an endless source of inspiration like mythological goddesses or super heroes.

Your designs employ a lot of applique, embroidery, and other very interesting and elaborate design elements. What draws you to this aesthetic?

Phillipe: We’ve always been attracted to anything that reflects or refracts light, like a prism. Crystal is our favorite material to work with, because the effect is so exciting. We’re obsessed!  Anything to exaggerate the body, the hourglass curve, and waist!

David: We currently work with Preciosa Crystal to create new ways of utilizing the material. Of course we’ve even implemented their range of chandelier components into some of the pieces to create depth and scale for a three dimensional quality. Most of what we create is done in an organic way, but there is an architectural element there as well.

What was your most memorable/favorite runway show you have done so far?

Phillipe: Mine of course! They have all been fun in their own ways, but our first runway show really meant the most. 

David: That excitement of having that opportunity to show what you worked so hard on is thrilling. From the MAC make-up looks to the Christian Louboutins, it’s a total look. Every season is different and getting to do what we love is truly amazing!

If you could choose to work with any woman, dead or alive, who would it be?

Phillipe: Marilyn Monroe, Aaliyah, Jessica Rabbit, Amy Winehouse, or Lana Del Rey.

David: Josephine Baker, Rita Hayworth or Carmen Miranda. It would be great to work with Tina Turner, Cher or Janet Jackson one day. Diana Ross HELLO! We also love Chloe & Halle and Grimes.

What books, movies, artists, or TV shows do you find yourselves referencing the most?

Phillipe: We love artists like Dali, Kahlo, Koons and Warhol. We’re also into different types of Animation. Illustrators and Make up Artists like Kabuki. I grew up on shows like Jem and the Holograms, and She-rah, where everything sparkled and anything was possible! But music is our main inspiration and we’re total film buffs as well.

David:  Almodovar, Tarantino, Wilder, Luhrmann, Marshall, Waters to name a few. We also love fantasy, science fiction, horror and gore films, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Argento, Ridley Scott… Growing up it was all about Bob Mackie’s designs from the Cher show to Wonder Woman.  Currently we’re watching, and absolutely LOVE The Get Down on Netflix.

What is the most challenging part of working in a partnership?

David: Phillipe and I share a similar outlook and aesthetic when it comes to design. The few differences we have are actually an asset, and the outcomes always turn out even better than the original concepts.

Phillipe: We love working as a team creatively, because we challenge each other to make it better or more, more more. It’s everything! Plus two Blonds
are always better than one!

You’ve referenced in previous interviews that Madonna is one of your favoriteblondes, what is it about her that you love so much?  What was it like when Madonna chose your designs for her “Living for Love” video?

Phillipe: We totally lost it! Madonna is everything! She’s fearless! For this project we worked closely with B. Akerlund, her Costume Designer and Stylist, to create a piece within the theme of the video. The piece was also inspired by a look from our Spring/Summer 2015 collection.

David: We admire her incredible talent and drive, the work she is doing outside the music is also very inspiring. On top of that she’s a smart, strong, independent rebel that doesn’t take shit from anyone.

iris04_blonds_online3_newDress by The Blonds

Besides the United States, what are some other markets that are big for you?

Phillipe: We have clients all over the world: Qatar, Japan, Australia, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Korea, England…just to name a few.

David: It’s a common misconception that the US market is the only market. It’s simply not true. Every country has rock stars! Once we’ve tapped into that, it inspires our private clients in that region.  It’s also interesting to see the differences in each culture and what that fan base is attracted to.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?

David: We would most likely take a similar, if not the same path in life. I really can’t see us doing anything else. 

Phillipe: Absolutely no regrets!

The theme of a strong, femme fatale is heavy in the brand, where does this come from?

Phillipe: Femme fatales are usually the most complex and interesting characters in a book, film or real life; I even consider myself one. I’m completely obsessed with Catwoman and Jessica Rabbit, good girls gone bad.

David: We use narratives, real or imagined to come up with the themes or looks for a show. It makes producing these events more interesting when there is a story to tell. We enjoy mixing elements to create a paradox much like the the conflicted personality of the femme fatale. That character is the core of it all.

What is your personal definition of style?

Phillipe: Style is something that does not have a definition. It’s really up to the individual what they want to convey or feel at that moment. 

David: Style is fluid like gender or any other outward expression. Clothes are not just meant to be practical, and we don’t think of our work in those terms. We prefer to live in the moment.

Where are your favorite spots for food, nightlife, and culture in New York City?

Phillipe: We frequent Indochine on a regular basis, The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market is amazing. The MET is great for research and inspiration. Even though I grew up in this city, I discover something new everyday.

David: Central Park is so gorgeous, we bike there a lot and take Fifi & Bijoux there for picnics. Sometimes we attend film festivals and concerts in Lincoln Center.  It’s always great to go dancing when we can. Susanne Bartsch and LadyFag throw the most fabulous parties!

iris04_blonds_online6Leather Jacket by Just Cavalli | Tank Top by Ann Demeulemeester | Jeans by Diesel

New York City is so different from the rest of America in many ways, what is it about this city and its culture that inspires you? How are you affected by your experiences in the city?

Phillipe: Everything about this city is exciting because it is ever-changing. New York City is engrained in our brand’s DNA and the cultural impact only enhances that.

David: No day in New York is ever the same; it’s like sensory overload.

At Iris Covet Book we like to cast a spotlight on the good that people are doing in the world, are there any charities that you are involved in?

Phillipe: We’ve been involved with the MAC AIDS Fund and Viva Glam over many years as well as City of Hope, Life Ball, DIFFA, and amFAR.

David: HIV/AIDS is still a huge issue, and we do everything we can to support this cause, the ongoing research, and care of those in need is still so necessary. It’s an important aspect of what we do, and a responsibility that everyone should take very seriously. Anyone that’s in a position to give back needs to do so in order to make a change.

What is the next step for the brand? Any new partnerships or collaborations you can tell us about?

Phillipe: We just relaunched our website,, and we’re so excited about this new collection. There are red carpet options, and a lot of what you will see is a departure from the performance pieces, even though that will always be included. We recently collaborated with Moda Operandi on a curated trunk show, something we plan to do more of in the future.

David: This season, we focused on wearability more than ever before. The Blonds e-commerce will be up soon, making everything more accessible to our current clients and hopefully new ones! We’re looking forward to expanding the brand in diverse ways, and it’s always great to partner with brands that are not usually connected to garment design.  We’re partnering with Lexus this fashion week on cars wrapped in The Blonds signature prints.

Phillipe:  There are a lot of new things coming up so stay tuned!  ‡

iris04_blonds_online7Necklace and High Waisted Shorts by The Blonds | Bracelet by Michael Spirito | Boots by by Christian Louboutin | Hair and Makeup by Daniel Avilan @ Wilhelmina | Manicure by Narina Chan @ Wilhelmina | Photo Assistant Donna Viering | BTS Video by Kao Cheng Kai| Production by XTheStudio | Special Thanks to MAO PR .

For more information on The Blonds visit THEBLONDS.NYC or @theblondsny on instagram


Photography by Greg Swales | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Feature by Ralph J. Benko


 Dress by Valentino, available at Neiman Marcus | Earrings and Ring by Bulgari | Shoes by Alexander McQueen

Joanne Herring is an internationally famous, glamorous, figure. She rivals Queens Cleopatra and Boadicia for beauty and historic stature. She was called by American Secretary of State James Baker “a flash of light in a dark world.” She has been nominated to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, first awarded to General George Washington. Joanne Herring has earned the right, first applied to George Washington, to be called “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of her countrymen.”

Gone With The Wind, War and Peace, The Aeneid, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Epics, whether literary or historical, have two key elements: love and war. The 20thCentury was an epic era, fretted through with both.

A thousand years hence almost all of us will have been forgotten. There is one woman living in our midst who proved so virtuous both in love and war as to make herself a candidate to enter history and lore and legend: Joanne Herring.

Testimonials to her glow. President George W. Bush said “Joanne Herring is an extraordinary woman who was and still is a real catalyst for peace in our world.” Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf said “Her unique contribution to the Afghan freedom struggle in the 1980s turned the tide of the conflict.” Former secretary of state James Baker says “She walks where others fear to tread and never quits. She is a flash of light in a dark world.” She was nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal, one of America’s two highest civilian honors, last year for her valorous role in winning the Cold War.

The woman critical to winning the Cold War reveals to us how to make war forever a thing of the past. There is a guiding premise with which Joanne has worked miracles for people: believe in people and equip them with the skills and tools to meet their own needs.

In the Cold War Joanne earned her place alongside – perhaps at the fore of – two other legendary regal women warriors, Queen Cleopatra, of Egypt, and Queen Boadicia, of England. Both led resistance against an empire. Both iconic queens forfeited their lives in defending their sovereignty against the Romans. Joanne, uniquely, defeated her imperial adversary, the Soviet Union, and lived to tell the tale.

As I wrote five years ago in my review of her memoir, Diamonds and Diplomacy, a column headlined The Fall of the U.S.S.R. Twenty Years Ago: Beauty Killed The Beast:

There is much to celebrate about the December 25, 1991 implosion of [the USSR.] a totalitarian, bellicose, imperialistic regime with 45,000 nuclear warheads, captor of dozens of nations, killer of tens of millions, sociopathic in its brutality against the innocent in its quest for world domination.


People’s eyes got big. Suddenly eyes that were glazed with boredom opened wide with understanding and interest.

It finally dawned on them that America and the free world, not just foreign countries, were being threatened.


Photographed in front of Untitled, 2012 by Anish Kapoor in the library of the Brookshire residence in Houston, TX | Sunglasses by Versace | Leopard-Print Belted Long Fur Coat by Tom Ford, available at Neiman Marcus

Today, then, I sing of arms and the woman….

Joanne Herring’s story has been written many times. It is almost always told casting her as Cinderella. As stated at

Born in a man’s world at a time when women had limited choices, Joanne King Herring blazed a trail with allies as unlikely as Charlie Wilson, Pierre Cardin and President Ronald Reagan, and in so doing forged new paths for women in Pakistan, Afghanistan and America. Joanne hosted the Joanne King Show on television for 15 years, was made roaming Ambassador of Pakistan and received the Quaid-e-Azam award, the highest honor given by the nation of Pakistan. She was made Dame by the Order of St. Francis and has been knighted by the King of Belgium. Joanne has appeared as a guest on Fox News Channel programs “Fox & Friends”, “On The Record with Greta Van Susteren”, “Hannity”, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and “Huckabee”. … Her book, Diplomacy and Diamonds was also featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, the New York Social Diary and PW Weekly.

Yes, her life is a Cinderella story. But there’s more to the fairy tale. Here revealed for the first time, Joanne Herring’s true secret identity: the Fairy Godmother. She works magic by inspiring and equipping people to solve their own problems rather than by working from the top down.  She has done this so many times and continues to this day.

Joanne recalled for Iris Covet Book how she assembled the international network crucial to funding the Afghan freedom fighters to beat the Soviets. In her own words:

When Saudi Prince Bandar came to Washington as US ambassador I offered to give him a welcoming party. It was enormous – 112 seated at one table – including every important person on President’s Reagan’s staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were there. So was the entire Reagan cabinet along with ambassadors and Senators and Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle. Secretary of Defense Weinberger cancelled a speech, delegating it to his Secretary of the Navy (later Senator and husband of Elizabeth Taylor) John Warner in order to attend. Henry Kissinger and Barbara Walters flew in from New York City.

The party was a huge success.  Things got done, Washington style.

A great photojournalist – and my most trusted counselor – Robin King and I went into Afghanistan. His film was instrumental in changing the course of history; he deserves far more credit than he has yet received.

The Afghans were starving. The Soviet gunship helicopters were killing everything that moved, including people and the livestock they used for food, even dropping butterfly bombs attached to toys to attract children to maim themselves and die a horrible, lingering, death to traumatize and subjugate the villagers.

The Afghans we visited killed the one goat they owned to feed our party. As famished as they were, they encircled us, so happy to be our hosts. The people’s faces were glowing with pride to host us. They said ‘You are the only people in the world who have cared about us.’

It is the Muslim way to welcome strangers. They were on fire with the desire to push back the Soviets and regain their liberty. They are an amazing people. They really are an inspiration. I understand how to relate to the poor as well as I do to presidents and royalty.

When I returned from Afghanistan I studied the map. What did the Soviets want with these countries? I was the first person of influence to really make the point that it was the Strait of Hormuz, where 80% of the world’s oil passed daily, not Pakistan or Afghanistan, that the Soviets were after.

People’s eyes got big. Suddenly eyes that were glazed with boredom opened wide with understanding and interest. It finally dawned on them that America and the free world, not just foreign countries, were being threatened. The rest is history. But history with a cruel twist. As summarized by the New York Times in Charlie Wilson’s Zen lesson: “Today there can be little doubt that Washington’s brusque loss of interest in the fate of Afghanistan after the Soviets’ withdrawal was a calamitous error.”

iris04_joanne_feature_onlinePhotographed in front of Abstraction, 1946, edition of 3, by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) in the gardens of the Brookshire residence in Houston, TX. | Red Jacket and Optical Dress both by Issey Miyake, available at Saks Fifth Avenue | Necklace and Earrings from Tenenbaum Jewelers selected by John A. Evatz.

This default by the United States government was not Joanne Herring’s fault. She pushed hard for continued humanitarian aid, post-war, to Afghanistan. Joanne states:

The Afghans fought terrorists for us three times: against the Russian invaders, after 9/11 when Afghanistan became the training site for terrorists, and today. America basically abandoned them all three times. We pleaded with Washington to help them rebuild. Our pleas fell on deaf ears.


Unable to produce meaningful aid or even interest on the part of the United States government Joanne set out to do it herself.  She formed Marshall Plan Charities which simultaneously provided the five things that a village needed to thrive: food, water, education, healthcare and job training.

It worked. The model village thrived even in adversity.

Transforming this village was not merely a humanitarian act. It was a marker for potential geopolitical triumph, showing that believing in and equipping people to fight their battles provides better outcomes with genuine liberty and justice for all.

In 2015, after five years of not being able to contact the village due to the ongoing strife in Afghanistan, she received a communication from a village Elder showing that they had survived and flourished in the middle of a war, surrounded by terrorists but capable of taking care of themselves, thriving and so grateful:

[My] people are forever grateful to Ms. Joanne Herring for her care and support to our community, and our children and grandchildren will remember this for generations to come.


God be with you, and may God Bless America.


The Afghans, with our military help, fought the greatest war machine in history, the Soviet Union and won! Not one American soldier died! The cost of equipping a village to support 20,000 Afghans represented HALF THE COST of keeping one American soldier in the field for one year! $1,000,000 for 1 Soldier, $450,000 for 20,000 Villagers.

A village Elder told me: ‘We know that the billions in foreign aid that were sent here went down a black hole. As far as we know, we are the only village that was significantly helped.’ My plan gave them not one penny of money but all the tools, all at once: food, seeds, fertilizer and instructions, water, education, healthcare and job training, costing half of what it costs to keep one American soldier in the field for one year.  They flourished.

Help from the bottom up. We did it. It works.


The same principle of believing in people and helping them help themselves works everywhere. It is designed, above all, to inspire and equip the poverty-stricken with the tools to achieve success. As Joanne puts it:

My grandmother and I started the Women’s Home in Houston to provide services to battered women. Lord, what challenges they had to overcome, but today it is 60 years old and we are told it is one of the most successful homes for battered women in the United States. We used the same theory as we did in Afghanistan and my television show. Give them tools, instructions, and materials to help them help themselves. They will.

iris04_joanne_feature_online2Photographed in front of Non-Object (Spire), 2008, edition 3/3, by Anish Kapoor in the gardens the Brookshire residence in Houston, TX. | Cape-Effect Embellished Silk-Satin White Gown by Oscar De La Renta, available at Neiman Marcus | Bracelet and Earrings from Tenenbaum Jewelers selected by John A. Evatz.

I have spent the past several years closely studying television programming with a close eye on its impact on American society, especially with its impact on the kids in our inner cities. So many children are at risk through no fault of their own.

I wish to do a TV series on people who made it against the odds and how they did it. I used the same formula (helping people help themselves) for my TV show first when I was a TV host in Houston. I put on everything I could to encourage people and equip them to succeed. Every day people were learning something valuable and interesting. That’s what I want to do for the kids now.

Rather than plunging our airwaves and cable networks into morbidity let’s give viewers interesting and useful stories about people who made it against the odds, giving hope: ‘if they can make it, I can make it.’ We will give them actual tools to do it.

I am working to produce a pilot for a docudrama. Just one successful example will be both transformational and profitable. The secret? Spoiler alert: the good guys, not the black hats, win! There is an abundance of priceless and fascinating stories that are not making it onto TV.  When the heroes and heroines of these stories tell them, people will listen spellbound….

My friend, the championship boxer George Foreman – who taught himself to read at age 16! – has written a spectacular book – Knockout Entrepreneur – that lays out the “how to,” one two three, to make it with however little you start with.

The key lies in our knowing, and communicating, that any good person can succeed if they have the tools and is provided those tools. If we believe in people right here, or anywhere, and give them the skills and tools they need, the vast majority will succeed.

I know this as a person, as a woman, and as a mom and grandmother. My chief blessings and joy include my two sons and three grandchildren who are my inspiration, including Beau and Stanisse King, Beau II, Becket and Robert among my Inspiration
and Joy.

Believing in people and giving them the simple tools to succeed through their own hard work is the secret ingredient of my recipes for world peace and for prosperity.  There. You now are in on my secret to working miracles: help people help themselves.

Joanne pivots from winning an epic war to making fairy tales come true, real life fairy tales in which she provides the tools to find our own way to Happily Ever After. Meet Joanne Herring, a real deal Fairy Godmother. “She is a flash of light in a dark world.” Wish to encounter the real Fairy Godmother? Contact her at

iris04_joanne_online3Photographed in front of Blind, 2013 by Anish Kapoor in the gray panel living room of the Brookshire residence in Houston, TX. | Priscilla Leather-Trimmed Velvet Dress by Ralph Lauren Collection, available at Saks Fifth Avenue. Diamond Sautoir Necklace by Bulgari designed by Pierre Cardin, Joanne’s own. Earrings from Tenenbaum Jewelers selected by John A. Evatz.


Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Creative Direction by Louis Liu | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Grooming by Lydia Brock


As one of the most influential personas working in fashion today, with thirty years of experience, Ken Downing is surprisingly down-to-earth. As Senior Vice President and Fashion Director for Neiman Marcus, one might assume the fashion industry heavyweight to be cool and aloof. However, upon arriving to the Soho studio for his portrait, Mr. Downing is anything but. He brings with him an energy of responsive openness and light-hearted excitement. Equal parts fashion psychic, global brand ambassador, and raconteur, Downing’s agile ability to juggle the many weighty responsibilities is balanced by humorous and effervescent charm. “It takes a bit of crazy to stay sane in the ever-changing world of fashion,” he jokes. 

The power of intuition has been a guiding force in his life and career, and his playful approach to those he encounters has only reinforced this gift. “The opportunity to spend time with my customers keeps me grounded to the reality of the end user, it’s the greatest education.  Every time I’m in a store meeting customers, I’m all ears. They keep the dream of fashion real!”

As a member of the CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund, Downing scours the globe in search of uncovering fashion’s most promising emerging talent. “I see with my heart and my soul! I rely on gut instinct! My heart, and my gut are hard-wired to my eyes, beauty always drives me, it’s as simple as that,” he gushes. His candor is surprisingly refreshing.

Perhaps because despite the hefty accolades of titles (which are enough to be any aspiring fashionista’s wet dream), Ken is still quite in touch with where he started. Attributing much of his success to the formative support and encouragement his mother gave him as a child, Ken is pleasantly honest about his upbringing, “I was a child with an enormous imagination, I lived vicariously through the pages of my mother’s Vogue magazines…when most parents would have feared a child who openly voiced an interest in fashion, my mother encouraged me, even though it was far from the conventional route for a little boy, she allowed me to embrace my desires. I never looked back!” It’s the kind of back-story that’s relatable to many who work in an all-too-real industry built on the allure of fantasy. 

Beginning his career at the global luxury retailer in 1990, Downing joined Neiman Marcus’ visual department in Beverly Hills. Just two years later, he was promoted as Visual Manager in the same store, thereafter furthering his career to Director of Visual Planning and Presentation in all stores. Excelling naturally in the art of communication and a gifted curator of media, Downing subsequently advanced to Vice President of Public Relations in 1997 before being appointed to his current role in 2006. Here Iris Covet Book gets a glimpse into the glamorous, jet-set world of one of the fashion industry’s most efficacious guiding lights.


Where did you grow up and did your interest in fashion begin in youth?

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle, with a fashion-obsessed mother and grandmother. Both of my parents had great style, and felt personal presentation and image were important, not only in how they dressed, but also how they decorated our home and how they entertained. Style touched every aspect of my life from an early age. It became wildly apparent early on that teddy bears and toy trucks held little interest to me, I was far more fascinated with the way people dressed and how they decorated their homes. That’s not necessarily normal for a child of five or six years old, but it’s what my eye was drawn to. 

How did you get started working in the fashion industry and was this a career path you imagined for yourself?

I was a child with an enormous imagination, I lived vicariously through the pages of my mother’s Vogue magazines, her pattern books, and home and garden publications. My mother and grandmother made most of their own clothes, taking the bodice from one pattern, adapting it to the bottom of another, switching sleeves, sewing clothes out of non traditional fabrics, like swimwear Lycra. Growing up around fabrics, notions and the constant whir of the sewing machine pretty much set me on the path that ultimately became my career. My mother, unknowingly was determining my destiny, she denies it, but it’s pretty obvious when I look at the influences that surrounded me. She was busy building the Neiman Marcus Fashion Director from afar.

Can you describe your current role and responsibilities at Neiman Marcus?

As the Senior Vice President/Fashion Director for Neiman Marcus, I set the tone each season for the fashion direction of our men’s and women’s businesses. As the global fashion ambassador for the brand, I interface with local, national and international media and press communicating the trends, style and runway relevance of each season.

My fashion communication goes far beyond style and business media, it includes the importance of fashion communication within the Neiman Marcus Group organization to our Merchant teams, Advertising and Marketing teams, Public Relations and Visual Merchandising department to ensure a consistent fashion message across the entire brand. My fashion communication is often shared with designers and showrooms around the country and around the world, giving insight to collections and brands of what we, as a fashion leading retailer are most interested in for the coming seasons. When I’m not at market, sitting front row, or working with my teams in showrooms, I’m traveling to Neiman Marcus stores, curating trend fashion shows and meeting customers face to face at personal appearances, a part of my role I love, and find the most rewarding.  Writing has also become an important part of my role as the Fashion Director, contributing to the Neiman Marcus Blog, designer interviews, marketing communication, fashion forecasting and more!

Of course, uncovering new and emerging talent is another facet of my role that I enjoy tremendously, through my work with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, or keeping my radar finely tuned to new talent, discovering the next design greats is not only rewarding for me, but ultimately rewarding for our customers and their closets!

What have you learned the most within your current role as Senior Vice President and Fashion Director?

The most important thing I’ve learned and that I continue to allow to drive me to this day is NEVER forget the customer! It’s why we do what we do. Also what my mother told me years ago, “Pretty, NOT peculiar; no woman wants to look weird.” These are words I live by.

Have you ever had a great mentor and what did they impress upon you?

Mentors are amongst us, and we often don’t realize their influence until years later. Obviously my mother has been a great influence to me from the very beginning. 

My Art History, History of Costume professor from college, Francis Harder, who I keep in contact with to this day, believed in me from the very beginning and encouraged me to never give up. She knew intuitively I had the “it” that it takes to succeed.

Diane Von Furstenberg, whom my mother brought me to meet as a young boy in Seattle. Diane asked me when I met her “What can I do for you?” I replied “I want to work in fashion” her words have stayed with me for decades, “You will darling, you will!” and I do! 

And certainly Anna Wintour, one of the smartest, most driven women in our industry. Anna’s commitment to the success of our industry and its talent is unparalleled. She inspires me every day.


What trends are you into this season that the Neiman Marcus woman is going to respond to?

It’s an exciting season! I’m crazy-obsessed with the many Ziggy Stardust, glam rock references that filled fall’s runways. Performance-stage style with the abundance of bold gold and the gleam of the many metallics look particularly fresh, and give instant glitter rock relevance to everything a woman will wear for the season. A gold shoe or gold boogie, immediately updates everything.

Velvet, velvet and more VELVET! Shoes, handbags, ready-to-wear for her; and velvet for him, giving a Mick Jagger swagger to his wardrobe. Velvet is as essential as denim in my opinion for the coming season.

Embellished, decorated and adorned; everything continues the importance of the opulent glam rock recklessness that makes the season shine. Handbags, shoes, and ready-to-wear have never seen so much adornment and decoration since the late 70’s and early 80’s. Maximalism for fall proves that more is more, less is a bore.

As a member of the CFDA and Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, you are constantly attentive to what’s on the horizon in fashion and its emerging talents, what upcoming designers’ work are you following and inspired by presently?

New and emerging talent are the future of fashion, and the fresh voices that keep us eager for what’s next, I’m big fans of the team at Monse, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, Texan Brandon Maxwell who cut his teeth creating Lady Gaga’s style and Brock, the husband and wife team Laura Vassar and Kris Brock.


The advice I give all women is this: dress in a style that is flattering to your personality, your figure and your position in life. Love the skin you’re in!


What designers’ shows are you looking forward to this season?

I am always excited about a new season and the new message that designers put forth, approaching each season with fresh eyes keeps me hungry and curious for the new, the next and the noteworthy. I’m a huge fan of Joseph Altuzarra and look forward to see what he presents in NY, I am also a big fan of Jack and Laz, at Proenza Schouler. Erdem is a must see for me in London! Alessandro Michele has been nothing short of brilliant at Gucci, a favorite season after season. Demna Gvasalia has in a short period of time created a sensation at Balenciaga. With a new collection to be premiered by Valentino alum Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, and the newly appointed Anthony Vacarello at the helm of Saint Laurent, there is much to anticipate in the coming season!

What style advice would give to any woman who’s looking to revamp their look?

The advice I give all women is this: dress in a style that is flattering to your personality, your figure and your position in life. Love the skin you’re in! Wear clothes that give you confidence, not clothes that make you feel uncomfortable. Fashion is 99% confidence, 1% the clothes!

You are a huge supporter of the arts, what philanthropic projects do you have in the works that will benefit the arts?

I’m crazy excited about a massive project that I’m currently undertaking in my newly adopted city of Detroit. I am in the process of renovating a 100-year-old historic mansion in the Arden Park neighborhood of Detroit, that when completed with be an “Artist in Residence” to house up to 4 talents, with painting and sculpture studios in the Carriage garage. The house will eventually be my full time residence, with the intent of being an epicenter for art, fashion, and other cultural events.

While the project is as much preservation, as renovation, the home will be filled with site specific installations and many works of the artist that will be in residence on the property.

As a collector, I have always had an enormous fondness for young, emerging artists, and am excited to create an environment that encourages creativity, while contributing to the rebirth of a great American city that has captured my heart.

What artistic movements do you draw inspiration from?

Art, artists and artistic movements have always inspired me, my mother instilled in me at an early age that empty walls should make me nervous, and they do!

I am not particularly loyal to any specific time period or genre of art or artistic movement. Much like fashion, my heart, my soul and my never-lying eyes, lead me to my passions. I can’t imagine limiting my creative spirit!

Who or what are you collecting at the moment?

I am a collector of art, furniture, real-estate. Collecting is my greatest addiction, when I’m not sitting with great curiosity front row at the runways of the world, my curious spirit takes me on adventures to galleries, museums, art fairs, and undiscovered neighborhoods around America. They say, “Curiosity killed the cat,” but I certainly have no intentions of dying from that!

With the demands of the fashion industry’s schedule, you live a global jet set life. What essentials are a non-compromising while traveling?

If it was only that easy! I’m a very seasoned and efficient traveler. As much as I love maximalism, when it comes to travel, I’m the ultimate minimalist! My needs are simple, a Starbucks grande latte is truly my only requirement in the morning, unless I’m in Milan, where I do super cappuccinos from Bianco Latte! My motto when I travel is “Live like a local.” It allows me to see the world through a local’s lens. I find that ultimately the most rewarding.


I have always had the ability to make solid decisions on the spot, and don’t over think things.

Overthinking signals a lack of confidence.
I am thoroughly confident in my decisions and point of view.


In order to balance your many different roles, do you have any daily rituals
that you practice that you find give you focus or clarity?

I find that putting out the fire closest to my foot, while addressing each situation that is put in front of me with immediacy is the only way I can keep ahead and stay focused.

I have always had the ability to make solid decisions on the spot, and don’t overthink things. Overthinking signals a lack of confidence. I am thoroughly confident in my decisions and point of view. Gut instinct has always served me well, and a Starbucks Grande Latte!

The fashion industry is experiencing massive changes while in process of adapting and embracing technology. What do you foresee for the future of the
fashion industry?

The digital era we live in today has changed our industry in ways many haven’t begun to embrace. The immediacy and speed that the customer is receiving information, living fashion in real time is a game changer, that will ultimately change the industry.

Fashion fatigue is real, customers tire of trends and styles long before they ever reach traditional brick and mortar or online e-commerce sites. The exciting news is that the customer is super engaged with fashion and trends, technology has opened the conversation of fashion beyond the traditional boundaries in ways many could have never comprehended.

The challenge is aligning customer excitement within a time frame that goods are available to purchase. The old model of fashion shows being 6 months in advance of fashion being delivered is antique and outmoded. The conventional fashion show is no longer a retailer, press experience; it’s has become a mega-marketing extravaganza geared to the public and social media.

The paying public does not have the attention span to hold interest in anything for sixty seconds, let alone six months. I foresee that traditional fashion show taking place in real time as goods are being delivered to retail, with buying appointments taking an “old school” approach, happening in the quiet of showrooms for retailers and top press, without the aid of social media leaking the looks.

Time will tell, but to save the integrity of the retail model and the integrity of great design, it will become not only necessary, but paramount to our industry to regain control of the imagery that is released into the stratosphere so we can excite the customer in real time, instead of lulling them into boredom by the time fashion is delivered.

In light of this immediacy demanded by consumer culture, how do you think e-commerce has evolved over the last decade or so?

Neiman Marcus was at the forefront of e-commerce as the first luxury retailer to go online over fifteen years ago. Today, e-commerce is so much more than just selling goods on a website. It is creating compelling content that entertains, as well as engages the customer. Creating an online experience that parallels in-store shopping is more important than ever as the customer shops both channels and expects superlative service no matter their channel of shopping.

What bearing does technology have on creativity in fashion at the moment?

Technology and social media has become the visual feast that ignites, excites and energizes our senses, technology is not going away, there is no putting the Genie back in the bottle, it will only become more and more prolific over time. It’s time that technology become the asset that it can be to our industry instead of the liability it has become currently.

What are your sentiments about social media?

Social media is a powerful channel of communication giving many and any, a voice about their passions and opinions, many positive, some, not so much.

As with any media, traditional or otherwise, you choose the voices and opinions you let into your life.

I feel great responsibility when I personally post and engage in social media, it is a mammoth platform for positive images and words. It also allows me the ability to keep the dream of fashion not only alive, but relevant for the world we live in today, welcoming many that may not have access to the world that I live in every day.

What admonition would you give to young persons who are considering a career path in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry has never been more embracing of young and emerging talent! What was once a velvet rope industry, has become far more inclusive, than exclusive. Work hard, experience anything and everything you can, and stay curious, you’ll achieve your dreams.

What’s a piece of style advice you always follow?

Good hair gets you everywhere!

What’s next for you?

Next is not in my vocabulary. Evolution is more my mode, the continuation of melding my love of art and of fashion. You may possibly see more of me on TV…I’ll leave it at that.  ‡



Interview by Marc Sifuentes | Photography by Johnny Vicari | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu 

Dress by Reem Acra, Earrings and Bracelet by Sarina Suriano

She is a woman who has danced with Dietrich and Warhol, was a muse to the genius Yves Saint Laurent, became a favorite to photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, and was one of the first African American models to walk the runways in Paris. Pat Cleveland is an icon that still today has the same vivacious, exuberant spirit that helped build her career which has spanned over five decades.

To call her simply a model would not do her justice. She is a star. Former Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley once called her “The first black supermodel, the Josephine Baker of the international runways!”. Even with all the fame, traveling the world, dancing on tables, and living the glamorous life with an eccentric crew of famous friends. A tour through the South modeling for Ebony Fashion Fair, exposed her to the nation’s racial divide on a first hand account. Confrontations with the Ku Klux Klan, and later with the American fashion industry’s incessant bigotry, led Pat to flee to Paris where she soon became the house model for Karl Lagerfeld. Since then, she has traveled the world, shot with some of the biggest names in history, was a fit model at the atelier of Christian Dior, and immortalized the colorful characters of her life via her new memoir, Walking with the Muses.

What is it about the fashion industry and modeling that inspires you and gives you passion for the work?

Fashion gives you an open runway, like a runway for an airplane. You get ready to take off and go to another world with all these people that you meet. The designers and all the visionaries, like the photographers who are so technically talented, they make you look better than you could ever imagine. 


Fashion gives you an open runway, like a runway for an airplane. You get ready to take off and go to another world with all these people that you meet.


Can you tell us how you first started working for big designers like Halston? 

Halston was one of the first designers to see me in a fashion show in Chicago, and I did not know who he was at the time.. He was introduced to me by Stephen Burrows, the designer, and he told me, “That’s someone you should know and work for.” But who knew he would become what he became. It was the green part of his career, the early beginnings and luckily enough I was there. 

He was so gorgeous, so confident, and such a gentleman. To be with him in a room he would give you confidence about yourself by just being in his presence. And there I was, right off the Fashion Fair, and Stephen Burrows introduced me to Halston. Jump to sitting there with the other ladies in his New York salon on 68th street, the Getty’s and the Berenson’s and all these amazing people like Naomi Sims and Elsa Peretti and Anjelica Huston.

What part did the late Yves Saint Laurent play in your career?

He was so important and so young and so beautiful and such a free spirit and untouchable by many. He was so playful, and to my career he was everything an artist should be because he could teach you how to totally evaporate yourself and be in that space of being in love with something other than yourself. He was friends with my friends, like Antonio Lopez, and it was like a big love fest and we would go out and dance all night. Everybody was young and gorgeous and free. It was like a big flirtation, and I was just thrown in there like a sandwich with the boys floating along with the rest of the swans.


With Yves Saint Laurent backstage after his show, 1972.Afterward, we went to the top of the Effel Tower. Courtsey of Roxanne Lowit.

What was it like to be a fit model for the legendary couturiers of Paris? 

Being pinned into couture…what an honor!  Now there is a whole new way of producing things, with everything done by computers. But the draping! If you can see a couturier drape a dress, then you have gotten to the art of fashion.  It’s like a dance you can see them throw the fabric and I remember seeing Halston doing that and Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Like one time I saw Halston taking a bolt of fabric and just throwing across the floor and just start cutting into it rapidly.  He just worked out of faith, he just knew it was going to be good. The confidence they had was important.

Tell us what were those first fashion shows like for you? 

It was a different time. We used to walk down the salon with cards with numbers in our hands so clients would know what dress to order. He had jazz bands play music, but it wasn’t like the big shows they have now; it was the beginning. I mean, the big show was the Fashion Fair and we had commentary like, “This is a sensuous woman walking down, imagine having this outfit from Dior” or something like, “Imagine yourself in this Valentino, wearing this to your debutante ball”.

Do you remember the change in the production value of the runway shows from what you described back then to what they have become today?

Well, I think Hollywood had a lot to do with it. The director Busby Berkeley, putting on a show, being in America, the funky sounds and music and dancing, and this crazy time started exploding in every culture.  I remember going to Paris and it was just a small room full of socialites and countesses and princes sitting in a beautiful salon having tea and looking at us models in the dresses and touching the fabrics. Back then the music was setting the pace and they got the black girls to move to the music and then you HAD to move. I started dancing like a dancer on the runway and then the audience would feel good and it was contagious. 

In your book you describe your first big fashion experience with the Ebony Fashion Fair and you talk about the traumatic experiences with racism in the South. How did that affect you?  

Thank you for asking that question. I think it’s just a divide of narrow mindedness when people are not well educated. I think that was a time when people had a lot of fear because social things were changing.  There were some very well educated black people who were coming up and getting these wonderful jobs and they were the audience of the Fashion Fair. Doctors, judges, professors and other affluent black people who were donating money to send black youth to college. That was the whole reason for the Fashion Fair. Mrs. Johnson (co-founder of Ebony magazine) would go off to Europe and, being a black woman, she was not even allowed to come in and buy the couture! She spent large, large amounts of money in these design houses and they finally had to let her in, and she brought all that fashion back from Europe. She introduced the masses to the type of high quality garment that would just knock your eyes out! Paris was couture; that’s where real fashion started. We were the wild, up-and-coming couturiers of America.

All of the young designers no longer had to sit there and dream about one day being in Paris because Paris came to them! I was wearing Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Balmain all the french designers and I wore those clothes for the nineteen city Fashion Fair tour, on a bus, hungry, at night, being chased by the Ku Klux Klan. Watching my beautiful innocent self grow thorns, because of the behavior of the people that I thought were stars. I saw a lot, but all of it helped me toughen up. That’s where I learned to walk the runway, by doing those Fashion Fair shows.  We had this wonderful jazz musician and in between shows we would dance while he played the piano and that’s how I started developing my walk. A lot of the time it was a small, old venue that we showed in with all of those elegant clothes. And the ladies that came dressed so beautifully with their fur stoles and their gloves and their church hats. They were marvelous people it was a wonderful experience.


Dress by Joanna Mastroianni, Fur by Georgine, Earrings by Sarina Suriano

How did you first get the inspiration to get on that Fashion Fair bus and start modeling at 15? 

My mother and I were just going along on that bus like a band. I was just happy to get out of the house! It was so astonishing, like an answered calling. My mom said “you can be a model” and I loved Colleen Corby, Donyale Luna, Veruschka. The big models.  I just thought, “who, me?”  I just wanted to be a designer or a painter. 

I used to walk around with my hair sticking out and no makeup on, and my mom used to say, “If you don’t put on any eyeliner you’re going to die an old maid!” and boy did I rush to put that eyeliner on. The first time I did, I got discovered in the subway. I had my homemade clothes on and I was looking good and someone saw it. I must have been like a lighthouse or something reaching out for help like “HELP! I DON’T WANT TO DIE AN OLD MAID!!” (laughs)

Before you were a model you were designing your own clothes and it was partly for that reason you were discovered on the subway in New York.  Who was the person that discovered your designs?  

It was Carrie Donovan’s (Editor at Vogue) assistant at the time, she was from London. I guess she had a different kind of eye. It was Vogue’s own boutique and they discovered me, and I started designing for them, Henri Bendel and Tiger Moss. I started making clothes when I went back to school and selling them and I did very well. I got my first picture in Vogue as a designer. A double page spread thanks to Carrie Donovan.

P PAT sitting 80s

photos by Antonio lopez c/o Antonio Lopez : Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco book, Rizzoli

Who would you accredit your success to?  

It’s not you by yourself, it’s the people that love you that put you there. It’s those love stories of what their vision is and when you arrive that’s the story.  I was blessed to arrive at the right time for who I am and what I am. (whispers) Actually I think it all happened for me because I looked just like this boy that used to be a drag queen and since they couldn’t use him for Vogue, they used me instead. But nowadays I wouldn’t stand a chance because they would actually just use the boy! (laughs) So that was my good fortune.

How did you get your first meeting with Avedon? What was it like to work with him?

I remember I tried to get a meeting with him and I couldn’t so I just went straight into his studio. Iwas met by a secretary that said, “LEAVE right now, who sent you up here?”. That’s when I first started going around and trying to get meetings. Then by chance I started working with him through editors who booked meas a model for just simple things likestockings. Then he took notice and he asked if he could photograph me, and he did photograph me for Vogue. Oh, one time he even invited me into the darkroom to watch him develop and process film! I was in school taking photography classes and I got to experience him working in the dark room, and I saw the magic that he did when he was developing and processing.

I wasn’t the girl next door; I was too exotic. But he would still use me as much as he could and we would travel to far locations like TV commercials in Japan where they wouldn’t need the typical girl next door, but someone more like me.  So we became friends and my agent at the time was good friends with him so he would invite us to his home. Then I moved to Paris and I didn’t see him that often. So many people didn’t like me or told me I couldn’t model for certain magazines but that was ok because if you don’t have the challenge you’re not going to be the best horse in the race.


Dress by Alexander Wang, Ring and Earrings by Sarina Suriano

You have a quote that says, “That flaw is your best feature”, can you tell us more about what that means to you?

It’s always that you have to find a some kind of something, for me I guess it was my bow legs and fuzzy hair that gave me that walk and gave me something to flit around with like butterfly wings. It may not work now, but back then people were intrigued like “oh what’s that? Let’s fix it up!” I was like an ostrich with no feathers and then they glued them on me.

In this issue of Iris Covet Book we also have a feature on photographer Irving Penn.  Could you tell us about your first experience working with him?

My first big time picture in Vogue was with Irving Penn. I wasn’t exactly sure of who he was but I knew he was a Vogue photographer and I came into the studio and they told me to go downstairs and wait. So I went downstairs and there was a big room with a big white block in the middle of the floor. He came into the room and he says “go sit on the block” and so I sat on the block and I started fidgeting like crazy and he says “Can you sit still please?” because you know I move a lot.

But he taught me a lot with just sitting still.  He said ok now I just want you to use your eyes and look over there and look at something. I was watching a bug crawl down the wall and he screams “That’s it! That’s it! You got it!” and I was like, well I’m just looking at this bug on the wall. We worked a lot together, he photographed me a lot. I guess it’s because I learned how to sit still. (laughs)

Throughout your long career as a model, can you tell us about one of your most memorable shoots?

One time with Guy Bourdin, I was in England out in the middle of the North Sea in January, nude and painted blue.
He had me balancing on this little stand in the water in the freezing cold and I had to do a physical thing where I stretched out like a swimmer while balancing on my stomach on a little thing the size of an iPad so you wouldn’t see it. The entire team was on the beach and I was the only one out in the water freezing and waiting and where was he? He was the only one not there.

He was known for showing up late on set and just taking one photograph, but he would show up SO late and you would be there waiting and waiting.  I think the only reason I was able to hold that stretching pose for so long is because I was frozen in that position! That was for Max Factor and they ended up never using the picture.


It’s not you by yourself, it’s the people that love you that put you there. It’s those love stories of what their vision is and when you arrive that’s the story.


Andy Warhol was also a fixture in your career and in New York City at the time, what was it like to be friends with such
an interesting and famous man and his Factory group?  

My god he came out of that world where he took things and just made it his own. I asked him once, “How come you always draw those soup cans?” and he said, “Because my mom abandoned me once in the grocery store and I was hungry and I just remember seeing soup cans.” So I guess it had meaning for him. And then pop, there you go! Pop goes the weasel and the weasel goes pop! He took everyone along with him for the ride and all of these people were hungry to be stars and he’d say “Let’s make art!” No one really knew us at the time. Then we started growing and everybody started getting famous and then we were SUPERSTARS! We even had Marlene Dietrich in the mix.  Going over to her house to give her clothes. Oh, and Karl (Lagerfeld) made her lingerie and he decided to give it to me so I wore it out to go dancing one night. When we walked into the club, everyone stood up to look at us and my dress got caught on something, and I put my arms up to get loose, and then I was nude just wearing a feathered g-string and the champagne was popping, and we were in Paris, and we were stars! We were a gang; we had the latin beat. We were Americans!

With so many great stories to tell, why did you choose to write your memoirs now? 

Because everybody is torturing me “When are you doing that book? You’ve been writing it since you began a hundred years ago!” I said, “Well you know I’m a turtle.” I always thought, “It’s not ready.”  Writing became nice and juicy and greasy and I didn’t have time to draw because drawing takes time so I started scribbling words. Then the words turned into sound which became like poetry which was my first book. I started writing these stories about myself from my diaries, and I took all my information and I had like fifteen boxes with thousands of pages of writing which is not in the book. Would you take a giant piece of marble from southern Italy and just put it up there as art? No, you gotta chisel away at it! So I kept on chiseling away until finally I realized I needed some help to chisel. Then everything came into place thanks to the universe and I got an agent and a publisher, Simon and Schuster, which I felt so comfortable with.


Dress by BreeLayne

Can you describe to us how editing down all of your memories and giving voice to your life experiences was for you?

It’s like a dream come true God says “just do it!” and you start doing it. You’re up at night and you’re writing and you ask yourself “Why am I doing this? Who even cares?” and then you know what you start to care about? The people you write about in your own stories. I was like, “hey wait a minute. That person really meant something to me and they are not on this planet anymore; I better leave something about them!” You know it’s not always just about the most famous people, it’s also about the people who definitely did step into your life even if it was for a moment but made you realize something. So I heard voices and I wrote it down because that’s what you do when you write. You listen and you allow it to happen and that’s why I did it. For the experience. The process of writing in that way has been quite a gift to me because now I know how to do it. I didn’t know before; it’s like learning to walk.

So now do you feel you’ve told your whole story? 

That one is done, but now I have the fever and I’ve got a lot more to give. I don’t know what direction it’s going to go in yet, but I like to try new things out. Oooooh, what I’m going to do next! Ooooooh, I can’t even tell you!

What do you think is the key to your longevity?

Health. Your friends, they give you a lift up. I guess sometimes this kind of longevity thing is so strange. I guess it’s just the time. People want to live longer and they feel that your stories are important. They want to know “How do you do this? How should I do that?”,  and I’m a storyteller right now. Hey, if I can survive the wear and tear, YOU can do it too! I don’t know everything, but I’m still finding out.

What was one of your favorite things about writing this book?

Words are very precious, and reading stimulates you because you get to see things maybe nobody can imagine. When you read something you’ll see it your way and hopefully you’ll see it my way too. So I hope people enjoy my words. Everyone has been so supportive of me writing this book.  I think it’s just like the good o’days when we would jump up and have some fun and show off and do stuff. I’m still the same person, you know. I just want to recreate a little bit of NOW. (laughs) Recreate now.  Isn’t that kind of what we all are doing? Recreating now?

What part did you play in your daughter Anna becoming a model?

It’s not like she didn’t do it when she was 10 days old. When she was 10 days old she had the duchess of windsors pearls in her mouth that I was wearing around my neck during a photoshoot. The editor said, “Let her swallow those pearls and let’s go to Brazil” I said, “No way this baby is 10 days old!” She traveled with me and my son and husband and she got to see the inner-workings of the industry from early on.

What is some of the best advice you would give anyone entering the fashion industry? 

On the way up, is on the way dow(laughs) This industry is like a trampoline. Who do you think you are bouncing up? You’re going to bounce down too, you know!

Do you feel the same now as you did in your 20’s? 

Oh yeah, just a different kind of horny! (laughs)  ‡


Dress by Zac Posen. Earrings by Sarina Suriano

Hair by Taichi Saito. Makeup by Kanako Takase @ Tim Howard Management Using Giorgio Armani Beauty. Manicure by Krysty Williams.  BTS Video by Kao Cheng Kai.  Photographer’s Assistants: Efisio Marras and Nick Perry.  Stylist Assistant Benjamin Price. Hair Assistant Akira. Makeup Assistant Megumi Onishi. Booking and Production by XTheStudio


Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Photography by Kerry Hallihan @ Angela de Bona | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu



With her alabaster skin, raven hair, soulful eyes, and a face which is reminiscent of old Hollywood royalty, Eve Hewson, is every bit the part of a blossoming actress. Born from fashion and music stardom, Hewson was destined to become a talented woman to watch.

Eve is in LA when I phone in with her for the interview. I can hear the soft overlays of her Irish accent, though it’s almost a whisper since she transplanted to Brooklyn, after studying acting at NYU—advice she did not take from her parents (U2 front-man, Bono & fashion designer, Ali Hewson). Eve’s drive was stronger, and she pushed forward in pursuit of her dream. Poised to play Maid Marian in the upcoming 2017 Otto Bathurst-directed production of Robin Hood: Origins, Eve currently co- stars alongside Clive Owen in the Steven Soderbergh-directed drama series, The Knick and her last film project, Bridge of Spies was directed by Steven Speilberg. Prior to
that she co-starred with Sean Penn in Paolo Sorrentino’s film, This Must Be the Place. Skepticism aside, Eve Hewson, has inarguably amassed an impressively selective resume of evocative, blue chip film projects and directors with whom she’s already worked.

She reminisces some advice she’s followed to land these roles and work with some of Hollywood’s greatest, “You have to find a way of making this a career, not just a moment.” In an exclusive interview, I caught up with the ingénue actress to discuss her creative process and the trajectory she has set for herself.


When did you know you first wanted to become an actor?

The first time I realized I wanted to be an actor was when I went away to shoot my first film when I was fifteen years old. It was my tutor who had wrote this part for me, and I knew that I liked acting a lot but I didn’t know if I was going to do that or if I was going to do music instead. So I went away and shot the film and kind of fell in love with the whole idea of making movies and the process of it. That was when I got hooked.

So is music something you still dabble in as a hobby?

When I was younger I played the piano, drums, bass, guitar etc, but I don’t play like I used to anymore. When I moved to New York it was harder to get access to a piano or a drum set and I kind of replaced that hobby with acting.

You’re currently starring in The Knick, as Nurse Lucy Elkins. In comparison to working in film, what is the process like when you’re doing a series? Do you find that you get closer to your character?

I really think it forces you to sort of think of your character with the understanding that you never really know what your character is going to do on TV. You have to just go with it. You learn more about that character as you go on. Whereas in film, you have your script. You have a set out storyline of where your character is going and what they would or wouldn’t do, but in TV you have to say okay, this is who she is. No matter what scene comes up or gets written into the storyline, I have to incorporate and work that into my idea of her. You can never say, “my character would never do that.”

When you’re filming The Knick, has there ever been a scene that you found challenging due to the gory nature of the content?

Sometimes things are pretty gross. I’m terrified of needles and I hate getting blood drawn and I usually end up fainting! On set, we did it for 20 episodes – you get really used to it, it’s quite like the way nurses and doctors treat actual bodies. You get really comfortable with looking at blood and intestines. We’re all pretty used to it now, but it took us a moment. I love the way movies are made, to see everything that goes on behind the scenes and to see how the makeup department, the special effects team and Steven (Soderbergh) all work together to make it look real. Then when my friends or my family see me on the screen, they say, “I can’t watch. I can’t watch it, I’m so sorry, it’s just too gory!” Well then great, we did our job. It’s not real. That’s what I say to everyone, “It’s not real!” How amazing is that?

In regards to your character on The Knick, what has been the biggest surprise or challenge in playing nurse Lucy Elkins? Was it difficult to relate to her?

The biggest challenge playing Lucy was probably the corset. Doing any accent is challenging, but not being able to breathe at the same time made it harder. I’m really nothing like Lucy at all, but that’s what I enjoyed the most about playing her. Learning about someone that you wouldn’t normally relate to in real life is what acting is all about. I’m not interested in playing someone like me, I know who I am. Acting is like being someone’s therapist. And Lucy is full of surprises. She is so quiet in what she says, but incredibly bold in what she does, and that interested me.

Though in the early stages of your career, you’ve already worked with some amazing directors. Are there any directors you would like to work with in the future?

Yeah there’s like a lot actually. I have a hit list of my favorite directors that I would jump at the chance to work with. I love Joe Swanberg, he did Drinking Buddies. Have you seen that movie?

It’s on my list of movies to watch!

You gotta see that movie! It’s amazing! His whole process and how there is this element of improv – it’s a really cool way of making films. Who else do I love? I love, Khalif Brown, he’s a fairly new director. He did parts of Beyonce’s Lemonade. He’s pretty sick. The part where she’s drowning and her bed is underwater, I love how he did that. Of course, I am obsessed with Tim Burton. I really want to play a ghost and haunt someone in a movie and I feel like Tim Burton could help me do that. Another director would be Ang Lee. Oh, and I love Katherine Bigelow.

Are there any genres that you would like to explore on future projects?

All of them! I don’t really limit myself in terms of characters and genres. I would love to do a creepy scary movie, like Orphan. I love that movie. I also would love to do a romantic comedy, you know. Being a voice actor in an animated children’s film would be so fun because I really love to do accents.

Do you work with a vocal coach on accents?

Yeah I have an amazing vocal coach, her name is Coley Calhoun, she actually lives in Brooklyn as well. She lives in Park Slope. She’s kinda THE woman and she helps me with everything that I do.


You are also an experienced traveler, do you have any place in the world you like to retreat to when you need to recharge?

If I’m going to somewhere to recharge, I’m going to go home to Dublin. It’s lovely to escape New York and just be at home in Dublin with my family and read a book or watch movies. It is always green so there are a lot of scenic walks and beautiful trails and sites around the city.

When you’re away from Brooklyn is there any place that you miss now that it’s also home?

Definitely my home! I live in Williamsburg, and I walk along the water every day and I have my little coffee shop that I love, Toby’s Estate.

Have your parents ever given you advice that you didn’t follow and were you glad you listened to your own intuition?

Sometimes, but occasionally parents know best. They’ve always been really encouraging of anything that I wanted to do, they were skeptical of me going into the film industry just because it is so difficult. Now they’re very supportive and have always encouraged me to not just be an actor, but to write, direct, and produce. You really have to find a way of making this a career, not just a moment.

And you’re really embracing the process?

Yes! I had to fight to get my parents to let me go to NYU and study acting. Going to New York to learn more about acting and film was not something they thought was a good idea, which I felt was strange. I really just wanted to learn my craft and hone my skills.

Have you experienced any personal challenges that you’ve had to overcome and that have made you stronger in your career and craft?

I think experiencing rejection has changed me as an actor, because every time you get rejected you have to fight harder and you have to work harder. Any challenge I have come up against has only helped me to be a better actor. Whenever I go in for an audition, I think “Oh my God, this is so hard, I don’t think I can do this.” I work really hard to believe that I can do it. However, I think being in a career that pushes you to continuously be better is amazing. I love that Hollywood is so cutthroat and when you get that job, you have really earned it because you’re competing with the best! It’s so difficult but also very rewarding.

Are you working with any charities or involved in community activism? Your father (U2 front-man, Bono) is known for his work with the underprivileged, did you get that gene from him?

I’m a member of the ONE campaign (Bono’s campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising awareness), and I support the RED products (a licensed brand that seeks to engage the private sector in raising awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa). I definitely want to get more involved with women’s issues in particular. For example, abortion is illegal in Ireland, and a lot of people are not aware of that. It has to change. I want to help. I grew up in a house where we were told, “If you have a voice, you better use it.” So I’ve never been embarrassed to say what’s on my mind. I think I could use that trait for something bigger than my own ego.

How do you feel about your new role as Maid Marian? What are you most eager about for this new project?

All I can say about the Robin Hood part is that we are going to shoot next year. I’m excited because I’m so obsessed with the director Otto Bathurst. He’s one of the most interesting directors out there right now. I’ve been told I have to learn how to ride a horse which might be worse than my bike riding on The Knick, but I’m staying optimistic. I read with Taron (Egerton) for my screen test and it was just synchronistic. I’ve ALWAYS said I wanted to work with Jamie Foxx. It is such a good crew of talent, and I’m so fortunate to be a part of it.



Hair by Rolando Beauchamp @ The Wall Group | Makeup by Junko @ Joe Management | Manicure by Yukie Miyakawa @ Kate Ryan | Custom Headpiece by Elizabeth Ryan Floral | Production by Sacha di Bona @ Angela de Bona | Photographer’s 1st Assistant James Clark |  2nd Assistant Krystallynne | Digital Tech Andrea Bartley | Stylist Assistant Yu Tsao | Production Assistant Kirk Corbin | Celebrity Booking by XTheStudio



Cindy Crawford became the first supermodel to turn herself into the kind of brand that is now the ultimate goal of every aspiring top model. We explore how the bombshell has managed to effortlessly balance beauty, business & “BECOMING”.

Growing up in a Midwestern farming town 30 miles from Chicago, she arrived in New York as an aspiring teenage model armed with her looks, ambition, and good business sense.  For the past 17 years she’s enjoyed a happy home life with hotel and restaurant entrepreneur husband Rande Gerber and their two children.  Along the way, she learned important life lessons that she is now sharing in her new book – BECOMING – that serves as a highly spirited life manual that is part autobiography, part coffee-table book.  It offers an inside account of the events that marked her rise as a global cultural icon fabled for her cosmetics and clothing campaigns as well as countless magazine covers and photo spreads (not to mention her Pepsi ads).  She hosted MTV’s House of Style, built a personal business empire, and devoted herself to raising her son, Presley, 16, and Kaia, 14, both aspiring models.

“This book is my way of reflecting on the experiences that have informed my thinking and sharing some of the wisdom and life lessons I’ve learned along the way,” Crawford says, “It’s not an autobiography or tell-all book–I wouldn’t have many dark secrets to reveal, anyway–it’s really about my personal journey and becoming my adult self.”

Crawford, who turned 50 in February, offers plenty of insight and anecdotes in the magnificent volume published by Rizzoli, including several of the iconic photos that were part of her trademark natural beauty.

She not only discusses her work with some of the fashion industry’s legendary photographers–Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton–but also the era of the supermodel and how she became a highly successful businesswoman with multiple pursuits including fitness videos, swimsuit calendars, and beauty lines. In person, Crawford is still fabulously beautiful (she remains a size 2) and looks at least ten years younger.  She and her husband Rande are best friends with George Clooney and his wife Amal, and have taken several vacations together.  Interestingly, when asked about her marriage to Gerber, Cindy confessed that she thought he was almost too good to be real at the beginning, “In my younger years, I was attracted to the more intense kind of relationships that are very draining. When I was first with Rande, I thought he was so solid, but then I wondered, ‘Wait, where’s all the drama? Maybe this isn’t good. Maybe this isn’t real!’ …But a husband is the guy who is solid, and you know you want to have children with him and you know he’s going to be there.”

Cindy, your image is that of one of the world’s most iconically beautiful women.  How did you see yourself when you were starting out as a model?

The truth is that I have never seen myself as beautiful. At the beginning of my career I felt very uncomfortable and no one in the business went out of their way to say nice things to me. I had such a bad self-image that it took over a decade to really feel good about myself and self-confident enough to the point where I could smile on command in front of the camera. Still, when I look into the mirror I see a face full of imperfections–I never see myself as having perfect features, not at all.

Was learning to embrace your mole part of what helped you advance your career?

I was very self-conscious about my mole while I was growing up. And as a girl I wanted remove it because I was embarrassed by it and I was constantly getting teased about it.  Of course, that was the thing that set me apart and later what gave me my distinctive look as a model. It’s what people still associated with me the most.

But when it came to getting that recognition as a model it was only thanks to some great photographers like Herb Ritts and others who took so many iconic photos and presented me in a very extraordinary way. That’s when I started to feel beautiful.

How do you account for your spectacular evolution as one of the original group of supermodels?

I was lucky to arrive at a time when the fashion world was looking for a new image of women and a different look from the typical image of blonde and blue-eyed models. Christy [Turlington], Naomi [Campbell], Linda [Evangelista] and me all looked very different and we each had a distinctive look that represented different ways of defining or representing beauty.

You took a chance moving to New York while you were still studying in university. What was that time like?

Our culture still judges people on appearances and women are especially subject to that. When I left college to pursue modeling, I saw right away that people assumed I was stupid and that was always a hard thing to handle. It makes you very self-conscious, but eventually I was able to overcome that and put those negative assumptions and attitudes in better perspective. It was really saying more about the people making those judgements than it was about me.

Was it culture shock arriving in New York?

I was very naive at the beginning. Coming from the midwest, New York was a whole other world.  I had to get used to living at a much faster pace where people are always busy and rushing somewhere and you can feel like you’re an outsider.  It was much more sophisticated than I was prepared for and it took me a long time before I really felt comfortable being in the company of famous or very accomplished people.

Why did you write Becoming and what do you hope people will learn?

I wanted to collect some life stories from my past and explore some key moments that might be helpful to the next generation and help inspire young people to pursue their dreams. I’m a great believer in fairy tales and making your dreams become reality.

Half the battle in life is just believing in yourself and not giving up even when things don’t work out at the beginning.  You never know which moment or event is going to help you succeed but if you work hard and have faith in yourself the chances are that good things are going to happen to you.

What was your look, if you really had to define it?

My look was more accessible and relatable. In terms of labels, I was what you would call the sexy, all-American girl who lived next door. I had a more athletic body type which gave me an edge and photographers and magazines were looking for that. It was perfect timing.

What’s the most important lesson you can offer women when it comes to looking good and being fit?

Nothing is better than working out on a regular basis.  I still work out three times a week and I eat a very healthy diet. I can’t eat the way I used to and even in my twenties I saw that I had to change my eating habits. I rarely drink wine anymore because it makes my face puffy.

Apart from your fashion shoots, what were some of the other keys to your success?

The Pepsi commercial was very big. It gained massive recognition with a male audience that was very different from the kind of attention you get from fashion magazines which are targeted towards women.

How did you come to develop the workout videos?

Jane Fonda’s exercise videos were the thing that inspired me. She started it all but I wanted to move away from aerobics and develop a more intensive, grittier workout like what I was doing on an almost daily basis with my trainer Radu.  I wanted to come up with an exercise video for people of my generation who were looking to tone and strengthen their bodies.

What do you teach your daughter about image and how a young woman should deal with the pressures that come with that?

The most important thing is to have a healthy self-image and healthy relationship with your own body. I try to teach that to my daughter Kaia and not have her worrying about her looks. I want her to eat properly and not feel self-conscious and thinking about diet and her weight.

You have to be comfortable in your own skin and embrace everything that is distinctive and special about you.  As women, we need to understand that we are all different and unique.  ‡

CindyCrawford_cover reprint