FREDERIQUE AND THE CITY BY ELLEN VON UNWERTH

Frederique and The City

Frederique van der Wal by Ellen von Unwerth

Clothing by Georgine

Makeup by Romero Jennings

There is no denying that Ellen von Unwerth and Frederique van der Wal are legends in the fashion world. Between the photographer and Supermodel, there is a prolific collection of coffee-table compendium worthy images that, through the years, have inspired a generation of photography enthusiast and fashion fanatics alike. 

The universe brought the two fashion juggernauts together when they discovered they lived in the same New York City apartment building. Together, with fashion designer Georgine Ratelband the two icons have created images in Ellen von Unwerth’s unmistakable aesthetic of “sex, fun and rock & roll.” Iris Covet Book documented the chat between Ellen, Frederique and Georgine on how this shoot came together, staying creative during lockdown and their plans for 2021.

IRIS: Hi ladies, can you give us a little background on how you and Ellen met and how long you have known each other.

ELLEN: Ok yes, we know each other because we live on the same floor in the same building in New York and we run into each other often. You know, we’ve always said let’s shoot together but never found the right time. But this one morning I came home and saw Frederique with a totally new look. Her hair was totally blonde and you know how I love a blonde! I said “Oh my God this is the moment. We have to shoot!”. So, I called Georgine and I asked her if she wanted to join and Georgine offered us pieces from her collection.

FREDERIQUE: I’ve always adored Ellen’s work and strangely enough we had never yet worked together. Somehow it hadn’t happened until both of us, this past September were stuck in New York City.
Then it all came together…this sexy rock and roll Ellen element mixed with the city and the roof. It was very inspiring. For me sometimes, you have these moments when you really get your adrenaline going and that’s how the shoot felt for me. It felt great! It was a day where the playfulness was there, the fun, the sexiness, the rock and roll. It was so Ellen and then the fantastic clothes by Georgine.

GEORGINE: It was very spontaneous And it came together very effortlessly which I enjoyed very much! I think Ellen called me two days before the shoot, I pulled a variety of looks for Frederique that I thought would suit her and we were ready to rock & roll!

ELLEN: Yes, but also you look incredible in the pictures! It’s one thing to see you coming in and out of our building every day but when you see the pictures, you’re like “Wow! There’s Frederique the supermodel!”. I was really blown away when I saw the pictures. Also, it’s very intimate because it’s in my apartment and our roof. A small home production with friends.

IRIS: Frederique, I was reading about a new venture that you have called lifecycles. Is that a project of yours that we can look forward to later this year?

FREDERIQUE: Yes, I created a series with newswire.fm where I visit friends and or celebs from different industries. I’m always riding around on my bike and I talk about life in New York and what keeps them there and we discuss their ups and downs and inspirations. We did our first seven and we featured a bunch of people from different artistic backgrounds. As in fantastic singer Marieme Diop, actor/director Griffin Dunne, designers Badgley Mischka, architect Winka Dubbeldam who did both Ellen and my apartment. An amazing mix of people and it’s coming out this year. It was really fun and it’s a good thing to show the love we all have for New York City. It’s funny, I’m not a Native New Yorker but I do feel like I’m a Dutch-New Yorker.

Whatever happens, the city breathes a sort of inspiration. It’s the mix of people, the wild experiences which can happen in the city at any moment. It just makes it such a special place. I think New York has such a heartbeat. It keeps you coming back to it.

ELLEN: Each time I’m coming from the airport and I see the skyline I just think “Wow, I’m coming home.” You know? I really feel like this is my city. It is so special because even when I’m in Paris, Berlin and all these other beautiful cities, it’s still not like being in New York. Of course, it’s a sad time at the moment, but I love how quickly and creatively they built up all the outdoor seating restaurants. Some of them with really nice decorations and music. It’s nice to see how New York always overcomes challenges.

FREDERIQUE: And also, that resilience of a New Yorker. It’s interesting to see it from a European perspective. For example, the Dutch if you would say to people you have to take another job or you have to come up with an idea to have a different approach to what you’ve been doing, it’s harder for them. But here in New York people are like “Yes let’s go for it! Come on let’s do it!” And I love that.

GEORGINE: New Yorkers are so strong and also very flexible and easy to adapt to a new situation.

ELLEN: It’s also kind of a survival mode of being a New Yorker. You don’t have the luxury to wait things out, you have to be creative to make it there.

IRIS: What are some things you have been doing during the lockdown to stay creative?

ELLEN: I still have been working but of course much less than normal. Productions have slowly started again with many precautions with testing and mask and everything. You never know how the virus reacts so it’s always stressful after a shoot to not know if you might have it or how your body might react to it. I also did some facetime shoots. Like facetiming a shoot in Paris and another in LA. So, I guess we have found new ways of being creative which is the good side of things I suppose.
It can be kind of fun because you feel very voyeuristic since you’re practically in somebody’s apartment.
And then I’m like “Oh, I want to see what is over there… ok you could just sit over there you know and pose like this.” It does feel weird. I would much rather be with somebody in person of course.

FREDERIQUE: I think that the future will be more about coming together. I think we will see more value in what we are doing because of this time of reflection. And be a little bit more focused on what we really want to do. And I think when you do that, as in organizing this shoot and being surrounded with people you like, it creates something great.

ELLEN: I don’t always photograph the people I love for jobs, but I think we can definitely focus more on what we want to say through our work. Now that we see that time is precious and we can’t waste it, I think it’s more important than ever.

IRIS: One of the things that you talked about is reflection. Since we all had much more time for personal reflection, was there anything that you learned about yourself this past year?

FREDERIQUE: Well, I was quite lucky that I could escape to upstate New York where I have a farm. We were able to go back and forth from there and back to the city. It was so nice to be in nature, how healing that was actually. And I realized how much I loved the time I spent in nature and in the garden. Planting and gardening with all this free time felt new to me and it was different to have this solitude with just a few people at my house. Of course, I miss going out and I’m dying to go dancing and to go to all the fun events, but it was interesting to realize how much I actually love being more in nature and working with my hands. So, I ended up creating gardens, planting vegetable, and painting. I loved it.

GEORGINE: We got back from Paris Fashion Week and doing a last minute trunk show in Texas and enjoyed the time off. We are always on the run between places and running around so it was great to have a moment to relax. Catched up on a lot of tv shows and re-watched some classic movies and of course did a lot of cooking.But after a couple of weeks I felt very restless and needed a project. We have always wanted to renovate our showroom and give it new light. This seemed the perfect time for it. If not now, then when? We started with the kitchen area, and before I knew it, we reimagined our entire space and were living in a construction zone for the next 8 months!

ELLEN: And we went to our country home and we always go there for winters. We have a huge cherry tree in the garden and we actually got to see it blooming this summer and it was so amazing. It was a good time to really appreciate it. We also did some vegetable gardening. I also just photographed everything in sight from rain drops on the leaves, to the bees, to my neighbor’s horses. And I really feel like I experienced nature in a very intense way.

IRIS: What new projects should we expect from you this year? Frederique let’s start with you.

FREDERIQUE: Yes, there’s a couple of shoots that I did. I did a story for Vogue Living on my place in upstate New York and I’m actually working on a television program. It’s a bit futuristic where we will use virtual reality. We will follow how certain products come to us. In 2D and also in 3D. For example, the artists from Studio Drift, they create amazing light art and we follow their journey through their creative process. I’ve also decided that I should write a book. It came to me while I did a ‘journey’. I will see once I start writing if it indeed moves me and if it’s something I would like to see to completion and published.

IRIS: Georgine?

GEORGINE: Actually, as I’m talking to you guys, I’m sketching some proposals for the First Lady. It’s very exciting! After redoing our space I’ve ventured into interior design besides designing collections because many of our clients that have come over to our space since we did the renovation were so enamored by the space that they asked me to help them redo their homes! I’m also working on a new spring line and trying to improve my italian by taking classes via zoom.

IRIS: And then Ellen what about your plans for 2021?

ELLEN: I am planning to do another photography book because people are still so fascinated with the time of the supermodels and I lived that time you know? I shot with Naomi when she was 16, I discovered Claudia and Eva and I have so many pictures. So, I think it’s actually a good time to pull them all out. The glamourous fashion from the nineties in a book will be my next project. I also got asked to do a very exciting project which is to create a cabaret burlesque show in Los Angeles in a very special venue. It’s not really what I do but why not? I want to try different things, so why not? It’s good to go in a bit of a different direction sometimes. Everyone is going to be so ready to go out, so I’m super excited about it.

Frederique with designer Georgine

Photography: Ellen von Unwerth @ellenvonunwerth

Model: Frederique van der Wal @frederiquevdwal

Makeup: Romero Jennings @romerojennings

Clothing: Georgine @georginestudio

BLONDIE

On the brink of a summer tour promoting the release of her 11th studio album with Blondie, the punk/new-wave/rock goddess, Debbie Harry,
shows no signs of slowing down.

Blazer by Vivienne Westwood | Fox Fur Leopard Print Boa by Georgine | Sunglasses by Le Specs Luxe

Photography by Nicolas Kern | Styling by Britt McCamey | Interview by Roger Padilha

Ever since she injected New York City’s ground-breaking, underground music scene with her infectious presence, Debbie Harry found her rightful place as Queen of Cool, and for the past 41 years has reigned as a trailblazing pioneer within the realms of pop culture, fine art, high fashion, and music. Arriving at Splashlight studios with an entourage of one, the low key Harry informs us there is no need for the more discreet side entrance. Instead she prefers to stand in line and check in with the front desk security like everyone else. This drama free attitude seems in line with her polite demeanor upon entering the set with a shopping bag full of past Blondie tour t-shirts and introducing herself to everyone on the crew. “Hi, I’m Debbie. Would anyone like a t-shirt?”

At the age of 71, Harry and her world-famous, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Blondie, have released their eleventh studio album entitled Pollinator. Since their debut album in 1976, through the band’s signature look and pioneering new wave/punk music, Blondie has become an internationally recognized and praised band. With her photogenic face, two-toned hair, and punk style Harry quickly rose to the level of fashion and pop culture icon. Debbie quickly became a muse for Andy Warhol, the late fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, and famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel, to name a few. She was and remains very influential across music genres, and Blondie’s song Rapture became the first #1 song in the US to feature rap, thanks to her influence by friends Fab Five Freddy, and hip- hop pioneer, Grandmaster Flash.

Frontwoman Harry and guitarist/conceptual mastermind Chris Stein were the founding members of Blondie, along with drummer Clem Burke, whose powerhouse playing always distinguished Blondie’s sound. Their newest project, Pollinator, is a fusion of pop and disco with that ineffable Blondie sound. The newly released album is mostly comprised of collaborations with outside performers and songwriters. The list of collaborators include Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Charlie XCX, Sia, Laurie Anderson, Joan Jett, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, comedian John Roberts, and Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. The album’s first single, “Fun”, sets the tone for the album, with a music video that features technicolor footage of an astronaut flying to Mars cut with scenes of the band performing at a psychedelic rave in space.

The album title, Pollinator, refers to Blondie’s creative cross-pollination over the years with many other icons in the industry. With the fabulous collaborations between Blondie and other artists throughout the studio album, Pollinator is a veritable hive of delicious tracks and beats to enjoy. The Rage and Rapture Tour kicks off on July 5th and features the acclaimed alternative rock band Garbage.

Though the tunes were culled from disparate sources, the feel of the album is impressively unified, with a playful nod to 1978’s groundbreaking Parallel Lines. Harry, Stein, Burke, and company took this raw material and deftly transformed it in the studio into an album that’s quintessentially Blondie. The emphasis is on arrangements that are fast and fun, lyrics that are romantic and teasing, and synth-stoked hooks that evoke the New Wave era. It was Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (Franz Ferdinand, St. Vincent, Sigur Ros, David Byrne, War on Drugs) that brought the late 70’s attitude out of Blondie again. He found himself having breakfast with Debbie and Chris in the summer of 2015. “We hung out for an hour, talked about music, about where they were as people and what they thought a Blondie record should sound like these days. We were simpatico on that.”

“I had more of a deliberate agenda than they did,” says John. “Their agenda was the best agenda: they still love each other; they like playing music, so let’s have fun. At the end of the day Blondie doesn’t have anything to prove. My agenda was more dogmatic. I didn’t want to make a pastiche lifestyle record or a modern pop record that sounded like Blondie being influenced by what’s happening now. I wanted to know what it’s like to be Blondie at this age.” Debbie, Chris, and Clem joined by band members bassist Leigh Foxx, guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen have embarked on a new Blondie summer tour.

Leather Trench by Georgine | Bloomers by Miu Miu | Tights by Falke | Patent Pumps by Laurence Dacade | Earrings by Orchid & Art Deco

We were fortunate enough to chat with the legendary rockstar at Splashlight Studios in Manhattan during her exclusive Iris Covet Book photoshoot.

How have you managed fame as an artist? Do you find that the commercial aspect of making music gets in the way of artistry?

Being a more private type, fame has sometimes been disturbing. But as a commercial artist, it is the goal isn’t it? To become known and get your music out into the world market.

I feel like I see your face and image every day on t-shirts and instagram. Are you ever overwhelmed by the global impact of the band and the image you played a definitive part in creating?

If I stop to think about it, yes it is overwhelming. That’s all part of the game though, isn’t it?

You’ve always seemed to be very reserved and a bit of an introvert in person, but yet you have been able to get onstage and perform in huge venues in front of millions throughout your career. What is the process you undergo to change into that onstage, larger-than-life persona?

I don’t really think of myself as an introvert but I have been described as being very polite. I was encouraged growing up to be well mannered and able to listen to others. To not always have to be the center of attention when in social situations. On stage it’s a different story…….it’s MY stage.

On Debbie: Jacket by Marc Jacobs | Skirt (Worn as a dress) by Comme des Garçons from New York Vintage | Tights by Falke | Pumps by Laurence Dacade 
On Chris: His Own Clothing

Never satisfied to rest on your laurels, Blondie’s incessant need to fly the flag for cross-genre rock never relinquishes because your punk spirit never died. How do you keep your punk spirit alive?

Punk spirit…just stubborn I guess. Always have been. Independence has always been important to me. I grew up in a sheltered home and was always wanting to see more of the big bad world.

How was it collaborating with all of these amazing, boundary-pushing artists such as Sia, Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, and Joan Jett?

Collaboration has always been something I enjoy doing. It can be so much fun tossing ideas around. I loved working with Dev Hynes and Joan Jett, whom I’ve known for years. Sia actually wrote the song [on the new album] and I only met her briefly at a Saturday Night Live party. I’m happy the way it all came together. It was a different approach for us, to draw in all of these things. I feel like we did what we did back then, and we put out these sounds and ideas and now have come full circle. We are pulling it back in, continuing this ongoing chain of events, this circular motion.

You will be touring the country with the legendary rock band, Garbage, fronted by Shirley Manson. Tell us about how this tour collaboration came to be, have you worked together before?

I don’t think we ever worked together before, but I met Shirley many years ago in Scotland when she was singing with Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. Years later we ran into each other at Gary Kurfirst’s office. We were both being managed by Gary at the time. Shirley and her band Garbage are one of my faves.

40 million album sales and countless accolades later (including a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2006 and NME Godlike Genius Award in 2014) has cemented the band’s importance. After all of the success, what inspires you to keep creating new music?

One of the most inspiring things to happen in the last year has been the David Bowie release after his death. I only hope that I can be one-tenth as creative as he has been, and to leave a parting gift of music or art is truly what art is about.

Jacket by Song Seoyoon | T-Shirt by Han københavn

Two of the original members of the band have been replaced with other musicians over the years, how has the new dynamic of Blondie shifted the energy of the band?

Good question. Blondie has always been, or tried to be, a true ensemble situation. Input by musicians or actors in a group is extremely valuable, but not always easy. We have one fucking great band now, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear us play the new material.

When you first moved to New York, it was a much more dangerous and rough city, but that energy also helped fuel many creatives at the time. Now that NYC has gone through so much gentrification and commercialism, do you think it’s possible for artists to make profound music and art in the “new” New York City?

Food for thought…that’s what cities and colleges supply. So why not, in spite of all the odds against it, why can’t a fresh, alert mind be creative in any circumstance. Although chaos is famous for being the founder of great creativity.

Which album or song are you most proud of? And beyond that, what are you most proud of in your life?

I don’t think I can limit myself to one album or song, they all seem connected to each other for me. As for my life, I’m amazed that I actually achieved my dreams and that I’m still at it.

You’ve done 11 albums with Blondie and 5 albums as a solo artist, not to mention compilations and collaborations on other artists’ albums. How do you stay inspired? Is there anything you feel you haven’t said through your art yet?

Knowing what you like and what excites you is the most important part and Blondie is really the only group I’ve ever been in with the exception of singing with the Jazz Passengers for about four years. Fortunately, now I’m on a collision course with environmental issues. As I’ve gotten older and climate, clean air and water have become more important issues for us, I want to do my part to draw attention to these problems and their solutions.

The world lost a great contributor to the arts recently with the passing of your friend Glenn O’Brien. Glenn was very supportive of Iris Covet Book and agreed to be interviewed for our first issue. He was always very generous to emerging creatives. Can you share a favorite memory you had with Glenn?

Oh yes, Glenn was a great writer and a keen observer of the arts. He had such a wonderful style: dry and funny, so sharp. I will miss him. Before he passed he gave me his newest book, LIKE ART which I have enjoyed thoroughly. I have had lots of good times hanging out with Glenn and Chris. Just talking and making fun of things like on TV Party when they were co-hosts. I feel lucky to have known him.

Blondie really incorporated so many different genres and types of music that it seems unfair to call you just a Punk pioneer as many people do. What would you like your music legacy to be?

A lot of the music that I’ve made over the years was never even recorded and maybe this is something special. Food for the spheres. Blondie albums and Deborah Harry albums have had a lot of different musical and cultural influences but this is the city we live in and the world of today. Let’s face it, we can know as much as we want about all the cultures of the world. What we need is time travel.

Patent Coat by Miu Miu | Earrings by Ana Khori

Buy Pollinator at http://www.blondie.net/ or stream on Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon

Art Direction by Louis Liu | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Hair by Adam Markarian | Makeup by Yumi Lee @ Streeters | Manicure by Narina Chan @ Wilhelmina Artists for Chanel Le Vernis in Roubachka | Set Design by Mila Taylor Young @ D+V Management | Editor’s assistant Ben Price | Filming by Scott Keenan | Video editor/post production YaYa Xu | Special Thanks to Splashlight Studios NYC