Anna dello Russo, Italian, Extravagant, Style icon. These are only a few words
frequently used to describe the Matriarch of the Fashion blogger fame and the fastest
growing brand of any known fashion editor today. Determined to express her point of
view, ADR has chosen a path that gives her slightly more freedom than that allowed
by the politics and pressures of an increasingly more corporate industry. This season
she managed to add yet another title to the ever growing list of positions played, styled
by Katie Grand-a-minute for Emanuel Ungaro, Anna wasn’t just in attendance, she
was a model in the show. Now, she sits with us to discuss her story, interests and the
system by which she selects her stunning looks from the runways. Before our time
was up, Anna also played dress up with designer and visual artist, Rad Hourani who
both photographed and styled our latest subject exclusively for ONE interviews &
Christopher Michael: Anna Dello Russo… This is your real name?
Anna dello Russo: Yes (laughs), it’s mine.
CM: At what point in life did you realize you were as
obsessed with fashion as you are now?
ADR: I was born in the south of Italy where there is no fashion, and as young as I can
remember, I started to wonder how I could work with fashion because where I was
from, there were no opportunities to do something with it. Where I’m from, there is
just one mini boutique, nothing else…so not having access to it all had caused me to
become quite obsessed. I thought for a moment that I should start my own boutique
but then my father said “No way! After university!? You should go for it all the way, go
to Milan and become what you want, a journalist.”
CM: What did you study at university?
ADR: Historic art, of course that was another reason I loved fashion. If you notice in
all of the antique art, there are all the styles, proportions, colors and composition that
are used in fashion. I studied all historic art, no contemporary.
CM: In the documentary called “CATALK” Andre Leon Talley was asked if he thought
fashion was art, and his response was. “No fashion is not art, fashion is hard work!”
I wanted to ask you this same question…Do you think that fashion is art?
ADR: No, absolutely not. I think fashion is a muse, like music, like art, they are all
muses. Fashion is a popular communication, whereas art is more of an elective
communication. I don’t believe fashion is art, no.
CM: I’ve been told that in the beginning many years ago,
you were very shy… Is that true?
ADR: Yes, I was invisible! I was a beginner, first of all, and secondly I was a hard
worker. At the time I didn’t have time to show off. I spent all my time and energy
learning about photography, about shooting, about modeling. I didn’t ever think to
dress up or put make up on myself because I was just working as much as I could to
understand fashion and the images of fashion. I worked with the best photographers
in the world, if I was next to Helmut Newton, I couldn’t think about hair and make up
on myself! I was such a beginner, but I believe everything comes at the right time.
That’s why I always say to young people now, visibility and blogging and all of that, it
is not enough; don’t think this is the work. That is a beginning, it is a starting point.
After that you have to put your energy into the job, and not just in parties and showing
up to shows. I never used to come to New York for the shows, it was always only
Paris. I remember, if Franca would take us to Paris, it was an incredible season. We
didn’t have time to go and see the shows. I remember thinking, those people are so
lucky to sit on the bench! After the shows in Paris, we would always work right away.
CM: So you would just pull directly from the shows you were watching for the shoot
happening right after the week was done?
ADR: The first day of shows was fantastic…The second day, we would be choosing
the looks from the collections for the stories already. Every month I was doing a
shooting. Back then I was working with about 10 luggages, no assistant. I remember
one time, it was quite funny, one of the American based editors called and said “Hello
may I please speak to the shoe editor?,” and I remember looking at Alice [gentilucci]
going, “Shoe editor? What are they talking about shoe editor?,” because it was just the
two of us in the fashion department, that was it. It was a whole other level. Italians,
we did an incredible job with no money and no assistants. Now it’s like having
revenge, I come just to see the shows and I have time to dress myself up and all of this,
it’s like a miracle.
CM: What originally lead to you leaving Italian Vogue?
ADR: I spent 12 years at Italian Vogue as Fashion Editor, after that Franca asked me
to become the editor in chief of L’uomo Vogue and of course I said yes. I spent another
6 years at L’uomo Vogue, after which I left because I wanted to sort of, start my own
career. I really wanted to go back to working on women. Then I was offered the
position at Japanese Vogue.
CM: It seems that you are the real Matriarch behind the birth of the fashion blogger
fame, after originally suggesting to Stefano and Domenico that they sit the bloggers
front row… How did you come up with this idea?
ADR: I was talking with Stefano and Domenico saying that I believe there is a big
evolution happening right now from the background. With magazines being so
expensive, it was hard to reach the younger audiences and these bloggers were
reaching those young people with their sites. I never felt the power of this evolution as
much as now. We are always talking about the industry and trying to understand
where it is, where it is going, etc. I said, “To me, this is an incredible, incredible
phenomenon.” I’m lucky in that Stefano and I grew up together, we are the same age
and he’s the best friend I have in the fashion industry.
CM: What was the catalyst for you where you decided to really
come out and become your own brand?
ADR: I didn’t come out and talk about my brand, I talked about my freedom. At that
time, I was thinking about my own expression, because of course I love Japanese
Vogue, but in any case, I was thinking to express myself. I thought, I should really
jump in this world and have a voice to really express myself. With magazines, you
don’t really express yourself; you express a corporate vision, you express the vision of
Conde Nast. It’s not really your point of view. You can’t say in the magazine what you
really like, it’s all a very political vision. So I thought, maybe I should spend some
time and energy to finally have my little voice, and now it’s happening.
CM: To the onlooker it would appear as though you are quite a big fan of
social media across the board…
ADR: In the beginning I was so uncomfortable with it all, but now I love things like
twitter; it’s very immediate and you can reach people NOW. Also, during fashion
week it can be very informative. Sometimes if I miss something or forget something
I’ll end up seeing it on twitter. Another example is when I found out that Nicola
Formichetti became the new creative director of Thierry Mugler via twitter. That’s
what makes it incredible, you are staying in touch with your job in a
spontaneous way. It’s really great.
CM: So it goes without saying then that you are a fan of how fashion has evolved
into a much more accessible industry in place of the sort of closed off elitist
world that it used to be…
ADR: Yes, because we spent 20 years closed up in our cage; in the past we sometimes
didn’t go after the shows to say hi to the designer, even. It was more of a snobby
attitude, it was too much. Now I completely love the fact that young people come to me
and talk and you feel that sort of audience. I remember the years I was at L’uomo
Vogue and I didn’t feel the audience. I’d find myself asking, who is the reader of this
magazine? Straight, gay, old, young I had no idea. There was no way to really
experience your audience. I find the way fashion has become now to be far
more real and approachable.
CM: Being fascinated by the industry as a whole and its evolution, with bloggers
having been a huge part of that constant change, what do you see as the next big
evolution in our business?
ADR: That is a good question, I really don’t know where we are going, I really don’t
know. To me, the speed of fashion is slowing down a little now, everyone seems to be
getting to the roots. For example, everyone talking about heritage, roots and the
history of fashion. This is nice.
CM: I think that’s really nice to hear. Everyone has felt such pressure to mass produce and
do so in a hurry, the idea of slowing down and ’smelling the roses’ so to speak is nice.
Speaking of new and change, you’ve been working a lot with Giampaolo Sgura…
ADR: Yes, I love him! He’s from the same city as me. For me, I get very excited when
working with young people and to see how they see things. For me it’s about getting
new and fresh air, and to not get stuck in my position, otherwise it’s already done.
Giampaolo is an example of that fresh air, and at the same time going back to the
excessive fashion of the past but doing it in a modern way.
CM: Who was the first magical moment for you working with a photographer…
ADR: Two moments, one was a moment with Helmut Newton; he took a picture of
me, he was the first one to take a picture of me actually. That was in 1996. He said to
me, “listen, after we finish shooting, I’d love to photograph you.” I was afraid
thinking, is he going to want to shoot a nude picture of me? And said, “Are you sure
Helmut?” and he said “Yes, take your long long black coat…” and we did the picture.
The second was with Steven Meisel. I remember the first time I was so hot it was as if
I had a fever, just from the nerves. Then he arrived and he had black hair and I said
“oh my god, HE looks good too. What do I do!” He was so beautiful and, of course he
was speaking English to me at a time when I did not speak English so well. During
those years there was only one that I missed the chance to work with,
which was Avedon, Richard Avedon.
CM: With all this talk about the 90’s, what sort of changes do you feel have
occurred in magazines today in comparison to publications during the 1990’s…
ADR: First of all, in the 90’s everything was TOP…Top model, top photographer, top
designer, all top. I felt like a little mouse, everything was huge in terms of proportion.
When I used to come into the studio I always felt like such a little mouse, because you
used to arrive and Claudia Schiffer was there, Linda Evangelista, Francois Nars…
Everything was in huge scale. Now, the approach is much more democratic in a way,
much more easy and cool, more approachable. There is a possibility to have different
kinds of levels simultaneously. At that time, the level was pretty pretty high across the
board. I remember some clothes were only reserved for Vogue, no other magazine was
allowed to use them. Now, every magazine looks good because they have access to all
the collections. Of course the economic pressures are starting to become more and
more obvious since the recession, the client and the magazines both have to sell. In
terms of how the work is approached, things are more ‘easy’ now.
CM: Well before there was less of everything, there were 20 models and now there are
3,000. There is more of everything from designers and photographers to stylists and
magazines, all of it… Do you prefer working in this way over how it was when there
was less of everything?
ADR: It’s not about one being better than the other, it’s about each
time being different.
CM: Anna Dello Russo, the lady of looks, going through so many outfits in a day and
over the entire show season. What goes into the selection of your clothing?
ADR: It has to be top level. I love catwalk outfits because they always have a lot of
creativity. Full looks are good, I don’t like mixing. I share the passion with the
designer, why should I mix it? They do very well with the catwalk pieces. I love when
you can look and say “Oh this is a Givenchy, this is Balenciaga,” I love when it’s
CM: You travel quite frequently but you’ve managed to keep your base
in Italy, do you think that will ever change?
ADR: Yes because Italy is such a nice place to live, the quality of life here is so
wonderful. First, of course I have my family here and secondly because it’s such a
great place to live. When I travel around the world I love it, but how you can live in Italy
is so easy. When I’m home in Italy, I don’t need anything, and the best city to go
shopping is still Milan. The best selection, most of the clothes are done in Italy, the
best place to go shopping is in Italy because you have an incredible selection of
everything. Easy access, I still love to travel but I can tell you, in a couple of years I
hope to be in one place and just enjoy the life.
An interview by One Mgmt’s Christopher Michael for models.com
PHOTOS BY Rad Hourani
MAKE UP BY Hung Vanngo
HAIR BY Wesley O’Meara
ANNA DELL RUSSO IS WEARING RAD HOURANI