For the past six years running, CFDA president Diane Von Furstenberg has commissioned renowned art director Trey Laird to make the CFDA journal, a program that's at the organization's annual awards show. "She always just says, 'Do something amazing,' and that's my brief," Laird told us over the phone this week. "It's great to have so much creative freedom." For the 2013 edition, Laird tapped photographer Peter Lindbergh to create a series of pictures to highlight the nominees, which include Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, and Marc Jacobs, and their designs.
The images were shot at Pier 59 on May 7, the day after the Met Ball. (Riccardo Tisci, who co-chaired this year's gala, showed up in a sweatshirt and jeans.) "They're very Lindbergh and minimal," Laird explained, adding that they're meant to look more like portraits than fashion spreads. Pictures of the nominees and honorees are accompanied by several informal shots of a model wearing their designs. Laird specifically paired models and designers who had working relationships — for example, Proenza Schouler's designs are modeled by Sasha Pivovarova, who opened their most recent show, and Alexander Wang's collection is shown on his longtime muse Erin Wasson.
As many of this year's CFDA nominees have been honored previously, Laird says the shoot has become like an annual reunion. "We're like, 'Hey, it’s that time of year again!'" he laughed. Read on for a Q&A about the project, and see the resulting images in our slideshow.
What made you decide to work with Peter Lindbergh this year?
I’ve always wanted him to do this project with me, but it’s always been tricky because he’s based in Paris and so forth. He's a really good friend, and I’ve grown up in fashion with him — we met over twenty years ago, when I was in-house with Donna Karan, and we did all the Donna Karan campaigns throughout the nineties together. He's obviously an incredible fashion-image-maker, but also really talented portrait photographer, so we just made it work this year, and it was a real coup.
The shots are much simpler than last year's. Why is that?
This time around, I really wanted to strip it down and capture fashion in a portrait setting. We decided to do several looks on each model — Peter and I wanted it to be like a running impression, almost like sketches, to show the mood and the feeling of each designer’s collection that they’re nominated for. Normally we just do one key look for each designer, but this time we wanted it to be several looks that, when showed together, made a little story of that designer’s collection.
How did you pick the models for each designer? Did the designers have input?
No, the designers didn’t pick, but we tried to find models that really had the sense of the designer’s work, and brought some character to the collection. In a few cases, I knew certain models had relationships with the designers. Like, Erin [Wasson] is always inspiring to Alex [Wang], and we did Kristen McMenamy for Riccardo Tisci because he’s always loved her and vice versa.
What’s Peter like on set?
He is the nicest, most warm and amazing person. Before he even picks up the camera, he makes everybody feel comfortable, and there is an ease and an effortlessness, but also a sense of drama and emotion. He always wants everyone to be incredibly natural, to the point where we did minimal hair, makeup, and wardrobe.
Is anyone ever difficult to deal with? Some designers are uncomfortable having their pictures taken because they’re used to being on the other side of the camera.
There are always a few people, who I won’t name, who will say, "I want to look like this or I want to look like that," and you roll your eyes, because the ones who are really famous, like Marc Jacobs or Oscar de la Renta, are confident and secure enough to let Peter do his job.
On shooting Oscar de la Renta:
I’ve actually never shot Oscar de la Renta before, so he was a new subject. He was so kind and elegant, really gracious and easy. He loves Peter’s work and was very excited to have Peter do his portrait — he was like, "I need a new headshot anyway, and who wouldn’t want a Peter Lindbergh headshot?" So for me that was a treat, because he is just such an icon.
On shooting Alexander Wang:
Alex came in in his black T-shirt and walked right on set. But there was a little bit of a snafu because Mr. de la Renta’s schedule changed slightly at the last minute, so he came right as Alex’s spot was starting — it was like planes backed up at La Guardia. So I asked Alex to go have a coffee for fifteen minutes or so, while we finished up, and he was like, "Absolutely, whatever Oscar needs." He’s just a really good sport. I think I’ve done Alex’s portrait about six times now, and he is just exactly the same as he always was, no pretense and no diva and no drama.
On shooting Vera Wang:
Peter always eliminates that whole transformation aspect, so it wasn’t about having Vera come in and put on some big gown and become, like, red carpet Vera Wang. When she's working, she always wears her cool leggings and her funky fur vest and weird boyish cap, and she’s got her rock-and-roll tomboy aesthetic. Most people only think of her as this grand wedding designer, but it was just nice to capture people as themselves.
On shooting Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez:
I’ve shot them several times for the CFDA catalogue, and they’ve really continued to evolve every year. I’ve seen them develop this maturity and this confidence. And they would take this as a compliment: They dress sort of like 12-year-old boys. Jack came in wearing this shirt that had some weird graphic on it, and he didn’t like the graphic so he just turned it inside out. And Lazaro had on, like, work boots and khakis and just an old, grubby T-shirt. Peter was like, "You know what’s fabulous about you guys? No one would ever know that you are in fashion.’}They are just so incredibly low-key, even though they’re these American superstars. It’s part of what makes them so cool.