As a stylist you’re always sort of behind the scenes, then you get thrust into the spotlight and people want to see what you do. Slowly you get used to that and then you go and work at Vogue: the ultimate step.
It’s been a great journey since the announcement, with support from people all over the world. That level of love, people have really embraced what I set out to do. It just shows that no matter what colour you are, how old you are – if I can do it, then you can do it. That’s always been my mantra. I’m from a family of seven kids, and parents that are not that wealthy, and I feel like I represent what’s possible. Everything is possible if you have a passion.
On US Vogue
It was all about finding my own styling persona. Where Italian Vogue had been about narrative, American Vogue was focussing on the one dress that would sell. So you would really focus on the 10 pages you had, and how to communicate with the reader directly. Every piece was magnified. Anna would check every shoe, every shoelace, every glove. Every little detail. I got to learn from the best. I really loved the mix of art and commerce, and the business side of fashion. I was really lucky, those women were incredible.
On Italian Vogue
Franca Sozzani had seen my work in i-D and loved it, so I started working for her. The brilliant thing about Franca was that she could spot talent in the raw. So every time I’d call her up and tell her, “Franca, I’ve got eight ideas!”, she would say, “Give me more!” And later on I discovered that getting a story in Italian Vogue was actually very difficult. Italian Vogue was where I learned all about storytelling, while i-D was where I learned about street fashion. It was all about narratives, like the plastic surgery shoot with Steven Meisel. Franca would literally give me 30 pages, something that never happens anymore.
When I started working as a model I would always ask stylist Simon [Foxton] if he needed an assistant, and he would tell me it was a lot of work. I started helping him with castings and he introduced me to Nick Knight, the incredible British photographer, who then introduced me to i-Dmagazine. I was around 17. I’d go to college, I’d model, I’d go to i-D and then when I was 18, the fashion director of the magazine just offered me a job there!
I had been at American Vogue for seven years when Stefano [Tonchi] called me. He had started at W, which had always been an image-based magazine and was sort of struggling. The level of photography was so high, you had people like Steven Meisel, Mert and Marcus – the best of the best. We had a lot of fun there, it was very celebrity-based, but the beauty of W was turning the commercial part of it into art.
I don’t believe an editor-in-chief has to be one thing or another any more. Franca was a stylist, Anna was a stylist, it’s cyclical. I like to define my world by styling and then sometimes not styling. I can only communicate myself. The world we live in is not black or white.