Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sienna Miller; Vogue Jan 06

It's late September 2005, and it's Miller time, only I'm drinking sencha and waiting for Sienna. Around me are tranquil, hip, and very bourgeois tea connoisseurs, a strangely decadent spectacle that makes me think I am witnessing the final, filigreed twist in the rise and fall of Notting Hill. Kate Moss, the physical incarnation of the neighborhood's glamour and dark side, is in exile after the cocaine-snorting fiasco, which itself followed the swinging allegations/revelations of Pearl Lowe, a musician and lace-curtain-maker (her handiwork is de rigueur in any self-respecting rock chick's window), involving Lowe's boyfriend (Supergrass's Danny Coffey) and Jude Law and the latter's then-wife, Sadie Frost. It's a tarnished, telling time, I'm thinking; and then Sienna enters and announces, from across the room, "Just got to go for a wee!," and I'm immediately struck by her freshness and confidence, even though she herself is a recent veteran of tabloid scrutiny. Let's say it now and be done with it: There was the engagement, there was the nanny, and there was the aftermath. Sienna, who's 23, says, "We're not the first couple to deal with infidelity in a relationship. Lots of couples go through it. He's my best friend. I'm his best friend. I, personally, can't cut someone out of my life, even if he's hurt me. It's a process."

She's drinking a "detoxifying" brew recommended by the tea sommelier (she's come from a heavy weekend at her sister's wedding), and she's wearing black skinny Superfine jeans, a white tank, an oatmeal embroidered pashmina, a tiny black jacket, various cords and charms and slender hippie-ish medallions, and black squashed ballet flats. She carries a black snake Luella bag containing a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (and, I later discover, a passport snap of Mr. Law in her wallet). It looks effortless, hip, and quirky. The pashmina—so out it's in—is a particularly brilliant rethink.

We talk about various things. Sienna is excited about prepping for her role as Edie Sedgwick in George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl. She's been reading the books and watching the films, and she can't wait to meet the actual survivors of the Warhol gang in New York. She's also going to chop off her hair; she hasn't had a short do since she was fourteen and inspired by Winona Ryder. "I looked like a small boy." (She wore a wig for Casanova and doesn't want to do that again.)

We also talk about where to shop in London. She says Matches ("The last thing I bought there was Marc Jacobs boots"), Browns ("They have really good buyers"), and Euforia, where she likes the "quite Hoxton, Japanese-y style clothes" and has picked up ankle boots by Annette Oliviera.

We drink up and jump into the black car waiting outside. There is another car waiting, but it contains paparazzi, and we don't jump into that one.

We scurry from the car into Duro Olowu's tiny shop, OG2. Sienna has never been here before, and immediately zeroes in on the most extraordinary items in the store: a vintage rubber coat by Cristobal Balenciaga, a Cardin-feeling black topper piped in colorful silk by Olowu. Sienna looks great in it, but she chooses to buy a Versace-esque vintage red belt with lots of gold, which counterintuitively she tightens not around her waist but under her breasts—just as when she tries on bangles, they are pushed up to her biceps, and when she tries on a long African necklace she slings it over a shoulder like a gun belt.

This, famously, is her modus operandi. As her sister, Savannah Miller, recalls, "There was a Cartier polo match in England, and it was the first time she had been out since the whole Jude episode. She was staying in the country and had no clothes of her own. She borrowed from her friend's closet a black skirt and wore it around her boobs with a cardigan from the dressing-up box and some size 8 shoes with her mom's gold jewelry. And every newspaper in the country was asking how she does it." Every newspaper in the UK and increasingly in the States follows Sienna's every outfit. "I've thought about wearing really disgusting clothes," she says, laughing, "but that would be a story in itself."

Sienna dashes out of OG2 and into the black car—she seems to have shaken off the tail—and drives away to look at rental apartments. Jude's Maida Vale pad is no longer quite the ticket.

I don't see Sienna for a month, but I see a lot of her nevertheless. There's the picture of her at 26-year-old Savannah's Devon wedding in a Burberry floral dress and a vintage vest, her long hair twisted back like something out of Thomas Hardy. Then there's a Vogue shoot at which, I receive word, she chops her own hair and directs Vogue's hair wizard, Christiaan, as to the remainder: She's on her way to Edie. When I'm in L.A., I overhear another hairdresser saying, "Sienna Miller's cut her hair. I wonder if all the girls are going to go short now?"; by "the girls" he means young, impressionable A-list stars like Lindsay Lohan who watch Sienna's every move. Then, on a different note, I read in the tabloids about a night on the town (London) with Daniel Craig, and another night on the town (Paris) involving Salma Hayek, Sean Penn, Jude, and the elevator at the Hôstes. Oh, and I hear that she went to Morocco with a friend for a break.

Sienna Miller is standing on East Fourth Street, having a morning cigarette. Her hair is short, superblonde, and she wears skintight rocker jeans by Siereks (Polish friends of hers from London), a white tank, an ecru tee (a new buy from Barneys Co-Op), a teeny-tiny leopard knit shrug (also Co-Op), a heavy gold-link chain ("probably cost $1"), and her signature Burberry navy wool fisherman's cap. She wearily makes a statement about the Paris brouhaha. "We met to talk about things in some place that was neutral and not crawling with paparazzi," she says. "I'd been in Morocco; he'd been in Spain. We had a really nice dinner. After dinner we went to Man Ray—Sean Penn is our friend, and he owns it. Salma Hayek is a friend of his, so she came. I spoke to her all night; Jude barely said a word. And the next day we had lunch. There was no scene, no crying at tables, no nothing. I was there for the whole thing. It's like, it's extraordinary. At the end of the day it's laughable, because I would never, even if I wanted to, go into a public place and start screaming and sobbing. And then he apparently dragged me into an elevator! I would tell you right now, I would laugh at myself if I had." As for the Daniel Craig gossip: "We did a film together three years ago and have been great friends ever since—and apparently you're not allowed to have male friends." She stamps out her cigarette with her Marc Jacobs flats. "Tough break, Sal; gotta be thick-skinned." She heads back into the salon to pick a color. Shell-pink.

Before the thick skin on Sienna's soles can be removed, the actress has to skip out of her Siereks denims because they're so drainpiped they can't be pushed up. No problem: She slips off her jeans, revealing Agent Provocateur undies with long black satin ribbons at the hips, and settles down in a towel for her milk-and-honey foot treatment. It's a real treat since, as befits an English rose, hers is a very low-maintenance beauty.

We talk fashion and films. As to fashion, Sienna's look is undergoing revisions. There's the matter of the new hair, which "makes you feel a bit hard-core, which is nice. No more boho chic! Those two words make me sick now. I feel less hippie. I just don't want to wear anything floaty or coin-belty ever again. No more gilets"—she means vests—"or cowboy boots!" Part of this stems from her immersion in all things Edie, but another large part is a reaction to the mass imitation of her look in chain stores everywhere. "I have all this beautiful stuff from the sixties and seventies that I collected and love—and now someone can get it for like £10 in River Island"—a British high-street store—"and there are twelve-year-olds wearing exact perfect replicas of my mother's Moroccan belt. It's bizarre."

So what, I ask, is she adding to the wardrobe? From Barneys, flapperish satin hairbands, and from Colette ("the best shop") "fantastic Lanvin red velvet Minnie Mouse shoes, and Terry de Havilland wedgies. I normally don't like wedges, but they're really snaky, really rock-'n'-roll." She's also picked up a man's striped oxford by Thom Browne/Libertine, a denim tailcoat from Superfine, and blue ankle boots from Marc Jacobs on The engagement ring is gone. The cocktail ring she's wearing is a beautiful diamanté-encrusted blue stone she got "in some old antique sale. It's a good one, though, a proper knuckle-duster. You could do some damage punching someone with that if I were screaming in a restaurant in Paris."

We return to the real drama. Casanova was fun and "very different. Nothing to do with being sexy. Nothing to hide behind. I'm looking forward to being seen as something other than a young naked wannabe actor." Which is not, actually, how she is viewed by the men she has worked with. Lasse Hallström, Casanova's director, is impressed: "It's rare to encounter such confidence in a young actor." Her costar Oliver Platt says, "I'm very excited for her because when people see the movie, it will take the focus off her off-screen activities. It was incredible how still and mature her performance was. She has the innate knowledge of letting the camera come to her." She's also a lot of fun on set—"a dice-playing, joke-telling vixen," in Platt's words.

The thing about Sienna, as I'm discovering, is that she's a very game, very upbeat, very companionable sort. She's also very smart, very clued-in—she can talk at length about contemporary fiction, Blairism (Tony, not Linda), and her desire to work with the likes of Alfonso Cuarón and Walter Salles—as well as amazingly levelheaded about the phenomenon that has been constructed around her. "There's just a huge market for celebrity, and I fell in love with someone who happened to be a famous actor but happened to be a million other things to me."

We arrive at the extremely unpretentious vintage store just as the co-owner Edith is unlocking the store. She looks at us as if she's just been mugged. "Can I have a few minutes?" she stammers. "I'm sorry, but this morning.…" Of course, we say worriedly. Sienna asks, "Are you OK?" The girl looks more stricken than ever. "I'm just so honored to have you here," she quavers to Sienna.

Sienna and I nip into Economy Candy to give the poor thing ten minutes to adjust. Then we head back to the store. She buys: two belts, the first another tacky knockoff Versace ("gotta be done"), the second a straw-and-leopard-print number ("more eighties than me; I think it will be fun"), a slinky black jersey halter evening dress, a beaded black fifties V-neck shell, and a pair of thigh-high, zip-crossed suede boots with sections of fuchsia, yellow, orange, and red. Sienna walks out of the store in the boots, and into…

Sienna has never met Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, but they quickly bond over dogs (she has two mutts; they have a Newfoundland and a miniature something), over star tattoos (she has one on her lower belly; they each have one behind an ear), and over Edie Sedgwick (their fall 2005 collection was all about that bad, bad Chelsea girl). The three play dress-up, Sienna displaying her ex-model's lack of inhibition about getting undressed. They discover a shared sense of proportions; Sienna loves the mid-calf lengths the guys have done for spring, as well as the smocky top, which she wears with her Agent Provocateur. "I'm sorry I'm flashing my stretch-marked ass," she says with brazen charm. I remember something Roland Mouret said about the actress, whom he dressed for the Venice Film Festival: "Sienna is what happens every decade in London; this real new person that represents a generation. She has all the ingredients of what a British girl is about in the twenty-first century: She's from a nice family but down-to-earth, is incredibly charismatic but doesn't believe it, and has this idea of quality but is down-to-earth. She's not playing the game. She's just being herself."

Sienna wants to hear Edie's voice and has been told that the brilliant artist René Ricard might have rare film footage he shot back in the day. Sienna is familiar with the hotel: Her father's guru still has a practice on the seventh floor.

I take Sienna behind the front desk and introduce her to the legendary proprietor, Stanley Bard. "You look like Edie," Bard says delightedly. "What was she like?" she asks. Bard shrugs. "When she wasn't using, she was fine. But she was a drug addict. I remember Nico, I remember Ultra Violet.… It was like a cult." He directs us to Edie's old place on the first floor. "It probably hasn't changed since she left," he says, and he may well be right. Sienna, squinting as she surveys the room, says, "This is where she had the fire. This is where she crawled on her hands and knees." Back at the front desk, she asks Bard what caused the fire. "Candles and cigarettes," he says with the stoicism of one who has endured more than a few youthquakers in his time. "The usual."

René Ricard, meanwhile, is not answering his phone. Nevertheless, the consensus is that he's: a) upstairs and b) too volatile to be approached directly by Sienna. "You can't go up there," Bard says. "He's paranoid." He turns to a passing hotel resident. "This is the girl who's going to play Edie," he says. "Can you take her up to see René?" The tenant edges toward the elevator. "No, man, I just got back from Europe today. I can't. He's crazy." I ask another. "Don't ruin my day," he replies. "He's crazy." Finally, another painter—a young Texan in a cowboy hat who sits all night in the lobby working on a picture of the lobby—strides over and says to Sienna, "I'll take you up, ma'am. I can do this."

We go up to Ricard's floor. "Stay here," the cowboy says. We sit on a bench near the elevator and watch him disappear behind a corner in the hallway. We hear hammering on a door. Then we hear kicking of cowboy boot against door. Then we hear hammering, kicking, and yelling all at the same time: "Reneee!" The cowboy returns. "He's not in. Or he's not answering."

"I love this place," Sienna says. "I want to stay here."

Brigid and Sienna have been collaborating to ensure that Edie, an icon of unknowability as much as anything, has some psychological substance as a screen character. Berlin, Sedgwick's friend, says, "Sienna's very brave to take this on"—not least, in Berlin's view, because capturing Edie essentially involves capturing a very fleeting moment in time. When Sienna frets about getting Sedgwick's elusive voice right, Berlin reassures her. "You're just dealing with somebody who didn't have a long life. It's the press. They make it out now—it's 2005—like she was this great superstar. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have much to work with." Berlin doesn't think Miller need lose a pound to play the sylph, although the actress has told me privately that she will: "If you are going to do that character, you have to go there. And she was skinnier than me. She was scary-kinny." Berlin passes on one vital tip: "Edie didn't take off her false eyelashes. She just put more on."

When Sienna and I alight from her car, she is attacked by a swarm of paparazzi the likes of which I have only seen once before (with David Beckham and family). It's horrifying and relentless. It fills you with a kind of awe for Sienna Miller's resilience. "She's doing the best that she can," says her friend the designer Matthew Williamson, "and holding her head high. She's a smart girl, and she's going to be fine."

I call Sienna, who's in London, to check in. First of all, the hair? "I've cut off more of the wee bits at the side, and it's got a bit of a fringe." The wardrobe? She's wearing the Lanvin shoes all the time, notably to a Tuesday-night club night at the Café Royale. The black shell has made an appearance with black leggings and one of the flapper hairbands. And, you know, him? "Jude and I will always be the best of friends. We're still incredibly close. We're trying to work our stuff out. It's the same as it's been for the past few months, and we're sort of together at the moment. I don't know where we'll be at in three months. We have stuff we need to talk about." Privately, that is.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Shaun DeWet; GQ Jan 04

Soon you'll be seeing male model Shaun De Wet everywhere - in magazines, on billboards, on television and on runways. He'll travel the world, become rich and land any woman he wants, all before his twenty-second birthday. Nice work, if you can get it by: Michael Paterniti.
He walks through strobe and electric air, wearing silk suits and 1950s tennis outfits, chain-mail vests and, once, unbelievably, a cashmere diaper. His is not to question why. His is not to ponder too deeply the cashmere diaper, let alone the ugly, frozen planets at the edge of existence or the huddled, tattered-shoed masses. He sometimes walks wearing $1,000 loafers of the finest calfskin and then, the next moment, walks barefoot.

He's neither waif nor muscled lunker. He never works out, does very little except occasionally relinquish himself to the hands of a masseuse or manicurist to keep up appearances. But he walks a lot, through purple-lit alleys walled with people who want him - or, more precisely, who want what he wears. He walks the runways in Paris, Berlin, New York, Milan - wherever the money's best. In front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of admirers, he has walked to a soundtrack of women groaning in erotic ecstasy, and he has walked to street-thug boasts about the thrill of capping cops. He's the bullet and the G-spot.

No matter what the venue, the walk is virtually the same. It's nothing he learned deliberately and it's nothing he's had to practice. He bends slightly forward, head leading, mouth fastened, serious-looking to the point of menace, but a kind of empty menace, an unmenacing menace defined at its center by a blankness onto which others project their own ideas about sex, power, money and culture. He is merely a movie screen. A bauble. Pez. When he appears before the crowd, his blue eyes gaze straight ahead, receiving and reflecting nothing. His face is its own landscape, one of planed surfaces that change with the light, the mood, the dress. He has small ears, full lips, a strong, straight nose. He has high cheekbones and a forehead that has a kind of Cro-Magnon power. And yet he seems delicate somehow. He's better looking than Keanu Reeves, the person people have said he vaguely resembles. He thinks he looks like his dad.

Mostly, people don't care what he thinks - or even what his name is. Despite being one of the world's top models, despite having had contracts with Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein, he's only a face, a shell. Even as he looms on posters in store windows or appears in magazine spreads, even as he walks the runways of the world, few people pause to wonder whether he believes in God or wants kids someday or even if he had a heroin problem years ago. He decorates our culture, is being used up by it, and he knows this. He was born beautiful, be he wasn't born dumb. If people condescend, that's their problem. He's 21 years old and owns a car and a house in South Africa, rents a swank apartment on Gramercy Park in New York with his model girlfriend and travels the world, partying with other beautiful people and drinking Cristal. Nice work, if you can get it. By the way, his name is Shaun De Wet. You've already met him thirty, forty, fifty times without knowing it. He was the wordless one, lurking there in your closet. He was the one who wore your coat, your suit, your checked shirt, your striped socks, even your cashmere diaper.

And that's why you bought it.


"This place is crisp," says Shaun, lounging in the lobby bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. He arrived from Paris last night for the most important biannual event in men's fashion, the five-day run of shows known as Fashion Week. Fashion Week is the official rollout of the spring line for many of the world's most famous fashion houses, including Gucci, Armani, Prada, Versace and Calvin Klein, as well as smaller houses like Neil Barrett, John Varvatos and Romeo Gigli - each fighting for it's slice of a $52 billion industry. During this time - and another five days in winter - the fashion world freezes in one place to admire, pillory, gossip, condemn, imbibe, inhale and celebrate the newest sartorial confections. Shaun first came to Milan in January 2000, which makes this his eighth season walking the runway. In both dog and fashion years, he's a middle-aged man, even though, sitting here between casting calls and a fitting, he has the lithe, man-boy appearance that is de rigueur at the moment. He is six feet one, 160 pounds with a thirty- one-inch waist, and he seems mostly devoid of body hair except for the coppery mane on his head. He wears several gold rings and slouches a bit as he slurps San Pellegrino and takes a few bites from a chicken club sandwich. Though he's staying at another hotel - one favored by models that is decidedly more hip and reasonably priced - he admits he could get comfy here, glancing around the lobby, a spectacle of industry power brokers and stars like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones who are in town for the shows and the Versace party. "These are good fucking potato chips," he says.

Though the shows begin tomorrow, Shaun has received only a few confirmations. This is not unusual, even for the top male models. And so the week begins with a rush of casting calls and pent-up anxiety. Once a model is picked - usually between fifteen and thirty are chosen per show - there's a fitting the day before and then a call time, two to three hours before the show itself, during which the models are prepped and dressed. Because of his elite status, Shaun doesn't have to suffer the indignity of waiting with 100 other models for hours on a baking sidewalk, but even in prearranged auditions, he's subjected to the same scrutiny of those who choose - often a designer and his or her lieutenants. Each meeting becomes a kind of quorum, contest and validation of something that Shaun doesn't entirely control: his "look." In his case, that look is ever pliable and easily manipulated, and it's exactly what designers have counted on to sell millions of dollars of clothes.

"I'm happy to be what other people want me to be, as long as I'm being paid for it," Shaun says. "I'll do pretty much anything for the right pay - wear fur, pose nude. I haven't posed nude yet, but if it was tastefully done, I would."

Because everything unfolds so quickly here, Shaun is a slave to his cell phone, jumping to attention each time it rings. "This is Shaun," he says, answering. It's his agent Natalie, telling him he's on for the Laura Biagiotti show.

"Wicked," says Shaun. "Peaches and cream. Got it... Okay. Ciao."

Shaun has a smoky voice with the slightest Afrikaner inflection, nearly passing for British. Every once in a while, he runs into a word that seems to cause a synaptic misfire, a half-second stammer. In that most fleeting of moments, he appears not so much a model-god at the center of some charmed, white-hot hipness, but a sweet nervous kid who hopes people will continue to like him.

For Shaun, despite the frisson of the Four Seasons lobby and the glamour he adds to it, Milan is yet another moment of reckoning for him. With the clock ticking, he's not yet been picked for Gucci, Prada or Calvin Klein, all important "gets," both for the money and for the prestige, and because they may then lead to an exclusive contract. Contracts are what separates the made from the unmade models. With his contract for Hugo Boss, Shaun earned roughly $200,000 for five days of actual work.

"We're waiting to hear on a lot of stuff," says Shaun, his legs bouncing nervously beneath the table. And what if everyone says no? Is this the beginning of the end? And how weird would it be to have this celebrity life and then, suddenly, be washed-up at the age of 21?


Truths about male models:

1. In a business where the designers and stylists are predominantly gay - and where many assume that male models are, too - the majority of male models seem not to be gay at all. "I know everyone," says Shaun, "and only two models that I know of are gay."

2. Summing up male-model attitudes towards their female counterparts, one male model named Damien says, "Most girl models are social-climbing bitches who won't talk to you unless you're loaded. You see 18-year-old girls with 50-year-old wankers all the time." Gisele ranks high on the list of those they dislike. Another model says, "She travels around with this little fucking white terrier named Vida, and sits there either talking about herself or her dog. One time, I did a job with her, and we were there for hours sweating it out in suits, waiting for her to show up. When the limo pulled up, she got out with Vida and said, 'What are you standing around for?' and another guy turned to one of the stylists and said very loudly, so Gisele could hear, 'Will someone tell Gisele to shut the fuck up?'"

3. On the other hand, most male models love Christy Turlington.


On the second afternoon of fashion week, Shaun is trying on outfits at a fitting for the designer Romeo Gigli, a smaller fashion house run by Romeo Gigli himself. The confirmations have begun to roll in, and Shaun is here with another male model named Jeremy Hassol, a guy who, like Shaun, has had past good luck in Milan, especially with Gucci, the biggest payday of the week. If picked again, Jeremy stands to make $15,000 for one walk down the runway. "Gucci is basically what I'm here for," says Jeremy.

Though seeming opposites, Shaun and Jeremy are best friends. They have both lived at the highest echelons of the male-model world for four years now, which means they gross somewhere up to half a million dollars a year - before doling out 20 percent to their agents and then covering expenses. When not specifically travelling on contract work - and for nearly every model, runway work isn't contract work - models pay their own way, or take a loan from their agency on a gamble that this season's runway work will prove lucrative. So Shaun and Jeremy split a room. Besides that, there are the bar tabs and room service and their ever cheerful driver named Stefano. After Milan, there's the trip to Paris for more shows, the hotel in Paris, the clubs in Paris - and finally, the flight home to New York.

Whereas Shaun projects a kind of assumed, if not actual, fair-haired refinement, Jeremy is all id and swagger, with a scar on his neck and a king's crown tattooed on his shoulder. He's leaner and taller than Shaun, with dark hair, thick brows, startling hazel eyes and a mouth that doesn't stop moving. Sometimes, when he passes Shaun in the strobes of the runway, he'll mutter something under his breath just to see if he can goad Shaun into laughter. Shaun and Jeremy dress in a downstairs room before wall-length mirrors, attended by three young women who pick clothes from a rack and dress the models. Romeo Gigli's clothes are carnivalesque: jarring combinations of stripes and bright colors. Trying on a pair of oversize shoes, Jeremy says, "I feel like a fucking clown." As one of the women kneels before Shaun to pick up a pair of shoes from which he's just stepped, he simultaneously strips to his white Skivvies. In another context, it might be the prelude to sex, but both the woman and Shaun wear impassive expressions. "I got used to the naked stuff a long time ago," says Shaun. "It's hard to be a model if you don't."

When the outfits seem right, Shaun and Jeremy are sent down a hallway and up a flight of stairs to where Gigli sits wearing white beach floods and a sheer pink tank top. He smiles at the models but then turns deadly serious as he evaluates their various ensembles. Standing before Shaun, Gigli pouts in consideration, adjusts a lapel, twists a tie liminally to the right, then sends Shaun up and back, and then Jeremy, in wild-striped suits. When he is pleased, he has them photographed with a Polaroid, and then the photos are pinned beside pictures of other models in their outfits on a bulletin board that will serve as a blueprint for the show. The two models head back for another outfit. On the way, Jeremy notices a young blond woman in a white shift who sits with her tan legs crossed at a downstairs table for visitors. She is the very pretty girlfriend of a male model who has just arrived, and Jeremy can't keep his eyes off her.

"Man, do you see her checking us out?" Jeremy says to Shaun. "She doesn't mind looking, does she?" He keeps leaning, looking through the door at the woman.

"She's a little too big to be a model," says Shaun, meaning she's not stick thin.

"But she's hot," says Jeremy. And then, as if to explain why he's looking back, he says with a touch of both utter bewilderment and longing, "Dude, I haven't gotten laid in a month."

Later, out on the street, Shaun and Jeremy linger in the orange glow of a slow-setting sun, waiting for Stefano to come around. A light wind, the temperature of hot tea, luffs the leaves of a nearby almond tree. Shaun's cell phone rings: Natalie again. He listens intently, looking serious, then grins. "Wicked," he says into the phone. "I'll be there. Ciao."

After hanging up, he doesn't say what the call was about. He has two fittings and another casting call to get to, while Jeremy, whose phone isn't ringing and who's still waiting to hear on a number of shows, is heading back to the hotel. This must be model etiquette, or one friend protecting the other for a moment. But later the truth outs: Shaun got Gucci, and Jeremy didn't.


More truths about male models:

1. They hate Milan as much as Milan hates them. In bars here, there are signs that read NO MALE MODELS. If female models are desirable, appetizing nightclub garnish, male models are dangerous because they attract other men's girlfriends and because they're not quick to back down from a fight. One year a model showed up with a broken nose after a bar-room brawl, and an influential stylist, seeing his purpled eyes and bent proboscis, said, "It's perfect. Don't change a thing."

2. Models like Shaun will pocket about $15,000 for five days in Milan, but laws prohibit traveling with excessive amounts of currency. Thus, models have multiple foreign bank accounts and somtimes buy gold jewelry to transport their earnings home.

3. The grail for most runway models is the Gucci show, because the money's great and, backstage, there's a cornucopia of M&M's and candy bars, Big Macs and free smokes. Finally, there's the unusually vivid pep talk, delivered each year by one of the show's organizers: "You're the fifteen hottest guys in Milan," it begins, "and every woman out in that room wants to fuck you. I want to fuck you. You're all badasses, and when you walk out there every eye will be on you and they'll want to fuck you..." And so it goes. "He definitely makes you feel pretty special," says one model, "but he could just say, 'You're the man,' and leave it at that."


Nine a.m. on Tuesday, the third day of Fashion week, and Shaun is backstage at the Missoni show, where quarters are cramped and windowless. There's been a building momentum to his week as he's been confirmed for show after show and, with Stefano at the wheel, he's crisscrossed Milan at all hours of the day and night to arrive on the next designer's doorstep.

Now he and a model from Kentucky named Boyd, who has spent the past year as the face of Christian Dior, sit before mirrors that run the length of the wall, worried over by stylists who juggle makeup brushes, curlers, blow-dryers and cans of L'Oreal Elnett. One dabs foundation under Shaun's eyes; another mousses Boyd's hair. Both models slouch in their chairs, in T-shirts and low-slung jeans, staring blankly ahead, smoking, accepting as a matter of course all this fuss.

In the bounce of opposite mirrors, their images reflect to infinity, yawning. Thirty male models are scheduled for the show today, wearing thirty outfits in all. As yet, though, only twenty-nine have shown up. It's Jeremy who's MIA. "Where is he?" Shaun says out loud to no one in particular. Last night, Shaun returned after midnight to the hotel to find Jeremy loaded and dervishing on champagne in the lobby bar. "There was no stopping him," Shaun says, adding that he's left Jeremy sometime after 2 a.m. lying faceup on the bar, swigging vodka straight from a bottle. "He never made it back to the room." Nearby, a collection of already styled models play Hacky Sack. Another model, a solidly built, long-haired American named Chris (as in Chris Grossarth; this Missoni show was Spring/Summer 2004), goes from one model to another, looking grave and telling each he has a very important question. He pauses solemnly before asking.

"Would you rather have breasts or a vagina?" he says.
"You mean, if I were a woman?" says a bare-chested model tapped to wear a tight bathing suit for the show.
"No," says Chris, "you're a man, and you're either going to be given breasts or a vagina. Which one?"
"Neither. Besides, I don't have room for a vagina."
"No. That's not the point. You have to choose."
"Jesus," says the model. "I have to choose?"
"That's what I said," says Chris. "There's no easy out."

Meanwhile, the stylists have released Shaun. Whereas at the Valentino show the theme was, according to one stylist, "big, luxurious hair" - and Shaun sported a hair salad right out of Munchkinland - the Missoni look this season is blessedly neat and natural. Shaun lights another cigarette and drifts over to fill a cup of coffee. Then he pulls out his cell phone and stares at it a moment, as if hoping for divination. During the time they've been friends, he's never known Jeremy to miss a show. As much as there's money at stake for Jeremy, there's his reputation. And without that, he won't work again.

"Breasts or vagina?" Chris says, moving down a line of guys, each standing before his own rack of clothing, waiting to be dressed. "Breasts or vagina?"

Shaun dials a number, asks to speak with someone, and a moment later he's on the phone with Jeremy, who's in bed with a fortysomething female agent from Los Angeles, one who'd extended an open invitation for sex their first night in Milan. Shaun hangs his head so others can't overhear and implores Jeremy to come down to Missoni right away. He listens a minute, shakes his head and hangs up. "He said, 'Fuck it. Tell 'em my father died,'" says Shaun.

Approaching showtime, a woman calls out in English: "We're going to need cigarettes out soon. First costume in fifteen minutes." Chris then makes an announcement of his own - "Guys, I have eleven vaginas and no breasts!" - which is received with scattered golf applause. Shaun glances at his watch, pulls out his cell phone, and begins to dial, but there's no signal now.

"He's going to wake up in a few hours and realize he made a huge mistake," he says. "We're a dime a dozen around here, and they'll have someone in two seconds to replace him."

Moments later, the models are dressed and then lined up, fussed over again by a legion of stylists. Sure enough, Jeremy's place has been filled by a guy who looks like Jeremy. Outside, in the theater, the crowd quiets and the music begins - the usual loud-thumping, sexed- up soundtrack of this dreamworld. And the man-boys, no longer joking and smiling but turned rather stern and in character, begin their march down the runway. Shaun is somewhere in the middle of the line but no longer looks like himself, among all the others who no longer look like themselves. They are nameless faces, shells, bound in the world's finest threads.

When Shaun walks out, there's a white flash of camera lights - and the collective, electric gaze of a packed house assembled to worship or ridicule. He's the bullet and the G-spot. On him, the clothes liquefy and shimmer. And for those who doubt it, imagine this world without Shaun: You couldn't pay people enough money to come to Milan at the swampy end of June to see these clothes rolled out on a hanger. It just would never, ever work.


Final truths about male models:

1. Women speak to them in threes.

2. Men pretend to ignore them while often studying them more closely than women do.

3. The cost of beauty - the poking, the prodding, the pin sticking, having to wear G-strings or heavy wool sweaters in the sweltering sauna of Milan in June - is balanced by the fine sum that beauty gets paid. "It's a pretty easy job," says one model. "We walk up and back. We sit around and get photographed with beautiful women. And then there's the afterparty."

4. Male models excel at the afterparty.


On the last full day in Milan, just before everyone jumps on flights to Paris for three more days of shows, a famous fashion house throws a private bash for a few hundred of its closest friends. This is something Shaun has been looking forward to all week - the chance to chill and party. And there's plenty to celebrate: In the end, he bagged the biggies - Gucci, Prada and Calvin Klein - and had fun with the littler houses like Verri and Nicole Farhi.

In all, he did twelve shows. And throughout the fourteen-hour days, he was polite and earnest, punctual and perfectly moldable. He got mad only once, when a woman, one of the organizers who gypsies from production to production, asked for his name when he arrived at another show. "Shaun," he'd said. And then, under his breath: "You should know that by now."

The only black mark was Jeremy, who after missing Missoni never showed up for Romeo Gigli. While Shaun was having his hair shampooed, moussed and dried for the second time that day, his cell phone rang. It was Jeremy.

"I'm gone, bro. I'm quitting," he said. "Yeah, I'm on my way to the airport right now." And just like that, he was on a plane back to New York.

"Maybe if he'd come around and apologized or kissed some ass...," says Shaun, "but it's his choice. He says he wants to go back to college at Columbia. He gets, like, straight A's there."

The bash is thrown in a huge open room, and the DJ spins a mix of techno, Ibiza dance and old-school disco. The crowd is a sweaty mash of everyone from young male and female models in torn jeans to older fashionistas who, three decades ago, might have worn fuschia Nehru- collared shirts irony-free to an event like this. At either end of the room are bars manned by shirtless male models wearing short shorts. Several press through the tight crowd, as if scripted to do so, retrieving bottles of champagne, dancing closely with the most enthusiastic taker. And there are many enthusiastic takers.

On the dance floor, Jake Boyle, a New York model, wearing a T-shirt that is safety-pinned and scrawled with punk band names in ink, is talking to two sisters, twins who both model, swaying with a drink in each hand. Boyd stands near one corner, talking to several women. It turns out that Dior has picked another model for their new campaign. "They told me to lose weight," Boyd says. "But I'm blowing over as it is. I mean, I'm becoming a man. I can't be a boy forever."

Meanwhile, Shaun moves through the crowd, downing glasses of champagne, greeting his righteous male-model posse with big hand slaps and soulful chest bumps while gently double-bussing those women he knows.

When the music goes tribal, Shaun makes his way up to the DJ booth and positions himself above the crowd, pointing to his friends and rocking to the music. With him is a nonmodel brunet, who's spent the evening moving closer and closer. Then all at once, with some surge in the music, she pushes up against his body and kisses him. Perhaps it's that Shaun is very serious about his new girlfriend - "I just moved in with her, man, and I'm not going to blow it" - but he politely accepts her kiss, only as if he were taking her coat, then does nothing to encourage her. Instead, he goes right back to rocking with the crowd.

Out on the street afterward, at what is now about 4 a.m., a group of male models loiter. A former Guess? Jeans model, a Brazilian with anything but little-boy pecs, guzzles from a vodka bottle while sitting on a motorbike. Shaun begins looking for a taxi while Jake, the punker from New York, decides he's going to run back to his hotel. Just takes off running, his long gazelle legs driving him sideways for about four or five steps until he leans like Pisa, then smacks down on the pavement. Again and again - each time with a sickening thud. As he makes his jagged way down the street, several people in taxis pull up to ask if he needs a ride, only to be met with a string of obscenities and another face-plant. When he reaches a second traffic light down the street, he simply disappears.

Fashion is meant to be fantasy, the magic thread sewn into the lattice of our occasionally humdrum lives, an expression of our own creativity and fetishes and aspirations. But the difference between us and Shaun is that, on the runway, he wears the clothes he does for few of these reasons. He wears them primarily for survival and profit. He's a mercenary who dreams of one day being the first male supermodel identifiable, finally, by the thing that eludes most people now: his name.

Tomorrow the shows move to Paris, Berlin, New York. Another season will arrive, and with it a new parade of faces and bodies and perhaps even a new Shaun De Wet. You may notice these faces, you may not. But on the empty streets of Milan at 4 a.m., the real Shaun De Wet waves down a cab and heads back to his hotel room, which is now minus a roommate. For the moment, he has survived another season in Milan. His call for tomorrow morning's show is 8 a.m., and he plans to be there on time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mary-Kate Olsen; W Jan 06

Her messy hair, giant sunglasses and wardrobe full of decaying designer threads have influenced everyone from John Galliano to the girls at the mall. But lately Mary-Kate Olsen has had more on her mind than whether she can wear leggings with heels. There's the responsibility of her $1 billion company, the paparazzi who shadow her every move and the fresh heartache over a tabloid-worthy breakup. Now she's leaving college and her twin sister, Ashley, behind—at least for the semester—and making a fresh start in L.A. Her goals? Get healthy, learn to put herself first and find work as "just an actress" for a change.

Sipping a Diet Coke in a private room at New York's Soho House, Mary-Kate Olsen, the Full House star-turned-junior tycoon, is fiddling with one of her many Balenciaga motorcycle bags. With its dangling leather lariats, signature woven handles and distressed bronze buckles, the bag is as essential to her famously derelicte style as her giant sunglasses and knee-skimming thrift store?chic sweaters. The version she's carrying today was originally mint green, but it's so dingy, covered with stains, pen marks and even a chewed-up piece of gum, that it looks almost gray.

"It explains my life," Olsen says, sighing, when asked about her beloved accessory's sorry state. Pressed to elaborate, the 19-year-old is quick to say that she was "just messing," that she simply meant she has a tendency to wear things out. But Olsen might in fact be on to something. The beat-up bag is an apt metaphor for her current condition: an oft-imitated emblem of chic that over the past year and a half has been dealt its fair share of bumps and bruises.

In May 2004 New York Minute, a big-screen teen comic caper in which Olsen starred opposite her sister, Ashley, fizzled at the box office. The following month, Mary-Kate checked in for a six-week stay at a treatment center for an eating disorder. June also brought Olsen's 18th birthday and her ascension to the position of copresident, along with Ashley (who declined to comment for this article), of Dualstar Entertainment Group. The billion-dollar multimedia company oversees the production of their videos and movies as well as Mary-Kate and Ashley books, dolls, furniture, rugs, clothing and cosmetics.

As her tumultuous summer was coming to a close, it looked, for a while at least, like Olsen would get to enjoy a more typical rite of passage: starting college. But when she matriculated at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study in August, she was met with overwhelming media coverage of her every move—apartment jockeying, nights out at Butter and regular jaunts to the Union Square Starbucks. Then, this past fall, just as Mary-Kate was settling into Manhattan life and her sophomore year, Paris Hilton started dating Stavros Niarchos III, the Greek shipping heir and Olsen's boyfriend of five months. That, it seems, was the straw that broke the camel's back. In October, MK, as her friends call her, took a leave of absence from NYU and moved back to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.

"It just got really hectic and I started feeling the city," says Olsen. "My world was really small when I was here." When asked if there was a specific incident that made her want to leave, Olsen shrugs: "I think we can all guess."

According to Olsen's best friend, Hayden Slater, the Hilton affair was very much a catalyst for the move. "She's really hurt. Did I see it coming? Absolutely not," he says. A senior at NYU, Slater met Olsen through her ex-boyfriend David Katzenberg and had been taking an acting class with her this past fall. "She likes to keep on the down-low and just hide out, and it's obviously really hard, especially with everything going on recently. She needed to get away from New York."

Olsen is loath to talk about Hilton, although she does concede that she unwittingly introduced her to Niarchos. "[Paris and I] always only had nice things to say about each other," she says.

"Now I guess you can tell we're not talking." Of her former boyfriend, Olsen says, "I miss him and I love him and I don't speak with him anymore. It's a hurtful and painful subject. I've pretty much been with someone my whole life, so this is a hard time for me."

And it's particularly depressing to consider that the man at the center of the Mary-Kate and Paris feud is a 20-year-old Greek playboy who, according to the tabloids, recently paid a homeless man $100 to douse himself in soda outside a Burger King. Olsen says of the tale: "I'm not going to comment on that. It's a disgusting, horrible story, and all I can do is hope it's not true. I never knew that person. Now can we change the subject?"

The day we meet, Olsen looks surprisingly sprightly for someone with a broken heart. She's wearing a long, one-of-a-kind coat she bought at Maxfield, her favorite store in L.A. "I love getting amazing jackets," she explains, "because you can wear your pajamas underneath and everyone's like, 'Oh, fabulous jacket,' and I'm like, 'You should see what's underneath!'"

What's underneath today is a tiny Dries Van Noten floral-print minidress that barely reaches her thighs. It's a rather skimpy choice for November, and she has finished off the ensemble with a pair of teetering Minnie Mouse?style maryjanes—a departure from the demure flats for which she's known. "I feel like showing off my legs," Olsen says, lifting them in the air. "I feel a little sexier today."

Though Olsen expresses this sentiment almost as a throwaway, it's not an insignificant one. For someone who's been treated for an eating disorder, feeling sexy is a step in the right direction, and, to hear Olsen tell it, the move back to Los Angeles has improved both her health and her self-esteem.

"Now I can walk outside in the morning and have a cup of coffee and actually breathe, and, you know, every once in a while I just need to take a break, you know?" Olsen says. Her conversation, like that of so many other girls her age, is peppered with "like," "kind of" and "you know," and her declarative sentences are often phrased as questions. ("I don't actually look at a lot of fashion magazines?" she says at one point, when asked what inspires her style.)

"You know, [college] is easier for my sister and that's great, you know? I'm happy that I kind of realized that, okay, I just need to take care of myself right now," she says. "I need to be able to go to yoga and work out and just read scripts and go on auditions, because that's what makes me happy. You know? Like, papers don't really make me happy."

Her handlers insist that this is just a temporary break and that Olsen will return to NYU or, barring that, transfer to a West Coast university. "She's not stepping away from school," says Diane Reichenberger, the new CEO of Dualstar. Reichenberger says Olsen comes to the office twice a week to discuss all the major decisions at the company. "You can't put a price tag on that kind of education," Reichenberger says. "There's your M.B.A."

Despite the term papers and the constant attention of the paparazzi, Olsen insists that she did enjoy her thus-far brief college experience. It wasn't particularly difficult meeting people, and her best friends live in the city. ("I'm shocked how open she is to dive in there and meet new people," says Slater.) And Olsen insists that she appreciated the academics as well. "I love to learn, I really do," she says. "We'd study something in class and I'd take it outside of class and become, like, obsessive and just research everything."

During her freshman year, she grew especially interested in Sigmund Freud. "I became obsessed with him," Olsen says. "It just really hit me, just the way he explains the mind and, like, how it works in certain people or certain diseases. How people may look at his stuff as a little off because some of it's pretty extreme, but how much truth there is behind it, you know? You start thinking and you're like, Oh my God. I think one of the most amazing things about learning is that you really discover things about yourself."

High school wasn't quite as intellectually stimulating. Olsen describes her years at North Hollywood's Campbell Hall as "fun" and "easy." She and her sister couldn't enroll in AP classes or electives because they were often working. "We weren't allowed to challenge ourselves, so we did really well," she says. "It was frustrating, but we knew at some point in our lives we could do what we wanted to do."

That point in their lives, or at least Mary-Kate's life, could easily be now. With a personal fortune of at least $150 million—and maybe more—she certainly has the wherewithal to indulge almost any whim. Still, she's not the type to bankrupt herself with a Michael Jackson-in-Vegas-style shopping spree. "She'll say, 'I'm only going to buy this today,'" says Cameron Silver, the proprietor of Decades, a vintage store in Los Angeles where Olsen is a regular. "That said, I wish she would just buy Decades. She could rock it."

It probably helps that, compared with other starlets her age, Olsen's fortune is old money. She began her career, involuntarily one has to assume, at the age of nine months. "As soon as I felt that I was responsible for other people's paychecks was definitely a moment when I was like, how the f--- do you think I'm supposed to handle this?" Olsen says. "It really hit me that I had a lot of responsibilities other than myself, which shouldn't have been my attitude, because I should be concerned first and foremost about myself. I have learned today, you know, that that's what it's about."

As much as Dualstar executives hoot and whistle in the press about the twins' newfound responsibilities as copresidents of the company, Olsen's focus, at least for the moment, seems to be her acting career. She doesn't speak particularly articulately, let alone with much enthusiasm, about her vision for the business. "We've branched out in a lot of areas, um, things I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about," she says. But ask her about the acting classes she took in New York with William Esper as part of her studies at Gallatin, or the novel experience of going out on auditions, and her eyes light up.

"My mind totally goes to that spot," Olsen says. "It was kind of like that rush of, Ooh, I want more, ooh, let's do it again—what can I do next? And I think that's what I was definitely looking for, some sort of passion and drive." But regarding a report in Page Six that she would be playing Brigid Berlin in the new Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, she says, "Brigid Berlin is an obese woman who did breast painting, so I won't be playing an obese woman."

Her goal at the moment is to star in a film that doesn't involve Dualstar. "All throughout [the making of] New York Minute, everyone was the producer, everyone was the director," Olsen says. "It's a lot of pressure, and I'd rather not get in the mix of it. I want to be directed, I want to be pushed. To be just an actress in a movie is one of my goals."

Much of Ashley's and Mary-Kate's earnings come from the 47 direct-to-video films—titles like To Grandmother's House We Go, How the West Was Fun and Double, Double, Toil and Trouble—the twins made growing up. Olsen's taste today couldn't be further from that manufactured Cheez Whiz. She wants to work with visionaries like Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola and Jane Campion, whom she studied last semester; one of her favorite movies in recent memory was the S&M romance Secretary, which she watched "at least, like, a hundred times" in her bed after moving to New York.

Making those videos as a child and later as a teenager—the last, a Survivor takeoff called The Challenge, was released in 2003—was as routine as "waking up in the morning and brushing our teeth," Olsen says now. "We didn't have to dig too deep. We were playing cutesy little twins who solved mysteries. There was no depth to any of the characters. It was somebody else's idea of ourselves. It was very much people-pleasing as opposed to actually, I guess, working for it.

"I want to be directed, I want to be pushed," Olsen reiterates, and you have to give her some credit for that. "I'm looking for a challenge, something I can be extremely proud of even though I'm a perfectionist and never extremely happy with anything."

The day after we meet, Mary-Kate accepts an award, with her sister, from the Accessories Council, in front of an audience that includes Oscar de la Renta, Jessica Simpson, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Kenneth Cole. "It was like a classier MTV Awards," Mary-Kate says after the show. Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa presented the Olsens with their honor, and in a move that seemed to perpetuate the image of Ashley as the twin who has it together, Mary-Kate stood mute as her sister accepted the award.

It's true that Olsen doesn't know how to pronounce Dries Van Noten, but it's also clear that she has an eye for putting together an outfit. While peers like Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie go straight to the stylist for their uniform Kewpie-doll looks, Olsen has crafted her own hugely influential aesthetic, mixing classic rock T-shirts with a ton of SoHo street vendor jewelry, designer pieces, vintage finds and the occasional pair of schleppy sweatpants. Dubbed "Dumpster chic" by The New York Times, her look has influenced many a runway show and red-carpet ensemble.

"I like her individuality and her boho-luxe mix of vintage and grunge," says designer John Galliano, who met Olsen at an amfAR benefit in Cannes. "She has the same way of putting herself together that Kate Moss has. She is so petite and delicate, yet such a strong and determined young woman. Feisty. I like that."

Olsen seems to recognize how far-reaching her style has become. At a Much Music event in Canada, where Ashley and Mary-Kate were promoting New York Minute, an organizer of the show told them the event had never had such a good-looking crowd. "I think some girls were wearing the same glasses as I had on," Olsen recalls proudly. "Ashley and I kind of giggled about it because they looked good. It could have gone the other direction, and we'd be thinking, What have we done to these people?"

Even Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa dressed up as Ashley and Mary-Kate, respectively, on Halloween, with the requisite Balenciaga bags and enormous Starbucks Venti lattes. Indeed, even more so than the motorcycle purse, it's the Starbucks cup that has become Mary-Kate's most identifiable accessory. When I first meet her at 4:30 in the afternoon, she's nervously clutching a mug of coffee, then it's on to a Diet Coke. Before 10 p.m., she will drink two more Ventis and smoke several Marlboro Reds with her publicist, Michael Pagnotta, who has worked with her since she was five. (Of the two to four giant Starbucks beverages she downs a day, she says she generally alternates between chai latte and skim latte—though she recently discovered the red eye, a potent mix of coffee and espresso. "Those will wake you up," she says, chuckling.)

"When I was younger, on weekends, my mom would make us pancakes with our initials on them and then a tiny cup of coffee," says Olsen. She quickly became an addict. "I remember at 10 sneaking my own coffee and pouring a ton of sugar in and going up to the playroom and drinking it."

So it's not such a surprise when the highly caffeinated actress lets on that—over and above her never-lived-in $7.3 million apartment in the West Village, beyond her tricked-out black Range Rover and even more than her enviable collection of designer bags—the possession she prizes most is her new espresso machine. "It's the most amazing thing I've ever had," she says dreamily. "It makes cappuccino all day long."