Since her debut in the 1990s, Chloë Sevigny has been the undisputed queen of independent cinema, and has accumulated a large number of exciting and demanding projects both on the big and small screens. Androgynous and nonchalant, she has always exuded a grungy sense of poetry and a peculiar sensuality. As the eternal symbol of the teenage years and of the underdogs, she has given those who navigate in dark waters at the margins a voice and a presence on a large scale. Also a director in her spare time, the American prodigious actress has starred in films that are often qualified as offbeat, intense, and cult, such as Kids (1995), Gummo (1997), Zodiac (2007), American Psycho (2000), Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Dogville (2003) and The Brown Bunny (2003). This strange and mesmerizing beauty, who was discovered at the age of 17 on the street by a fashion editor in East Village, has the gift to captivate great directors, from Jim Jarmusch, Werner Herzog, Larry Clark, to Harmony Korine or Lars von Trier. Still highly demanded in Hollywood, especially by the cutting-edge filmmakers, the 47- year-old actress will soon appear in Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All and in the season 2 of the series Feud, produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by Gus Van Sant – another emblem of the counterculture, like the actress.
But beyond her dramatic talents, Chloë Sevigny is also a it girl, a major figure of the American underground culture and one of the best-dressed personalities in the world. At the crossroads between the fashion-forward New Yorker used to sit at the front row of runaway shows and the skater cool kid wearing a faded music band T-shirt, her unique style made of daring mix-and-match pieces stands out in today’s pop culture. She constantly oscillates between the masculine and the feminine, vintage and designer pieces, bohemian bias and punk-rock details, with a sexy and iconoclastic grace. This fall, the nonconformist star is the face of Calvin Klein’s new Fall/Winter 2022 campaign, which features the people who shape our culture today, whether they are actors, singers, or models. Numéro has seized this opportunity to talk about fashion and cinema to a celebrity who embodies the essence of cool in her own way.
Numéro: How would you define your style?
Chloë Sevigny: I never quite know how to answer that question (laughs). I wish I could give you the right definition. I would say that I have a classic style, with an additional twist each time. But as time goes by, with my child and the pandemic, I try to dress in a more comfortable, practical way with more functional pieces. It’s a work in progress, because I’m still trying to figure out how to be more utilitarian.
What is the most precious fashion piece in your closet?
A denim jacket with Elvis’ name and a guitar embroidered on the back that the actress Linda Manz wore in the 1980 film Out of The Blue, directed by actor Dennis Hopper. It’s one of my all-time favorite films – it tells the story of a rebellious teenage runaway punk fan. I worked on its restoration and casting with my friend, the actress Natasha Lyonne, a few years ago. I met Linda Manz, who was an incredible actress, on the set of Gummo. Later, I asked her if I could buy that jacket from her, and she gave it to me. It’s an important piece in the history of cinema to me. It sits in my wardrobe aside from the rest of my clothes, like a treasure.
Have you ever worn your own clothes in a film?
I’ve done it several times for low-budget features, like in Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exists (2017) for instance. In Olivier Assayas’ Demonlover (2022), I wore my own clothes like the Balenciaga denim dress, which I still have. But the older I get, the more comfortable I feel about trusting completely the film’s costume designer and his vision.
What role do clothes play in your work as an actress?
I think that all actresses and actors will say the same thing as me – they play a crucial role. Clothes help you get into a role and build a character, just like make-up and hair. The fabric, the print, the cut, the style, the proportions of an outfit will dictate how you behave, and will reveal where the characters are coming from, and whether they are confident or not. Their look defines them. In Euphoria for example, we can clearly see how clothes play their role in shaping the different protagonists of the show. Each character is defined by their clothes, which are well-chosen according to their personality.
On November 23rd, you will star in Luca Guadagnino’s highly anticipated film Bones & All. Can you tell us more about it?
It’s a love story between two teenagers banished from society, it’s about a road trip deep in the heart of America, but also about cannibalism, with Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell McKenzie. Many people who have seen the film recognize themselves in the characters and in their story. Some viewers say it’s a fun, romantic, scary, disgusting, challenging feature. There is a lot going on in this film. The scenery and the romance between the two teenagers are beautiful and inspiring. They are two characters adrift and wondering how to navigate our society.
You have just been chosen as a member of the cast for the season 2 of the series Feud, with Naomi Watts, which explores Truman Capote’s female relatives...
I’m very excited about this project because the series is produced by Ryan Murphy and directed by Gus Van Sant, who is one of my all-time heroes. I’m also thrilled because I’m going to play a glamorous character for the first time in my life (laughs). I will play the role of the 1940s socialite, C.Z. Guest, who was an actress, horsewoman, fashion designer, and author... She was part of a top tier circle of society women, who gravitated towards Truman Capote and whom he called his “swans”. They were the writer’s confidants, but he betrayed them by writing about them and their secrets in the short story titled La Côte Basque, 1965, published in a magazine in 1975. He said some very nasty things about them, even though they were supposed to be his friends. In order to immerse myself in the universe of the series, I read a biography of Capote which tells how this great, tortured homosexual writer was obsessed with celebrities, fame, and wounded by his addictions. His life was fascinating, and I am glad to be part of his world through this show.
What does it mean for you to be the new face of Calvin Klein’s campaign?
It means a lot to me and it’s an honor. When I used to see the brand’s ads in very large format on buildings in New York, I used to ask myself: “Why don’t they choose me?” (laughs). I’m glad the collaboration finally happened. I think that the brand has always captured the zeitgeist, kept its finger on the pulse of trends, celebrated very different and interesting influencers, celebrities, models, and artists. I recently saw Willem Dafoe posing for the Calvin Klein x Palace campaign and I thought it was fantastic to choose such an actor to pose amongst models. That day, I went home and found in my emails an offer to be the face of the brand’s next campaign. And I thought, “well, of course I can do it too”. I’m thrilled to be part of this campaign with Susan Sarandon and a lot of cool kids. I also love the photographer, Alasdair McLellan, with whom I’ve worked over the years.
Do you have any favorite Calvin Klein campaign?
I’ve always loved the photos with Kate Moss and the campaigns shot by Steven Meisel and Richard Avedon. I also love the shots with model Jessica Miller taken by Inez & Vinoodh, along with the illustrations made by the duo M/M Paris. I think that the juxtaposition of graphic design with black and white photographs is very cool. I particularly like the photo where Jessica Miller is wearing suspenders with nothing else underneath.
You are wearing a denim jacket in the campaign. What is your history with denim?
It is a long love story. I have a lot of denim pieces, some waistcoats, shorts, trousers, or jackets. What I like about denim is that you can have fun with it, put patches on the jackets, dye them... And it will always look cool! I wear denim all the time, especially pieces by Calvin Klein. In Kids, I wore a pair of Levi’s trousers. As an American, it is still a classic of our culture and wardrobe. When I go shopping to clear my head, I always buy jeans because I know they are the one thing I will never get tired of.
In the video for the new Calvin Klein campaign, we can see you washing your dirty laundry in a laundromat, alongside Dominic Fike, the actor, singer, and songwriter who starred in Euphoria. Are you a fan of the show?
Yes, I love the show. It has been compared a lot to the film Kids (1995). Some media have said that without Kids, there would be no Euphoria. And it’s true that there are many similarities. In both cases, we witness a bunch of youngsters acting with no regard for the consequences. But HBO made it possible for this kind of stories to be seen by a large audience, whereas at the time, you had to go to independent cinemas to see Kids. It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to show in a highly visible series what teenagers are going through during that moment of their lives. The power of HBO has made it possible to highlight, on a large scale, the real difficulties faced by teenagers.
Find the new Calvin Klein collection on calvinklein.com.