EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Vaccarello on his First Campaign, Versus Versace, and the Beauty of Breasts-------
Anthony Vaccarello doesn’t fear the nipple. Or any other body part, for that matter. The 31-year-old Italian-Belgian designer has earned a bold reputation for his vampy, va-va-voom aesthetic and daring—sometimes shocking—cutouts. His career has been on the rise following his 2011 ANDAM win, but everyone really started paying attention to the hot young talent after his friend Anja Rubik walked the 2012 Met Gala red carpet in a dangerously high-slit white gown that showcased her lanky gams and right hip. Surely that mega moment helped catch the eye of Donatella Versace, who’s tapped Vaccarello for what may very well be the most perfect Versus collaboration yet. And as if the Versace team-up, which will debut in New York later this year, weren’t enough, Vaccarello has today released his debut Inez & Vinoodh-lensed advertising campaign. Starring Rubik, the sharp ads debut exclusively here. Last week, Vaccarello rang us from Paris to discuss the Fall ’14 campaign, Versus Versace, and why Instagram’s nipple-phobia is utterly absurd.
Congratulations on your first campaign! Can you tell me about the concept behind the imagery?
The concept came from the Fall collection, which was inspired by Tony Viramontes. We wanted a raw image and to do something very dynamic that looked like a sketch. It was a dream for me that Inez & Vinoodh shot it. I never thought I would be able to work with them. I was talking to Anja [Rubik], and she said, “Why don’t you ask Inez & Vinoodh?” She pushed me to try, and they said yes. For me, they are the best because they understand simplicity. The campaign is very sharp but very soft at the same time. We chose red text because I wanted it to look like a gallery poster. And because we had red in the collection.
Why was now the right time to do your first campaign? It’s a big step.
I wanted to control the image of what I’m doing. There were a lot of editorials and stuff like that, but I thought it was important for me to put out the image in my mind that corresponds with the collection—the right image for the collection.
Anja has been somewhat of a poster girl for your brand since its early days. How did you two meet?
We met five years ago through a friend. We started talking straightaway, and she’s really supported me from the beginning. I’m always amazed by the things she does for me. For instance, she introduced me to Inez.
Earlier, you spoke about controlling your image, and arguably the most memorable Anthony Vaccarello image is from the 2012 Met Gala, when Anja wore your hip-baring white gown. What has that moment done for your career?
You know, when I was creating that dress on the mannequin, I didn’t expect all the buzz. But when Anja wore it with her legs and her attitude, it was completely different from what I expected. For me, it was just a simple white dress with a simple slit. It was virginal in a way, and I made it so Anja would feel comfortable. But after that moment, people became aware of what I was doing.
There’s a very fine line between sexy and vulgar. How do you make sure not to cross it?
I think it is a thin line. But a lot of it has to do with the person wearing the clothes. As a designer, you need to know the customer’s limits as far as what they can wear. Even if they love something, it might not be right for their body. Some things can look very chic on one girl and very trashy on another. So really, it’s all about the attitude that a woman gives the dress.
Do you think it’s possible to show too much? Rihanna was basically naked at the CFDAs, and Anja got kicked off Instagram for posting Style.com’s homepage image of her wearing your sheer Fall 2014 top without a bra.
That whole thing with Instagram is ridiculous. On Instagram, you see so many trashy things that are not censored. But if you can see a nipple it’s not allowed? I don’t think that sends a good message about femininity. And especially when you have boobs like Anja, you cannot hide them! I think celebrities like Rihanna or Miley Cyrus are just having fun. And I think that’s fine. Hiding the body and [the recent trend] of putting a woman’s body into all these boxy clothes cancels out the sexuality of women. That’s not a good thing. I like that Rihanna and Miley just do what they want.
You’re half-Belgian, half-Italian, and were born in Brussels. Historically, Belgian designers are quite restrained. So I’m curious, where does all this sexiness come from?
Maybe it comes from my Italian side. I’m never very controlled with my cuts. I think because of my Italian side, I’m more sensual and focus on the body and femininity.
You’ve recently dressed Anja, of course, as well as Gisele Bündchen and a handful of other stars for the red carpet. Is there anyone else you’d like to see in your gowns?
Not really. For me to dress a celebrity, I have to know her. I really need to have a contact, and to know how she feels about clothes. So far, I’ve dressed girls that I really want to work with. I’ve been lucky.
Do you think starlets need to take more risks on the red carpet? If so, who?
Yeah, I think that celebrities are afraid of doing something new and risky. I get very bored seeing them in that cliché prom look or those princess dresses. Maybe it’s a fantasy for women to be princesses. But I think [stars] need to be more risky. I probably shouldn’t say who, but there are a lot. And it’s not necessarily American celebrities. We have actresses in France who should take more risks. Bad taste is everywhere!
Versace recently tapped you to be its next Versus collaborator. How did Versace approach you?
I met Donatella last year. She wanted to meet me because she thought we had similar sensibilities when it comes to femininity. Straightaway, we started to talk like we’ve known each other forever. For me, meeting her was like meeting Madonna in the nineties. She is so cool, so gentle, and so open-minded.
You and Donatella definitely have parallel aesthetics. Is Versace a brand you’ve admired throughout your career?
Versace has inspired me since I was a kid. For me, the ultimate designers have always been Azzedine Alaïa, Helmut Lang, and Gianni Versace. I used to watch Gianni Versace on television. I was always obsessed with the house, its history, all the major photographers and models they worked with. So this collaboration is a dream come true. I know it’s cliché to say that, but I’m so happy with them. And I hope that people will like what I do. There are a lot of expectations, and I’m nervous that people won’t understand it. But it’s good to be stressed like this.
Can you give us any hints about what we can expect from the Versus collection?
It’s a secret! I can only tell you that it’s based on what was iconic for me when I was a kid.