If most guys I know magically turned into girls, they’d want to look and dress like Chloë Sevigny. New York ladies got that opportunity in Spring 2008 when the actress partnered with the zeitgeisty downtown fashion retailer Opening Ceremony for a capsule line of high-waisted skirts, floral dresses, and other Sevigny staples that have turned one woman’s personal style into a downtown party uniform. But most men, sadly, left OC empty-handed. That will all change this fall when Sevigny and OC reassert their control over our clothes with a new unisex line directed toward boys (and girls who like boys who like girls who like to wear boys’ clothes). The 34-year-old impresario gives us a lot to try on: leopard-print knit cardigans, patterned sweaters with matching leggings, oxblood-dyed thermals, tops with oversized scarfs attached. She even teamed up with Bass for a collection of shoes. Sevigny was thinking oversized preppy, somewhere between Depeche Mode and gay lumberjack. I spoke with her over the phone from Wales, where she was filming her latest away-from-Big Love project, Mr. Nice, a rambunctious bio about the famous British drug smuggler Howard Marks (played by Rhys Ifans). Even when she plays someone else, Sevigny is still thinking about what she’s wearing.
CHRISTOPHER BOLLEN: Was it all part of your fashion plan to follow up your women’s line with a men’s collection?
CHLOË SEVIGNY: With my work making it unpredictable as to when I’m going to be in New York, I just did the women’s line and left it at that. But last fall I came back from shooting Big Love and Humberto [Leon, co-owner and co-founder of Opening Ceremony] was like, “What do you think?” Basically, he convinced me. I said, “Well, if we do it, let’s do a unisex line,” because when I did girls I was really frustrated that there wasn’t anything for boys to wear. A lot of my girlfriends like baggy oversized stuff and put on menswear already. And I also wanted something that my boyfriends—my gay and straight buddies—could wear. I wanted something for everyone.
BOLLEN: At first I thought maybe it would be inspired by your brother Paul, but looking at the cardigans and sweater leggings, I don’t think that’s the case.
SEVIGNY: It is modeled in some ways on my preppy upbringing. We wanted to do preppy classics, but with a twist. I thought a lot about Miguel Adrover when I was designing—that balance of urban and ethnic. I used a lot of earth tones. Then I have specific inspirations. One silk shirt was inspired by Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode 101. On tour he wore this really thin white shirt that’s billowy and big. I wanted everything to be big and oversized. A friend of mine had given me this book called Skins & Punks by Gavin Watson, so there’s a little bit of a skinhead influence as well.
BOLLEN: Did you wear a lot of guys’ clothes as a kid growing up in Connecticut?
SEVIGNY: I was more feminine. I was a girly-girl until I moved to New York. Then I got really into the androgynous look of the early-’90s club scene. I had really short hair and started blurring the line a bit. But for me, grade school was about Benetton, Esprit, and Guess jeans. I can’t say those influenced this line . . . [laughs] But we’ve done a whole line of sweaters that have prints and stripes that have a St. Marks Place vibe.
BOLLEN: If you haven’t noticed, I really like the sweater leggings.
SEVIGNY: The Fair Isle–like leggings? Yeah, I think my main inspiration was gay lumberjack. That was the jumping off point. Because I know a lot of boys who dress kind of lumberjacky but they also look a little gay at the same time. So I wanted something kind of urban and outdoorsy.
BOLLEN: I wonder if older gay bears are mad that young bisexual twentysomethings stole their pickup look?
SEVIGNY: I think it’s a sexy look. So I would say overall it’s more of a ’90s influence. Preppy, but worn in a punk manner. There were these hip-hop kids in the ’90s called the Polo Kids who wore Polo Ralph Lauren, but in a really street way.
BOLLEN: In general, what guys do you get fashion inspiration from?
SEVIGNY: Nick Cave. But he’s tall and slim so everything looks good on him. Definitely Dave Gahan. But then there are people in my life like Joe DeNardo from the band Growing, Ben Cho, who always looks great, and my friend M. Blash . . . Maybe also Q-Tip circa 1992.
BOLLEN: I’m excited to finally have some new clothes to wear. I hope you made them big enough for us tall folks. Opening Ceremony has to start making an XX-Large or something.
SEVIGNY: I know, I tried. In the end, since I want everything to be oversized, my idea was to make everything longer. Longer sleeves, longer torsos . . . We did some really beautiful slacks in thick wool, a thinner crepe wool, and in moleskin. I think there’s something for everybody in the collection. Most boys have a uniform. It’s, like, shirt and pants. You don’t have all the options girls have—skirts, shorts, pants, dresses.
BOLLEN: But is the boy uniform a good or a bad thing? You can really fall into a rut of wearing the same outfit over and over.
SEVIGNY: I’m kind of envious of that. It seems like a good thing.
BOLLEN: So besides this new collection and, of course, Big Love, you’re also currently working on this movie Mr. Nice. The drug smuggler Howard Marks seems like the kind of guy we might add to that style-influence list.
SEVIGNY: He sold hashish in the ’60s and ’70s in England. Actually, he smuggled a lot of hashish into America inside speakers and band equipment—like Pink Floyd’s. He knew the big amps wouldn’t be checked at customs.
BOLLEN: And you play his wife. What was it like to play a criminal?
SEVIGNY: Actually, Howard Marks is something of a hero in Wales. He wasn’t dealing cocaine or heroin, so he really didn’t hurt anybody.
BOLLEN: I bet the clothes you get to wear from that period are pretty outrageous.
SEVIGNY: The clothes are so good. This is one of the first times I’ve actually worked with a costume designer where I haven’t been upset about her choices. She has better style than I do. I’m so impressed with her. She had this beautiful Guy Laroche gold necklace and an Azzedine Alaïa belt. We have similar taste, and since this film takes place mostly in the ’60s and ’70s, she bought a lot of the homemade dresses on Portobello Road, where she lives.
BOLLEN: Any other films lined up?
SEVIGNY: This spring I’m going to San Diego to make a movie with Werner Herzog. It’s a true-crime story about a man who kills his mother. Michael Shannon, Udo Kier, and Willem Dafoe are in it. I play the suffering girlfriend.
BOLLEN: Wow. Have you worked with Herzog before? I know he can be very tricky.
SEVIGNY: He played my father in julien donkey-boy . But, yes, I am slightly nervous.