Imagine you are hopped up on cough syrup awaiting the results of a Covid test. (It will be negative, but you don’t know that yet.) You are swaddled in a blur of plaid wool blankets; your throat is happily numb from a slather of Vicks VapoRub. Then your phone rings and it’s Chloë Sevigny.
She is at a raging H&M party in Brooklyn, which might as well be Mars because you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. And as you drift between the waking world and the cherry-flavored sludge of “get well soon” vibes, you realize even if you were face-to-face with Sevigny, who’s a brand ambassador for the retailer, it wouldn’t entirely matter. That’s because although she is a very real human, she’s also a kind of fever dream—a full (and wonderful) human who is also a looming avatar of cool, a Gen X icon who appears on Gen Z vision boards. She’s also a meme, because: 2022.
Here’s what Sevigny has to say about the plight of an It Girl, the sex appeal of cardigans, and the infomercial that saved her Miu Miu shirt.
What’s the oldest H&M piece you have in your closet?
Well, when Humberto (Leon) and Carol (Lim) did their Kenzo collaboration, I still have the blue dress I wore from that campaign, and a lot of stuff from them. Oh! I also have the Margiela stuff from 2012. Remember that? I feel like that collection really put H&M on a different level, because who can just call up Margiela, you know?
One of the arguments against fast fashion is that it’s not built to last. But you just name-checked H&M pieces from 10 years ago. What are your tips for making clothes—all clothes, not just expensive ones—last longer?
First, you’ve got to hand-wash things and hang them dry whenever you can. I know it takes longer, and I know not everyone can make that kind of time. But if you can, and you have the patience available, you’ve got to do it. It’s cheaper than dry cleaning, anyway! And then think about your detergent. Because I have a small child, I’ve been using this fragrance-free wash from Seventh Generation on everything. And if you need to get a stain out from a piece—when I have to do that on my very old Miu Miu pieces they gave me when I modeled for them? I use OXY on those.
The curtain cleaner from the infomercial?
Yep. I just dip them in and it makes them bright white again. I’ve been doing that forever.
A lot of the clothes you mentioned are gifts. What’s the best fashion present you’ve ever received?
You know, I just dug something out of storage. It’s a hand-knit cardigan sweater with my name sewn onto the front that Harmony Korine’s mother made for me. It’s so DIY and the care that went into it is pretty special. Patrick O’Dell photographed me in it [in 2005], but I’ve started wearing it again and it is still so good.
I feel like JW Anderson is gonna make you another version. It’ll be the new Harry Styles cardigan.
Wait, speaking of JW, I also have these things I call “Cinderella Dresses,” which are the clothes you wear once and have to give back to the designer. But every once in a while—not that often!—you get to keep them. So I have the JW dress that I wore to the Met Gala, and a Valentino dress from the Golden Globes, and they’re getting stored properly by Julie Ann Clauss—she’s The Digital Archivist on Instagram—so they don’t get messed up. There’s also an older dress from [Alexander] McQueen that is very, very special.
It’s been 28 years since Jay McInerney profiled you in The New Yorker and named you the It Girl of the ‘90s. Do you think New York It Girls can still exist now, or has the internet made it impossible for someone like Julia Fox to attain that kind of cultural aura?
I think there will always be It Girls, because there’s always going to be someone on the scene who’s extra spectacular. Whether it’s because of their natural style or presence or intellect—in many ways, it’s mostly intellect that sets you apart and lets you rise above the rest! Julia [Fox] sure, and also Paloma [Elsesser] and Hailey Benton Gates; they’ve all got that mix. They can light up a room, but they also can understand and calibrate the mood in those rooms.
I had no idea, but that’s great. I mean, unfortunately, Shattered Glass is very timely. Now with all the fake news, and the dialogue around journalistic integrity and clickbait, I think it is very timely. So it’s a good thing people are finding that story again!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Editor at Large, ELLE.com
“Her beauty and her brain go not together.” —William Shakespeare