Introducing The Originals 2021

21 creatives on what it takes to be one of a kind.

by W Staff

Donatella Versace Designer

Donatella Versace wears her own clothing and jewelry. Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Retouching: Dreamer Post.

Looking back at your career, what do you consider some of the biggest barriers you have broken as a fashion designer?

To be honest, I do not think there were many fashion barriers left after my brother Gianni. If anything, I am still trying to inspire confidence in men and women through my collections. We live in a moment in which the barriers we need to overcome are discrimination, hate against race or sexual orientation, body shaming.

Read the full interview here.

Iman Supermodel, Entrepreneur

Iman wears a Marc Jacobs sweater and hat. Photographed by Campbell Addy. Styled by Christina Holevas.

What’s the biggest barrier you’ve broken as a model?

A couple of months after I arrived in the United States, in 1975, I found out they were paying Black models less than our counterparts, and I said, “I’m not doing this.” If I’m doing the same job as the white model, I have to be compensated. I went on strike for three months. And then, of course, they raised my rate.

Read the full interview here.

Maximilian Davis Designer

Maximilian Davis wears his own clothing and accessories. Photographed by Charlie Gates.

Who was the first person who made you realize you could break the rules?

Well, there were two: my older sisters. They would sneak out and lie that they were going to a friend’s house, and then they’d go to a club or a guy’s house. That’s when I realized I could break the rules.

Read the full interview here.

Manolo Blahnik Designer

Manolo Blahnik wears his own clothing and accessories. Photographed by Misan Harriman.

Whose style do you most admire these days?

I still love girls like Shalom Harlow. They’re not so young anymore—I don’t like those new girls now. The first time I saw Shalom, I was doing the shoes for Isaac Mizrahi—this was 100 years ago—and I saw this girl coming along, skinny, with that hair! And I thought, Oh my god, who is that? And Isaac said, “Oh, it’s my new girl, Shalom!” That first impression was extraordinary—the way she moves... Not long ago, I saw a video of her dancing, and she still has it. And then, of course, the chicest woman in Europe is Amanda Harlech. She can put on a little mingy dress from Kmart, but she has divine shoes and divine hats, and that, to me, is elegance. Anything she puts on, the cheapest thing, she makes it fabulous.

Read the full interview here.

Nian Fish Creative Director

Nian Fish wears a Comme des Garçons jacket and dress; the Row sandals; her own jewelry. Photographed by Lelanie Foster. Styled by Allia Alliata di Montereale. Hair and makeup by Campbell Ritchie for Art Department using the Body Shop; photo assistant: Matchull Summers.

Do you think there is ever any true originality in fashion, if we’re always going back to previous eras and reimagining them? Where does real creativity come from?

I know this may sound corny, but I really think creativity comes from the universe. I don’t like to use the word “god,” because I’m not religious, but creativity comes from a connection to your true self. I have had the privilege of working with designers who really are legends, and all of them definitely had references. Calvin, for example, would have a minimalist architectural reference, like a particular color of a white wall, but then he would translate that into a slip dress. So he’s referencing a whole other medium, but it speaks to his own sense of ease and luxury.

Read the full interview here.

Barbara Hulanicki Designer

Barbara Hulanicki wears her own clothing and jewelry. Photographed by Ysa Pérez.

You’re in your 80s, and you’ve never stopped creating. You did the interiors for Chris Blackwell’s hotels, you just illustrated the new Bottega Veneta campaign, and for spring, you’re launching a new label, Hula, with the digital fashion platform BrandLab360. What keeps you going?

Fashion never stops, does it? And I love retail. I was brought up in Palestine before it was Israel, and there were no shops. I had never seen a doll in my life before I came to England. So I was just so excited about being able to buy my own clothes and things. And that excitement never went away. In the ’60s, the posh old women would arrive with their drivers to the department stores and work their way up floor by floor. They’d shop, have their hair done, then their makeup done, then have tea and drink themselves stupid. It was all lifestyle! And I think that would work again now, because who wants to worry about fighting traffic and parking and all that boring stuff? I’m watching that space very, very carefully. I’d still love to do a shop.

Read the full interview here.

Bowen Yang Comedian

Bowen Yang wears a Bode jacket; Sunspel T-shirt; Berluti pants; his own glasses and jewelry. Photographed by Andreas Laszlo Konrath. Styled by Jenna Wojciechowski.

What’s the most original thing about you?

I’m open to and like lots of different kinds of things. And I know that’s very broad, but I generally like things as opposed to disliking them. A lot of times I wish I was more critical, but I think I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to like something until I don’t, for whatever reason. That’s going to be the order, and I think that’s okay for me.

Read the full interview here.

Jaboukie Young-White Comedian

Jaboukie Young-White wears his own clothing and sneakers. Photographed by Michael Tyrone Delaney.

Who first taught you that you could break the rules?

I was an only child at first, so there was a lot of attention on me for the first couple of years of my life. This is all preconscious stuff, but I imagine I probably realized there’s a line that I can cross that’s too far, and I can get in trouble, and then there’s a little sweet space that I could live in where we’re having fun and I’m not doing what I was supposed to do, but it’s no harm, no foul.

Read the full interview here.

Rita Moreno Actress

Rita Moreno wears a Giorgio Armani jacket, top, pants, and shoes; Nandiz Designs jewelry. Photographed by Damien Maloney. Styled by Ashley Munns. Sittings Editor, Jenna Wojciechowski. Hair by Glen Alan; makeup by Anna Maria Orzano.

What’s the most unoriginal thing people ask you?

It always starts with, “What does it feel like…?” That’s a very difficult question to answer, because it’s phrased so stupidly. What does it feel like to be an actress, or well-known? Huh? I’m just sitting here in my flannel pajamas and my little furry Ugg moccasin slippers, and that’s part of how it feels. That feels wonderful.

Read the full interview here.

Julia Ducournau Director

Julia Ducournau wears her own clothing and jewelry. Photographed by Neige Thébault. Hair by Asami Maeda for Wise and Talented using Oribe; makeup by Phophie Mathias for Wise and Talented using Dior.

Your film Titane was awarded the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. You are only the second woman in history to win the Palme d’Or. What was that moment like?

I had been in Cannes before with my first two films, Junior and Raw, but for Titane, it was different, more emotional. I was in the dark until Spike Lee, the head of the jury, kind of slipped up and told the audience that I had won. Even then, I thought I had misheard him. What helped me get onstage was thinking about Jane Campion, who was the first woman to win the Palme d’Or, 28 years ago. Twenty-eight years! I believe that it will not take another 28 years for a female director to win the top prize again. A movement has taken hold that can’t be denied.

Read the full interview here.

Quentin Tarantino Director

Quentin Tarantino wears his own clothing. Photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth. Grooming by Katya Thomas at Carol Hayes Management; retouching: Simon Thistle.

What are your favorite films of the late ’60s, when Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is set?

Head, starring the Monkees—the script is cowritten by Jack Nicholson! And Yellow Submarine. I’m not a big Beatles fan; you’re either an Elvis man or a Beatles man, and I’m an Elvis man. But sometime in 1999, my then girlfriend and I watched Yellow Submarine, and we loved it. After seeing Yellow Submarine, there finally was one thing about the Beatles that I had tremendous affection for.

Read the full interview here.

Lili Chopra Artistic Director

Lili Chopra wears an Hermès shirt and skirt; her own jewelry. Photographed by Mara Corsino. Styled by Christina Holevas. Hair by Walton Nunez for See Management using Armani Beauty; makeup by Andrew Colvin using Armani Beauty.

What does originality within the context of art programming look like to you?

For me, it’s about following one’s own intuition. It’s also about being true to one’s own values and principles, and leaving the ego at the door. You must be really present to those around you and what arises in the moment.

Read the full interview here.

Sarah Coleman Artist, Designer

Sarah Coleman (far right), with folding chairs of her own design and a jacket by Ari Serrano (on chair). Sarah Coleman wears her own clothing and accessories. Photographed by François Dischinger.

You’ve said that you don’t want to confine yourself to a singular category of artist or designer. Can you elaborate on this?

Utility and high fashion are concepts that often do not go together, and I like the idea of a folding chair being an item to cherish and take care of. I take my work, the process of creating, and the quality of my pieces very seriously, but I love a not-so-serious end result. My work is not meant to intimidate; instead, I want it to be very approachable. I want people to smile or giggle when they see it.

Read the full interview here.

Lexie Park Eat Nunchi Artist

Lexie Park wears her own clothing and accessories. Photographed by Tracy Nguyễn. Hair and makeup by Heather Rose Harris using Mizani and Sircuit Skin.

Whom do you consider original?

I don’t really have celebrity crushes, and I don’t idolize anyone in fashion. The only person I’ve always looked up to since I was a little kid is Oprah. I’ve watched every episode of her shows, and I want to be in one of them. There is no other Oprah. Even she and Stedman are an inspiration. Everyone says to me, “Oh, when are you getting married?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. Oprah and Stedman are not married.”

Read the full interview here.

Rute Merk Painter

Clockwise from top left: Rute Merk in her studio in Berlin; Mark wears her own clothing. With "Xandra," 2021; Balenciaga hoodie, pants, and shoes. "Terica," 2021. Photographed by Alex de Brabant. Styled by Ann-Kathrin Obermeyer. Hair and makeup by Julia Barde using Less Is More.

What do you think is your most original trait?

It isn’t original to be a painter, but at its best, it’s a unique attempt, right? The best part of being an artist is being able to swim in your delusions and play with the mix of elements that other people have used. What we were taught in art school was trying to create something new, something that wasn’t already painted. To me, it was very important to find a visual language that would somehow correspond to the 21st century—something you wouldn’t mix with a painting from 100 years ago.

Read the full interview here.

Bernie Krause Musician, Artist, Soundscape Ecologist

Bernie Krause wears his own clothing and accessories. Bernie Krause, 2021 © Masha Karpoukhina for Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.

In an earlier career, you did sound and scoring for master filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola. How did that influence your art?

I personally found the studio music scene I was involved in too limiting and boring. I needed to be outdoors, hiking in the woods. Studio work just made me more intent on escaping, in order to feel more human and connected to the living world. That meant finding another outlet. I’ve been saddled with a terrible case of ADHD since I was a kid, and listening to those biophonies in wild places was the only nondrug activity that helped mitigate it.

Read the full interview here.

Adekunle Gold Musician

Adekunle Gold wears his own clothing and jewelry. Photographed by Kennedi Carter.

What do you consider your most original quality?

I just don’t know how to stop. If I want something, I just go for it. And I don’t know how to take no for an answer, sadly. One thing I tell myself is, What’s the worst that will happen? I’ll be more sad if I don’t even try.

Read the full interview here.

COCO Style Star

COCO wears Gucci glasses, earrings, and bag; all other clothing, accessories, and Gucci necklace, her own. Photographed by Takashi Homma. Styled by COCO and HIJIRI. Hair and makeup by YuuiVision using L’Oréal and Laura Mercier.

What do you consider your most original quality?

My generation grew up in a social network world, and there’s so much information on the Internet that you can access very quickly. But my fashion is based on vintage. Originality, for me, is having a sense of myself without any outside information.

Read the full interview here.

Graydon Carter Editor

Graydon Carter wears his own clothing and accessories. Photographed by Jeff Henrikson. Grooming by Laila Hayani for Chanel Skincare at Forward Artists; photo assistant: Eduardo Silva.

What do you consider your most original quality?

I have no original qualities whatsoever, and that may be my originality—just my complete unoriginality-ness. I mean, I dress in a really boring way. I don’t cook particularly well. I like wine, but I don’t know anything about it. Love watching television, love reading. I’m the only one of my friends whose abiding hobby over the last 40 years has been canoeing. I love being in a canoe, and I’m good at it. I have six Old Town canoes, some over 100 years old.

Read the full interview here.

Oscar Nñ, Adam R., and Mohammed Fayaz Creatives in Charge of the Art/Party Collective Papi Juice

From left: Mohammed Fayaz wears a Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants; Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. necklace; his own shoes. Adam R. wears a Gucci jacket, shirt, pants, harness, and boots. Oscar Nñ wears a Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants; Bernard James earring; Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shoes; his own necklaces. Photographed by Emily Lipson. Styled by Christina Holevas.

With Papi Juice, you’ve combined getting together for both fun and queer visibility. How did this idea of assembly influence you growing up?

Mohammed Fayaz (above, far left): My mom is the youngest of 13, and my dad is the youngest of eight. I have so many cousins. I grew up around a lot of people. My mom was always queen bee of the local mosque, always on the landline, always yelling at us to get off the Internet because she was making a phone call, always hosting parties. My two siblings and I would always be her little helper bees, setting the table, picking up plates, bringing out the chai. We were socialized to help keep the party going in a really wholesome way, with food and a dessert. That informs the way I navigate these spaces now, just making sure everyone’s having a good time.

Read the full interview here.

Gabriel Held Stylist and Fashion Historian

Gabriel Held wears Louis Vuitton Men’s pants; Versace necklace; his own shirt, scarf, and boots. Photographed by Corey Olsen. Styled by Christina Holevas. Grooming by Amanda Wilson for Dior Beauty; photo assistant: Marcus McDonald; retouching: Sara Barr; fashion assistant: Amir La Sure.

Whom do you consider to be an original?

Gianni Versace was definitely an original—he posed a lot of questions about what is “good taste.” But I’m more interested in behind-the-scenes people like stylists—they weren’t really talked about when I was growing up. My mentor, Misa Hylton, created the Lil’ Kim aesthetic—basically the blueprint for the majority of female rappers to this day. It just shifted the whole conversation. Prior to that, women in hip-hop were not trying to be sexy; they were trying more to blend in with the men and be more masculine or androgynous.

Read the full interview here.