Anya Taylor-Joy Lives for Dramatic, Theatrical Fashion

anya taylor joy
Photograph by BFA

The evening before Anya Taylor-Joy attended the opening of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso Stories exhibition in New York City, she dressed up as the ginger crime-fighting cartoon character, Sam, from Totally Spies!. “We had two options,” she tells me the afternoon following Halloween—which saw the actress, Ivy Getty, and Quincey Jones pulling off a group costume for Getty’s party in NoHo. “It was either Totally Spies, or different versions of Jennifer Coolidge—with fake lips.” (For the record, Taylor-Joy was a big fan of the anime series when she was younger. “Whilst we were getting ready [for Halloween], we were playing some of the episodes in the background,” she adds.)

But The Menu star’s look at the storied watch label’s November 1 party couldn’t have been more different from her shiny green superhero getup. Joining fellow brand ambassadors Lenny Kravitz and Nicholas Hoult, Taylor-Joy celebrated the unveiling of Jaeger’s show, which highlights the new Hokusai Reverso Watch, along with an installation by the artist Yiyun Kang (who is part of the maison’s Made-of-Makers program) and work by “World’s Best Pastry Chef” Nina Métayer. Taylor-Joy has been a face of Jaeger-LeCoultre since signing on as an ambassador in 2022. For the cocktail party, she donned a Stella McCartney little black dress with a twist: a super-plunging neckline and ruching that resembled a bustle. Of course, she was not without a Reverso watch—one of her only accessories for the night. “To this day, I prefer men’s watches on my wrist,” Taylor-Joy says. “I like the idea of them as something you can pass down in your family. I also think, historically, men have seen watches as signs of achievement and—not negatively towards them—but I don’t like gatekeeping it in that way. I am very proud to look down at my wrist and be like, yeah, that’s my watch. I did that.” Below, the actress discusses gifting her dad a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch with a heartfelt message and the “impractical” vintage cape collection she’s quietly amassing.

So Jennifer Coolidge didn’t make the cut for Halloween this time around—what about next year?

I’m hoping so! Ivy actually did Coolidge from A Cinderella Story [some Halloweens back], and she said that the fake lips were hard to keep on. But I’m willing to commit to the bit.

Jaeger’s CEO, Catherine Rénier, said when you first signed on to be a house ambassador that you had a marked interest in watchmaking.

I was fascinated by it. The first thing that drew me into Jaeger was the fact that it is functional jewelry. I’ve always been this way, but I think primarily because of the nature of my job, I’m very attached to jewelry. That’s where I hold my core identity. At the very beginning of my career, it was always a big moment when I took off the pieces of jewelry I wore every single day for an extended period of time. And when I put them back on again, I got to be me once more.

The Menu costars Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, both brand ambassadors for Jaeger-LeCoultre, reunited at the brand’s exhibition unveiling.

Photograph by BFA

Who sparked your interest in watches in the first place?

My dad. One of the proudest moments of my life was giving him a Jaeger watch. I gifted him the Reverso Classic—that is my father to a T. I got it engraved on the back. That was a very big moment.

What did you get engraved?

My dad always says, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” So I put “The harder we work, the luckier we get.” Underneath, I put a number five and circled it; when he was a powerboat racer, his racing number was five. It made him cry! It was very cute.

How do you go about choosing a red carpet look—say, the red feathered Dilara Fındıkoğlu dress?

Oh, that one was so good. She’s incredible. By the way, I’m not saying “that was so good” in terms of my face and body. I’m just like: the garment! That waist was cinched, let me tell you.

Anya Taylor-Joy in New York City on April 27, 2023.

Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images

So what does the selection process look like?

I grew up such a tomboy. I never paid attention to clothes until I realized that it was a form of performance art for me—specifically, on the red carpet. I love drama. I love theatricality. I love leaning into a theme. I have a wonderful stylist, Ryan Hastings. We approach it not as, “We’re going to be wearing some clothes to this.” We create. With my hair and makeup team, Georgie Eisdell and Gregory Russell, it’s very much a group enterprise. That’s where we have the most fun: everyone pitches in and we get to try new things. We take it very seriously by not taking it very seriously.

It’s bizarre that [red carpets are] a huge part of my normal life, but it’s not normal life at all. In which situation do you ever dress yourself to the nines to be photographed by 200 people who are screaming at you? It’s not normal. I have so much more fun thinking of it as—we dress up for this, we feed into the fantasy of it a little bit. Then I get to embody a character.

Are there certain silhouettes you favor?

I do enjoy dramatic proportions. I did a period piece in which I was corseted every single day—actually, I’ve done two of them, and there were two very, very different corsets. The first time I wore this cone-shaped corset, I was like, I’m going to die. I can’t do this. I don’t know how I’m supposed to act, I can barely stand! And then you start getting used to it. At a certain point on the second period piece I did, I didn’t feel ready to do my day until I was cinched up. It felt like that’s kind of what kept me together. And ever since then, I find a corset strangely reassuring.

You seem to love a cape or a hooded moment as well.

Love. I have so many vintage capes that are so impractical. Every time I go out, I attempt to work a cape in. And 99 percent of the time, it’s like, Anya, you’re not Glenda the Good Witch. But my friends come over and we’ll have Witchy Wednesdays—we’ll all be running around in our capes. I just need a cape for my cat. Then it’ll all be complete.

Anya Taylor-Joy at the BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall on February 19, 2023 in London.

Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage

You’ve talked in the past about how you wanted to find your own personal style, somewhere between a full look and a pair of sweats. Have you found that niche for yourself?

Not yet, but I’ve definitely been giving it more energy and time. The reality is, I started working nine years ago and then I just did not stop. The first time I took a break was June of this year, when I decided I’m actually going to take some time for myself. Since then, I’ve been having fun playing around with clothes. I’ve gotten so used to dressing out of necessity: four hours of sleep, wake up, get in the car, go, don’t be late. So it’s fun to wake up in the morning and go, I can take my time. I can try different things on. I can decide this!

Do you have a favorite fashion moment from pop culture?

Only because I just saw Rosalía dress up like her—Björk wearing the swan dress and laying a golden egg [at the Oscars in 2001] was pretty great. I mean, that’s on a whole other level of performance.