I’ve loved red carpets since forever. The first dress I remember really falling for was Holly Hunter’s streamlined Vera Wang in 1993, the year she won for The Piano; I was a good little ’90s minimalist. Over the years, other actresses have captivated me: Cate Blanchett in John Galliano, Nicole Kidman in Jean Paul Gaultier, Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford. The dudes haven’t really registered—a tux is a tux is a tux. Then along came Timothée Chalamet.
Chalamet has beguiled many since he emerged on the scene in late 2017, the charming and beautiful star of Call Me by Your Name. He’s a dreamboat, for sure, but it’s the fearless fun he has with fashion that dazzles me. He’s leading a vanguard of young performers—Harry Styles, Chadwick Boseman, and Ezra Miller among them—flouting traditional rules of masculine dress in favor of more experimental styles. Think: the crystal-studded Louis Vuitton harness (or “mid-layer garment,” as designer Virgil Abloh called it) that Chalamet wore to the 2019 Golden Globes or the silvery gray Haider Ackermann smoking he chose for the Venice Film Festival premiere of The King. Ackermann, with whom Chalamet often collaborates, says, “We’re searching for a new form of elegance,” something “more liberated, more personal, more daring.”
More personal is the right way to put it. This is an age of micromanaged red-carpet appearances, in which every suit, tie, and patent-leather shoe is a paid opportunity. Incredibly, Chalamet is putting his looks together without the help of a stylist. He’s coasting on verve, and there’s an authenticity to the approach that’s registering with people. Lyst’s 2019 Fashion Index named the actor the second most influential celebrity of the year after Meghan Markle. The Chalamet effect, in turn, has resulted in an 806% increase in online searches for Haider Ackermann. I spoke to the designer about Chalamet the day after Lyst published its report. This weekend Chalamet will walk the red carpet at the New York premiere of Little Women, and you know I won’t be the only one watching. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
The number one performing story on Vogue Runway today is about Lyst’s 2019 trend rankings. Search traffic on your name increased by 806% this year, apparently thanks to Timothée Chalamet wearing your clothes.
Just this second, really on this second, I’m receiving a message from Timothée: “They ain’t fucking with us, are they? I love you, bro.”
You just gave me the chills. I love Timothée. You two have such a special working relationship. How did you meet?
It was a few years ago when he was about to have his premiere in Berlin for Call Me by Your Name. His agent, Brian Swardstrom, contacted me. Timothée was so young, and I was intrigued but not really sure. I didn’t know who the person would be in front of me, so I was curious to meet him. They came to Paris, and in a minute I knew that we would collaborate, due to this very joyful maturity that he has and this enthusiasm, and being very optimistic and uplifting, as his generation can be. I was like, Well, this is going to give me energy. Let’s go for the energy, let’s go for this.
How much did you love Call Me by Your Name?
It’s a story that touches us all because we all can be him. We all can be Elio. For me it’s not a gay or a straight love affair, it’s just a human love affair, and I thought the way that Timothée carried the movie was quite extraordinary.
The thing that’s unique about Timothée fashionwise is that he works one-on-one with designers. He doesn’t have a middleman or a stylist, right?
It’s correct. We talk, and it goes very smoothly. But he and I, we’re not searching for eccentricity, which is what people may expect after seeing the smoking jacket in Venice. We’re searching for a new form of elegance, which might be more liberated, more personal, more daring. What attracts us in a man or a woman is attitude more than anything else, and that’s what he’s giving the clothes.
What you’re saying reminds me of your relationship with Tilda Swinton, who is another person with so much attitude you can’t take your eyes off her.
I’m seriously blessed to have these two companions—the fidelity, the faithfulness to collaborate with each other, to stay by one another. I find this very moving nowadays where everything is so easily replaced and changed. They could have anyone, so….
That 806% increase, have you seen an effect on your business?
Celebrities, certainly men, that in the past might have found me more different, now they suddenly come around.
So tell me about the Venice Film Festival outfit.
Timo told me that he would like to open the Venice Film Festival with me, and he asked me what I thought. Since he had been so much out there, I thought to have this kind of discretion. We’re living in a loud world, and he had been wearing some loud clothes. I thought it would be nice to just be very discreet and elegant. I knew that people would talk about him anyway, so let’s take it gently. I didn’t want to do black, and I didn’t want to do cream either, as I did it for the Oscars with him. So I thought gray. It fits perfectly to Venice, it fits perfectly to a movie that talks about the past, and it fits perfectly to Henry V, who on his wedding day had leggings in light gray. [Chalamet is the star of The King, a biopic about King Henry V.] It all came together very easily. I proposed, and there he went.
But the silk top, the double belt. Men on the red carpet have been so dependent on the idea of a uniform, and they have all looked the same for so long. That was a great moment for fashion. For me, the excitement now is in menswear because you see young people breaking with old conventions, old rules.
I think there’s going to be a turn. After Timo wearing this in Venice and wearing the Louis Vuitton harness, I think he opened up the road. He is challenging people to dare, and that’s a very nice thing.
Has working with Timothée affected the way you design in general? Has his willingness to dare, as you say, made you think differently about your next collection?
Actually, no, but, as I said before, he and Tilda have the capacity to wear the clothes and make them their own. In French we say, ils se posent sur les vetements, which means “they come in, and suddenly it feels like it belongs to them.” You know what’s very beautiful? It’s just being companions. I’ve got my job, he’s got his job—how are we going to collaborate together to do this? It’s just a beautiful exchange that has turned into a friendship.
Originally Appeared on Vogue