Fashionable Liaisons

Being John Malkovich has always meant dressing with verve. Sometimes it means wearing other people's clothes--the 50-year-old actor has modeled for Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto--and other times it means wearing your own. That's right, Malkovich has launched his own fashion and design consulting firm, Mrs. Mudd--a companion to his film production company, Mr. Mudd--which has just produced its first John Malkovich menswear collection.

It's no surprise, really. Malkovich is frequently seen in the audience at runway shows and has directed two short films for close friend and fashion designer Bella Freud. Now he's visiting textile houses and having his original drawings of his menswear line made into sartorial reality by Mrs. Mudd's design team of Riccardo Rami and Kaoru Imai. Like his film choices, the collection, often bordering on dandy, can best be described as eclectic.

"You could call this the lifestyle collection of John Malkovich," says Francesco Rulli, Mrs. Mudd president. "Some pieces are inspired by his travels and others by what he sees." Malkovich designed a long, fitted Mullah jacket after hearing that the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, had fallen out of favor with the regime for "wearing his turban too fashionably." Rulli adds, "It's about a kind of attitude in the way that certain people dress."

More conventional muses include friends and actor Javier Bardem, director Bernardo Bertolucci, Russian novelist Andrei Makine and women's shoe designer Christian Louboutin. "Spike Jonze created 'Being John Malkovich' the movie, and John Malkovich created Christian Louboutin, the suit. I'm very happy because it's not a banker's suit," Louboutin says. "Before John was an actor, he was actually a tailor for the cinema. He is very much of an aesthete and that is rare. You know, some intellectuals have no eyes, basically. They're about the brain and not about visuals. John is a visual intellectual."

The Spring 2003 collection is available only to a select group of Malkovich's friends, but the Fall 2003 Malkovich line will be available to the public. "The clothes have a personality of their own and that personality comes from John," says Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of the chic New York boutique Jeffrey, one of the few U.S. outlets that initially will offer the Malkovich line this summer. Kalinsky describes a "beautiful light-touch black coat" he'll be carrying, in addition to fine-knit sweaters, a plaid blazer and jackets in corduroy and beat-up leather.

"This is not a mass-market collection, unlike other [brands] that actors have attached their names to," says Rulli. "And it isn't a couture line that's impossible to wear. The clothes are really from John's heart. They look really good on people who have definite character." Or who at least want to step into one.

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