Actress and fashion muse Chloë Sevigny is in full bloom fresh off ‘The Act’ and ‘Russian Doll’
You never know where Chloë Sevigny may turn up. She’s battled zombies — alongside Bill Murray and Adam Driver — on the big screen (in the Jim Jarmusch film “The Dead Don’t Die”), filled her car trunk with watermelons on the small screen (as the main character’s mother in a “Russian Doll” flashback on Netflix) and taken a spin down the Simone Rocha runway at London Fashion Week. And that was just in the first six months of 2019.
Since then, she was announced as a cast member in Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming HBO series “We Are Who We Are,” set to film in Italy between now and the end of the year. In October she’ll start popping up on coffee tables across the country as one of the ’90s-era New Yorkers featured in Walt Cassidy’s book “New York: Club Kids,” and, by Thanksgiving weekend, she’ll be back at the multiplex in Lena Waithe’s “Queen & Slim”; meanwhile, her third short film as a director (“White Echo,” which debuted at Cannes) is winding its way through the festival circuit.
And, thanks to a just-dropped fragrance collaboration with L.A.-based perfume maker Régime des Fleurs, you can now dab a little bit of Chloë-inspired rose eau de parfum on your wrists so that the scent— like the myriad roles of her nearly quarter-century-long career — is everywhere around you all at once.
This last project is why, on a humid August afternoon, Sevigny popped up amid the teeming masses crowding New York’s Grand Central Station — solo and wholly unrecognized — and headed for a back table at the Oyster Bar restaurant to talk all things film, fashion and fragrance. She arrived wearing a pair of Adidas track shorts paired with a sleeveless white one-off Maison Margiela top over which she’s wearing an unlined blue blazer (also Margiela). Slung over one shoulder is a bag by avant-garde unisex label Telfar.
“I call it preppy edgy — or edgy preppy,” Sevigny says of her current street-style vibe, explaining that she’s just arrived on the train from visiting her mother in Darien, Conn., to roll a few interviews before going to an art opening that evening. She says she’s not keen on talking to the press (“Because I’m not good at it,” she says) but she’s here — and answering all the “who are you wearing” questions — because she knows that her celebrity status can garner attention for projects and designers she cares about.
In this case, it’s highlighting the work of longtime friends Alia Raza and Ezra Woods and their 5-year-old brand. “It’s a small brand, independently owned by two people that I really respect and admire [along with] all the other products that they put out into the world,” Sevigny explained. “It’s [about] wanting to help them and lift them up. And I get to do a perfume!”
Sevigny likened the project to her stint as creative director of friend Tara Subkoff’s Imitation of Christ label in the early aughts, the several-season collection she designed with Opening Ceremony a decade later and, more recently, her appearance on the London Fashion Week Simone Rocha runway in February of this year.
“I had worn [Simone Rocha] to the  Met Ball and she came to New York to do the fitting of the dress and I just fell for her as a person, what she does and how she kind of exists a little bit outside of regular fashion,” Sevigny explained. “She’s not following trends, she has a very specific approach and voice. So when she asked me to [walk in the show] I was like, ‘Of course I want to come!’”
It was also one of the goals of her many high-profile — and high-fashion — red-carpet appearances at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, plotted out, outfit by outfit, with stylist Haley Wollens.
“We were trying to draw attention to some designers that maybe don’t [get attention that] often,” Sevigny said. “So we showcased people like [Mugler creative director] Casey [Cadwallader] and Marine Serre — the woman who does the [crescent] moon dresses.”
Sevigny added that she and Wollens also used the Cannes red carpet as a chance to showcase the less-often-seen side of the actor-director. “There was also the idea of doing more Hollywood glam,” she said. “People always see me as this hipster — whatever the hell that is. So I wanted to do something more classic Hollywood.”
One standout look from the film festival was the dress she wore to a dinner hosted by French luxury label Chanel. “That was one of my favorites —and it didn’t get much coverage,” she said of the fringy leather Chanel number. “Sometimes your favorite looks don’t get [much] coverage. Haley was like, ‘Go outside and get some paparazzi shots!’ and those ended up being some of the best photos.”
Longtime favorite Miu Miu also was in the mix (“Carmen,” the second short directed by Sevigny, was one of that label’s “Women’s Tales” female-directed film series), as was Loewe (an eye-catching dress overflowing with eyelet lace and pearl accents) and the aforementioned French designer Marine Serre (a black dress with billowy pink floral-print sleeves and gold chain detailing straight off the fall/winter 2019 runway).
“The Oscars in 2000, for sure,” she said. “It was Alber [Elbaz] for Yves Saint Laurent and the Asprey [necklace] was like a Maltese cross. I’d been wearing Alber for YSL for a while and I was going into the archives and wearing vintage YSL — I was sort of having a YSL moment — and was wearing it for the whole campaign leading up to [the Academy Awards], so this was sort of the piece de la resistance. ... At the end, instead of a bouquet of flowers, [Alber] sent me a bouquet of sketches of me in all the different outfits that I’d worn.” (Chris Pizzello / AP Photo)
But the hands-down most memorable — and glamorous — was the Mugler gown she wore to the premiere of “The Dead Don’t Die”: a custom black silk crepe dress with a thigh-high leg slit and nude corset accessorized with black harness gloves. The high point of the one-woman glamour parade further underscores Sevigny’s style synergy.
“Haley pulled a bunch of references to old Mugler, sent them to Casey [Cadwallader], he did a bunch of sketches, they talked about it, he created a custom [dress] and then we did the fitting in Paris,” Sevigny said. “And now she’s styling [his upcoming runway] show in Paris. Having it all come together like that is a dream come true — everybody gets elevated, everybody wins and I get to wear beautiful dresses!”
Sevigny said she first started working with Wollens a few years ago — mostly for big events like Cannes, the Met Gala and the Academy Awards — after a long stretch of going it alone. “I’d look at style.com or whatever and then have my publicist call [things] in. It’s not that that’s such a hard thing to do but it just takes a lot of brain power. And I want someone else to tell me what looks good. I think I can fall into a bit of a fashion rut sometimes and she’ll think of things that maybe I wouldn’t.”
That doesn’t mean Sevigny doesn’t have opinions when it comes to her characters’ onscreen style. “I always get in trouble for trying to, you know, give my two cents in places where it doesn’t belong on film sets,” she said. “Well, not in trouble, exactly, but I sometimes feel like I’ve crossed a boundary and often it’s hard for me to hold my tongue.”
During her run as prairie-skirt-wearing polygamist wife Nicki Grant on HBO’s series “Big Love,” for example, she pushed for a more buttoned-up wardrobe. In the about-to-start-shooting “We Are Who We Are,” mini-series, in which Sevigny plays an Army colonel and mother of the character played by Jack Dylan Grazer, it’s a decidedly different vibe.
“She’s military, she’s married, she’s out [of the closet] and she’s, I’d say, more butch,” Sevigny said. “And she’s also still holding onto a bit of a ’90s rebellious thing.” Her hair is cut short because, Sevigny says, “A large percentage of women in the Army have shorter haircuts,” but also because “[Guadagnino] also had this vision of my hair as being kind of like [philosopher and gender theorist] Judith Butler’s.”
During the three weeks of hair, makeup and wardrobe preparations in Italy, Sevigny says she had a real-life person in mind when it came to offering suggestions to costume designer Giulia Piersanti. “There was an artist who just had a show at the New Museum, Sarah Lucas, and kind of the way that she dresses, sort of a looser T-shirt with a big collar and jeans tucked into motorcycle boots, kind of like a tough girl. So I made references to Sarah Lucas and [Piersanti] was kind of on the same wavelength.”
Likewise, Sevigny has infused her perfume project with Régime des Fleurs with inspirations and references, both large and small, plucked from her personal life. The baby blue and gold colors on the Chloë Sevigny Little Flower bottle were her idea (partially inspired, she says, by her collection of Herend figurines and partly by Joan of Arc’s coat of arms), and the typography on the bottle was tweaked to underscore the connection to classic Hollywood glamour. What nobody knew when the yearlong development process started was that another favorite of hers would be the key.
“I love tea, I drink a lot of tea — as I am right now,” Sevigny said, holding her glass of iced tea aloft for emphasis. “And I love the scent. I think we were in the lab smelling different things and I asked to smell the [black tea] scent and the essence of it was so amazing.”
The resulting juice is a cipher of a scent; simultaneously traditional and subversive, light and dark, romantic and mischievous. The Ottoman rose absolute and black tea notes, along with blackcurrant bud, pomelo, peony and honeysuckle (among others), result in something that smells less like a rose and more like the air in a greenhouse filled with fresh-cut roses — buds, stems and leaves, some speckled with dark, wet soil.
Although the fragrance launch is still several weeks away at the time of our Oyster Bar sit-down, Sevigny tells us she’s been wearing it almost exclusively for a while now (she has connections, after all). So maybe it’s our mind playing tricks on us when, after she’s gone—out of the restaurant, through the humid human soup of Grand Central Station and down the subway escalator to pop up somewhere else — the smell of fresh-cut roses seems to linger ever so briefly in the air.
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