By Bianca Posterli
When Elle creative director Joe Zee devoted an entire page to Brooklyn Decker, it was clear that he had fallen in love with the all-American beauty. Modelinia decided that a little chat was in order, so we sat down with Mr. Zee to discuss, surprise surprise, models—from models turned editors to how they inspire fashion.
How did the idea to have models as such a big part of Elle begin?
I think Elle has been a frontier for breaking in new types of models. When Elle first launched it was always using models who had a different look—that was its strong directional. I think that’s what Elle wanted to celebrate and highlight on its pages.
What do you think about the resurgence of models in the industry right now?
I don’t know if models ever really went away. Celebrity culture eclipsed it for a while. Everyone wants to see a great fashion model and a great story. That brings back the idea of fashion and what fantasy is all about. I think the recent resurgence of models is happening because people are in a depressed economic time looking for more fashion and glamour and that sort of fashion element that is missing. I think celebrities satiate that to an extent, but models bring it to a new level.
How did the Erin Wasson shoot come about for the April 2009 issue?
I’ve known Erin since she started modeling, and when I saw what she was doing with Alex Wang I was intrigued. When I got to Elle, we wanted to celebrate personal style. So I thought, Who has better style than Erin? If you look at her, it harps back to the time when a lot of models became editors. They know how it works better than anyone. They know the clothes, they know the desires, they know what a good picture is, they know how to translate that picture. For me, Erin was that logical next step for Elle, the model turned editor.
What do models bring to the magazine?
Someone like Erin or any of these models, they have worked with the best photographers, editors, worn the best designers… There’s no better training than that. There’s no better school you could go to. If you’re sitting in front of Steven Meisel on a shoot for Vogue Italia, that is the best training you’re ever going to get. If you have a great sense of style, you can be an incredible editor. Some of the best editors today are former models like Grace Coddington and Tonne Goodman.
Tell us a little bit about your new love for Brooklyn Decker.
I got those pictures from her agent and I didn’t even know she married Andy [Roddick]. I just looked at them and thought she looked like a young Cheryl Tiegs. She had such a young freshness, and then I met her and was even more entranced. She isn’t that typical runway model, but she was so engaging and so honest and so girl next door. It was so refreshing to see.
Who are some models that you would love to have contribute to Elle?
I think that’s a difficult question because it’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I think each model embraces fashion and style in her own way. So many people have great style. Kate Moss has great style, but then I look at Daria [Werbowy] and she has great style too. It’s a very loose cool style. I also love Lara Stone. All the styles I love are effortless in terms of how they make it less contrived.
Who are some new girls that have caught your eye?
Kate Somers. She was in our March issue with the red hair. She’s just got such an angelic and haunting quality about her. I think it’s about different people for different reasons. We put Adriana Lima in our March issue and reinterpreted her in a new way. It shook up how people see her.
What do you think of the current fashion obsession with Twitter since you’re a new convert?
I love it. It’s very addictive. It’s an excellent exercise for an editor because you have to tell a short entertaining story in 140 characters or less. Then you get very used to writing that way.
I try to write without “text speak.”
Everyone’s obsessed with model off-duty style—including you. What have you seen the girls wearing that has caught on?
Denim cutoffs. Models were the first ones to wear those and then you saw them everywhere. I saw a lot of models wearing over-the-knee boots. It’s the way they make them so unique and fresh. I see them wearing something, and I’m like, Oh, I didn’t think of that. Models inspire things that trickle down. A model shows up to a go-see and the designers like what she’s wearing, so it goes in the show and then ultimately it becomes a trend. It’s this long loopy circle.
What have models taught you?
They add such a great element to what fashion is about. They are so valuable in translating something because a good model can make anything look like a million bucks. It’s about putting it on and knowing how to translate that fashion on a body. It isn’t just standing there looking pretty. I think they have to bring their personality and who they are to the picture. The most successful are those that do that.
Check out Brooklyn’s model style here.