How We Met: Poppy de Villeneuve & Zac Posen
'You could throw her out of a plane with a parachute and she would fit in wherever she landed'
Sunday 17 May 2009
Poppy de Villeneuve, 29, is a photographer. The daughter of Justin de Villeneuve – the 1960s fashion photographer who discovered Twiggy – and the model Jan de Villeneuve, she studied photography at the London College of Printing and has worked for publications including Vogue and Dazed & Confused. She lives in New York
I met Zac in London while he was over from New York, studying at St Martins. He was a guest at a friend's dinner party and we clicked instantly. We've always felt very familiar with each other; I'm not sure why. He wasn't happy in his apartment, so he'd stay at my place all the time. It was a big, crumbling house on Portobello Road owned by an eccentric old hippy and it was always full of people so it was a very fun, quite mad time.
We went through a phase where he'd build dresses on me or I'd take pictures of my sister Daisy in his clothes and we'd go out to the fields at night to do shoots. He did this amazing project for college where he made an equestrian dress that was supposed to be worn by a model on a horse, but we put our friend Lucy in it and photographed her in Wormwood Scrubs at midnight, running around with our flashlights. With Zac, I've always felt like I can be a little kid and I really like that.
He didn't finish his course at St Martins, as he missed New York and felt ready to get back there to set up his business. I think it was a wise move. I'm not surprised by Zac's success at all, as he has always been so focused, but I am surprised by how well he has dealt with it. Being famous in your twenties is not easy. He has such a public persona here in the US now, but he really hasn't changed.
I moved to New York two-and-a-half years ago and having Zac here was important to me. It's such a full-on city that you need solid friends. I spent Thanksgiving at his parents' house and when I broke up with my boyfriend, he was one of the people I spoke to a lot.
I find it funny when people recognise him. We were having lunch the other day and people were coming up to say hello. He has a whole look, though, which makes him stand out – he has this tight, curly black hair like a Greek god and he often wears a neckerchief or fur. Sometimes he'll dress me up in some strange outfit too.
If Zac needs a lady on his arm for a big event, he often takes me along, which is nice, as those things are fun but kind of silly. In the industries we work in, people often tell you what you want to hear. We don't do that – we're not trying to impress or judging each other. We can just be ourselves.
Zac Posen, 28, is a fashion designer who shows at New York Fashion Week. He founded his eponymous label at 21; his clothing is a firm favourite with stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman and Lucy Liu. He lives in New York
She will kill me for saying this, but Poppy is the girl other girls would die to be – a cross between Lee Miller and Winona Ryder; very elegant but also a lot of fun. I met her in 1998 at a glamorous luncheon party in Shepherd's Bush. I'd heard lots of good things about her from friends who had crossed her path on visits to London and we realised instantly that we shared a lot of interests and ideas on art and fashion.
I was lonely in London and Poppy really took me in. It was a very maternal relationship. She was living in this amazing punk-rock-meets-Tim-Burton house on Portobello Road, which everybody seemed to have passed through, from cultural icons to royalty. It seemed like a cast of characters right out of Dickens. Her mother Jan is American, so I spent my first Thanksgiving in England at their family house in Sussex and found a second family.
Poppy and I have a rare understanding that comes from both having artists as parents – my dad is a painter and her father is a fashion photographer who basically invented the look of the 1960s. We both know what it is like to grow up in the shadow of someone else and how you have to struggle to find your voice.
She is the first photographer I worked with and it's a delight for me to see her work progress. She once photographed me in her mother's cape and riding hat in a graveyard at night, probably in my full Freddie Mercury make-up, which was quite fun. She has this duality in her personality and in her work – a very serious, focused side balanced by a very light, humorous aspect.
I think it was quite challenging for Poppy to move to New York, but I have always been here to protect her. She doesn't need it, though – now she is a fully integrated New Yorker. You could throw her out of a plane with a parachute and she would fit in wherever she happened to land. She is quite the little master socially but it's nothing calculated, she just loves people.
I love dressing Poppy. She introduced me to pieces her mother had by designers such as Ossie Clark and Bill Gibb, which have become very influential on my work since.
We are very hard critics of each other's work, but we can be honest, as there is also a great trust and understanding between us. I think we are so close because we are both still just little kids at heart. Maybe when we grow up we'll get married. n
You Are Everywhere – New Photography by Poppy de Villeneuve is at the Gallery, Soho Grand Hotel, 310 West Broadway, New York (www.sohogrand.com), from Wednesday to 2 September
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