Linda Evangelista: Our 35th Anniversary issue cover star talks family and fashion in this excerpt
Off-duty, she’s into family, fashion and fitness. But it’s Linda Evangelista’s gift for bringing clothes to life that makes her the most super model of all.
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First and foremost, there is that face—a transcendent convergence of flesh and bone that you can’t take your eyes off. But beauty alone does not explain what makes Linda Evangelista the greatest fashion model alive, or, quite possibly, who has ever lived.
Evangelista also has taste and pluck. They inform her work and the pride she takes in that work. As she, less gushily, puts it, “I like what I do.” What is it that she does, exactly? It’s fair to wonder. Watching her in Pamela Hanson’s New York studio shooting FASHION’s 35th anniversary cover, I get to see.
Since I first met Linda Evangelista, backstage at Chanel in the autumn of 1987, I’ve seen her do lots of shows. She’s done them all. But it’s her record of print jobs, her performances in front of a camera—her preferred audience—that test her skills and give her the bigger kicks. Years ago, she told me, “My book kills.” That’s still true. In the past year, Evangelista has appeared in some of the most memorable images, both charming and daring, of her career. On the cover of Italian Vogue, she was a mambo queen, ruling the beat with a pair of maracas. Inside the September issue of W, she was a super-freak, naked under a latex cape and transparent catsuit. As a mannequin, Evangelista is more than willing; she’s also capable. She doesn’t just put on a garment; she populates it. Watching her, I realize what she meant when she long ago told me, “Once I’ve worn an outfit, I feel I’ve really worn it.”
“It ain’t for nothing—supermodels,” says Hanson, who, operating in an almost documentary mode, feels no need to issue lots of directions. Evangelista takes to a red Lanvin dress—in that trendy, if unwieldy, spongy bonded material similar to what diving gear is made from—like a duck to water. Navigating the ruffles that frame her face, she pays attention to every contour, theirs and hers.
All movie-star glamour one minute, the next Evangelista makes pals with a suit of jacket and pants from Dior Homme. “Do I look like a lesbian?” she asks me, and the driest, most devilish thing about the humour in her question is that she knows she does. She could be one of those heroes of modernity who sat for photographer Berenice Abbott back in the 1920s. As it happens, this is a style just right for the fall of 2012, with androgyny again asserting its timeless appeal.
A certain tomboyishness is perhaps to be expected from Evangelista, a girl who grew up with two brothers, one a year younger, the other a year older. In fact, Jim, the elder sibling, is in the studio, seeing his sister, now 47, work for the first time. Strong and silent, he watches wordlessly, transfixed but not transported, his feet steadfastly on the ground. When the shots have been taken, it’s back to a usual day: brother and sister see each other all the time.
“Home is close,” says Evangelista, who has always treasured time with her family. They live in her hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. Her brother and her mother come to Manhattan, or she goes there. Now she travels with her son, Augie, who turned six in October and whose full name is Augustin James Evangelista Pinault, his father being French fashion magnate François-Henri Pinault.
Augie, who lives with his mother, is also at the studio. He has dropped by with his uncle Jim after a day of mini-golf. A cheerful boy, he and his mother laugh and play and clearly find joy in each other’s company.
But, we don’t have to talk about that. To her credit, Linda Evangelista has always maintained a measure of privacy, letting her fame rest squarely on her professional achievements. “I really like just to do covers and do the beautiful editorials,” she says. “I like to pass on the interview part.”
Read the rest of this interview in the November issue of FASHION Magazine