20 + 20 Covers Project: Chloë Sevigny

The actress discusses NYC's film scene, street style and what's so special about Lizzie Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance

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Since starring in Kids in 1995, Chloë Sevigny has achieved mainstream Hollywood success, been nominated for an Academy Award, risen to the status of fashion icon, and become a fashion designer in her own right. And she’s done it all while maintaining her status as the Queen Bee of indie film. 

Dazed & Confused: How have you seen the indie film scene in New York change over the past 20 years?
Chloë Sevigny:
 When I started there was a lot of excitement around the resurgence of indie films--it was a real hay day--and people were throwing money at small productions. It was a lot easier to get a film off the ground, and there was just this incredible energy in the indie film world that made you feel like you could do anything and make anything happen. But now with distribution, and many other factors, it’s just impossible. The climate in NYC post 9/11... it’s like day and night. All the studios have shut down. People don’t even come to New York to cast anymore; there are no auditions to be had. Films either operate on a microbudget or it’s a big studio picture--there’s no in between. There’s almost no film community in New York anymore, and it’s really sad.

D&C: Your first Dazed cover was in 1996, when you were 21. Do you have any memories from the shoot?
Chloë Sevigny: We shot in London, and I was so excited to be there. I was an anglophile in the mid 90s—there was the whole cool Britannia thing, Pulp, great bands, and the way the kids there put themselves together was really inspiring.

D&C: What’s your take on street style in London vs. NYC now?
Chloë Sevigny: In New York people are more relaxed and don’t put as much effort in. In London kids put a lot of time into their looks, and they wear full looks from head to toe. I admire that, and it takes a lot of energy, but I think New York is just a little bit more cool. It feels less forced. Also, there’s a lot more “time travelers” in London. That’s what we call the kids who look like they’re from a different period. That’s very popular over there.

D&C: What’s so special about your back cover choice, singer Lizzie Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance?
Chloë Sevigny: She’s such a presence onstage and she brings so much joy and light to the crowd. The way she affects people is very profound. Everyone you meet today is so cynical and tired of the whole thing, but Lizzie can take an hour to make a cup of coffee and get the most joy out of it--she’s just like that--and for someone to find little pleasures in things like that is totally mind boggling and inspiring to me. I strive to be more like her.

D&C: How did you and Lizzie meet?
Chloë Sevigny: I was at a party at a loft in Soho for a literary magazine called Open City. I was there with a boy called Spencer Sweeny, who I was dating for a while, and him and Lizzie were in a band together called Actress. It was a performance art band sort of thing. And so Lizzie and her friend Jessie were DJing and playing all this crazy music, and Spencer was changing his outfit every five minutes, and somewhere in the midst of it we were introduced. I was very intimated by her and Jessie together. They were both these really powerful women and looked super cool, and were playing amazing records. And then soon after that I went to her art show and brought her a gift, a handkerchief. We bonded instantly. That was in ‘99 I think.

D&C: Do you have a style icon?
Chloë Sevigny: My friends--people like Liz Goldwin, Jen Brill, Lizzie, and just girls around New York and LA who know how to put an outfit together. Growing up, I didn’t have many style icons. I was more inspired by girls around town, and my brother’s girlfriends.

D&C: What qualities make a person sexy?
Chloë Sevigny: Confidence, a sense of humor, and intelligence, obviously. If someone is good at what they do, I find that a turn on.

D&C: Do you have any fetishes?
Chloë Sevigny: When I first moved to NYC I was really attracted to the Hasidic boys I’d see on the train. I would have fantasies about being with one of them a lot. There was something about the way they dress that I just found madly attractive.

D&C: Did anything ever happen?
Chloë Sevigny: No. I remember I went to see Don’t Look Back, the Bob Dylan film, at Film Forum, and there was a Hasidic boy in the back of the cinema, and I almost approached him but then I got too shy.

D&C: If you could give your 20 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Chloë Sevigny: I would just tell myself to own it more. I was really insecure in my early 20s, about my looks and everything else. But I see girls today and even if they’re not quote “pretty”, their youth and vitality make them so attractive, and I wish I’d understood that then, and that I’d had more confidence. During that time I had a really powerful, strong boyfriend, and I felt really inspired him, but also a little smothered, and I was still trying to find my own voice. Now, nearly 20 years later, I’m finally starting to understand this business and own it a little more.

D&C: What do you mean by, “own it”?
Chloë Sevigny: Well, being an actress, you’re at the mercy of the productions around you. Like, being in a band is so romantic, but acting is different. When I was young I got a lucky break, and I kind of fell into my career, and then there was a certain turn of events in my life that meant I suddenly had to provide for people, and so I had to take on jobs just to make a living. So that kind of changed things. But now, years later, I’m finally taking initiative and trying to get productions off the ground. I’m producing something that I’ve wanted to make since I was 18. I’m making things happen rather than just being a player.

Photo Rankin
Styling Robbie Spencer
Hair Ashley Javier at Art and Commerce
Make-up Linda Hay at The Wall Group
Dress by Alexander McQueen; head piece stylist's own.

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