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Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland
All clothes and jewellery by Fendi SS15; all sunglasses by Thierry Lasry for FendiPhotography Sharif Hamza, styling Tony Irvine

The Clevelands: putting the feminism into fashion

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland

Iconic model Pat Cleveland goes head to head with daughter Anna on beauty ideals, fashion’s changing pace and the power of women who work together

Taken from the summer 2015 issue of Dazed:

Pat Cleveland and Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland are singing down the phone from Los Angeles. “Everybody comes to Hollywood! They wanna make it in the neighbourhood!” shrieks Anna, breaking out into a spot of Madonna. “We’ve been riding up and down Mulholland Drive, screaming and having a good time!” adds mum Pat, bursting into fits of laughter. California may be parched, but the Clevelands are anything but dry. 

Put simply, the model mother-and-daughter duo are born performers: free spirits deliciously unafraid of shaking up fashion’s po-faced routine with some off-piste freestyle posing. Across two generations, they have challenged industry norms and helped to pave the way for a new breed of model. Pat became a trailblazer for black models when she burst on to the scene in the mid-1960s, strutting and shaking it down the runway with little jazzy steps as a muse to the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Stephen Burrows and Halston. Now Anna is introducing a new generation to the family brand of magic, bringing London Fashion Week to a standstill when she closed the AW15 Giles show in a flurry of next-level twirling and posing. And earlier this year, when they fronted Lanvin’s SS15 campaign together, the pair proved that they were in equally high demand as a double act. 

Right now, Pat is knee-deep in writing her autobiography. Anna is acting alongside her modelling work, effortlessly combining the two in Fendi’s short film for their SS15 Thierry Lasry sunglasses capsule collection. In the film, which she says allowed her to really play with different characters, Anna slips in and out of guises like a chameleon behind richly textured, geometric shades inspired by the late-80s/early-90s Fendi archives. “I love the Fendi family,” she says. “There’s a big history there because my mother has been involved with them for years.” Isn’t it funny how things come full circle? 

Pat, what was the modelling industry like when you started out in the 60s? 

Pat Cleveland: I was such an oddball. I didn’t know where I fit in. There was only a certain style of modelling, which was very demure and quiet because it was a private thing. At the time, women who bought couture were very wealthy society ladies – it had nothing to do with the public, and there were no cameras at the shows.

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: My mother came in at a time when everything was kind of subdued and she created a beat and a performance for people – kind of fierce.

Pat Cleveland: The music at the time was becoming different. When I arrived in Europe from the States, it was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s walking to a different beat.’ I think the dancing was part of what made the change. People wanted to dance.

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: You made the change. 

Pat, before you came along, modelling was very immobile. But you gave it movement. 

Pat Cleveland: When I was starting out, women were suddenly androgynous. We took over the boys’ positions, had names like Pat and Tom, our own cigarettes and freedom, the pill, no bras... We wore pants and shoulder jackets – we were just taking over. You know how men show their feminine side now? Women were showing their masculine side. Our femininity was so powerful. We had no fear. I didn’t have to wait for anyone to tell me that I had power and energy. 

“Our femininity was so powerful. We had no fear. I didn’t have to wait for anyone to tell me that I had power and energy” – Pat Cleveland

It feels like we’re in the middle of a return to more theatrical shows.

Pat Cleveland: Thank goodness! I think people are bored. They’re just gonna turn into dead lumps sitting around, waiting for something to happen. But you know, it’s just like trends: up the hill, down the hill. 

Maybe it’s part of a larger wave of not seeing women as these silent objects.

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: That’s a fantastic theory.

Pat Cleveland: Yeah, we’re not only flagpoles, although some of us may have flagpole bodies! We just want to show that, whatever the designer is envisioning, we’re there to make it come to life. If you see people falling asleep in the audience, you wanna wake them up.

How do you feel about being in a position where you are the body ideal to a lot of women?

Pat Cleveland: I don’t know if we’re the ideal. Some women might hate us. Some might love us. We’re just a type.

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: When I was growing up in Italy, in a very small town, the ideal was women with big breasts and voluptuous bodies. But I was never going to have that. 

Pat Cleveland: I did a show with a girl who had no legs. She said, ‘What am I gonna do on the runway if I go behind you?’ So I said, ‘What you’re gonna do is run down the runway, just to show them you can,’ and she did. The audience stood up and applauded and she said thanks and I said, ‘That’s who you are.’ 

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: So what’s the ideal?

Pat Cleveland: You make your own ideal. If you find one flaw about yourself, embellish that flaw. Love it until it becomes something beautiful. You know what, if you don’t water the plant, it’s gonna die. When you get little lumps on your legs from cellulite and wrinkles and stuff, love them and you watch: those things will heal and you honour yourself. Because you’re alive. Some of us may have flagpole bodies and some of us may have wiggly-jiggly ones, but it’s all good! (laughs)

What’s it like to work together?

Pat Cleveland: It seems like people are very interested in our age difference. Women need to help each other, whether it’s mother and daughter or someone in a profession.

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: It’s nice that women have power whatever age they are. It’s about not giving up.

Pat Cleveland: You know, I respect Anna because she’s teaching me how to see new things and that’s really great. I’m so blessed to have a daughter who pulls me into the future!

Anna Van Ravenstein Cleveland: And I like to be pulled into the past once in a while, too. But my mum is always moving through the ages, and that’s admirable. For someone to have such a long career in this industry that fluctuates so much – like, two second trends and you’re thrown out with the trash – it’s a huge achievement.

Pat Cleveland: It’s like we’ve gone to the same university. The couture university! It’s a different pacing now – but we seem to be riding the wave together. 

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All clothes and jewellery by Fendi SS15; all sunglasses by Thierry Lasry for Fendi; hair Shingo Shibata at The Wall Group using Recine Luxe Hair Oil by Rodin; make-up Benjamin Puckey at D+V Management using Chanel AW2015; model Anna Cleveland at Next; photographic assistants Matt Hawkes, Hitoshi Tange; styling assistant Susan Walsh; make-up assistant Kunio Kataoka