Models Teddy Quinlivan and Hanne Gaby Odiele discuss how fashion is changing, working with John Galliano, and owning their differencesMaison Margiela
Models Teddy Quinlivan and Hanne Gaby Odiele, both dressed in white cotton robes and matching two-toed Margiela Tabi boots, are sitting in a room upstairs in the Maison’s atelier in Paris’s 11th arrondissement. From the outside, the former convent across from a church looks like any of the city’s other impressive old buildings – make your way past its heavy wooden door, though, and you find yourself in a space distinctly unlike any other. There’s the supermarket till that doubles as a reception desk, and the fact that everyone inside is wearing a white robe – the same shade of white that washes walls and floors.
The models have been chosen as two of the six new faces of Mutiny, a new fragrance for the house and the first under the creative direction of John Galliano, who joined in 2014. One look at the campaign and it’s clear that this is no ordinary perfume ad – for one thing, you can’t even see the faces of the muses chosen to promote it. They’re an impressive line up of outspoken, fiercely independent women which, as well as Odiele and Quinlivan, includes musicians Princess Nokia and Willow Smith, actress Sasha Lane, and model Molly Bair. Anonymity might be a strange choice in the clichéd world of fragrance ads, but not in the universe that is Margiela, where masked models and obscured identities have been in the DNA of the house since its beginnings in the late 1980s.
“It’s really about diversity and celebrating our differences and being strong and independent and not necessarily having to use our sexuality to sell something,” surmises Quinlivan, who has walked for brands including Saint Laurent, Prada, and of course, Margiela, and who spoke publicly about being transgender for the first time last year. Odiele (who has over a decade of runway walks under her belt) also made an announcement in 2017, revealing that she was intersex. The honesty of both marked them out as icons for today’s era of fashion – where models are silent ingenues no more, and what you have to say is just as important as how well you can turn looks.
Below, the two discuss the power of owning your identity, what needs to change in the fashion industry, and what mutiny means to them.
How does it feel to be involved in the campaign?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: Incredible.
Teddy Quinlivan: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s the first of its kind for sure in terms of the way it’s being marketed, so it’s really special to be a part of that.
Having models backs turned is definitely unexpected for a fragrance campaign.
Teddy Quinlivan: It’s unexpected, but when you think of the house of Margiela it makes a lot of sense. I think it’s one of the first fragrance campaigns that I’ve ever seen – if not the first – where you have such strong personalities, you don’t even need to see our faces to know who we are. Or maybe you don’t know who we are, and that’s also a part of the magic of it.
So why do you think you were chosen?
Teddy Quinlivan: I think for us it was more about what we stand for and less about how famous we are or where we come from. I only have 47,000 followers on Instagram, you know what I mean? That’s good, but when you think about who are taking these places in top advertising campaigns, it’s not girls like us, typically.
Is that indicative of a wider shift you’ve witnessed in comparison to when you first started modelling?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: Yes, I’ve definitely seen a change throughout my career. Before, we didn’t have a platform to talk or share our ideas. Right now with Instagram and social media, we have a voice where we didn’t before.
Teddy Quinlivan: Or nobody would give us a platform to speak.
Hanne Gaby Odiele: Now if you’re booked for a job, you’re booked for who you are.
What does mutiny mean to both of you?
Teddy Quinlivan: When I talked about it with John, he was telling me about how inspired he was by protests and the women’s march – a mutiny of women. For me, it means active defiance by being yourself in a world that tells you to stay in a box. I felt like all of us in this campaign, as well as the people who are being marketed to, are people who are different and I think that is a very special thing, especially in terms of beauty advertising.
Hanne Gaby Odiele: For me, Mutiny is just living my own truth. I’ve been able to do that for a year now and it’s kind of rebellious on its own.
Did you always plan to talk about your intersex status eventually Hanne, or was it something that for a long time you thought you would not talk about publicly?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: I always had to hide it, but since I started to model it was something I wanted to do, but I needed time to accept it first for myself and give it space in my life before I could be strong enough to come out about it. As a child, I never really had anyone to look up to that went through this, so I felt like it was my duty to at least tell my story, how well off I am right now and how good my life actually is. It’s not just a sad story.
Do you think the narrative had previously has been: ‘This is something that will define ’?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: It was always that something was wrong with me. But I am a healthy human being. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not a disorder, I’m just who I am.
Have you had any people who identify as intersex message you and say thank you, or come up to you? What has the response been like not from the press, but from actual people?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: It’s been great. A lot of people have used my articles to disclose to friends or to their partners and many parents have thanked me because they know so much more about why surgeries aren’t necessarily the right choice. It’s been good. Even doctors are thanking me.
Teddy, did Hanne’s decision inspire you when you spoke publicly about being trans?
Teddy Quinlivan: It was actually just coincidence that she was coming out around the same time when I was thinking about it, but it was amazing that Hanne had done something like that. It was a very inspiring thing to see: it really helped me to understand and see which direction I should go in and how people might take it and what the best way to do it was. I think she was definitely a trailblazer for me in that respect.
Talking about mutiny – what would you like to change about the fashion industry?
Teddy Quinlivan: There are so many things, but first and foremost we have to address the way that people are treated in general. Whether you’re an assistant, whether you’re a model. I feel like there’s been this overwhelming acceptance that being abused is okay because it’s fashion.
Hanne Gaby Odiele: It’s the way things are.
Teddy Quinlivan: You’re lucky to just exist in this industry even though you’re getting paid nothing. You get to be around cool clothes and you get to go to a nice party once in a while. I think that’s bullshit. If we really want to make positive changes, we have to really hold the mirror up to the industry and say what’s wrong with it. Yes I thought people were going to be shady, I thought people were going to mean, but I didn’t expect the level of misconduct that there is and the level of abuse that there is. We have so much work to do. We have to make sure that this industry is a desirable place to work, so we can attract the best talent. We are an industry that people look up to because it’s aspirational and if we want to make something in fashion, why don’t we start off with making inclusivity and a safe workplace fashionable?
Finally, what’s it been like to work with John on this project?
Hanne Gaby Odiele: I met him for the first time on the shoot, actually! He’s very sweet.
Teddy Quinlivan: He is the sweetest, most intellectual, amazing, outspoken-in-the-best-way person. He’s not afraid to take a risk and he’s not afraid to do something unconventional. I think that’s what is so special about working with him and I think that’s a great thing and a great thing for both of us because how often is it that an intersex person and a transgender person and this amazing cast of characters can come together to sell an extremely commercial product? It’s a fashion fragrance, it doesn’t happen often. Only John Galliano could have done that. He’s a remarkable person.
Hanne Gaby Odiele: He’s a mutinist.