VMAN’s ‘Coming of Age’ issue features a great fashion story starring 80’supermodel Lynne Koester and her son, model Paolo Anchisi.
‘Mother & Son’ is a handsome example of the current trend for narrative fashion stories with aspirations towards cinema. Shot by Sebastien Faena and styled by Robbie Spencer, it casts Lynne Koester as a burlesque stripper mom and her actual son gets to reprise his real-life role in shot too.
Played out in moody black and white photography, ‘Mother & Son’ has the flavour of an art house cinema classic to it; think early Robert Altman or the intense mother and son relationship of Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘La Luna’ (1979). Though apparently inspired by Ingmar Bergman, perhaps most of all, it brings to mind John Cassavetes and his complex cinéma vérité depictions of real people caught up in the grubby and gritty realities of a daily life that proves to be less than glamorous or rewarding. Lynne Koester, now 54, even bears a remarkable resemblance to Cassavetes’ leading lady Gena Rowlands in a number of the shots where she conveys the same sense of turmoil and interiority that made Rowlands’ onscreen presence so impelling.
The story provides the perfect platform to pick up some of the retro sensibilities and archival references within the current collections by the likes of Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton and Comme des Garçons and display them effortlessly and stylishly without grand gestures. The story-within-a-story concept means that even when we are shown images of Lynne Koester in full burlesque mode, any titillation is balanced by a kind of authenticity or straightforwardness achieved by placing the images within a narrative structure.
Not only does the feature fit perfectly with thematic of the issue, but it provides a timely reminder of one of the most iconic models from the 1980’s whose shoots for Italian Vogue and various other campaigns and titles with leading photographers remain definitive of the spirit of fashion at the time. Lynne Koester, unlike a number of her modelling contemporaries, did not choose to augment her celebrity with some other additional high-profile career or venture and, as such, slipped out of the limelight for many years. Furthermore, her androgynous looks and work with the enfants terribles creatives of the 1980’s meant that more mainstream publications, fearing offending a conservative audience, shied clear of casting her. Maybe some have even attempted to elide her from the history of the period, choosing not to include her or her work in key documentaries or publications on the period.
But, in ‘Mother & Son’, Lynne immediately reminds us of the presence she had in the 1980’s fashion landscape. And, of course, there’s a certain irony that the story effectively came about because of the headway that her nineteen-year-old son Paolo has been making with his own modelling career. He has already been shot for VMAN by Ellen Von Unwerth, gone down the catwalk for YSL and featured in numerous editorials in top magazines and campaigns including those for Benetton, Versace and DKNY Jeans.
In ‘Mother & Son’, the energy between Lynne and Paolo translates perfectly for this kind of cinematic fashion shoot that demands a more intense or psychological kind of engagement with the viewer than with a more traditional shoot for it to work well; this is the Method school of modelling. I’m sure Mr Cassavetes would have approved.
But, quite aside from that, VMAN pulls off a particularly smart move featuring this kind of story in a men’s magazine. To quote my inappropriate mother, a successful fashion story should feature someone you want to sleep with and someone you want to be, even if that happens to be the same person. With ‘Mother & Son’, VMAN seems to have all bases covered for its metropolitan, metrosexual readership.