The Eternal Artist – Grimes Vs. YSL

A New Union

In 2012 Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, exploded onto the international music scene with her debut album ‘Visions’; within six months she had become the toast of the music and fashion worlds,  having shot stories and covers for the biggest fashion publications. It was on one of these shoots that she met freshly appointed head of the newly renamed Saint Laurent Paris, Hedi Slimane. Just months later she is set to launch an exclusive collection for him and YSL. Clash’s Creative Director caught up with her in Paris, on the eve of quite a spectacular day spent with the planet’s fashion darlings  at Paris Fashion Week, and chatted about her  shredding bouquets of Lagerfeld-gifted white roses to wear for the Chanel Couture show,  the aesthetics of her new album, and the very special collaboration between her and the music-obsessed fashion designer Slimane.

You’ve been in Paris for the last few days, going to the fashion shows; how have you found it?

It’s intense, but it’s fun too. It’s a lot of adrenaline and stuff. It feels like there’s a lot of pressure all the time to not do stupid things – there’s all these shoes that I can’t walk in so I feel like I spend a lot of mental energy trying not to fall down in public right now. Every show we go to, we wear stuff by that designer. But you’re borrowing stuff that costs more than  your entire bank account, so you’re stressing  about losing things.

I know unfortunately you missed YSL, but you were at Chanel Couture this morning, right? What did you think and, more importantly, what did you wear?

It was such an amazing show, I actually wore this crazy… I don’t know, it was from the Versailles collection, but I’d say it was closer to Shibuya fashion that anything else I’ve worn this week. It was kind of like a giant flowery candy cane or something. Plus, Karl Lagerfeld sent roses to our hotel this morning, so I put them in my hair. Oh, and I met the girl from True Grit, who I think is a really great actress. So, it was all in all amazing.

Have you seen the Saint Laurent collection online?

Yeah, I saw it online. I wish I’d come to Paris a day earlier actually, so not to miss it. I thought the collection was really cool; obviously it was menswear, but there were girls walking in the show too, which I thought was really awesome. I feel like Hedi’s totally rebranding Saint Laurent. It’s cool to just go in and be  so radical with something  so established and just completely change everything everyone knows. It’s amazing that he’s been allowed to. I think it’s important for brands to do that.

Tell us about the T-shirt line you’ve done with Hedi, how did it come about?

I met him on a cover shoot last year, he was photographing me. We just got along really well on that shoot. It was a really intense situation due to the fact we were shooting with live hawks and birds – I feel like everyone kind of bonded because it was such  a hard day. Then my art, I  don’t know, maybe he just saw my art somewhere, and he just asked me to do  some illustrations for Vogue  Homme Japan. I thought it would be really cool for the fi rst big fashion thing that I did with a brand not be a modelling gig, but instead be something technical from my end, because I feel with most female musicians, their fi rst big brand pairing is a modelling gig. I liked that he saw me differently. I really just loved the idea as soon as he suggested it and he was like, ‘But we need them in two days.’ I was like, ‘Fuck!’ So my publicist ran out and got some art supplies and I just tried to bang it out as quickly as I could. Then he asked me to do  the T-shirts because I’d already  done the Vogue Homme Japan illustrations with him.

And    you    only    had    forty-eight    hours to    produce    them?

Both times there was a crazy deadline. I think it was Vogue and then a week later, he was like, ‘And this also…’ Obviously  I couldn’t say no. I was staying with the publicist at the time doing stuff in New York between tours and it was just, both times, just chugging coffee and working for six hours  straight or something.

How do you work creatively? Do you need locked away in a quiet space? Last time we met you said that’s how you produced ‘Visions’.

Well, with music, it needs to be like that, but with drawing, it’s a bit easier for me to do without being super emotionally engaged. I can enjoy drawing from a technical perspective; it doesn’t necessarily need to be an emotional thing for me so it’s a bit easier to do it anywhere. If I’m working on music and people are around, I’m totally nervous – I definitely couldn’t record vocals with other people in the room, but I can definitely draw in a much calmer way; I can put on a movie and draw a picture. I don’t need to be alone in an  intense space or anything.

Tell us about the illustrations themselves – there seems to be a lot  of reptile references.

Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like snakes are really classy! (Laughs) I knew I wanted to do something cartoonish  and also I knew I wanted to involve  animals in some way, and I feel like reptiles especially are extra classy and Yves Saint Laurent seems really classy, so…

I love the fact that you think reptiles are classy.Well, you know, because like a bear isn’t classy. It’s kind of cute and goofy or whatever. So  there’s different archetypes for different kinds of animals, but snakes are effortlessly cool. Plus reptiles just seem kind of, you know, expensive. I feel a reptile, like Yves Saint Laurent, is sombre, austere and cool – it just seems like an appropriate link.

How do you think that your personal style links to that of Hedi or YSL?

Hedi and I clicked really quickly because I hate wearing make-up  and on fashion shoots you always  get loaded with make-up, and on the shoot we did together last year, the  first thing he did was look at me and say: “I don’t want any make-up on her,” and I was like, ‘That’s sick.’ I love that because it feels classy but kind of masculine. I just feel like Hedi really appreciates that, you know, androgyny and stuff like that, and a simple kind of beauty. Like, he always takes these beautiful photos of granite and stones, something that is being presented as beautiful, but it’s not like it’s a diamond; it’s granite, its not obvious. And the first way that we interacted after the shoot was, instead of asking me to model again, he was asking to me to make something creative – most people don’t approach me like that. I just really appreciate that because I feel like as a female artist people just immediately pigeonhole you as like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a model’, or, ‘You’re just going to be pretty face’, and it’s actually I have a public image because I’m a musician. But I do do something technical and creative, and I feel like he recognises that. I like doing other things than just my music and Hedi’s like that too. He does everything from designing designs clothes to taking pictures and is an artist like me in that sense.

Do you think you could describe your look in three words?

I don’t know if that’s really possible for me, because I just always want to reinvent it; like every couple of months, my style changes completely. A couple of months ago it was military and then it was sci-fi  and then like, I don’t know… I  feel like right now I’m in this kind of assassin phase.

I love the fact that you’re in an assassin phase while in Paris going to the Chanel show!

Well, the Chanel show wasn’t so assassin, but I was very assassin at Versace. I was wearing a sick trench coat and combat boots. And my hair was pulled back really tight and I wasn’t wearing any makeup. All black. But then I was wearing this sequined dress underneath. I don’t know, I just really love the idea of like, Gogo Yubari, or all the characters from Kill Bill who are these assassins that just wear black leather outfits – they’re very stylish, but they’re also very practical and functional.  

This is your first time going to shows, and you’re just learning about the whole ‘fashion world’. Are you enjoying learning about it?

I love it. I think it’s really interesting. The way I approached it before was the wrong way to approach it and I feel like the human beings are the most magnetic things to human beings and an art form that is completely centred around the idea of a human being is a really intriguing art form.

Do you think that concept of the magnetism of humans will influence the next album?

Possibly, but I feel like the way I approach visual things is very separate from how I approach music – well, maybe not necessarily anymore, but I don’t know, I feel like I do a lot of things artistically and as far as art direction goes, I consider that a separate thing from my music, but that’s something I consider myself good at and something that I pay a lot of attention to and something that I spend a lot of time on. And I feel like engaging with  the whole fashion world has  been really good in terms of just developing my sense of design.

For example, I feel like the cover of ‘Visions’, the original presentation of it is cool, but I just could have spent way more time on it – I think I spent a day on it or less. So for this next record I’ve just been engaging with visual art, primarily fashion, so much more, so I want to spend far more time on the visual aspects of it.

You’ll art direct the next album as well then?

Yeah, I always will art direct everything to do with Grimes. I’m just going to spend a lot more time on the press  photos, a lot more time on the  packaging and a lot more time on the videos and stuff.  I’d be sad to see the raw passion of the first album lost; if you overthink it, it could be in danger of losing what made everyone originally fall in love with Grimes.

Well, the passion is always the most important thing, but I feel like there was so little to do visually with the first record – for the initial introduction there’s just an album cover. I don’t see why Grimes has to just stop at an album cover. As Grimes, I draw and I paint and I make  clothes and stuff and I feel like  that should all be part of the whole thing, you know.

Words: Rob Meyers
Illustration: Claire Boucher

Grimes' t-shirts for YSL are now avalable to buy.

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