Anna Dello Russo Talks Macy’s, Ballerinas, and Crystal Renn’s Taped Eyes

anna dello russo

Photo courtesy of Anna Dello Russo

Anna Dello Russo, up close and personal

With a little help from the likes of Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman, Anna Dello Russo—who used to occupy her time solely as the fashion director of Japanese Vogue—has become a fashion celebrity, complete with a signature fragrance, blog, and music video.

Unorthodox? Sure, but for Dello Russo it's the future of fashion, tapping into all different areas of business and culture to build a personal brand.

The latest bullet point on the Italian's impressive resume is a collaboration with American retail legend Macy's. It's a far cry from the head-to-toe couture she typically sports, but Dello Russo dove into the project, styling the department store's INC collection and working with the design team to identify coming trends.

Of course, she hasn't quit her day job; Dello Russo still loves all things haute, and recently had a brush with controversy when she taped model Crystal Renn's eyes into an elongated almond shape for a shoot in Japanese Vogue.

FashionEtc sat down with the self-described “fashion maniac,” to talk about her storied clothing collection, her real intentions behind the Crystal Renn shoot, and her dreams of everyone in fashion becoming ballerinas.

What was it like working with Macy's?

Terrible! Never again! [Laughs] No, it was fantastic. It was the first time a big American group approached me. When they first approached me, I said, 'what’s happening, what do they want?' But I liked it so much, because America, for me, is a big professional place. Everyone works so hard, and I am like that.

I was not surprised about the project—I think the project was in the air. It’s also what Barneys is doing with Carine [Roitfeld]. It was time to do something new, mix roles, mix people. That’s why I accepted. It’s a new approach, a new modern approach.

What was your role, exactly? You didn’t design the collection, right?

No, no, no. Like a guest editor. I was the editor of INC. It’s a—what would you say—mass-market collection? I don’t want to be rude! This INC collection, I edited the pieces and made images. I gave advice to the stylist group to develop the trends for other months, and I styled the campaign. It was a new thing, which is good!

Sometimes people ask me what I am, and I say, I don’t know what I am anymore! You explore new things. Five years ago, everyone was in a corner. Now it’s possible to do a different approach. Like Carine, doing everything! When she left Vogue, I said, now you can do what you really like, and there’s a lot to do! You know fashion very well, but you try to use your knowledge in a new way, and refresh the way you see it. If I edit a magazine, it’s always the same.

You’ve branched out from styling so much, between this, the perfume, the song…What other projects do you want to do? Would you want to design?

Design my own line, no. Never say never, but so far I don’t want to design because I love what the designers do for me! But I like exploring with fresh approaches, my personal name, or brand.

It’s a kind of an experiment, my personal brand, ADR. I started with my blog, and I wanted my name out there, but I really had to put myself in different angles. I said to myself, why don’t you dance? Why don’t you do music? Just to see if there is another approach to fashion. I think there is, and now I feel much happier because the work doesn’t feel like work. It’s much more entertaining, and that’s good! I came from 22 years of really hard work. Now I have fun! I never thought this was possible, a Macy’s collaboration. But I pushed myself to be visible, to be out there, to show myself. I said to myself, you have to be visible.

Obviously you’ve played a major part in it, but are you surprised by how you, as a brand, have taken off? How so many people know who you are?

It’s really, really impressed me! That’s made this INC collaboration possible, because they—the American people—know me through this kind of process. They didn’t choose me because I was at Vogue 20 years. They chose me because I was a kind of new experimentation. It’s time to change. If you change in your small world, everything will come. That’s my philosophy. It doesn’t come spontaneously! I work on my blog every night, if I do a video I do it right. I learned to dance—it’s not a joke. It may look like a little joke [laughs], but it’s not!

Do you think the fashion world will follow suit?

I hope! Then everyone will become a ballerina! [Laughs] We can have a big dance party! To me, it’s kind of breaking rules. I don’t want to be so heavy, I would prefer to be more [of] a light person, but a professional worker. I want to see if this works. I hope it works!

What are you looking forward to this Fashion Week?

You mean fashion month! Tomorrow [September 8] is Fashion’s Night Out at Macy’s. You know it was my dream as a kid to be locked in a big fashion department store at night! To play with the clothes all night. Tomorrow, I’ll say, OK, lock me in! I will stay all night!

It will be so intense, this month. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone after my holiday. I’m mainly happy about the approach of a new generation. Young people come up to me and I think it’s such a good spirit.

As a sort of street style celebrity, what do you think about street style and the way it’s changing? There was a debate in the Times a few weeks ago, with one side saying that having so many photographers around is making the fashion really contrived.

Street style outside the shows is not real street style. It’s a kind of fiction. But now, the interesting thing is what’s happening outside the show and in the show. Before, it was just what was on the catwalk, and now it’s around the show. It's a new world being photographed and having a lot of influence. I love that. Now everyone gets dressed up. Now it’s a game in fashion.

You still change your clothes three times a day?

[Laughs] Maybe more!

And you still wear each outfit only once?

I’m lucky because the new generation of designers makes something for me. Before I was going [out] to buy a lot of stuff. Now people come to me and propose collaborations. It’s intense, but I love it! It’s another full-time job.

What are you looking forward to wearing this fall?

A big trend is color. Today it looks like a foggy winter today, and look how beautiful a yellow dress would look! Like a sunflower! Black is no good—you already see so many times black and gray. Yellow and gray looks fantastic. I like impact clothes. I like shock clothes. It’s good to remember me!

Obviously the fashion world knows who you are now, but what kind of reaction do you get every day from normal people on the streets?

I’m really used to it now. I have no problem with that. Since I was a kid I was always dressed too much. I like to keep the attention of people. I like when people look at me, like that’s a great pair of shoes. I can deal. No problem!

Do you have a favorite outfit that you’ve worn?

The next one.

anna dello russo
Photo courtesy of Macy's
Anna Dello Russo and Karolina Kurkova pose together in the Macy's INC campaign.

You recently sparked some controversy when a video came out from a shoot with Crystal Renn for Japanese Vogue, where you taped her eyes.

Ah, this was controversial? Why?

Well, some wondered why you didn’t cast an Asian model rather than using a white model and manipulating her eyes to look Asian.

Really? I didn’t know. I put it on my blog, but I didn’t read the comments.

What was your intention by taping her eyes?

To make them look longer. Not Japanese. This is typical in the movies, you tape the eyes to make them look longer. It was [nothing to do with being] Japanese. I wanted to make this look really cinematographic. This is typical. I learned from makeup in Hollywood—I used to work with Paul Starr, who was an amazing makeup artist who did celebrities and Hollywood people. I learned from him the idea to tape the eyes to go a little bit longer. Then you put the liner to make them look longer. It’s interesting.

How do you balance your first job of styling with doing all these other projects? Do you miss styling as much as you used to?

I can do everything. I style my stories for Japanese Vogue, I do my collaborations, I do my blog. I share my time. This way I’m always fresh. You always have a fresh approach. I’m really happy so far.

And then next you’re going to be a ballerina.

[Laughs] Ballerina, that’s my dream! I want to be really a professional ballerina.