Guest Interview n°21: Naomi Preizler

Guest Interview n°21: Naomi Preizler

Fashion icon in-the-making. Cosmopolitan. Budding artist. And she’s still a teenager. Naomi Preizler has been on the world stage for just over a year now, and has already walked for Issey Miyake, Sonya Rykiel, Maison Martin Margiela, Chanel, Gaultier, and Josep Font (and the illustrious list goes on). The Buenos Aires native is a model of the finest class, and simply oozes substance, intelligence, culture and sophistication, to boot. Inspired by her sketches, our Vicky Trombetta even shot her for the current issue of Wonderland. We get deep with Naomi in a long conversation about her place in the world, her view on the state of fashion and her role as subject and object of art.

What came first? Modeling or painting? And how did you make your way into each one?
I was born into an artistic family; my father’s an architect and my grandmother an artist, so they’ve encouraged since I was born. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was very little. I was also into wearing my mom’s accessories, and when I grew older I developed a huge interest in fashion, buying Italian Vogues and becoming familiar with the good designers. Plus my grandmother had an amazing wardrobe, and lots of its pieces belong to me now…
When I was 14 I was scouted by a local agent in Buenos Aires. I didn’t have any interest, but when I heard names like Versace and Chanel and cities like New York and Paris I started to keep an eye on it. I kept it slow until I graduated from high school and by then would travel to London first. I always wanted to go abroad and modeling was my perfect opportunity. Of course I couldn’t avoid being influenced by fashion at the beginning. And thanks to fashion I have something to say. And thanks to fashion I achieved lots of knowledge living alone abroad. I think sometimes that maybe I could still be stuck in Buenos Aires trying to find something to say…

You’ve said on your blog that “the figure is being modeled.” Essentially you are the figure being modeled when you’re working. How do you translate your artistic intuition and your painting into your modeling work?
Well I actually said that because the word “model” means a lot of things. I don’t like to call myself a model and I think that that word is misused for that profession. Because a “model” is something that should be followed because of its perfection. If somebody asks me what I do, I say that I work in fashion…
I’ve discovered a lot by looking at myself in the mirror and experiencing what my figure goes through while on set. I recently shot an editorial where I was pretending to be my own drawings styled in the 1920’s (I’m obsessed with that era). And I really understood then how bones bend and the muscles tense with different torsions and body expressions. So I could say I felt my figure being modeled by me.

How have your life’s recent, drastic changes affected you?
When I studied theatre the task I enjoyed the most was improvisation. It’s pretty much what happens in life. Things come and go unexpectedly. But when something goes away it leaves space for other things to come into our lives. In mine, in a model’s everyday life, this occurs very often. Opportunities and bookings and trips and contacts…

Do you have any formal art training? What made you first pick up a brush?
I became heavily interested in art as a teenager, through reading my dad’s art books. When I started traveling abroad I discovered, by going to all the big museums and exhibitions, how much I loved art, artists and movements. Later, I took classes with different artists. When I became established in NY, I started attending a non-formal art school. First The New York Academy of Art and now I’m attending The Artists Students League of NY, which is a great place where very important artists have discovered themselves, like Litchenstein and Rothko and Pollock… I’m like a sponge and absorb everything I see and hear. The atmosphere during an art class is very encouraging and deep and completely different than backstage! (Laughs)

The painting and artistic expression – is this something just for you, personal moments of release? Or would you like to expand and change lanes, and ride in the artists’ saddle?
I paint when I feel like it or when I’ve got free time, because it fulfills me, and this job requires balance. Because sometimes you are rejected, and I myself feel the need to grab a pencil and sketch something on a sheet of paper and say “I was good in the end”… I would carry my sketchbook everywhere as a means of expression; it’s like a catharsis. If I don’t have it with me I would pretend I’m drawing the situation on air to memorize that vision.
And of course, I love the idea of showing people that I can do something other modeling. People are very surprised sometimes when they discover I have some deeper talent…

What runs through your mind after you have created something on a canvas?
It’s literally the same feeling that I have after an orgasm, pleased and proud. If I’m not pleased with what I’ve done I tend to not throw it out, because in the end it was something that my unconscious wanted to express and I can’t reject it… After I’ve fixed the first lines and shapes on the canvas I stop for a long time and sit and stare and walk around and stare it again and maybe go out and when I come back I’ve already achieved the next piece to add. Because a painting is not an instant, it is a whole process.

Which artists do you admire or feel you identify closely with?
Basically the expressionists from the 20’s like Edvard Munch, Otto Dix, Kokoshka and Egon Schiele. I love Schiele most; he was a deep pessimist and dark character. His career was very short so we can’t really see his improvement like Picasso, but still with no money to buy materials he still found a way to express his very particular view of humanity. I also admire Lucian Freud, because of how he paints flesh on the body; Monet for the his drastic addition to art history. I love the woman as heroine that Rubens set out; David Hockney’s architectural sets; Marlene Dumas and Elizabeth Peyton as the 90’s figurative art revival; Banksy and Basquiat’s philosophies…

Painting, theatre, modeling – what else do you do that we don’t know about?
Nothing is enough for me! When they ask me the typical “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question, I don’t know where to start. In the beginning I loved dancing and wanted to be a ballerina; so there you’ve got something more: dancing. Basically anything related to expression. I like writing as well.

Do you feel that life is its own theatre stage? Which role do you play? And everyone else? Are they spectators or participators?
Yes it is, like the Improvisation task of drama school. If you try to follow a script you will fail. Life is not written. I’m just a student who enters on the sets of different people and then receives other issues and new characters onto my stage. We are all part of the play. We are all part of that system and life is a system which sometimes works as we want it to and sometimes doesn’t, and needs new pieces, new characters, new situations, to keep on working at the same speed that the world around us moves. And sometimes it stops working forever.

Do you live by any particular adage?
My father uses very often quotes from the Torah to refer to different life situations. The one that sticks with me the most is: “If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Hillel Hazaquen, 110 CE-10 CE).

Who are ‘the fantastic four’ featured on your blog? Are those your designs? What sparked those drawings?
I was in Milan during Fashion Week after a bad casting day, I felt the need to create my own designs. I was going through so many different fashion houses watching them do their thing and said to myself “I can do what I want as well”. So I did it. I drew four different figures with my four favorite looks that I always end up wearing.
Sometimes I would read these cheap magazines where they dictate to you the trend of the moment as if you were a marionette manipulated by the, in this case, fashion business ($$€€££). So I added funny ironic notes next to each look like “Hold your breath for the revival of the 1800s corset and feel a lady again. Where have all those gentlemen gone?” or in the Detail Section, things like “The briefcase: I’m already wearing my dad’s one and believe me, you can take your whole Mac cosmetic collection with you!” (Laughs) That’s consumerism!

You are an exceptionally talented individual. Is there something that is missing right now in your life? Something you’d like to pursue?
Talent! There’s not a limit, you are always achieving new things and developing your knowledge and life experience. My own is very very little right now in comparison with my entire future lifetime. In the end, I would like to feel I’ve lived life the best way I could have.

Everyone is tired of the superficiality and is hungry for what is real and raw, the people and things that they can relate to. What do you think will be the future of modeling and the fashion industry? What would you say is missing?
Fashion people are not the problem. We see fashion as a reflection of society. So it’s the society that’s in charge of moving business, because cause in the end fashion’s client is society.
There’s a lot of junk information surrounding us, propaganda. And then comes fashion to reiterate the same. I don’t mean by this by the clothes themselves, but in the way business moves, how people interact. In any case, I’ve met some amazing artistic, fashionable minds and thanks to them I’ve ended up thinking of fashion as a means of expression. People then choose to buy it or not. That’s the way it should be; we should be able to choose what we truly believe in with no one to convince and confuse us of our original vision. Fashion’s future depends only and exclusively on us, society.

What is your spiritual reality?
My “external me” may be classified in a group of others with the same tag. My “internal me” is the one willing to break that tag. So it’s a constant fight between soul and body, thoughts and extension. Most of the time we think unconsciously but act consciously. That’s why I agree with Rothko and Basquiat that the childhood is such an important process of life because as a child we don’t have inhibitions in expressing what we want, and should be encouraged not to loose that naïve, unconscious way of acting. The final goal is that my thoughts gain more control over my extension. We are a dual being and I try my best to find an understanding between both sides and identification. That’s when I reach a purer self…

Interview Coco Brown. Editing and introduction Tag Christof. Photos courtesy Vicky Trombetta / 2DM, other images courtesy Naomi Preizler.