V134: Fearless Gigi Part Two
In a sequel to our Fearless Gigi series, the global muse soars through the New York City air in the season’s top fashions
It’s not every day that you get a supermodel to grab onto a wooden bar, jump off a plank placed high in the sky, and swing freely through the air. But Gigi Hadid is not your everyday model. And so, the fact that Hadid herself suggested trying the flying trapeze on a rooftop by Manhattan’s West Side Highway is perfectly fitting in its uniqueness and bravery. This cover story serves as the continuation of our Fearless Gigi series, which began in V114 when the same team, including photographer Mario Sorrenti, shot the fashion icon and V Contributing Editor as she daringly rode jet skis and ATVs—a shoot that has gone down in history as one of the industry’s most action-packed.
But why keep focusing on fearlessness? Because whether you’re looking at the net dozens of feet beneath you, or are simply daring enough to try something bold and new in your creative work, it’s these leaps of faith that help us prove to ourselves that we are capable, strong, and resilient. And, as with any photo shoot, the team that created these images also demonstrated a fearlessness of their own through their creative choices. Because of this, Hadid is seen here interviewing five of the fashion forces that were on-set that autumn day in October, thus shining a light on the artistic processes and great minds needed to accomplish something that’s never been done before.
MARIO SORRENTI, PHOTOGRAPHER
Gigi Hadid: What did you think when you heard that I wanted to fly on the trapeze besides “Gigi’s insane?”
Mario Sorrenti: Well, you know me. I was like, “Oh my God, can she do it? It’s so dangerous.” I’m always worried about your safety first. And then I thought, “Well, she’s pretty badass, and she killed it when we did the jet ski, so let’s try it.”
GH: Oh, thank you. It was so much fun. You’ll have to do it with me next time.
MS: Yeah. That would be really embarrassing.
GH: I wanted to interview everyone who was a part of this team so that the people reading it who want to be a part of the photo process, but not necessarily a model, get some perspective. When you do a shoot like this, what kind of expectations do you have, and then how have you learned to let loose and go with the flow? Because on a shoot like this, we’re at a trapeze-training facility on top of a building on the West Side Highway and you have to get the shot in. I went up there less than 10 times and you had, at most, under a minute.
MS: Obviously, it’s not the same as doing a normal fashion story. I had to get prepared a little bit. And the first thing I did was a little research on the photography that has already existed on the trapeze and trapeze artists, just to get a sense of what that picture looks like and what has been done. And then, the second thing I did was that I went to the location in advance and watched some people practice. And looked at the light, looked at the different angles, tried to understand in advance the things that you might be doing to get prepared technically. Just really getting prepared technically. It was a lot of preparation because, obviously, it’s something that happens instantly, and we have a fraction of a second to capture the moment. So even with the equipment, I used cameras that shoot at a really high speed. We got lucky that we had beautiful weather and that the light was really great.
GH: I love the chalk photos and even just the small moments of the heels going up the ladder. I don’t know which parts of that you plan and then which parts just happen. I think part of every shoot is that amazing moment when you get the shots that you didn’t expect at all.
MS: Well, I didn’t plan any of those pictures. That was just being really observant and reacting very quickly to what was happening. And for me, obviously, I’ve been doing it a long time, so my brain works very quickly. I see you doing something and then it’s right away.
GH: Your finger goes before you tell your finger to go, kind of thing.
MS: Exactly. I know what I want to see, what’s happening, what may happen. You totally blew our minds. You really were so focused and so committed and so athletic. It was amazing.
GH: I didn’t feel athletic the day after. My high school muscle memory came back and then the next day I was like, “Oh, wait.” I’m an old mother now, Mario.
MS: (laughs) Yeah, whatever Gigi.
GH: You have worked with a majority of the people on this team for a long time. Do you have any first memories or impressions?
MS: I met Bob when I was 18 years old and he cut my hair. And when I was 22 and I was looking for a hairdresser to work with, I knew some of the work that Bob had been doing, and I was like, “Let me call him up and see if he wants to work together.” And we became super good friends. And it’s been almost 30 years we’ve been working together. Stephen I met when he was a kid just coming out of school and starting out at Visionaire. I’ve known this team for a really long time, George (Cortina) I’ve known for a really long time as well. We worked on so many great pictures together. I’m really, really lucky that I’ve had some great relationships with some really incredibly talented people, you know? And I met them really early on and we all started quite young, around the same time. So it’s a great team. It’s almost like a family.
GH: That’s awesome. Well, it’s an honor to work with you, and I love and appreciate you. And these pictures and all the pictures we’ve done.
MS: Thank you, me too. I love working with you, as well.
GEORGE CORTINA, STYLIST
Gigi Hadid: Mr. Cortina, I would love to hear your [process] of going from the creative direction to ultimately choosing the pieces you’ll style with.
George Cortina: I mean, really it all starts with an idea, right? And for me, it’s always about the girl. Once you have the girl, then you do something around her. But this was different because the girl was saying, “Okay, I want to be on a trapeze.” But, when you do something that’s different from everyone else, I think it’s about the team. I never think it’s about one person. So when they said, “Gigi wants to do trapeze,” I was like, “Fantastic!” And I thought, “She’s going to be on a trapeze, so it actually has to work.” It can’t be like, a full corset because I knew you needed to be free and I don’t know how the clothes are constructed. I did want something on the trapeze with a stiletto, and Balenciaga happened to have made that outfit. And I thought. “Who else is gonna get on a trapeze in a high heel and mini dress and pull this off?
GH: I loved the first look where, my first time up on the trapeze, you put me in ballet flats. But I couldn’t really be surprised that you put me in heels and had me climbing a ladder.
GC: It’s amazing. It’s like an Avedon picture from the ‘70s. It’s beautiful. It’s really fun. Gigi, you remind me of who I grew up working with, because you’re a great model but you also take direction and you understand what to do for a picture. And I’m not just saying this, you know that I’m very straightforward. It’s a pleasure to work with someone like you, and there are some girls that do that, but not very many. I spent years dressing girls in front of mirrors and I wanted to know what they thought, when I trusted them. Girls like Raquel Zimmermann and girls like Stella Tenant, who I miss.
GH: Oh, well thank you so much. I loved this team, and I really appreciate the moments where we’re all sitting at the same breakfast table and talking about the hair and the makeup, and we can talk and give references and have opinions.
GC: It’s the best part of the day. It was really funny, (on this shoot) I wanted to do these black nails, but I wanted to fill them with rhinestones. Because I thought when the light hit them, it could be beautiful. So, I went backstage and you were almost done with nails and I was like, “What happened to the rocks?”
GH: And I was like, “I don’t know, I just work here.”
GC: Exactly. And they were like, “Well, Mario vetoed it.” And I was thinking, there’s this whole generation of 16-year-old girls that are decorating their nails in a really cool way. It’s kind of great. But then I was like, “Mario, you know what? That’s cool. I get everything else. You don’t want the rhinestones, I’ll live with it.”
LUIZ MATTOS, MANAGER
Gigi Hadid: So this is not my first time interviewing Luiz Mattos, management extraordinaire.
Luiz Mattos: I feel so honored and so important.
GH: I would love to know, from your perspective, how this shoot came together.
LM: Well, first of all, I love you, G. You are incredible. I’m so honored to be a part of your team and to be a part of this journey with you. And it’s so great to be back together with V magazine. I mean, you know, we started working with Stephen Gan years ago and it’s always such a pleasure to go back to the V team. And so for the shoot, Stephen contacted me–we were talking about doing something with you again. I remember it was in June, you were filming something, and you had a break. And I talked to you about doing a cover with V, and you were like “Oh, I love that.” And then you were like, “Let’s do something different.” You always have the most amazing ideas. I tell everyone, one day, if I become rich enough and I can open an ad agency, I’m going to hire you.
GH: Oh, I would work for you for free.
LM: Because you always have the most amazing ideas and you were just like, “How about a trapeze story?” You’re fearless. When you’re shooting, you go above and beyond. Anything can be happening in your world, but your work ethic is just phenomenal. So you came up with this idea for the trapeze.
GH: I was on the way home from work at Pier 59, where I work a lot, and I always drive past this trapeze school that’s at the top of a building and think, “I want to go there one day.” And sometimes this job is an opportunity to try new things, and to inspire people to try new things.
LM: Something new, yes. No one expected that you’d be on the trapeze wearing [Balenciaga] heels.
GH: That was just the George Cortina sprinkle. When he put me in ballet flats for the first look, I was like, “Perfect, this is very sensible, Mr. Cortina.” And then of course, there had to be a pant that turned into a heel.
LM: Yeah, I was so scared. You know, watching you going up, wearing heels. I was like, “Oh my god, let me close my eyes for a second.” You were a total pro doing those maneuvers in a car, on a jet ski, or underwater. It’s like that show America’s Next Top Model with all those crazy challenges. You think a model would never have to do those things, but…
GH: They do.
LM: Now I’m just waiting for the next one. Are we going to photograph Gigi in space? Are you ready to be an astronaut and do a shoot up there?
GH: I’d love it. I also wanted to ask you about your own career. How does a manager get from point A to eventually doing a photoshoot like this?
LM: In management, our job is not just to wait for the phone to ring. You have to come up with ideas. You have to brainstorm what you’re going to do next. You have to be constantly thinking, “What’s the next step?” And keeping that creative mind. People like you, Stephen, Mario (Sorrenti)—it’s the reason that I love being in this business, and am so proud to be a part of it.
GH: Did this shoot inspire you to one day try trapeze?
LM: Yes, I was inspired to give it a try. Maybe next time you’re driving on the West Side Highway you’ll see me up there. The whole thing was a great experience. It was a very good day. You know, despite the fact that you were in heels on the trapeze.
GH: They did tell me that very professional circus people wear heels up there. So I was just prematurely stepping up to the next shoewear level.
LM: So next fashion week, the designers out there should do a show where they display their collection on the trapeze.
GH: Well, Luis called it. You heard it here, first.
DIANE KENDAL, MAKEUP ARTIST
Gigi Hadid: I’d love for you to tell us about your process or inspiration for choosing this story’s look.
Diane Kendal: You always have that initial meeting, and I knew of the idea that you’d be performing on this trapeze. That was quite exciting. And after getting there and speaking with George (Cortina), I knew some of the pictures were going to be quite far away, but I really wanted to make sure that the focus was on your face. That’s why I decided to create a beautiful eyeliner and just keep it very simple. The shoot was all about how strong and dynamic you are, and I felt that this was a continuation of that.
GH: I loved it. And because it was in black and white, I feel like anything else wouldn’t have been as powerful.
DK: Exactly. If I had done a more cosmetic look, it would have almost disappeared a bit, you know what I mean? It had to be something quite graphic to go with that story. When we went back to the studio, it made sense to make that stronger, so we did more of an exaggerated version of the look we did for outside.
GH: What is the first thing you do when you get to a shoot? I think it’s hard for people when they walk onto a set and there are so many people, especially when you’re new. Even at this point in my career, I still sometimes walk on the set and I’m like, “Where do I go first?”
DK: Oh, definitely. It’s talking with either the art director, the stylist, the fashion editor or the photographer. Normally, there’s a meeting when you get to work with all those people.
GH: You’ve worked with this team a lot. Are there any first impressions of someone who you remember from a first job with them?
DK: The funny thing is I can remember Mario (Sorrenti). I first met Mario when he was a model. He wasn’t even taking pictures when I first met him.
GH: And you were doing makeup?
DK: Yeah. I wasn’t actually on a job. It was more of a social thing, but I can remember him being in London. It was when he was going out with Kate (Moss). He might’ve just been thinking about doing photography, but he was still modeling at that time. And Bob (Recine), I remember working with him probably when I first moved to New York, he had a little salon down in the Village, and he really didn’t do much session work at that time. He had done session work, and then he decided to open this salon, and then he decided to get back into it. He’s got amazing stories, you know? ‘Cause he started off in Andy Warhol’s scene. So he’s got a lot of stories from that time, and I think it was Andy that told him that he should be a hairdresser.
GH: Wow, you’ve all lived so many lives!
BOB RECINE, HAIRSTYLIST
Gigi Hadid: I would love for the people who read this and want to do hair to understand your process. What do you do when you get to set, how do you come up with your viewpoints on a concept, and then how do you work with the team to get that final image?
Bob Recine: The creative process is just that—it’s a collaborative effort. As you know, Mario (Sorrenti) had an idea that morning that he thought would work. I think we both knew right away that with you flying back and forth with your hair down, we were going to have very few frames of you with your face forward into the wind. So we had that meeting and if I remember, we quickly did the braids to give them an idea of what it could possibly be. Now that I’ve seen the pictures, it absolutely was perfect, and I think George (Cortina) saw that right away. And then Mario also saw it right away. It’s always something that we discuss, and in this case, there are elements of the wind and the direction you were swinging—everything that really came into play there—and it actually came out really well.
GH: I guess, as a hairdresser, you have to realize in which situations you’re going to have control of the hair and which situations you have to prepare the hair to perform for you.
BR: That’s really how we always come to that process, whether you’re flying through the air or even standing in front of the camera on a set.
GH: I know that you’ve been working with the majority of the people that were on set that day for a long time. Do you have any first impressions or stories of your first interactions with anyone?
BR: I used to work with Mario’s mom a little bit. Mario was a model at the time.
GH: That’s what Diane said. Diane spoke about your salon, which I would like to hear about after this.
BR: I owned the salon from ‘89 to ‘98, and in the early ‘90s, Mario started modeling. Mario came to me and I would cut his hair, and then one day Mario said, “Hey listen, Bob, can you give me one of the hairdressers? Because I’m starting to take pictures.” So I said, “Sure, let me see your pictures.” And I looked and I said, “Yeah, I have a hairdresser for you: me.” I saw right away that he was something really special. So that’s how Mario and I actually came together. That was more than 25 years ago, now. Mario started at 19 or 20 years old, taking pictures, so I was already kind of established and had a reputation and everything. I immediately recognized that Mario was absolutely going to be a part of the next wave of image-makers. And George (Cortina), well, he is a very special—not only person—but stylist. He comes from this kind of old-school, decadent elegance that a lot of people really don’t understand or don’t do any longer.
GH: There’s definitely a viewpoint when you see the rack. It’s not just a lot of stuff that he’s hoping to throw together once he gets there. He really has a direction.
BR: And like I said, it could be you going underwater, or on a trapeze—he still brings the pieces that, I have to say, at this stage are really indigenous to him. So, I think that he’s a really amazing person. And as I just revealed, I knew them both at very early stages and work with them regularly, you know?