The style stylist Mel Ottenberg, 45, has dressed among the world’s most influential celebrities (Rihanna and Justin Bieber) and labored with the most important manufacturers (Dior, Nike and Calvin Klein).
For the previous three years, he has additionally been the inventive director of Interview journal, the jumbo newsprint tome based in 1969 by Andy Warhol. This month, he has been named as its subsequent editor in chief.
I met Mel, who’s my Greenwich Village neighbor, the opposite day at my Covid “office” (a.ok.a. my favourite bench) in Washington Square Park to speak about his upcoming takeover. We knocked heads beneath an enormous ginkgo tree the place he laid out his plans to alter all of it up and mentioned the methods popular culture, superstar, superficiality, leisure and magazines match into our new apocalyptic paradigm of life.
So Mel, within the craziest, most existential second any of us has ever lived by means of, you’re going to be the brand new editor in chief of Interview journal. How does it really feel to inherit the stewardship of such a historic, pop-cultural platform?
I’m so excited to proceed this wonderful legacy that I’ve liked since I can keep in mind.
When Nick Haramis (the earlier editor in chief) and also you (as the inventive director) reinvented Interview three years in the past, I liked what you guys did. The spirit of the way you modernized it — the cultural combine, the style, the high-low glam-punk vibe, the intelligence, the informal approach you addressed superstar — simply spoke to me. Will we see an enormous change together with your first difficulty in October?
Yes! Now that the world may be ending, it’s like, “Hey, let’s make a magazine when nobody looks at magazines anymore.” It’s enjoyable as a result of now you are able to do something. I get to take dangers and swap issues up. I get to shock individuals. As editor in chief, my vibe will probably be about fast change and taking probabilities.
Do outsized magazines match into the zeitgeist lately?
When individuals say “Why is it so big?” or “I don’t like the size,” I inform them, “It’s newsprint! Just look at it, enjoy it and recycle!”
What evokes you from Interview’s heritage?
Andy Warhol! And that power that makes individuals wish to be part of our cool get together. Different eras additionally encourage me: The ’70s with Andy in New York is the last word all the pieces to me, the glamour and pleasure of the ’80s, the ’90s with Ingrid Sischy, the covers, the illustrations, and the combo of superstars and nobodies. It’s all in some bizarre Cuisinart in my head.
My dearest pal, Paige Powell, used work alongside Andy on the journal within the ’80s and would at all times inform me how essentially the most well-known individuals would simply pop by the manufacturing facility for lunch. Everybody wished to have lunch with Andy as a result of they knew they could meet a younger wonderful artist, a duchess or a hot-looking D.J. It was all concerning the combine. Paige was the hostess with the mostest curating these gatherings. She was at all times making an attempt to promote adverts, so she’d invite a possible bigwig advertiser to lunch, too. Then she’d at all times get the adverts. Andy liked it.
The authenticity of what Paige was speaking about is one thing that I completely aspire to and consider in. There are big stars in our September difficulty which are there as a result of they wish to have enjoyable, be horny and have cool conversations.
I’ve by no means been a celeb particular person. Our philosophy at Paper was at all times to deal with “somebodies like nobodies and nobodies like somebodies.” I believe many well-known individuals get pleasure from being handled like common individuals.
You’ve at all times labored with a lot of actually well-known individuals in your styling profession. Do you assume pandemic life has been tough for them to deal with?
This has been a time of actual disaster for all individuals. People are afraid to say or do the unsuitable factor and get canceled. They’re afraid to go exterior and socialize. They’re afraid to get the virus. I really feel like stars have to be calling their publicists 40 instances a day to seek out out what to do.
Something’s additionally modified with the ability of superstar. You can have 100 of the most important celebrities on the earth endorsing a candidate lately and it doesn’t transfer the needle. Are celebrities dropping their juice? Do individuals nonetheless care as a lot as earlier than?
I really feel the cult of persona is rarely ending. Hey, I’m nonetheless obsessive about Cardi B, and have a look at how electrified the world is (together with me) on the resurgence of Bennifer or Channing Tatum and Zoë Kravitz now being a brand new couple. People are like, “Thank God we’re looking at paparazzi pictures of celebrities again.”
Do you discover superstar egos a bit tamped down from all this? Are stars performing rather less diva-ish?
Yes! I believe they’re being a bit extra human. I additionally assume well-known individuals are a bit extra open proper now to creativity and being extra daring.
Do you assume these darkish instances have modified individuals’s relationship to superficiality — whether or not superstar, style, developments, materialism?
With all of the heavy issues we’re going through, I believe individuals nonetheless need superficiality. Look at how Instagram has develop into all people’s résumé. Or the explosion of TikTok, a inventive narcissistic void, that I completely love. You will be very severe about what’s happening on the earth however nonetheless love Bennifer. Interview will probably be a spot the place you will discover very superficial issues and really difficult considering.
Are you going to the Met Ball? Will or not it’s totally different from different Met Balls this time? Will celebrities really attend in the midst of this Delta scare?
I’m not going, however I hear there’s loads of influencers going. The Met Ball at all times meant so much to me. When I’m useless, they’ll keep in mind all of the issues I styled.
One final query: What’s up together with your Baz Bagel love affair? You’ve put that hip little Grand Street bagel place on the map. They even named a sandwich after you!
It’s a turkey Reuben on a pumpernickel all the pieces bagel. I’m equally happy with having a signature bagel sandwich as being the brand new editor in chief of this American establishment.
The interview has been edited.
Kim Hastreiter, who co-founded Paper journal and was its editor from 1984 to 2017, is writing two books and co-producing a movie. Earlier this 12 months, she printed a free newspaper, The New Now, about inventive New Yorkers throughout the pandemic.