copyright © 2000 The Look On-Line

A Life in Fashionland...The Paul Cavaco Story
- by Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Paul Covaco's first Allure Magazine Cover as Creative Director

Allure Magazine

Allure Magazine

Part 2: "Modern Times"
Continued from Part 1: 'The Early Years'

LOL: Tell us your ideas about celebrities and consumer magazines. How do you feel about the current focus on celebrities in the press? Is Allure taking this position?

PC: Yes, we are. We have a huge, close-up shot of Winona Ryder on the January 2000 cover and a feature inside. I believe that most people are interested in celebrities and the movie star image. People have been impressed with movie stars forever. If you look back at Vogue, you'll see that they started documenting society women early on. They photographed what these women were wearing, they covered their social events, they chronicled their lives, for the most part. And, the readers loved it because their lives were so different. Now, society in that form doesn't exist anymore. So, society to us; American society, really are our movie stars. They've always been the American royalty. So, it sort of makes sense that Mrs. Vreeland always used celebrities as models. Cher was a big Vogue model. Barbra Streisand, Julie Christie, Jacqueline Bissett; all big Vogue models. And, like the supermodels of today, these stars were the interesting faces of their time. They simply happened to also be celebrities.

Today's celebrities are the new faces; they have the lives and the faces we relate to now. So, do I think Gwyneth Paltrow is of that caliber? Yes. Am I interested in Gwyneth? Yes. I'm interested in Calista Flockhart because I think she's a great actress. Do I think it's a great face? I think it's an interesting face. You know, though, I don't really want to know that much about anybody, in truth. And, I'm sorry that everything's so de-mystified today. I'm also sorry that we know so much about celebrities overall. I guess what having them on a magazine does is it glamorizes them instead of de-mystifying them as people totally. So, you at least have the illusion that they're gorgeous. After all, life is completely an illusion anyway. But, I'm still sorry for the de-mystification of life.

LOL: Grace Mirabella recently interviewed Geoffrey Beene for The Look On-Line's Master Series. During the conversation, Mr. Beene stated that he feels clothing is really rather boring and uninspiring these days. What are your comments on this. Where do you think fashion is going? Mr. Beene also said that for him fashion has now become extremely celebrity driven. What do you think?

PC: First of all, I guess I have a very funny view about clothing in general. I think there's clothing as art and Geoffrey Beene does clothing as art. I think that particular kind of clothing is beautiful, extraordinary and wearable. And, I think that there are just clothes. I like clothes. Do I think it's uninspiring? Do I really want to see people looking a very certain way all of the time? I sort of like people looking normal. I just like that. Maybe other people don't but I do because I'm personally very casual. I prefer simple, easy clothes. I can be just as comfortable with a Gap or Adidas bag as I can with a Gucci. I like that it's a pair of pants and a sweater. I think it's chic. I like photographing that because I think you can then deal with the character of the person you're photographing instead of it being only about the clothing.

But, yes I guess if you look back and see Balenciaga or Saint Laurent at his height, for example; then yes, there were extraordinary clothes. But, we still have that. But, we also have a bigger world right now and I think that's fine because we also have the casualization of American and the entire world. People used to go to the theater and they got all dressed up. Not now. On one hand, it's sad. But, on the other hand, maybe it's all these cultural things are now just an ordinary part of our lives, so they're not so special as before. It's not so elitist, so you know, somewhere that's nice. Are you going to the theatre only to be dressed up and seen? No, I don't think so; not anymore. You're going to the theater to see theater; let that be the main event, the entertainment. It's funny when I think about where fashion is going. To me, fashion is always like a pendulum swinging and people are forced in each direction. So, as casual as it gets, your eye gets tired of it and you bounce back into things like beaded clothes, for example. Certain people are now wearing beads in the daytime and that's something which was formerly completely relegated to the evening. And now, it looks fine; it looks right. But, I don't think we'll ever go back to real maximalism.

I think, though, everything is possible today because we have so much access to everything and anything. There's no time gap anymore. You can get everything you want on the computer, on television and video; you can get any movie from any time period. You can be influenced by anything. You can go to your computer and call up any image you want on the internet. So, I think that the ability to be influenced all the time by a million and twelve thousand things is now available to us. And, all of this is influencing fashion as we know it. All of this is influencing the world, movies and every visual we see. The world overall is much more of a visual place now; it just is.

Fashion is definitely celebrity driven and I think it is because people want to dream. But, I don't think we really live our lives wrapped up in a fantasy world. I think that life is real; it's here and now. You still wake up everyday and you go to your job no matter what. There's no fantasy there. If you have children, you still have to take care of your kids. But, there is that moment when you want to think that life is prettier than the everydayness that we have. And, I have a great everydayness. I'm not complaining. But, it's nice to think that there's more. I think that's the human condition. We think we're not enough, there's not enough and the fashion/celebrity thing gives you something to dream about. There's a whole other life out there. There's a whole glamour thing going on that we personally don't have access to in our own lives.

So, I think people love to see the movie stars and fashion together. It keeps them going, somehow. But, you know that when you work in glamour, it's not glamorous. It's just work. So you don't really perceive it as glamorous. Would I want to be a pipefitter? Absolutely not. Is my life more glamorous than that? Yes. That's my everydayness.

LOL: Who would say is on of your most important mentors?

PC: I want to say a word about Anna (Wintour). I worked with Anna for three years at Vogue as a fashion director and even though I was way adult, I learned an incredible amount from her. I learned how to edit clothes, which was really surprising because I thought I knew what I was doing already. And, she really taught me to focus. I mean, I'd already been working for 20-odd years. Obviously, her personality was very different from Liz. Anna's personality was great with me because she was very precise and very similar in certain aspects to Kezia. I'd go in to Anna and we'd talk about what I had to do and it was handled in minutes. The years I worked with Anna proved to be an incredible learning experience.

Professionally, she was great to me. Personally, she was divine to me. So all of the things - the coldness, for example -- I never experienced. She was warm and nice. But, she was tough. Not tough like tough; she was - this is her magazine - and she simply wanted to put the kind of product out that she wanted to put out. And so, you got on board. Or, you didn't. And, I learned that with Kezia. You may not agree, but you have to align. So, even though I didn't always agree with Kezia, she was the head person. So, I had to align. If I couldn't align, I shouldn't be there. And, that's the way it was with Anna. But, I mostly agreed with her because I think she's an incredible editor. In the end, it was like the biggest learning experience, which is why I went to work for her.

LOL: Who's is your muse?

PC: I think my 22-year-old daughter's my biggest muse. I have to say that honestly that she's probably my muse because I think she loves fashion. She's stylish. She's young. She understands clothes. She understands alot. She's always telling me what's new; the music that's new and things like that.

LOL: If your daughter wanted to work in the fashion industry, what advice would you give her?

PC: DON'T! Look, I trust my daughter and I think she's a very smart kid, so I don't know if you can really advise anybody. She's shown an interest to work in the field, but she bats in and out of it. She thinks she wants to. But, she's genetically pre-disposed, I guess. Of course, I'd be supportive of her, absolutely, if she wanted to work in fashion and this is what she chose to do.

LOL: Which young designers do you feel have the potential to be great. Give us specific names and tell us why.

PC: Is Tom Ford considered a young designer? He's been around for a minute, but I think Tom Ford's a young designer. He's established; fabulous, but still young. We've seen the tip of the iceberg. I think Narciso Rodriguez has great, great, great potential. He came out like gangbusters. He came out and competed immediately with the majors. So yes, I think great things about Narciso. I think Thiemister is going to be brilliant because I love the clothes. You know when he hits it, he hits it great. Viktor & Rolf? They're too esoteric. But, I don't know enough about the work. To me, it's too esoteric and I'm not so esoteric.

I think Alexander McQueen is really talented. Again, we're looking at a baby; he's only in his 20's, but I think he'll be great. Someone who's a baby designer just got thrust into the majors. But, he hadn't been working all that long and then suddenly gets thrust into the majors and does OK. Was Calvin Klein Calvin Klein in the beginning? We look at these designers really far into their careers and we say they're great. But, the beginnings are sort of not quite that. Do I always love everything everyone does? No, but do I take a closer look and think that there is a seed of brilliance there? Yes.

LOL: Talking about promising young designers, do you think Stella McCartney will take over the design role at Gucci?

PC: Don't know; probably not because she won't do fur or leather. I'd say no, just based on that, but ...

LOL: Now that so many American designers are heading up the Paris houses, what does this say about the future of American designers in this country?

PC: Sort of great, no? I think it's a good sign. I think when an American is chic, they're chic. There's no one chicer. But, that's coming from an American, so you have to factor that in. But, I do love the ease of the American chic. So, I think it's a great thing for American designers across the board. We've always been sort of a stepchild of fashion; you know, the commercial stepchild. And, the idea that the world is finally recognizing that there is a validity to being an American. I think people are looking here for talent and they're finding it, obviously. Look at what happened to Gucci; they can't even keep it in the store. And, that's Tom Ford, an American.

LOL: Let's talk for a moment about the future of the internet and the impact it will have on magazines. Take and its coverage of the collections. Do you think sites like this will alter or change the focus of magazine editorial as we know it today? Are you thinking that the internet and sites of this type will force magazines to re-think and re-do what they already do?

PC: I guess, at the moment, just gives you the shows right away. Am I right? But, I think what you want from a magazine is a point of view. We're all using the same clothes, so yes, on the internet you can see all the collections right away. But, what you're not getting really is the particular magazine's viewpoint. What a magazine has always done is taken those clothes and done it for their woman. The Vogue reader is different than the Mademoiselle reader; different than the Allure reader. It all crosses a little bit, but probably if you go across the United States, not everyone is reading all the magazines anyway. Like in New York, they all do. However, there's a Vogue reader, there's a Bazaar reader, there's an Allure reader, there's a Mademoiselle reader and what a magazine should do is give it to you in the very particular style of that magazine. The internet just gives you information; that's it.

I can't say whether or not the internet will ever replace magazines; the whole world will probably be on the computer sooner than we know. So, it probably will replace, but do I think right now? No, because I think people still want the tactile thing of a magazine right now. Ten years from now? Maybe.

And, even though it takes longer to get the information from magazines, people aren't getting the same information from the internet. I still think that the information you receive from a magazine is different. You're getting the same clothes but you're getting them done in a style that is of that magazine. Maybe at a certain point, people won't want want that. But, right now, they do.

LOL: Who's got the best job in fashion? Who's got the worst job in fashion?

PC: The best job in fashion? Oh, Lord. I think the person who has the best job can say yes or no. I think James Truman has a great job - superficially. He can go to a magazine and say, "yes, this is working"; "no, this isn't". That's not the truth of it, which is probably you have to consider people's feelings. It seems like, "oh, that's a job I'd like; to walk up and say, oh, I like that; I don't like that." I don't think there's probably any great job, but these are the jobs I always think I want. The kind of job where you can say,"yes, no, yes, no, yes". But, the best job would be to be editor-in-chief, although I think it's probably the hardest and because the pressure level there is so high. Because, again, it's like you always think, "I'd like to run a business; I'd like to own my own business. But, I've already had my own business and really, it's like a double-edge sword. So, it becomes yes, when it's working; not good when it's not working. In the end the worst job in fashion? Probably the same one.

LOL: Where do you want to be in five years, professionally and personally?

PC: Lord. That I don't know. I mean, I always say I want to retire. I want to take a seat. I always want to sit down for awhile. If I retired, I'd sit. But, I don't really know what I'd do because I've never gotten that far. I'm thinking about that, though. I've always been thinking about that. What do you do when you've spent your entire life raising a family or going to work, let's say. So, your life becomes a very focused thing leaving little time to think about what else you're interested in. I've lived my life; I've gone to my job; I've done my job and all of that. So, I'm trying to figure out what I'm really interested in other than fashion. I was driven by fashion; obsessed by fashion. I loved fashion. I loved working on photographs.

Would I start another PR company? Never. Would I start my own magazine? Never. Would I want to be a farmer or an actor? Never. Would I want to live on a commune? I don't know. I mean I really wish I knew. I'd love to say that I want to become a potter and just sit and do ceramics all day long. But, I'd probably go insane. So, I really don't know. I think it's the next phase in life. I think it's like graduating from college and when you reach that point, you suddenly think, "oh, my god. What am I going to do now."?

LOL: But, don't you think now you might be at the Doctoral level?

PC: Yes, but I still think it's the same process. You still have to figure out what it is you really want to do; how much, if anything, you still have or want to learn.

LOL: So, are you still learning?

PC: Always. Every day. Every day, I don't think so, but I am.

LOL: Do you ever think that your next job might be as a grandfather teaching fashion to your grandchildren?

PC: I hope it's not my job. I don't know what it's going to be next for me. I mean do you know what it's going to be next for you? Oh, you do? You see, I just haven't gotten that far yet.

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