Chloë Sevigny and Andrew Richardson Reflect on New York’s ‘90s Golden Age

New York is a place that’s pretty much powered by nostalgia. There are two versions of the city: one is the real-life place where millions of people work, live, and pay their exorbitant rents. And the other is the New York of our collective mythology: the home of Run-DMC and Robert Mapplethorpe, Supreme and Stonewall, Basquiat and Blondie. Every one of the city’s eras has generated its own icons.

But as myth-making goes, few of the city’s ages compare to the ‘90s. Just enough time has passed for that period to seem like a golden age of freedom, subversion and subculture, while the designers, club kids, actors and musicians that emerged during that time have become bona fide icons.

Two of that period’s most influential and idolised figures bore witness to it all: the actor Chloë Sevigny and magazine editor turned-designer Andrew Richardson. The pair, who have been friends since a chance meeting in the early ‘90s, have reunited to create a new clothing collection for the Richardson brand, inspired by punk culture, cheerleading, and the New York scene they came of age in.

Ahead of the launch (for details, check out the bottom of the story), HYPEBEAST sat with the pair to discuss their memories of the city at that time, how the city has evolved, and what’s next for its post-pandemic future.

Chloë Sevigny x Richardson.Tim Barber

HYPEBEAST: Okay, let’s start with the backstory. How did you two meet?

Andrew Richardson: So I don’t think it was when we met, but I remember seeing you when we played pool with Harmony [Korine, film director] and somebody else in that bar, on Prince Street…

Chloë Sevigny: That bar that’s no longer there on Prince Street, between Mott and Mulberry, on the south side of the street. Yeah, I remember it had wooden floors. I don’t remember what it was called but I think it was just like a chance run-in?

AR: Yeah. It was nothing. I don’t think anybody was anything at the time and we just happened to be there and I remember we played pool… And I think we lost pretty badly. I think Harmony turned out to be a bit of a pool shark.

CS: Probably used a lot of powers of distraction too.

AR: A lot of charm.

CS: A lot of smoke and mirrors.

“It was the last pre-internet youth culture, you know. You had to work a little bit harder to find stuff that other people didn’t have.”

AR: And then we officially met when we photographed you for Dune magazine. I think that’s probably the first time we officially met. We photographed you at Harmony’s house on Gramercy Park.

CS: Yeah, we lived in the stage house. I think a lot of people were doing a lot of drugs during that period.

AR: I think some drugs were definitely taken. Of course, not by you or I, but I think there was a lot of drama in that apartment. I remember hearing about Larry Clark trying to kill Harmony in the lobby.

CS: I remember us also having those small cockroaches, which is a nightmare. In a New York City apartment, if you have a big one, a few of the water ones now and then it’s fine…if you have the small ones, it’s a problem. And I remember being like, we live in this fancy apartment building on Gramercy Park and we have cockroaches?! Totally aghast. Disgusted. I didn’t know how to handle it.

AR: Yeah. New York in the ‘90s.

Chloë Sevigny in New York, 1996.Catherine Mcgann/Getty Images

HB: That period has been so mythologised, it seems as though the reality of it and our cultural memory of it are two very different things. Are you nostalgic for that time?

CS: I think everybody is always a little nostalgic for their youth. I think that’s why the perennial coming-of-age stories are always so appealing to all ages. But I also think that it lives up to its mythology, I think even more so, I think nobody’s really captured what it was like.

AR: I mean I think it was the last pre-internet youth culture, you know, you had to work a little bit harder to find stuff that other people didn’t have. And so I was pretty specific in what I was into — and now I’m into a different thing every week, because there’s just so much information coming in all the time. It was a very focused time. And it was also the end of like youth tribes, in a way.

CS: Yeah, I was going to say it was very tribal.

AR: You would be into certain things, and you found like-minded people and you resonated with them — because there were a whole bunch of signifiers about the way you dressed, and what you talked about. And they were real.

So yeah, I definitely have a lot of nostalgia for the ‘90s. For me, as well, it was an experimental time. Certainly working in fashion, where we had a lot more freedom. It was the last time where you didn’t get accountants getting involved in your editorial. And so you were able to express yourself and that kind of world that you’d made for yourself in magazines that were going out to the general public. And magazines were also very central and people looked at magazines to get information because there wasn’t really any other way to get information.

CS: I remember waiting at the newsstands for the new issues to arrive.

AR: Or being in LA and going to those like street newsstands and just going through every magazine and just eating up. It was the most exciting thing when a new magazine came out and you saw something in it that either made you jealous or you saw something that you’d done and you felt excited that it had come out. It was a great time.

CS: And I remember shops, like the XLARGE shop or the Supreme shop. They were like hangouts. It was a sense of community that I’m not sure is there right now.

Chloë Sevigny x Richardson.Tim Barber

HB: Did you work together much after those early collaborations?

CS: Did you ever style me for anything else? I mean, I always wanted you to style me but somehow I don’t know. I’m not sure it ever happened.

AR: I’m not sure either. I always thought you were a style icon and I would have loved to have done it. I don’t know why I didn’t, I don’t know why that never really happened.

CS: You were always styling these girls like Heidi Klum, for instance, I remember you put her in some wet t-shirt and I was like, so he’s making her look cool? I was very perturbed by that.

AR: There was an irony about doing a wet t-shirt picture with Heidi Klum in a cool magazine with a cool photographer. That was an ironic juxtaposition…but you were just like cool. I always thought you were somebody who had it together. Like, I was more influenced by you than thought I could ever really add anything to it, to be honest.

“The Supreme shop was like a hangout. It was a sense of community that I’m not sure is there right now.”

CS: I think we were more friends. I remember going to shows and hanging out with Mary [Frey, photographer] and Mario [Sorrenti, photographer], when they first started dating. And you would come to Connecticut in your weird cars and we became more friends than having a working relationship.

AR: Yeah, definitely. And I was friends with your brother.

I remember — not to be indiscreet — but I remember at the time being really obsessed with people’s bedrooms, and your mother had kept your bedroom in Connecticut exactly how it was when you were growing up. And I remember being really fascinated by the way a young person demonstrates what they’re into… with you know, Smiths posters or whatever it was. I think it was pink with maybe a floral bedspread or something and then all this Smiths stuff. It was sort of like you could see the transition from being a girl to an adolescent in the way your bedroom was represented.

CS: Yeah, I probably leaned into that kind of Kinder-whore stuff, because that was the thing. You know the whole Courtney Love, baby-doll…

AR: I think a lot of the things that you would bring into like your style have now gone on to be that kind of Margiela-ish, like those shoes, what I would call the Minnie Mouse shoes that you would get at a Salvation Army with the low heels.

CS: Yeah, well I was so influenced by [director] Alan Clarke and the girls in his movies with the eighties pumps. I just wanted to look like them. And now I have a pair of white Margiela ones.

AR: Yeah, exactly. I remember that Alan Clarke was the movie director that we all talked about. It was like Joy Division and Alan Clarke. I remember having VHS of Joy Division live that I had leant you at some point. And at that time, if you could get a copy of Alan Clarke’s Elephant and you could watch it, that was the Holy Grail. Like nobody knew how to watch that movie.

But, that’s the thing, you had this style identity that was very, very specific. And, it was not like anybody else. It was sexy, but like a proletarian kind of sexy in a way.

“There’s something really therapeutic about that sense of abandon.”

HB: More recently, you reunited on a project for Supreme last year, when Chloë was pregnant. And now, this collaborative collection for Richardson. How did that come about?

AR: The Supreme thing was like a ‘eureka’ moment. Like, let’s do an actual collab with Chloë, and see if we can work out a few basic items that you would wear.

HB: Chloë, what made you say yes to the project?

CS: I remember I went to one of those sales in Brooklyn that a kid from Supreme was doing last summer, like this fundraiser, and all of the coolest kids had some sort of Richardson item. I was like, damn — I’ve got to do this. These kids look so cute, and they are all in Richardson. It was the day after our initial conversation.

AR: Oh, wow.

CS: I’ve reached so many kids through clothing, through what I did with Opening Ceremony, through Fucking Awesome, X-Girl… and you are carrying that on, and going beyond that, even. For me, it’s a way to reach an audience — and hopefully then kids will discover me and my work. What’s always been the most important thing to me is my film work. But, you know, it’s a way to access other kids and show them things that maybe they haven’t discovered before.

Chloë Sevigny x Richardson.Tim Barber

AR: Yeah, I mean for us, you’re part of my story anyway. We’ve sort of been intertwined for like twenty years. So yeah, it’s great that we were able to do it.

HB: The capsule includes images of the iconic NY nightclub Sway, which was a real imprint of 90s nightlife in the city until it closed in 2015. That kind of nightclub feels like something that couldn’t exist anymore…

CS: Now, as a new mother I can’t say that I’m going to raves in Bushwick, but I hear about them from friends and young people and I think people are always going to be interested in music and dancing and I think those things will always prevail. It just takes different forms and moves to different neighborhoods and it just always changes.I mean even like GHE20G0TH1K, how that exploded, what that meant for so many young people and how inspiring that was, and what came out of that.

AR: Yeah, I mean there’s been this movement and even your brother is now in the building in the Sway space doing Paul’s Casablanca. Some things are forever. And think that’s great, it’s always sad when things close and then they become a Starbucks or something.

CS: Right. The only constant is change.

AR: Exactly. But I think it’s really important that, you know, kids do love music and they do love dancing and you know, whatever goes along with that will be here.

CS: That’s why for me the photo that’s on the T-shirt of me dancing… It doesn’t matter where it is, or what I’m listening to. It’s that euphoria that’s captured and the escape that you see on my face and in my posture. That’s what people want to capture.

AR: And that’s the reason we chose that image because we felt that coming out of a pandemic, that was going to be the goal – that kind of freedom. And there’s something great about dancing, when you can lose yourself in the music and you can express yourself, physically, and it doesn’t matter how good or bad you think you are at it. There’s something really, really therapeutic about that feeling of abandon.

Chloë Sevigny x Richardson.Tim Barber

HB: What about the city more generally, since the pandemic outbreak?

CS: There’s all this confusion as to how we’re going to move forward. But I do think that people have really rallied around businesses that were closing, flooding book stores and music stores or restaurants. And I think there is this love for certain institutions. People are here for it, and want to help, and want to get involved, and that’s really great and inspiring.

AR: I think people have been cooped up and now they are out. I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and I’ve never seen the streets so packed.

CS: Yes, the parks. Washington Square Park is insane.

AR: I know, it’s amazing. And, the fact that there’s all this outside dining that’s still going on, it’s kind of like a perverse mix of Paris cafe life and New York City grimy realness.

HB: Does it feel like a different place now?

AR: I think that also New York has always been about youth culture. And now it’s like, they have taken over the abandoned mattress store and turned it into a nightclub. They are taking advantage of the empty space that’s now been created by the pandemic. It’s not really entrepreneurial, it’s just opportunistic, where people are seeing this space that is now available. The city’s kind of loosened up. I mean New York was really becoming like Cincinnati or something…

CS: Hey, watch it!

AR: I’m just saying, the kids in New York are now taking the city back in a way and doing stuff and it’s kind of like the ‘90s all over again in a way. So yeah, I feel very optimistic about New York and I want to spend more time there.

CS: Come join us!

Chloë Sevigny for Richardson launches at the brand’s NYC, LA, and Japan stores and online on Saturday August 21 at 9am EST. Sevigny herself will also be appearing at the NYC store on the launch date, from 5-7pm, to meet fans and sign garments.
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