LEVI & ANTOINE / IN CONVERSATION
Levi Baruch: Interviewer, Writer
Antoine Moret Patiño: Interviewee
Antoine is a Parisian fashion model. He has worked with designers such designers as Junya Watanabe, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Phipps International - a recent LVMH prize winner. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, mapmaker, and meme connoisseur. He studied geography and worked as a teacher in that field before a somewhat recent career shift into modeling. He is enthused by the study of cultures around the world, and I have found his insights powerful and in many ways aligned with the education Wesleyan seems to hope to instill - a critical lens tempered with an open mind. If you would like, you can learn more about him via his ig @timtheenchanterr or his mapmaking account @elevatedmaps_art .
L: Hi Antoine! It is great to see you.
A: Yes, so cool! So good to see you.
L: So recently, When I've begun a zoom call, I've found it is nice to address that we are both people, real people, talking together. Even though we are far apart and in these boxes. So, maybe let's take this moment to make clear that I’m here, you're here, and I'm excited to talk with you. How have you been?
A: Things are somewhat slow, but other than that, life is great.
L: Slow can be good. Should we just jump right into it, this conversation?
A: Why not?!
L: How did you become a model?
A: There were two steps for me to get into fashion. A photographer at a party approached me and she told me to send pictures to an agency. I sent my pictures, although I’m not the kind of guy that does things people at parties tell them to do. But for some reason I did it that time, and it worked out. The agency accepted me. Nothing much happened after that. That was the first step. The second was building a network, and that took some time, 6-8 months to find regular gigs, through contacts on Instagram.
This agency mostly had people who did not look typical, and I didnt like being in an agency that was so specialized in. . . weird looking people, so to speak. I applied to others, and My Agency, that's the name, took me on.
L: Has your self-perception changed because of your modeling work?
A: Definitely. I don't know where to start. Since I was a kid, I felt I looked. . . not weird, but special. But I never considered being a model. Once every three years or something, people would say that I could model, but I thought it was just because I was tall. I could already dress with some imagination, in unusual ways, but when I began modeling I opened all the dams and all the doors and it was free-flow after that. People notice and ask if I am a model more now. It is in the way you move, the way you sit, there are so many things actually.
L: How would you describe the way you like to dress?
A: It comes from way back. As a really young boy I would watch Sergio Leone westerns, and I wanted to be a mexican bandito. I would sit in front of my house in a poncho and hat, and pretend to do a siesta for hours.I loved to be that character. I used to go dressed as Spiderman to the library. I think the border between.. a disguise and a normal outfit.. there is a continuum between these two things and not a clear separation.
L: Does your heritage play a role in how you dress?
A: In Ecuador indigenous men have long hair in some villages. This hair is coming back, as an identity fashion, but there has been a 50 year gap where it was not done. I always felt this envy when my mom braided my sister's hair. I wanted to have long hair too. But my mom did not allow me, as that was the mindset of her generation. Being an immigrant child in western countries, people who come here, their mindset reflects the time when they left their country. In my moms case, the early 80s. When I go back to Ecuador, I see that people have changed and mindsets have evolved. But people who have been extracted from that place, their mindset is a little bit frozen.
L: When we met I was struck by your curiosity--your seemingly constant research. What subjects are you most passionate about?
A: To sum it up, my first two years of university were literature studies, and then I studied geography for another two years, and then I studied anthropology and prehistory. In France, we make a clear distinction between anthropologie and préhistoire. I believe in America you put everything in the anthropology basket. In a way I felt Americans were right to study both things. So it was like a double masters degree.
L: Many people from Wesleyan choose to pursue two majors. The rate of double-majoring here is actually uniquely high. Maybe it illustrates how my peers work to balance a multitude of interests. Could you speak to how your varied studies might inform each other, and perhaps how these academic pursuits inform your work as a model?
A: If you ask the big questions, you are meant to build bridges. I definitely think that now with this discussion, there are more bridges than I thought between anthropology and fashion.
There is a very famous example of how climate and milieu will not explain everything. Inuit people are very heavily dressed for the cold, in seal skin and deer skin. I was so astonished by the indigenous people of Tierra Del Fuego, which is the extreme southern part of Argentina and Chile. It is super cold- it can be -5 celsius, with strong winds that make it feel even colder. It is like the temperature of the southern coast of Alaska. But they go barefoot. Sewing did not get to them. We can more or less deconstruct the diffusion of sewing from Siberia through North America, but it never got to Tierra Del Fuego. They had huanaco, a wild llama. They wore these skins on their back and slept on hot ashes during the night so as not to freeze to death. Fucking crazy!
I have always been very, very interested by the fact that dress is kind of linked to your climate, but not that much, really. It is all about cultural spread. In complex societies, with rich and poor people, we want to stand out. That is like the Hausa people in Northern Nigeria. They wear many layers of cotton dresses. The more fabric on you, it means you can afford more. But you are sweating and sweating all day. Wearing only pants is an easier physical life in the heat, but you are perceived as poor. I have never really explored this question, so these are just thoughts.
L: How do you stay focused and inspired while having many passions?
A: I struggle with that. I have a tendency towards dispersion. I must remind myself to focus on some things. I don't have a secret recipe as to how to avoid total dispersion, but I would say. . . Nevermind! Disperse! It is cool to have a lot of different angles.
L: I am often thinking about the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, and fashion is an important place to explore this. What do you think about this subject?
A: I think about this a lot, yes. In France, this conversation is only happening in the last five years. But I have been troubled, or occupied, by this before. The main thing is acknowledgement. The whole world is always borrowing, and only sometimes acknowledging it. As modern humans, we must always acknowledge and understand what we are borrowing, but unfortunately you will never avoid people taking things.
L: What does it feel like when you find a “good fit,” that positive relationship between designer and model?
A: You just feel it! I remember at the Phipps casting, I felt it was for me, and I really hoped they would take me. I naturally dressed as a “Phipps guy,” even before modeling. I like technical gear, mountaineering stuff- being ready for anything! I liked his taste, the way he treats color and fabric.
L: What are some things you've experienced on a shoot that allow you to feel comfortable, to be yourself?
A: Bring your sound. Bring a speaker and play your own music. I do that, and it's very effective. I don't need that much to be at ease. I’m lucky to have a cool temper.
L: What could designers do to make models feel more comfortable?
A: I have been told things have changed a lot these last ten years. I couldn't tell, as I've been here [modeling] barely two years. There are people who treat us like we are just objects to them. It’s sad, but I should insist that it is not that widespread. People are nice as well. We understand that people have to work fast, it’s hot, everyone is stressed. Perhaps not everyone has time to look at you in the eye and ask how you are. But that basic human politeness, that’s all I ask (laughs).
L: What are some assumptions people have when they learn you are a model? Are there truths or falsehoods in those assumptions?
A: People are always surprised when I tell them about my “past life,” my scholarly work. They think models are dumb or something. It is true that a lot of models are young, and often do not pursue post-high school studies in hopes of modeling success. But I know lots of models who study on the side. It is a cliché, the empty-minded model. It is a lot more of a problem for women, who have to deal with these incorrect assumptions.
L: Have designers given you any clothing “advice” that has stuck with you?
A: Buy second hand. (Laughs.) The only thing I have been told. I already did this but I do it more so now. It is easier in Paris than it was years ago. There are more secondhand shops, appearing like mushrooms, everywhere now.
L: Hopefully the cool clothes do not run out. . . well, there will always be more clothing. That is actually a concern that I have- most clothing produced today is of poor quality. How do we produce less and also make things that last so the second-hand market remains viable 40, 50, 100 years down the line?
A: That’s a good question! I wonder a lot, to no point, as I have no answer, but what's fashion going to be like in the future? Is long hair for men going to be the norm again, like in the 16th century?
L: You mentioned your mother’s immigration in the 80’s - I think there is truth to some 50 year cycle where things come back into .. fashion.
A: Yes! These are major considerations. Will trousers become old-fashioned? Everyone wearing skirts?
L: I sometimes imagine the penultimate outfit as a robe and hiking boots. The end all.
A: Hah! I agree. Russian-style.
L: These conversations are exciting because there are no answers! Well, thank you Antoine, I appreciate your time immensely.
A: My pleasure.