Photography: Alexi Lubomirski/Art Partner
Given Zoë Kravitz has spent her 28 years under the harsh glare of the spotlight, it’s no mean feat that she comes across as rather elusive. In the early days, the fascination stemmed from her parents - as the only child of Nineties dream couple actress Lisa Bonet and musician Lenny Kravitz, she had a guaranteed spot on paparazzi watch lists. But since her first film appearance in 2007’s No Reservations, Kravitz has commanded cameras all by herself. Her steady grind (three films per year since 2014) is now paying off with big ticket-projects. 2017 hasn’t even reached a halfway point and already she’s taken centre stage alongside Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies, a TV series crowned as one of the year’s undisputed breakout hits thanks to its focus on the complexities of female friendships. Next up is Rough Night, a Bridesmaids-esque dark comedy written by <Broad City> creator Ilana Glazer and also starring Scarlett Johansson, about quintet of hens who accidentally kill a stripper. And her side hustle is a lucrative modelling career: as well as being Alexander Wang’s muse (and best friend), over the last 18 months she’s also lent her distinctive look to campaigns for Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Calvin Klein.
Yet Kravitz remains enigmatic, thanks to an aloof public persona that only hints at what makes her tick. Her current peroxide blonde crop, idiosyncratic style leanings (she once turned a brown paper lunch bag into a Wang-approved clutch) and friendship circle of tastemakers - Frank Ocean and Adwoa Aboa both make appearances on her Instagram - give a hazy impression of a young woman who prizes independent creativity and a strong sense of self. Over the course of our conversation, the real Kravitz begins to edge into frame, revealing someone who holds forth on modern meanings of womanhood while also being an Audrey Hepburn disciple – her recent Met Gala creation by Oscar de la Renta with its bodice of fresh dyed-black roses was born after poring over vintage snaps of Hepburn in Funny Face. “[She was] so refreshingly individual,” says Kravitz tells Stylist over the phone from New York. “[She] inspired how I tell stories through my work.” As our conversation continues, it’s obvious that, like her idol, Kravitz refuses to be a two-dimensional ingénue…
Big Little Lies was hugely well received with its focus on the complex bonds between women. Was this important to you?
Of course. I thought it was refreshing to see a story about women in so many different lights. It really explored what it was like to be a woman at different ages and in different situations: the ugly parts, the beautiful parts and the funny parts. There’s so many different levels to being a woman, there’s so much asked of us and that we ask of ourselves. I think Jean-Marc [Vallée, director of the series] did such a great job at trying to understand what it’s like. We need more stories like that, for sure.
The storyline surrounding domestic violence seemed a very significant step for TV…
Yes, and that [wasn’t] necessarily aimed only towards women. I think anybody [with experience] of a domestic violence situation related to the story. One of the most powerful things you can do is not to judge and build solidarity.
Since finishing filming, you chopped off your braids and now have a pixie cut. Was that a conscious move?
It wasn’t me making a statement, I needed a change. My hair was becoming my identity and I wanted to challenge that. It’s been interesting because I definitely think I was attaching my femininity to my hair. I was hiding behind it- it was really important for me as a woman to feel my femininity in a deeper way, not needing long hair or heels to be in touch with it. [Womanhood] is not an aesthetic- that’s becoming so apparent with the consciousness about gender. We’ve attached these images to femininity and it’s amazing to let those go.
Hollywood is starting to take note of altered social norms like the conversation surrounding gender. Do you think real change is taking place or is the shift still superficial?
I think it’s superficial to a point. People are seeing that being politically conscious or making films outside of the box is attracting [audiences]. It’s a business at the end of the day. But I think the art is pure- that’s what’s really important. The artists are finally able to get things financed that they wouldn’t have before.
You are style inspiration for many women. Do you have any rules that guide the way you dress?
No, I allow myself to be inspired by images, films or music. Right now my whole wardrobe looks different thanks to my new haircut so I’m having fun figuring it all out again. Fashion is a form of expression and art; if it’s simply about the end result and how you look, it feels uninspired. There needs to be an intention behind what you’re doing- the story makes it interesting.
When it comes to presenting yourself via platforms like Instagram, do you snap and post or is there more curation behind the scenes?
I’m not thinking too much about it. Photography is about is not being perfect. I love the in-between moments, the odd moments, those express the most to me. If you’re deciding to tell a story and that [photo] is going to tell that story, you’re not living in the moment.
What photographers do you look to for inspiration?
There’s a bunch I love. Irving Penn, Ellen Von Unwerth, Nobuyoshi Araki- he’s amazing, so provocative and strange. All my coffee table books are photography [publications].
You’ve lived in New York your whole life. What parts of it were most significant for you when you were growing up?
I’ve lived all over the city. I love downtown: the East Village, Soho- Soho’s a bit crazy now but it’s still such a fun place to go. Central Park is one of my favourite places to spend time in summer. It’s so cool to be in this concrete jungle and be able to be engulfed in nature.
When is New York at its best?
It becomes so magical and sexy in the summertime. It’s such a spontaneous city; you take off in the morning and have no idea where the day might go. The memories I’m most fond of are little moments: sitting on a stoop eating ice cream, watching dudes play basketball or leaning out the window with the fan on. I travel so much for work that when everyone’s going away on vacation in summer I just want to stay here.
So you don’t have any destinations on your travel bucket list this summer?
I would love to spend time in Rome and Florence, soaking up culture like the beautiful Renaissance architecture and the local cuisine. They seem like places that really know how to enjoy themselves and summer is a time of indulgence.
You’ve said people are really surprised by your interests when they get to know you. What kind of things startle them?
It’s more what I’m not into that surprises them. I’m really about simple things: I like to hang out with friends at home, listen to music, make food and watch silly movies- I just saw the Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman one, The Change Up. People think I’m doing some kind of fabulous, significant thing all the time and I’m just at home making a sandwich [laughs].
Zoë Kravitz is an ambassador for Canon. To enter their 365 Days of Summer competition visit canon-europe.com/live-for-the-story