Photography by Daniyel Lowden
Styling by Harry Lambert
When Harry Styles arrives for our interview in Paris, he’s dressed casually in jeans and a Mickey Mouse sweater. From his mannerisms - down to earth, joking with the team, and occasionally blushing, you wouldn’t think that the L’Officiel team is in the presence of pop royalty. Yet, the next day, when he drops his new single, Lights Up , we are reminded of the power the 25-year-old wields, in a just a couple of hours gaining nearly 2 million views from his ardent army of fans. During his time with One Direction, the band sold a staggering 50 million records in six years. Indeed, after the announcement that One Direction would be going on a hiatus in 2015, it must have felt like a millennia to fans - before Harry Styles came back swinging, with his eponymous first solo album in 2017.
The move saw him undeniably change as an artist, shedding his ‘Harry from 1D’ skin, to take on the role of a singular artist, in osmosis with the times - at peace with his identity, outspoken about equal rights for all, the transformation to the new stage of his career was complete.
In many ways there are similarities between Harry Styles and Gucci’s vibrant, poetic and disruptive director Alessandro Michele, and as such Styles was a very natural choice for Michele’s vision for the brand. Indeed the design dressed Styles for his first solo tour, before choosing him this season to be the face of the new frgrance Gucci Mémoire d’une Odeur.
Indeed, the working relationship between Michele and Styles seems unforced, and the result of mutual admiration: “Alessandro is a free thinker, and his way of working is very inspiring. If he wants to do something, he just does it, and I find it impressive, especially when you work for such a great brand. When you have the opportunity to witness the work of someone who is considered a master, like Alessandro it is quite incredible. There is no question of class, age, who did what. What he does is for everyone, concerns everyone, and I think that every form of art should be like that.”
While waiting to dive headfirst into a busy season for Styles, - with a promo tour on the cards, the 25-year-old man still seems resolutely down to earth. (On the shoot with L’Officiel , instead of requiring a private dressing room, he quietly walks around in his underwear between takes, picking from Asian dishes delivered by the local caterer without asking for organic celery juice or steamed tofu). No doubt a relaxed approach to food from his upbringing in Redditch in the UK, “ the first smell I remember is probably the smell of my mother’s cooking ,” he tells L’Officiel . The mix between the smell of the Sunday Roast she was preparing at the weekend, and the perfume she was wearing ,” he explains.
For Styles, the memory of his childhood, seems to be at the forefront of his mind when we meet. : “ I really like the memory of a smell, for the way it can transport you, or conjure up a particular emotion, but also the fact that it adapts and changes according to the person who wears it, which I find interesting . Gucci Mémoire d’une Odeur probably reminds me of
summertime. Being by the lake with my friends, where I grew up, and the smell of wildflowers. ”
“ Many borders are falling,” Styles continues . “In fashion, but also in music, films, art... I don’t think people are still looking for the same things, like gender differentiation as much as in the past. We no longer need to be this or that, I think now people are just trying to be great at what they do. In fashion and other fields, these parameters are no longer as strict as before, and it gives rise to great freedom, it’s stimulating. ”
Continuing on the subject of his friendship with Michele, he says: “Alessandro doesn’t necessarily ask my opinion, but we show each other things. It’s cool to have the opinion of someone who isn’t necessarily in your field, but whose work and taste you respect.” Discussing the challenges of working in a creative field, Styles continues: “Songwriting is like surfing. You can train as much as you want to get on the board, but sometimes the wave comes and sometimes it doesn’t. And yet, we still need to train to become better. You can’t just sit down and decide to write a song and think you’ve written the best song of your life. It takes a lot of work.”
Although it may feel as though Harry Styles has been in the public eye for a lot longer than a decade, just 10 years ago, he was a 15-year-old working in his local bakery. “Celebrity is something I am still learning and experimenting with. I learn to sort out what I like, what I don’t like in there, what I’m willing to give in my songs, and what I’m not inclined to share. We have to find a balance. When writing songs we always wonder what people will think of such and such lyrics... and it makes you vulnerable, but at the same time, it’s what makes this whole adventure exciting.”
The excitement he describes, is particularly palpable when he reveals a few clues about the upcoming album, explaining that he hopes it expresses “ a feeling of freedom .” A feeling that is not entirely foreign to some of the claimed models, not especially the introverted “ Elvis Presle y or Mick Jagger, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Prince. ” (And, at the opposite end of the spectrum, among his recent emotions, the discovery of the wonderful Nick Drake, whose ample and finely crafted music “is a delight”.) “ When I look at them, I don’t know what it is, but it’s this, this something special. They go beyond the limits. In terms of writing, Paul McCartney has always been a huge influence. I had the chance to meet some of them, I don’t think they will ever stop being great to me .”
Although Styles arrived in a private car with tinted windows, he will leave on foot, to go for a drink with his team at the local pub. The image of him leaving the set reminds us how far he has come since he was auditioning on the X Factor to be in One Direction, in a cardigan that was too long, while trying to distinguish himself to the judges. Although in many ways he has changed, he is no doubt still the down-to-earth boy from Redditch, whose soft-smelling scent is a mix between wildflowers and Sunday lunch.
Photography Counsel Clarke Rudick
Hair Alex Brownsell
Makeup Niamh Quinn