Modeling: since the dawn of time it has been revered as one of the world’s most challenging and creatively extraordinary professions. However, there is one thing that makes American model Jamie Bochert even more special (in my eyes) than most of her beautiful peers: she’s alt!
Aside from wearing clothes, Bochert is also a musician who performs under the name Frances Wolf. Over the years she’s become famous for her androgynous features and overall “gothic crow” look, drawing many to compare her to Patti Smith. As Karl Lagerfeld once said, “The secret to modeling is not being perfect. What one needs is a face that people can identify in a second… what’s needed is to bring something new.” And Bochert–with her chiseled cheekbones, angular frame and sultry, dark eyes–has carved out a new type of iconic, epicene beauty. (AKA the sort of beauty that makes gay men weep, straight guys feel intimidated and straight girls feel all tingly and “confused.”)
A long-time muse for Marc Jacobs, in her decade as a model Bochert has been the face of mega-brands like Lanvin and Jimmy Choo, has walked for designers like Alexander McQueen and Rodarte, and has been in every important fashion magazine ever. She’s also in a long term relationship with actor Michael Pitt, star of The Dreamers and the wet dream of every alt girl the world over. Talk about an indie power couple! I recently chatted with Jamie about what’s up with fashion, art, music and the glamorous state of New Jersey.
Hey, what’s up?
Jamie Bochert: I just got back from Paris where I was working with Chanel for their couture show, and now I’m in New York working with Marc Jacobs, and I’m in the middle of rehearsing to record an album, and I’m working on some other projects, like photoshoots. I’m kind of all over the place right now. I’m really jet lagged too.
That’s cool. You’ve been working with Marc Jacobs on his collection for six years. What do you do for him?
I basically just stand around in his studio wearing clothes.
Being a muse seems like a good job.
It’s a funny, funny job.
So what is your process of writing and recording music? I read that you do a lot of DIY recordings in your bedroom.
Yeah, I usually start a ‘voice memo’ on my iPhone, sit down at the piano and press record, and then hope that whatever comes out is good.
What is your album about?
Oh God. I guess if I think about it there’s a recurring love theme, but it’s hard to say.
Love like in a Taylor Swift way where all of your songs are about really specific–
Taylor Swift? No, I wouldn’t say that. I don’t know Taylor Swift’s music but I would probably say it’s not anything like that. I don’t mean “love” just as in “I love you.” Although I’m not really sure what Taylor Swift’s songs are like.
Well she’s become notorious for writing really specific songs about her famous ex-boyfriends, like Jake Gyllenhaal for example, and using their real names in the lyrics.
Yeah, I don’t mean songs about boys or girls. I just mean loving something, or being obsessing with something, or abstract feelings of love—that type of stuff.
So what are your tips for being sexy? You’re someone who pulls off being sexy without dressing too revealing, or being too obvious or trashy about it. Is that something you consider?
Wow, thanks. I don’t think myself as sexy. But I also don’t think people who dress “sexy” are sexy. Sometimes I find it more attractive if a girl is dressed like a boy. I mean, it just depends. But I don’t find dressing revealing very attractive, and it’s certainly not necessary in order to be sexy. I think sex appeal it more about someone having their own personal style and not trying to be something they’re not.
How do you relate fashion to style? Are they different things?
Well, fashion is making clothes and style is how you wear them.
In recent years it seems the distinction between fashion and art is becoming increasingly tenuous, especially with museums like the Met hosting fashion exhibitions. Do you consider fashion an art form? Do you put fashion in the same context as painting or sculpture?
I asked myself this question recently, and yes I definitely consider fashion a form of art. Every day at work I watch people make clothes, and the process is very meticulous and considered, and I think that’s really incredible. I think if someone is authentic, and creating work with feeling, then it’s art, whether it’s a painting, a piece of music, clothing, whatever.
Who in the world of fashion inspires you?
Ann Demeulemeester. She does what she wants and she does it really well. Her Spring 2012 collection was one of my favorites of hers– very elegant but also very cool, with beautiful fabrics. It inspired me to art direct a shoot in Morocco using her dresses.
Who were your fashion icons when you were young?
I’ve liked PJ Harvey for a long time. When I was about five I really liked Michael Jackson. I got the glove and bought clothes that looked like his and I wore them everywhere.
What were you like when you were a teenager in New Jersey? Were you into fashion?
No, I was into ballet. I was dancing. I was in my own world.
I just started doing these popular workout videos called Ballet Beautiful, created by the ballerina Mary Helen Bowers. Have you heard about it?
Oh my god, it’s amazing, I love Mary Helen! I’ve worked with her forever. Before she did the video stuff I would meet up with her and do private classes.
The videos are really sneaky because you barely even move—you just wave your limbs around a bit– but the next day you feel like you’re dying.
Yeah, it’ s an intense workout. She does a very good job at figuring out how to work muscles you didn’t even know existed. She’s amazing.
So were you cool in high school?
No, I just danced. I didn’t have boyfriends and I didn’t do anything. I went to dance and then I went home.
OK but at lunch were you at the nerd table or the goth table or what?
I just hung out with the people I danced with. It was a performing arts school. But no, I wasn’t cool, and I didn’t go to school dances or anything like that.
Do you keep in touch with people from high school now? Like do you get weird Facebook messages from people saying, “Hey, it’s cool that you became famous.”
I don’t do any of that stuff. I don’t do Facebook, I have a very small group of close friends, and that’s pretty much it. I’m not looking to connect with people. I’m just happy to be doing what I love to do.
So, are there any specific periods of time or places or subcultures that you credit with having great style?
I did like the 90s. I mean, I’m not big on the 80s, but I liked the 90s.
What 90s look? When I think of 90s fashion I think of She’s All That, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”—stuff like that.
I was thinking more like goth and grunge, Nirvana and the Cure. I like both of those styles.
What do you think about this 90s-throw-back look that’s going on in New York right now—this sort of cyber punk, ying-yang, sea punk, blue lipstick, neon dolphin thing. Like basically people who are dressed like Tumblr.
Are you serious? What is that? I don’t know what the internet dress code is. I need to get out more. Honestly, I have no idea. I mean, I ride the subway here and there, but…
These people mainly hang out at warehouse raves. I don’t know if that’s where you frequent.
No, not really.
That’s a good idea.
OK. Andy Warhol had this idea that if you wear a uniform you’ll never go out of style. So if you always wear the same thing then you can wear it for eternity and always look stylish, because the look will be more associated with you than with a certain time. I was wondering what you thought about this, because it seems that you have a very distinctive look that doesn’t shift with changing style trends.
Well, I just wear what’s comfortable to me, what I feel good in, and that’s probably why it’s all the same. I read that Einstein wore the same thing every day because he didn’t want to waste brainpower picking out clothes, and I think that’s really smart.
And what clothes make you feel comfortable?
Different things at different times. I like my pajamas. I feel comfortable in those.
Have you ever heard Karl Lagerfeld’s quote about sweatpants? He said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
I’ve never heard that.
OK. So being a model, do you ever feel a pressure to look a certain way, or insecure about the way your body looks?
No, not now. I feel comfortable and I’m happy with myself. I’m not saying I never feel insecure because that’s a natural feeling that everyone experiences, whether you’re a model or not. Whether it’s to do with how you look, or the way you play music, or the way you cook—whatever. People are going to judge you no matter what–whether they think you’re pretty, ugly, tall, short, fat, skinny, androgynous, whatever. You just have to let them say what they have to say. Have your own opinion, be yourself. Not in a narcissistic way, but believing in yourself is important.
But sometimes believing in yourself is so hard. How do you do it?
I think it’s important to do things that you love, and to challenge yourself, read inspiring books, and those things will give you confidence.
What books have you been reading lately?
Right now I’m reading a book by William Blake, The Book of Thel. Before this I was reading Forced Entries by Jim Carroll, and before that was Patti Smith’s book Just Kids.
Just Kids is like the new indie bible, right? It’s really sentimental in a way I didn’t expect it to be.
I know, I was crying on the train while reading it. I have a problem finishing books. I get really sad when I get to the end, so I always have to go back a little bit, because I don’t want to finish it, and when it’s over I feel really sad.
Weird. I feel like that could be psychoanalyzed as a sign that you can’t let things go.
Yeah, probably. Yeah, thanks.
You get compared to Patti Smith a lot. I know you played guitar as back up with her band in Paris once. How did that come about? Did she approach you and say, “Hey, everyone says we look alike so we should play in a band together”?
No, actually Ann Demeulemeester introduced us.
But was she aware of the comparisons that are always being made about you two?
I don’t know, we didn’t have that conversation.
Yeah, I guess it would be awkward if the first thing you said to her was, “Everyone says I look like you.”
Yeah, that would be really weird. I mean that was the last thing I was thinking about when I met her. I was actually thinking, “Oh my God, I’m standing next to Patti Smith.”
You’ve been dating the actor Michael Pitt for ten years. I was intrigued by the fact that you’re both from New Jersey because it seems like you guys would be from somewhere more glamorous.
Yep. I don’t really want to talk about my relationship, but yeah we are both from New Jersey.