Vogue US March2020

(Ben Green) #1
thrifting and picking through the racks at
Target, cutting up her purchases and sewing
them together in new and strange shapes.
She recalls a shirt she made out of some
yellow fishnet fabric she found in the gar-
ment district and a cool-looking and very
uncomfortable shirt she fashioned from an
Ikea shopping bag. She disassembled sneak-
ers and wrapped the tongues around the
soles. To this day, she would love to take the
green dragon-print curtains in her brother’s
bedroom—where the two of them wrote
and recorded her entire album—and turn
them into a dress. Except that she doesn’t
wear dresses. “I just wanted to invent shit,
so I did,” she explains. “When I look back at
myself at 9 or 10, my style was unbelievably
terrible. But it was exactly what I wanted to
wear. I was committed to it, I wore it, and
I was happy.”


ith an arsenal of toxic colors,
chaotic prints, and ersatz
European luxury-brand
emblems (to which luxu-
ry brands, sensing her visual power, have
responded by sending her the genuine
articles), Eilish seems always to be flout-
ing the proprietary or predatory gaze. In
a Calvin Klein campaign video last year,
addressing her style, she said, “Nobody
can have an opinion because they haven’t
seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be
like, ‘she’s slim-thick,’ ‘she’s not slim-thick,’
‘she’s got a flat ass,’ ‘she’s got a fat ass.’” In
a defiant Instagram post to her 46 million
followers last September, Eilish stands in
the doorway of a trailer wearing a graffiti-
printed T-shirt and sweatpants, a collabora-
tion between her and the streetwear brand

Freak City. The caption reads, “if only i
dressed normal id be so much hotter yea
yea come up with a better comment im tired
of that one.” But while we might wish to
politicize it as post-#MeToo dressing that
has wrested skater style from the dominion
of men and boys, Eilish makes clear that
her look is not a protest against anyone.
In a V Magazine interview with Pharrell
Williams last summer, she told him, “The
positive comments about how I dress have

“In my dark places I’ve worried that

I was going to become the stereotype

that everybody thinks every young

artist becomes, because how can they not? ”

this slut-shaming element. Like, ‘I am so
glad that you’re dressing like a boy, so other
girls can dress like boys, so that they aren’t
sluts.’ That’s basically what it sounds like to
me. And I can’t overstate how strongly I do
not appreciate that, at all.”
For all her no-fucks nonchalance, it would
be impossible to cast Eilish as a cool girl
according to the old but evolving paradigm
that canonized cool girls from Clara Bow
to Kate Moss. Self-possessed, transgressive
without trying too hard, unimpressed by
the traditional hallmarks of mass culture or
conventional glamour, she does not appear
to be making choices that serve to maintain
an aura. She is not a rebel—that sine qua
non of cool—unless she’s rebelling from
the chorus or the stables. Finneas, who has
recently moved out to have more space with
his girlfriend, the beauty and fashion You-
Tuber Claudia Sulewski, explains that there
was no need for rebellion in the O’Connell
household. “I don’t know what a conven-
tional childhood is,” he explains. “I have
friends who reacted to one, I guess, who
have wanted to move out their whole lives.
Truth be told, we never had that feeling.
I think our parents never trivialized our
questions and our interests. So many friends
of mine would ask their parents, ‘Hey, can
I have a sleepover?’ ‘No, you can’t.’ ‘Why?’
‘Because.’ Whereas our whole childhood
was a conversation. You ended up feeling
that decisions made sense.”
Eilish and O’Connell’s relatively sim-
ple musical formula—setting off her airy
vocals against spare, spacey beats—suits
their preference for writing, recording, and
editing their music at home. “We don’t like
studios,” she says. “I hate not seeing day-
light. I hate that they smell weird. I hate
recording booths. I hate being far away and
singing alone in a room. In the beginning,
all we would hear was, ‘Let’s put you in the
studio with this person and that person.’ So
we did go into the studio and work with this
producer or writer or artist or whatever, and
it was fine, but nothing ever did what me
and Finneas alone do. And I think it’s how
we’ll keep doing it: He came over a week
ago and he just set up his computer and we
recorded something right here.”
While Eilish has broken away from pop’s
recent sights and sounds, she is also play-
ing the game according to the rules of the
streaming era. She had already hit the one-
billion-streams mark before her first full-
length album debuted, and the singles she
released leading up to it came out of good,
old-fashioned artist development: natural-
ly heterogeneous, CONTINUED ON PAGE 354

Photographed by Ethan James Green
Free download pdf