As the Men’s
Fashion Director at T, the New York Times Style Magazine, Bruce Pask
is the chief in a tribe of fashion’s cool hunters. His rakish styling of
Hollywood stars and fashion editorials for the magazine, for Vanity Fair,
Bergdorf Goodman, and others, has created some of the most recognizable (and
imitated) images of our era. Out of the office, Pask’s affinity for timeless
menswear staples has made him a kind of street style celebrity, and a magazine
cover boy himself. He even (as you’ll see) answers interview questions
impeccably. Here he is on his process and individuality.
Oliver Peoples has its roots in
Hollywood and Hollywood glamour and you spend much of your time styling the
glamorous of Hollywood today. I am curious: when you are plotting for a shoot,
are thinking of the subject within the context of Hollywood history and
glamour? Is that ‘it-ness’, that glamour, something you can create?
The goal of
a shoot is certainly to create an evocative image, a memorable image, and I
think that the most effective images are those that have some element of
timelessness. Of all the images I've
styled and helped create over the years, the ones I keep coming back to, the
ones that hold up wonderfully today, are ones taken by Annie Leibovitz in the
early nineties for Vanity Fair. Adrian
Brody in a rumpled tweed suit leaning back in a chair, for example;
there was a distinct glamour to the styling of that image, an intentionally
artful carelessness. Yet the casual
nature of the pose, the expression and the naturalism that Annie created made
for such an iconic image. In a case like
that I do go into the shoot with a well thought out plan, with imagery in mind
and references. But then the work is to
take all that visual information and preparation to create a photograph that is
right for this moment and not trying to recreate history, but trying to look
forward. I was on set for a menswear
campaign not too long ago and the art director brought out that specific image
as the mood-setter for the shoot, not knowing that I had styled it. It made me so proud that the work still has
power today, that it served as the epitome of glamour for this contemporary
shoot. And then we went off to interpret
the mood of that photo in today's context. Always moving along.
Are there any iconic images, or
an aesthetic from the past you are particularly inspired by (or in some way
competing or communicating with) in your work? Or, are you, as you might for an
actor in a play, imagining a character and dressing them accordingly?
always be classic images that will serve as inspiration for photographs,
especially for men. The very mannered
black and white photographs of George Hurrell are very Hollywood. James
Dean in New York City. Any photo of
Steve McQueen. These are quite standard references and are often appropriated
for contemporary photo shoots. My
interest is less in the recreation of classic imagery. I am more intrigued by stylistic tics that one
can see in old photos: the way they wore the clothing, the sometimes
idiosyncratic choices they made that, because of who they are and their level
of fame, became accepted and imitated at the time. And certainly character always informs the photographs
I style. It makes a photo shoot much
more of a visual story we are trying to tell rather than just some model or
actor wearing a bunch of outfits that have no relativity or continuity. Creating a character always makes it easier
for me to make the styling choices for a shoot, and also gives a model
something the delve into, a role to inhabit that can create some kind of
honesty or truth, or at least attempt to.
You are a staples kind of guy
(from Clark's to Levi's, etc.), and I don't think I've ever seen you in
anything but a square-frame, tortoise-shell specs. How did you come by this style and shape?
This may be
a bit of a ‘gotcha moment’, I'm afraid. I was desperate to wear eyeglasses when I was
in school. Almost to the point of trying
to fake an eye exam in order to necessitate them. I just thought glasses were the coolest thing.
I did ultimately get a very light
prescription which I’m sure was quite unnecessary, but my folks relented. My first frames were quite basic, maybe a bit
larger than they should have been, but in college I suffered a severe lapse in
taste and bought a pair of marbleized black and white frames. I mean it was the (late!) eighties. I escaped
that vortex of bad taste and ultimately found the horn-rimmed pair of
eyeglasses that I wear today at Brimfield, that giant antique fair in western
Massachusetts. They're getting a bit
fragile, but I'm sticking with them.
As a twin, were you ever been
compelled to do things (whether in dress or behavior or whatever) to
differentiate yourself from Scott?
thing that visually differentiates us is my beard. I grew it about fifteen years ago and its
intention was not about my identity and trying to distinguish myself visually
from Scott, but it has had that added effect. That being said, though we are twins and
certainly look a lot alike, I think as we've grown up we've become more
reminiscent of each other rather than mirror images.
- Interview by Chris Wallace