Model of the moment Paul Hameline:” I don’t know why people would want to look at me”

The original Vetements muse, Paul Hameline is a blank canvas who can look like Marc Almond one minute and Charlotte Rampling the next. Here he talks blueberries, boredom and Balenciaga

A hot, sticky June evening in Paris and model Paul Hameline is at a party, drinking warm wine from a plastic cup. It’s men’s fashion week and Le Marais is thick with models fresh off the Dries Van Noten catwalk. Not Hameline, though. Blue-eyed, with echoes of Richard Hell, this model is alone, seeming borne, in a T-shirt that reads: No Heart Inside. He’s sacked off part of fashion week to be at the private party of photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti’s exhibition. The T-shirt is by Carlotti.

He’s not actually bored. The coolest models tend to emit a certain ennui and Hameline is probably the coolest in fashion right now. Male supermodels are rare, and famous faces that departed from mainstream ideals are even rarer. They tend to be either cartoonish( David Gandy, Lucky Blue Smith) or anonymously good-looking( Sean O’Pry, Jon Kortajarena ). Vanity and grooming don’t sit well with smoking, basement parties and insouciance.

So Hameline is a rarity then. He’s the original Vetements muse and the collective’s influence constructs this important. His ascent has been exponential- he first strolled for Vetements in 2014 and has carefully picked every undertaking since. He models for only a handful of indicates: Marni, Prada, Balenciaga, JW Anderson.

Paul and friends : models Jamie Bochert, Mica Arganaraz, Julia Nobis, Paul Hameline, Clara Deshayes outside the Sies Marjan show at the New York State Bar Association in 2016. Photo: Melodie Jeng/ Getty Images

Fame amazes him:” I’m not even commercial seeming ,” he despairs. But it’s precisely this appear- an androgynous, post-binary beauty with a flaw( in his instance, a small dimple under his bottom lip)- that has stimulated him menswear’s most in-demand face, and may explain why he’s finally reach mainstream and become the new face of Hugo Boss. He seems taller than his 6ft 1in, maybe because of the route he stands, Giacometti-like, unbelievably slight, but sexy.

The idea of beauty being a static notion is deep Americanised and, thanks to social media, has become the norm, says Alice Pfeiffer, a French style journalist and friend of Hameline’s.” But in France, we have always been good at celebrating the alternative .” He, she tells, is the male incarnation of this philosophy.

” I don’t like only modelling ,” he tells.” I don’t consider it my main profession, and I never believed I’d make money from it .” Boredom scares him.” I have to keep busy or I get depressed .” His CV includes styling, analyzing art, acting, inducing zines inspired by cult cinemas and designing prints for Ann Demeulemeester.

Hameline on the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/ Getty Images

Hameline prefers fulfilling people face to face. It’s easy to see why. Context is key- he talks about models as” empty vessels”, drinking only whisky in London or margaritas inNew York, and fees a bowl of blueberries for breakfast. Said on the phone, this might voice affected. But Hameline in the flesh is funny and bright, a little earnest but looser after a drinking. We gratify at the Wolseley( posh places amuse him) and he arrives, on time, in khaki Miu Miu shirt and Raf Simons trousers, his hair rubbed back with blue acetate sunglasses. He is rarely without them-” On planes, too, which makes me seem …”- he smirks-” but I like to watch Disney movies and I always exclaim .” He sets them on the table, sits down and orders a large whisky.

Today, he’s celebrating the end of his first year studying art at Central St Martins. His final piece was an installation involving cassettes which he burned immediately after. Tomorrow, he is going to the dentist. As the buzziest model in fashion, you’d believe his lifestyle would transcend wisdom teeth. Alas.” I have to wait to fix them until after[ the manner depicts] because …”- he mimes a swollen face-” the designers will be upset .”

Vetements depict, Paris fashion week, 2015. Photograph: Sipa/ Rex/ Shutterstock

21-year-old Hameline was born in Paris. A quiet, introverted boy, he had braces and a stutter. Aged 11, he went to a boarding school in North Yorkshire which practised hunting and angling, which he didn’t enjoy (” I like animals “). He went to a day school in Paris a few years later, before spending time at the prestigious Ecal in Switzerland and a summer camp in the US; he speaks English almost perfectly. His mom studied international relations, while his father, who worked in property, was also a is part of the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris, and clearly enjoyed clothes:” When he was 16 he’d wear tweed and a cape – you know, like Sherlock Holmes. He tried to pick me up from school in a fuchsia corduroy suit. I was like , non, Dad, it’s OK, I stroll .” As a teenager, Hameline was ” normal”, wearing black jeans, Converse and a Carhartt jacket.

His scouting was run-of-the-mill fashion folklore: 16, and running late, he was at an ATM get cash for a taxi when he was spotted by Eva Godel, founder of ultra-hip street-casting agency Tomorrow Is Another Day, who chased him down the road on her motorcycle.” I signed to her agency merely because I was drawn to her, you know ?” It was his fifth scouting by as many agencies but he was- and is- picky. He uses the word freely:” The others were bigger but I knew I didn’t want to be’ a model ‘. I was picky .” Even now, he’ll walking only in particular depicts.” I only do it for brands I relate to or respect. I’m picky about it ,” he tells. He lately left to join the Lions NY and Success Models in Europe:” It’s important to turn the page, to let people go ,” he says. He remains on good terms with Godel.

Paul Hameline photographed in Paris for The Fashion Photograph: Helene Pambrun

Hameline likes to fade.” If I’m at a party, I call an Uber, say I am going to pee, then I just go. My friends call it’ an Hameline ‘.” It feels as if that’s why he moved to London a year ago. Here, he enjoys the anonymity of feeing Sunday roasts in a pub or shopping in Turkish supermarkets. One of his favourite things to do is sit in hotel foyers and watch people, unwatched himself. Parisians are far more “judgmental”.

His big break came from meeting Vetements stylist Lotta Volkova through a mutual friend.” We were both bored of Paris, so we hurled a party in my parents’ cellar. We bided up all night playing postpunk industrial music- Throbbing Gristle, Nine Inch Nails“, then Volkova took Hameline to a Vetements presentation. To him,” The clothes, that world, it built sense to me .” A few a few weeks later he bunked off school in Switzerland, flew home and hid from his mothers in a studio with his new friends and got a tattoo.

Through Volkova he gratified decorators Demna Gvasalia and Gosha Rubchinskiy, and through the way world met his best friend Mica Arganaraz( recently on the cover of Vogue ).” These are people I rely on. I don’t know where I’d be without them .” This summer he plans to visit Vetements in Zurich and Rubchinskiy in Russia. He chose not to walk the last Balenciaga present because he wanted to watch the “performance” from the frow. In his eyes, he sits safely on the fence between insider and outsider.

Carlotti, the photographer, has known Hameline since he was a teenager.” I assured him dancing and he seemed … cool ,” he tells.” I asked if he wanted a beverage, he told me how old he was and merely kept dancing .” He smiles.” I thought: that is how you should be. To just be you. To be cool .” Pfeiffer concurs, describing his” detachment from way” as part of his appeal.

‘ I don’t know why people would want to look at me. There are a thousand people who are prettier .’ Paul Hameline. Photo: Melodie Jeng/ Getty Images

It’s an odd posture, especially for someone who ranks modelling as his least compelling ability. A prolific collector of photographs, he has already attained one successful zine- Rave New World– and schemes another. He talks with ease about Freudian hypothesi and new wave cinema. Modelling pays the bills, of course, but one gets the sense his mothers approve of his career because Hameline treats it more like an artistic process. He likes to shock, to play with themes of religion and sexuality. He is happy to pose almost naked in Vice, to wear a dress in Dazed. He walks, friends have said, like My Little Pony, but for a character model this works. His face- hooded eyes, full lips- is in constant flux. For the Guardian’s shoot, he’s sort of Marc Almond. The first day I gratified him, he looked like Charlotte Rampling.

” The thing about male beauty …” Hameline pauses.” What turns me on to a guy or a girl is how they are, their ideas, their spirit. I don’t know why people would want to look at me. There are a thousand people who are prettier .”

It’ll be interesting to see where he is this time next year. Models who capture the zeitgeist as Hameline has sometimes get caught in the moment. Success can be brief so he’s wise to branch out. He plans to expend 2017″ nourishing my curiosity” which entails applying to drama school. If, like politicians, the best models are the most reluctant ones, Hameline is already at supermodel level. The problem remains: even if modelling is boring to him, he’s still excellent at it.

This article appears in the autumn/ wintertime 2017 edition of The Fashion , the Guardian and the Observer’s biannual fashion supplement

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