Mert Alas and Gigi Hadid on Photography, Passions, and First Impressions

by Eddie Roche

Dedicated, boundary-pushing, and relentlessly in pursuit of greatness, Mert Alas and Gigi Hadid represent the fashion world at its very best. The creative powerhouses joined forces for a shoot with The Daily, during which they discussed their inspirations, aspirations, and passions.

How did you two initially connect?
Gigi Hadid: Our first shoot together was for Paris Vogue, but it didn’t feel like our first shoot, because
it was so easy. We knew each other before.
Mert Alas: We used to hang out. When Paris Vogue asked me who I wanted to shoot, I said Gigi, because we had never worked together.
Gigi: I feel confident in every second of working with him. Mert knows, specifically, what makes his subjects feel sexy. He knows how to make someone feel comfortable and sexy at the same time. A lot of times, you have a very different vision of how you look beautiful to the photographer who is shooting you. With Mert, he always puts out the picture of my vision of how I look beautiful.
Mert: It’s interesting you say that, because for some photographers or directors, the actors’ or the models’ opinions don’t really matter, because they are so wrapped up in their own style and vision. I get a kick out of the shoot if I get my models excited…. With their involvement, we can create something unique.
Gigi: He always finds out what makes that person tick. Someone always gives more if they feel amazing about themselves. A lot of people appreciate that about you!
Mert: I hope so!

What were your first impressions of each other?
Mert: I knew she was a hot and upcoming girl, and everyone was telling me I needed to work with her. Then I saw her, and I thought she looked like a supermodel with the personality to match. The good thing about you is you understand what you are wearing and what we’re doing, so you get into it. That’s very rare in our industry, which is why I don’t work with many models.
Gigi: What did I not know about Mert and Marcus [Piggott]’s work before!? Every campaign, cover, anything you can think of—they’ve done it. My relationship with fashion growing up was never about the designers or the actual clothing—I got passionate about modeling because of the photographers. I was so inspired and touched by specific images and campaigns and how they made me feel. My biggest interest was paying attention to the way a model could enhance a photo, rather than just being a part of it. That’s why I wanted to be a model. I grew up with Mert and Marcus’s images. There’s nothing they haven’t done!

What was your concept for this shoot?
Mert: We just wanted to be ourselves. This is what we do when we go out—we look in the camera and make silly faces.
Gigi: We wore matched ripped jeans and shirts. Comfortable in our sexiness.
Mert: And barefoot! I was thinking about what we should wear, and we had a chat and thought of a
’90s Axl Rose thing. Gigi loved the idea.

Mert, tell us about your solo work.
Mert: I’ve been doing photos with Marcus for 22 years, and I will work with him for the rest of my life. He’s my soulmate, my brother, my partner; he has been my lover. We do a lot of charged fashion images, but I’ve always taken a small camera everywhere I go. I met this group of kids in Berlin, and I was very inspired by them. They had a sense of style. Each one was an artist, musician, painter, or poet, and they were sexually liberated. I said to myself that I would take some pictures of them on my own—no fashion, no team. It was literally me and my camera. I went to Berlin and L.A. and a few other cities and did this project. I didn’t expect it to be recognized like this. It was a simple adventure to do it on my own. Katie Grand is an old friend, and she was really into it. I said, “Are you sure?” She said she was going to do a special edition of LOVE just for me. She published the photos, which was really amazing. I wanted those kids to be recognized somehow. They are all super talented and the things they say and play are inspiring. I wanted to give them a voice.
Gigi: I had seen the photos but didn’t know the story behind them. I love capturing people for who they are, and getting a sense of their comfort zones.
Mert: In fashion, we’re always role-playing and creating something that we want everyone to believe. It was refreshing to take the picture in the guy’s bed, with his own clothes, using the light from his room.

Gigi, how did TOMMYXGIGI come together?
Gigi: It’s amazing! I honestly had no idea what to expect at the beginning. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it all the way. The design meeting for my first collection was supposed to be one hour, and I was there for eight or nine hours. That’s how it’s been every meeting since. My biggest fear was that pieces would not come out the way I fully wanted them to. With each collection, I’m learning about time management, taking notes on things I want to change, and setting up the right amount of meetings to get it all done. I have been so lucky to work with
a great team at Tommy Hilfiger. They are masters at what they do, and they do this every season. They welcomed my opinion, and they were there to teach me, but they also let me learn a lot on my own, which was so appreciated.
Mert: Where did you get your inspirations?
Gigi: For the first collection, we did a Fall/Winter
of the nautical theme from Tommy’s Spring/Summer collection. I had different inspirations, too. My collection opens the show, and his closes the show—it’s split in half, and they have to work together, but it’s interesting to see the different takes we have
on the same concept. My third collection will come out this fall, and that’s the one I’m most proud of. I was able to fully grasp every part of the experience, and do what I needed to do to get every piece perfect. I’m always interested in getting better. I’m not over the past collection, but I’m so ready to show what I’ve learned and how I’ve improved.
Mert: I’m always over everything I do as soon as it’s done and published! Somehow for me, it’s the process of making images that turns me on. By the time the pictures are out, I’m already on to the next adventure!

What was it like to show TOMMYXGIGI in Los Angeles?
Gigi: It was incredible, mostly because it was my hometown and my whole family was there. Friends from high school came, my horseback riding trainer came from Santa Barbara…it was amazing. For my first collection, I started the day with Good Morning America at 4 a.m., had press all day, press backstage, and by the time of the show, I was so nervous that I kind of blacked out and forgot what happened. This season, I took it all in, and wanted to feel it and experience it as I was walking down the runway. The production is so massive, and then it’s taken down
in three hours after the show. It was surreal. There’s nothing like seeing other people in your clothes and having people be supportive. There were so many…
Mert: Good vibes!
Gigi: Good energy. It’s a beautiful feeling.

Thoughts on social media?
Mert: I like social media because I am living in a world and working in a place where everything is
very organized. I wake up at 7 a.m., I go to the gym,
I go to retouching, I take meetings for shoots, I do the shoots. When I discovered Instagram, it was a toy, something I could do on my own. I could be stupid.
I have fun with it.

What don’t you know about each other?
Mert: We know so much about each other already…
Gigi: I don’t know if you knew this, but I went to
the New School and studied criminal psychology for two years when I first moved to New York.
Mert: That’s really cool! Wow! Okay, I was a pianist!
Gigi: Really? That’s awesome!
Mert: I studied at classical music school for 12 years. When I came to London for English courses, I changed my mind. I said to my mom, “Sell the piano—I’m not coming back!” But I still play.
Gigi: I wish we had a piano here!

How would you describe each other in a word?
Mert: Life! She represents life today.
Gigi: Effortless.
Mert: [Jokes] Like my hair today! Let’s face it, life is so short. It’s fashion. It’s a dress. We love it today, we hate it tomorrow. If you take everything so seriously and work as hard and as much as we do, you’ve got to have fun with it.
Gigi: He’s always having fun!

Let’s talk about Gigi’s photography.
Mert: She’s my new competitor!
Gigi: And he’s now mine, modeling on the cover of The Daily!
Mert: I’ve finally made it!
Gigi: I’m his manager! My mom was a model when she was young, and…
Mert: Your mom is so beautiful!
Gigi: During her time as a model, she was always shooting her own stuff. She has some amazing behind-the-scenes photography of traveling the world. When she quit modeling when Bella and I were born, there was a camera around all the time. We were always being photographed, and we could always play with our mom’s camera. I grew up taking pictures of everything. I was a competitive horseback rider, and starting at 14 or 15, in between my competitions, I would take pictures of my friends’ horses and sell them for $10. I would print them myself. I loved it. I used to have It’s now just a locked webstarter. Creative people always need to be creating, regardless of whether they are working or not. For me, making Polaroids during Fashion Week was literally the only way I wouldn’t go insane. I could take pictures of
my friends and the people who make me happy. One day, I was in the car with [V magazine editor]
Stephen Gan, and he asked me what I was doing with the camera and I told him that I was taking pictures of friends at parties. He said I should keep doing it, and we’d meet at the end of the month to see what I have. I shot them in a lot of different styles with new and old film, so he had a range to choose from.

Gigi, how did you end up shooting the Versus campaign with Zayn Malik?
Gigi: With Versus, I was hanging with Donatella
and we were shooting the Versace campaign a couple seasons ago, and I had to show her these pictures
of my boyfriend on my phone because she loves his face, too. I said, “Look how hot he looks!” She said how she loved how raw it was. She said she wanted me to shoot the Versus campaign in that feeling
of hanging in a hotel room, drinking, having room service, playing games, playing guitar.
Mert: He looked great! I loved it.
Gigi: I have so much respect for the photographers
I work with. The photos that I’m going to take are always going to feel like it’s me hanging with my friends. That’s what I do naturally. I do it as a creative outlet. I hope it comes across the way I want it to.

Read The Daily Hollywood HERE.

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