Bruce Weber and Paul Cavaco Reunited

Bruce Weber and Paul Cavaco Reunited

An iconic image-making duo reunites for VMAN's September issue. Here, the photographer and stylist reminisce about a few favorite memories from working together—moments that the rest of the industry would call fashion history

An iconic image-making duo reunites for VMAN's September issue. Here, the photographer and stylist reminisce about a few favorite memories from working together—moments that the rest of the industry would call fashion history

Photography: Bruce Weber

Styling: Paul Cavaco

Text: Joshua Lyon

For fashion-followers who came of age in the late seventies and eighties, there are certain iconic ads and celebrity features forever burned in the mind—and chances are they were collaborations between photographer Bruce Weber and stylist Paul Cavaco. They worked together for over two decades, but eventually family life and new job opportunities caused them to start taking on separate projects. Until now: after sixteen years apart, VMAN is thrilled to reunite the power duo for a mega 28-page fashion feature in our fall issue. We were honored when they also agreed to share details about their long history and enduring friendship, as well as a few wild behind the scenes stories from their past.

FROM LEFT: LUNA WEARS COAT DRIES VAN NOTEN FILIP WEARS COAT RAG & BONE

The photographer and stylist first met at a shoot in 1976, during Cavaco’s early days as a model. “I’m the antithesis of a Bruce Weber model,” he modestly clarifies. “Short, not built at all…it was a shoot for real people.” Still, Weber saw something in the young man when he plucked him out of the lineup to help dress some of the other guys. “I didn’t know what I was doing, so I didn’t have any rules,” Cavaco says. He points to Kezia Keeble, his fiancé at the time, as his original mentor. (The late Keeble is a legend in her own right: a former Vogue editor who later went on to found the powerhouse publicity and advertising firm KCD with Cavaco and John Duka, a New York Times fashion writer.) “I was taught by Kezia to look at what’s going on, to watch what Bruce was liking, and to look at the picture as a whole,” he says. “It wasn’t just about the clothes, it was about the image.”

Shortly after that fortuitous meeting, Weber asked Cavaco to help out on an advertising shoot and they began working together steadily, pushing all kinds of boundaries as they went. Take a late seventies underwear story for Soho Weekly News featuring model Jeff Aquilon, who Weber had plucked from the water polo team at Pepperdine University. “Paul styled that whole thing, from the holes in the socks to a vintage bathrobe,” Weber says. “You have to understand at the time those kinds of things didn’t happen. Men didn’t really do those kinds of pictures. Paul was always very forward thinking. He had a feeling of street, and he had a feeling of elegance at the same time.”

JULES WEARS PANTS TODD SNYDER LUNA WEARS COAT TODD SNYDER FILIP WEARS PANTS JIL SANDER SANDALS HIS OWN

The shoot wasn’t just notable for the styling. Keeping with Cavaco’s ability to see images as a whole, they shot Aquilon in a small studio loft, with him lounging on a rumpled unmade mattress on the floor. Sounds totally innocent by today’s standards, but at the time the pictures were shocking enough for Saks, whose underwear was used, to cancel all of their advertising in Soho Weekly News.

That incident wouldn’t be the last time the duo’s work ruffled feathers. If anything, it seemed to kick off a bit of a rebellious streak. “We did an ad for Valentino one time,” Cavaco says. “This was maybe ’78, and guys had long hair. Bruce cut the models’ hair into crew cuts.” Again, it sounds completely tame now, but the suits at Valentino were not amused. When Weber presented the team with Polaroids of the men one member snapped, “They might as well be convicts!”

LEFT: JULES AND LUNA WEAR CLOTHING TODD SNYDER RIGHT: FILIP WEARS COAT MARC JACOBS SWIMSUIT speedo LUNA WEARS COAT TIM COPPENS TOP COSABELLA WETSUIT PATAGONIA JULES WEARS PANTS TODD SNYDER BRIEFS HIS OWN SHOES CAMPER

The reaction was even more extreme when they photographed Josie Borain, a model who was under contract with Calvin Klein. On set, famed hairstylist—and Grace Coddington’s longtime partner—Didier Malige cut off all of Borain’s hair without Weber or Cavaco realizing it. They loved her new look, but when she went out to Studio 54 that night, Bianca Jagger saw her and wigged out. “Bianca called Calvin immediately from the club and said that she thought she looked really terrible with this new haircut,” Weber says. “He called me at about 6:30 in the morning screaming at us about the hair! We were all summoned up to go and see him and we were nervous wrecks. He said, ‘You have ruined my contract girl!’”

Lucky for them, Marina Schiano, a model and former Vanity Fair editor, happened to be in Klein’s office when they arrived, fully expecting another verbal lashing. She inspected some pictures from the shoot and offered her opinion. “Marina sort of used to talk in an accent and you couldn’t understand anything,” Weber recalls. “Calvin pretended like he understood what she was saying but that couldn’t be true, nobody could. But what she finally said to him in the clearest voice was ‘Katharine Hepburn.’” At the time, many designers were obsessed with the actress, and Klein suddenly saw the genius. “He said, ‘God, she looks so beautiful like this. You know what, it’s fine.’”

LEFT: GRAY WEARS CLOTHING AND HAT GUCCI SCARF BURBERRY ANDREW WEARS COAT MICHAEL KORS JACKET, PANTS, SHOES, SCARF BURBERRY SOCKS AMERICAN APPAREL HAT MELET MERCANTILE RIGHT: ANDREW WEARS PANTS BURBERRY GRAY WEARS PANTS GUCCI

On shoots, Weber and Cavaco have their own rhythm and shorthand with each other, and the chemistry goes noticed by all who work with them. Cavaco remembers a job in New Mexico with Jessica Lange, who after experiencing their process for a bit told Cavaco that watching them was like watching a ballet. “It was because of the way we were moving in and out of the picture,” Cavaco says. “And she was part of the ballet! All of us were kind of moving in unison with Bruce. There’s fluidity to the way we work. It’s always moving and always changing. The subjects feel very comfortable and part of it. They’re not treated like objects.”

That organic process continues even when the camera is down, like during a Calvin Klein underwear shoot in Mexico with Josie Borain and two male models, a decathlon athlete and boxer Andy Minsker. “They were so tired from working in the hot sun that they all three laid down and took a nap,” Weber remembers. When Cavaco commented that they looked like little kids, he agreed. “I said, ‘Yeah it’s beautiful. You never see adults laying that close to [each other] and not being worried about what everyone is going to say.’ So I climbed up on this ladder and I was shooting down. And all of a sudden Paul just kind of pointed to Andy and I looked and I went, really quietly, ‘Andy, whose underwear are you wearing?’ He said ‘My own.’ And I said, ‘Why aren’t you wearing Calvin?’ He answered, ‘Why would I wear someone else’s underwear?’”

They got Minsker into a new pair of Calvins and nailed the shot. The resulting image is a cuddle puddle that straddles a fine line between complete innocence and post-orgy bliss. “I think that’s one of Bruce’s great gifts,” Cavaco says. “You are never quite sure.”

LEFT: PHOENIX WEARS COAT DRIES VAN NOTEN SOCKS AND SNEAKERS NIKE RIGHT: PHOENIX WEARS COAT VERSACE PANTS AMI FRIDA WEARS SWEATER PRADA TOP HER OWN PANTS ROBERTO CAVALLI

After so many adventures the two grew to be close friends, and Cavaco was even with Weber when the photographer got his original golden retriever, the start of a lifelong relationship with the shaggy canines that often show up in his photographs. “That was a big moment in my life,” Weber says. “[My partner] Nan and I had just moved into her really tiny apartment and I kept saying I really wanted to get a golden retriever. And she said ‘No we can’t do it. We don’t have room.’”

Undeterred, Weber did some research and discovered a breeder who lived in upstate New York. “I drove up with Paul and we were like Bonnie and Clyde. Like, nobody would see us, we wore sunglasses,” Weber jokes. “We got up there and got this incredible puppy.” Once they arrived back in the city, Bruce sprinted up the stairs, deposited the pup on a shocked Nan’s lap, and she promptly burst into tears. Knowing that she’d fall in love with the dog if given a few moments alone with him, Weber used Cavaco as his excuse to run back downstairs and help park the car. “That was the first of many golden retrievers in my life,” he says. “And Paul is one of the people I have to thank.”

Paul Cavaco

With such a long and storied past, a reunion was clearly long overdue. “When Stephen called me about doing these photographs [for VMAN], we both said, ‘What about Paul Cavaco?’” Weber says. “I hadn’t worked with Paul for so many years and I missed him terribly. He’s one of the most talented, wildest, but nicest persons in fashion.”

Like most friends who’ve spent time apart, they fell right back in sync. “It was like I worked with him the day before,” Cavaco says. “All we did was laugh and make fun of each other!” (Well, that’s not all they did, as the resulting pictures will attest.) “He is the master,” Cavaco continues. “I am very, very fortunate that I was able to work with Bruce. To me, there are very few masters of any industry, and the fact I was able to work with him quite intimately on images that are now so iconic…it’s like, my god. Who knew that I was going to be part of something, part of the Bruce Weber history? I’m very grateful.” For all of their beautiful work together, so are we.

Credits:

Makeup Regine Thorre  Hair Gerald DeCock  Models Andrew Rohrbach (Al David), Luna bijl (DNA), Jules Horn, Filip Wolfe, AND Phoenix Hernandez  (soul artist management), Jose Manreza (Front), Chris Hinchey (Re:Quest), Dusty Lachowicz (Ford), Gray Eberley, frida kamau, safi goodman Production Little Bear Inc. Photo assistants Chris Domurat, Jeff Tautrim, Ryan Michael Petrus, Sunny Facer, Juan Zorrilla  Stylist assistants Jennifer Yee and Nicolas Eftaxias  Production assistants Boris McNertney, Luke Adler, Chris Butler, Jason Avery

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