NEW RULERS: ASH STYMEST
The model turned actor and musician is here to remind the world that he’s not going anywhere.
With his first foray into fashion gracing the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan, shot by Hedi Slimane and styled by Nicola Fomichetti, Ash Stymest became a powerhouse name overnight, pre-viral stardom of today’s social realm. From fronting campaigns for the likes of All Saints to dominating the catwalks for Chanel, the model has since kept a low-profile, leaving many to wonder where he’s been. But with a burgeoning music and film career, the model turned musician and actor shows no signs of slowing down. VMAN caught up with the triple threat talent on what seems to have been a 10+ year reunion since his first shoot with Nicola to see what Stymest has in store for the world.
VMAN: For our readers who might not know you, just might, how would you introduce yourself and what you do?
Ash Stymest: My name is Ash. I’ve been modeling for like 14 years. Nicola actually did my first job for the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan when I was 16 [years old]—my first ever shoot.
VM: Wow! Full circle then, huh?
AS: Yeah! *laughs* We haven’t worked together since then, which is crazy. Damon and I have been friends for about 10 years. Damon had a crush on me when he was 12 years old.
VM: No way! *laughs*
AS: *laughs* I know, right? Damon and I worked together 10 years ago, but since then, I’ve gotten into singing. Now, I’m going over to a different record label and figure out where I want to go with the music. Then, I had a couple of movies come out in the last few years. I did a French movie a couple of years ago. Just before COVID, [the] movie came out and went to all the film festivals. It was in the selections of the Montreal film festival or whatever it’s called. [The movie] is called Phobias with Hana Mae Lee and Leonardo Nam. But yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to and I’ve been in LA for seven years now. I was in Korea for a bit and then came here.
VM: Nice! What was Korea like?
AS: It’s my favorite place in the world. South Korea just has this dirtiness about it that is kind of cool, you know? It’s such a cool fucking place.
VM: So now you’re getting more acting and singing, little less modeling. You didn’t go to school for film or music, right?
AS: I actually left school at like 15 years old [and] never went back, and then I got spotted a year later. So after I left school, I went to work at Build-A-Bear and had to [be] dressed up in the bear costume and I’d have to read this thing called “The Bear Promise” and I’d have to get up on the counter, ring a bell, get everyone’s attention and be like “My bear is special! I brought it to life. I chose it. I stuffed it. Now I’m taking it home. Best friends are furrrr-ever! I promise right now to make my bear my number one pal!”
VM: *laughs* Oh my god, you still remember all of the words!
AS: I know! [Even] after sixteen years! *laughs* That was my favorite job. I think I enjoyed that more than the modeling. I always wanted to work with kids too. When I was younger, before the modeling stuff happened, I wanted to get into [being] a primary school teacher or something like that.
VM: I can imagine you as a teacher—you would have been the fun one for sure.
AS: I don’t know how well that would have gone now. All the tattoos all over my face and neck, I would’ve terrified the poor little buggers. Right after that, I got found by Models 1 and that’s when I met Nicola and Hedi [Slimane].
VM: How have you been dealing with the pandemic and what’s going on in the world?
AS: You know, every day there seems to be new symptoms coming up, that I think they’re just trying to scare everyone at this point, to be honest. We’re just lucky that we [aren’t] around my parents or my grandparents or something like that. That’s where it becomes a worry, you know? We facetime every night and [get to] talk to my daughter—she’s about to turn nine.
VM: Aww that’s great! What were you like as a kid?
AS: I was the sweetest little kid ever really until about 12, 13. My mom said I was a total prick, and as soon as I turned into a teenager, it went downhill. *laughs* I put that woman through absolute hell when I was a kid. Now I’m just trying to make up for years of trauma! She tells me every day I’ve aged her 10 years beyond what she should be.
VM: *laughs* I’m telling you, every mother says that!
AS: Oh yeah! I’m going to be saying that to my kid in a few years.
VM: Let’s see how this generation turns out to be. I can’t determine if they’re going to be lazy or more creative than us.
AS: Yeah. It’s definitely a weird generation—they have access to so much stuff that I think they’re just overwhelmed. Obviously, more possibilities are opened up, but I think with the internet, everyone has those popularized opportunities and everyone thinks the same.
VM: I mean, we grew up with technology, but theirs is a more advanced and more viral form of communicating.
AS: Yeah I mean, we had dial-up for fuck’s sake! If my mum was on the phone upstairs, the computer wouldn’t work. My kid is walking around iPads and iPhones and I didn’t have an iPhone until I was 25 years old. I didn’t even have a phone until my ex-wife was pregnant and that was the first time I was made to get a phone.
VM: Well yeah you had to be a responsible dad!
AS: My old acting agent would get me one of those little burner phones and every time I leave his agency, I would just walk outside and throw it in the trash. I was so against everything. Now all my music is done on the computer. I wish I’d learned all this when I was a kid. I just prefer to be outside and skateboard and doing stuff. I just can’t wrap my head around it.
VM: What about it makes it puzzling for you?
AS: I just can’t wrap my head around, sitting there and taking videos of yourself all day long. My managers always tell me to get on TikTok, but I’m almost thirty fucking years old. I think I’ve passed the TikTok phase in my life.
VM: It’s like a full-on phenomenon. There are so many different sections of what you can do on the app, it’s wild.
AS: Well, it’s amazing that people start music careers from it. It’s good in the respect that people with talent are going to be easier to find, anywhere in the world, you know? And these people are getting opportunities they might not have got before, which is brilliant. But on the other hand, these kids are [having to] live their whole life for their phones.
VM: You can’t really escape it now. There’s no going back to the way it once was before, you know?
AS: It makes me really upset. I think that’s why I’m having a little midlife crisis. I wish it was the nineties again, where flip phones were just on the horizon.
VM: The change in generations is so drastic, so I feel you there. Going back to industry talk, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed in fashion?
AS: Now, It’s all influencer kids doing shit. That’s the main difference. I like how it was before—I liked the anonymity of it.
VM: Tell me more about the new music you’re working on.
AS: We haven’t finished all the songs yet, I’m finding a new producer right now to help wrap the project up and we’re going to take to some new labels. I just want to have complete control. Before, I felt like I was being pushed in an area that I wasn’t particularly wanting to be in. It went a little bit too pop-y. I’m trying to take it back and make it more real and personal, rather than [doing] cheesy pop music that doesn’t mean anything.
VM: That’s fantastic! In addition to this, could we expect any more film or TV projects?
AS: I’ve been sent like a ton of scripts that I have to read through for stuff that is starting up towards the end of the year. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do next and where I want to be, so we’ll just sort of see what happens.