Legendary GQ Creative Director Jim Moore on Personal Style, Young Designers, and Dropping Jake Gyllenhaal in the Middle of Times Square
Jim Moore, the legendary Creative Director-at-Large for GQ, has just penned a magnificent chronicle of his four decades of breakthrough, iconic work for the men’s fashion bible – and we can’t put it down. The book, which features a forward by Kanye West, is aptly titled Hunks and Heroes, and takes us through some of his most memorable work, capturing the style of captains of industry, pop culture celebs, politicos and artists.
In 1980, Moore landed at GQ as an assistant, but quickly rose through the ranks, as his creative talent did not go unnoticed. Along the way, he brought men’s fashion out of the shadows, both celebrating and demystifying fashion for the American male. He made the fantasy real, and the reality fantastic. Though perhaps his most notable contribution was his ability to bring the world of serious fashion into the mainstream.
In Hunks and Heroes, Moore treats readers to the stories behind the stories – from a glimpse of the unseen detail that goes into the production, to colorful anecdotes of his interactions with celebrities and their myriad idiosyncrasies. Stories include the time he used double-sided tape to affix a basketball to the palm of a rising star called Michael Jordan, and the time he made President Barack Obama change his tie to one he deemed more fashion forward and emblematic of his commanding presence.
Moore uses both image and prose to unveil the creative process behind some of the most memorable covers, and imparts his own brand of fashion advice. This volume features over 250 archival images of the author’s collaborations with the most talented photographers, such as Inez & Vinoodh, Peggy Sirota, and Craig McDean, and includes seminal GQ photos Moore masterminded of such a-listers as LeBron James, Ryan Gosling, Leonardo Di Caprio, David Beckham, Drake, Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Justin Bieber and Brad Pitt, amongst others.
BlackBook caught up with Moore for an exclusive chat following his signing at Rizzoli Bookstore in New York.
Of the behind-the-scenes stories you share in Hunks and Heroes, which is your most memorable and why?
When you produce a shoot, you have a triple duty: you have to be able to show the clothes, you have to show who the person is, and then you have to give the background some context or, at times, a contrast between the subject and the surrounding. I love the ones where we crowdsourced: those are shoots where we intentionally drop the celebrity in a public place and just see what happens. About seven years ago, I was doing a spread for GQ with Jake Gyllenhaal, who I’d shot several times before, and I needed to come up with something different. I decided that shooting Jake in public places, rather than at a studio, would make for the best backdrop, and he and his publicist agreed.
We started downtown on the Lower East Side at Katz’s Deli, then moved to Economy Candy on Rivington Street, and finally, and I might add with a pending snowstorm, landed him among a crowd in Times Square. If you are visiting New York as a tourist, it’s probably the first place you go. But it’s also the last place you would expect to see a celebrity. So as the van pulled up to Times Square and Jake got out and walked into a crowd I had a lump in my throat – not knowing whether anyone would actually notice him and what the reaction would be. Imagine that you’re in Times Square visiting from Wisconsin and you’re looking around and all of a sudden this major A-List celebrity is right in front of you!
What happened from there?
It quickly turned into a polite mob – with women moving towards Jake and taking selfies with him using an early version iPhone. It was just an amazing scene and it turned out brilliantly. It inspired me to do something very similar with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson amongst a crowd at Venice Beach. Both events are featured in double page spreads in the book. If you have the right person, you can put them out in public and experiment with the energy and organic uncertainty of the crowd.
In a world increasingly dominated by fast fashion, how can American men who strive to establish a distinctive personal style differentiate themselves from the pack?
Many of the brands that are putting out fast fashion are doing a great job of making fashion available at an accessible price point. What I would suggest to men is that you select a few items to integrate in your wardrobe that are a higher price point – higher quality and more distinctive. You can manage to differentiate yourself and make it more of a reflection of you and less generic. It’s a way to show your personal style. If you are a man of great style, or a man who aspires to great style, those stores offer some great basics, but you will still want to enhance that [with something unique].
You have to consider quality too.
The fast fashion companies enable someone to experiment with looks that are on trend and take a risk without making a heavy investment in something that would otherwise be very expensive. I would caution men to look at the quality of the product, to beware of copies, and to still invest in pieces or accessories that would be your signature look or style – for instance, buy a piece that is a little loud and proud that will be unique to you.
There are so many emerging designers entering the fashion space, with social media opening doors to them in ways that traditional marketing could not. But there is a lot of clutter in the market. What advice would you give to emerging designers about breaking through and having the staying power to compete effectively?
That is a passion of mine at GQ – that I can actually mentor young talent. The need to recognize and provide a platform for young designers is why we started the Best New Menswear Designers in America in 2005. We recognized that a lot of them needed a little push and we did that, not only by giving them good real estate in the magazine, but also eventually connecting them to established retailers and getting their name out there.
I love to look at collections of new designers, but I need to know that they are in it to win it – that they recognize that fashion is a business. It’s great that you have a talent and see it as art, but you need to have a good plan. You’ve produced a first season, and that’s great, but do you have the plan in place to produce the second season and get it to market? How are you going to obtain funding and scale production? Being creative is not enough.