CHIC IN­CAR­NATE

He rev­o­lu­tionised black mu­sic in the late 70s when he cre­ated the hit–ma­chine Chic, a sin­gu­lar mix of mu­sic and fash­ion.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS TRENDS - IN­TER­VIEW BY Lau­rent Rigoulet PHO­TO­GRAPH Inez & Vi­noodh

Leg­end Nile Rodgers rev­o­lu­tionised black mu­sic in the 1970s meld­ing fash­ion with mu­sic. A con­ver­sa­tion in style.

Nile Rodgers is a leg­end. The man who pro­duced global hits like “Up­side down” for Diana Ross and “Let’s dance” for David Bowie is pre­par­ing the re­turn of his group Chic af­ter a 26–year ab­sence. Two al­bums are ready, he says: the first is called It’s about time. Af­ter his spec­tac­u­lar suc­cess with Daft Punk, and the hit “Get lucky”, in par­tic­u­lar, Nile Rodgers still talks about win­ning over the younger gen­er­a­tions. He’s 65, has a gap be­tween his front teeth, a young man’s grin and dread­locks half–way down his back. He sports a ca­nary yel­low beret, lemon–coloured army trousers with splashes of grey, and a Chic T–shirt with a sil­ver cara­biner neck­lace. “Let’s talk about el­e­gance,” he says. “I know a thing or two about that!

VOGUE HOMMES Where did you get your aware­ness and sense of style from? NILE RODGERS

My par­ents. They were so classy. We lived in Green­wich Vil­lage, in New York, at the time of the Beat Gen­er­a­tion. My mother, Bev­erly, was a beau­ti­ful woman, who re­minded you of the hero­ines in James Bond films. She was young — she had me when she was 13 — and wore brightly coloured clothes in­spired by the early Carn­aby Street years, like the ones Twiggy wore. She had an im­pres­sive Afro hairdo and sym­bol­ised “Black is beau­ti­ful” be­fore its time. She was a nat­u­ral beauty, and to­tally free. Her com­pan­ion, my step­fa­ther, had some­thing of the Cary Grant about him. He was white and Jewish, and im­mersed in black cul­ture. He had in­her­ited a cloth­ing busi­ness. At the end of the 1950s, it was rare to see a mixed cou­ple. They were cool and in­vented their own style, which was to­tally on the fringe. Their ev­ery­day life was druggy — heroin — and they lived their ad­dic­tion as a cer­tain form of po­etry. They were sur­rounded by a bunch of ec­centrics: the guys dressed in false shirt fronts, frills or roll–neck sweaters, berets, caps and hats, while the women wore brightly coloured dresses, and car­ried so­phis­ti­cated cig­a­rette holders. Some of the coolest jazz mu­si­cians came by. Th­elo­nious Monk even bought a fur coat from my mother!

The down­side of it was that they dressed me like them. I looked like I had come straight out of a fash­ion mag­a­zine, which wasn’t al­ways easy to live with in the street where I hung out with young Ital­ian or Puerto Ri­can hood­lums. I was just a kid, I couldn’t de­cide what I was to wear, and I hated walk­ing around look­ing like that, a Lit­tle Lord Fauntleroy from the ghetto, who was con­stantly teased and pushed around.

VOGUE HOMMES When did you first see a link be­tween fash­ion and mu­sic? NILE RODGERS

The first record I was given was Elvis Pres­ley’s Blue Suede Shoes and my grand­mother, who bought it for me, also got me a pair of blue suede shoes. I was five, and go­ing to a Catholic school. I wore a navy blue uni­form em­broi­dered with gold and those royal blue an­kle boots. I looked very dif­fer­ent from the other kids. For a long time, I thought I would get some­thing new to wear with ev­ery record! And then, as I started to play in a clas­si­cal orches­tra from a very early age, I wore a tuxedo for recitals. I knew how to take care of ev­ery de­tail. Take the bow tie, for ex­am­ple. Most men don’t know how to tie them, so they wear the type that have a clasp. I hate that! You will never see Nile Rodgers wear­ing a tie with a clasp!

VOGUE HOMMES You hung around with the Black Panthers when you were a teenager. Were you in­flu­enced by their style? NILE RODGERS

No, I was a hippy. That was re­ally the revo­lu­tion that marked my ado­les­cence. We bought sec­ond–hand clothes, and made our clothes our­selves. I had em­broi­dered flow­ers ev­ery­where and ec­cen­tric colours. The hippy move­ment re­ally left its mark on Amer­ica and it was a way of as­sert­ing your­self. I never thought I was par­tic­u­larly good–look­ing, and far less so than my friends and my younger brother, who was a real charmer. So I had to ex­press my­self dif­fer­ently, and shape my own iden­tity through clothes and hair­styles. I have never had an or­di­nary hair­cut at any stage in my life: I dyed my hair with food colour­ing, which is all we had at the time. Style was my way of ex­press­ing my free­dom. I wore what­ever I felt like wear­ing, and that’s still the case to­day. Look at my toe nails ( Ed. he takes off his shoes and socks to show me his emer­ald blue nail var­nish ): I have painted my toe­nails ever since one of my friends said he did that to have some­thing beau­ti­ful to look at when he went to bed. “Try,” he told me, “and if you don’t like it, stop!” I lis­tened to him and it seemed so per­fectly ob­vi­ous. Ev­ery evening, I go to bed naked and look at my dec­o­rated toe­nails. It’s much nicer than look­ing at dried–up toe­nails. I don’t var­nish my fin­ger­nails sim­ply be­cause I bite them, and I wreck them play­ing the gui­tar. —›

Nile Rodgers pro­duced Diana Ross and was a close friend of Bowie. He looks back on a life of el­e­gance and taste.

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