Over the course of his 63 years, being John Malkovich has taken on a variety of definitions. He’s an actor, director, sometimes model, and now, once again, a fashion designer. If you missed Malkovich’s last go-arounds in the design world, he launched his eponymous line in the early 2000s, followed by his brand Technobohemian, which debuted in 2011 and was sold at boutiques across the country. As of today, John Malkovich’s latest design effort, a spring/summer menswear collection complete with chino pants and silk scarves, will be available to the masses for purchase through his Web site johnmalkovich.com and select stores. It’s a somewhat surprising and refreshing departure from all-too-common celebrity/designer collaborations, which often involve stitching a star’s name onto the tag of an overpriced crop top. In fact, Malkovich can hardly fathom entering a design venture without doing the, you know, designing.
“I can’t imagine not wanting to do that,” he told Vanity Fair over the phone. From drawing the sketches to choosing the fabrics, it’s all Malkovich,” he explained. “That’s the kind of interesting part of the job, like drawing. Why would you want somebody else to do it?” It’s a good question, and one that could (or maybe should) be asked to many actor-singers-models cum fashion designers. But name another celebrity who’s chosen to dabble in fashion, in whatever capacity, and Malkovich seems blissfully unaware of the competition.
“Funnily enough, I just got back from Eastern Europe. I was doing a film in Bulgaria [2017’s Unchained] with Antonio Banderas. And Antonio I know very lightly over the years from running into him here and there. . . . I just found out he does a line,” he said. In fact, Banderas, probably much to Malkovich’s pleasure, enrolled in London’s Central Saint Martins to take a course in design. “I had no idea. I don’t even know which other people do a fashion line and what their involvement is in it. I have no idea if any actors do it outside of just learning about Antonio.” Though he did offer praise for Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, saying, “I love their stuff. I think they’re great.”
Despite the energy he’s thrown into design, don’t expect to see the John Malkovich collection coming down the runway anytime soon, even though the offers are there. It mostly comes down to money, but there is also the added Malkovich factor of blatant disinterest. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t. I’ve been invited to in London, I don’t know if i’ve ever been invited in New York, but I don’t have that kind of money, really. And I spend it all making the line. All that stuff is expensive. And I don’t have backers, per say. I’d just rather concentrate on making clothes and selling them,” he explained, adding, “It always struck me as kind of goofy. I mean, a little bit odd.”
To coincide with the release of his new collection, which he described as “elegant, discreet, and with interesting details,” Malkovich appears in a short film aptly titled John’s Journey. It’s a three-minute, tongue-in-cheek look at the actor’s struggle to be being taken seriously while telling his friends and colleagues he’s going into design. Actors may feel the pang more sharply than others when dipping their toes in a new industry, but Malkovich sees it as a nationwide phenomenon.
“We’re a country of specialists,” he said, adding that people are taught to enter a career and stick to it. “But I don’t know that Tom Ford found the cinema any more welcoming, or that Julian Schnabel did [when he entered film]. They did excellent work, so eventually that shuts people up.”
He then offered an apt comparison to one of his many other pursuits, directing. “If I direct a play, I don’t want to direct somebody else’s production. I may love their production, but I have to direct my own,” he said. “That’s all we have, is our view of the world and our style, in that style is the only constant in life.”