MICHAEL AVEDON & MORGAN COLLETT

MICHAEL AVEDON & MORGAN COLLETT

FADE IN:

INT. SANT AMBROEUS, SOHO, NEW YORK CITY – EARLY AFTERNOON

The dining room of Sant Ambroeus, on Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan, is packed with a fashionable set of lunchtime patrons. MICHAEL AVEDON, in a gray scarf and matching sweater, sits next to MORGAN COLLETT in a corner booth that looks out on the street.

CUT TO:

A waiter arrives carrying a spread of prosciutto, salad, bread, and olive oil. He sets the various dishes down on the table. MICHAEL and MORGAN thank him and begin their meal.

MORGAN
Your brother, Matthew, was in the very first Saturdays look book, in 2010.

MICHAEL
It’s a small, beautiful world. I remember visiting the first store, in Soho, in its early days, when you were still behind the counter —

MORGAN
Serving coffee and folding tee shirts — the whole idea for a Saturdays collection started with a tee shirt.

MICHAEL
Interesting.

MORGAN
Initially, the store sold coffee, surf accessories, and clothes from different brands, like RVCA. When a Japanese retailer came in and asked if we had our own tees, we went home and designed ten that night. They were all clean and simple, with our logo —

MICHAEL
There’s such elegance in simplicity.

MORGAN
This happened, like, three months after opening. Our first full collection came out three months later, so it was all very quick. In hindsight, that line wasn’t necessarily the best, but we learned a lot.

MICHAEL
I don’t like looking at old photographs I’ve taken. They can leave me feeling insecure.

MORGAN
For Saturdays’s first three years, my co-founders [Colin Tunstall and Josh Rosen] and I did whatever we had to do to make sure the company could survive. But there definitely were dark moments when I thought the business wouldn’t make it.

MICHAEL
You need those moments. The harder we work, the harder we nourish our passion.

MORGAN
Totally. And the cool thing about New York City is that it helps fuel that fire. I was born and raised in Southern California, and grew up surfing there and in Hawaii before moving here at 23 in 2007. Back then, there were no real surf shops or the like in New York City. Instead, come springtime, you’d cruise down Broadway and find this false representation of the sport in the surfboards decorating the store windows of big fashion brands.

MICHAEL
And the surfing community was not too keen on that.

MORGAN
My co-founders and I realized there was a need for something that spoke authentically to surfers, like us. Then, not long after I arrived here, the Donna Karan mural, which for decades was up at the intersection of Houston Street and Broadway, was replaced by a Hollister one.

MICHAEL
Oh my god, I remember when that happened! Such a tragic moment for Soho.

MORGAN
That struck us, hard. Hollister is a brand that’s supposed to be associated with surf culture, but, in reality, is a concept produced in a board room. Something needed to change, so when presented with the opportunity to take over the retail space on Crosby Street [in Soho] that would become our first Saturdays store, we took it and didn’t look back.

MICHAEL
I was similarly kind of thrust into fashion. When I was 19, Carine Roitfeld discovered I was photographing and sent me to Paris to shoot backstage at the couture shows.

MORGAN
That’s crazy.

MICHAEL
I initially picked up photography because it’s a great way to observe the lives of people I admire, and hopefully capture some inspiring slice of their essence. I began by shooting portraits of artists — people like Chuck Close, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente. But after that first assignment from Carine, I immediately fell in love with fashion photography. With portraiture, I love isolating my subject and working in a studio; shooting fashion, my goal is to come up with conflicting moments on location. Kind of like what my grandfather, Richard Avedon, did when he got to Paris. He’d photograph a model dressed to the nines in Chanel on the street next to circus performers. Contradictions like that tell an interesting story. I’ve started to give narratives to models, because the best have a sense of performance. Speaking of models, how exactly did my brother end up in the Saturdays look book?

MORGAN
His girlfriend —

MICHAEL
Jill. Cupid has struck them properly.

MORGAN
Yeah, Jill was the very first employee we hired at Saturdays. So Matthew would hang out at the store all the time. We started to surf together, and ended up becoming super close.

MICHAEL
You and I have known each other for years, and are still discovering secrets we didn’t know before. Like when we realized how [pro-surfer] Danny Fuller kind of brought us all together.

MORGAN
I grew up surfing with Fuller in Hawaii when I was 15, 16.

MICHAEL
And I, as a 17-year-old surfer in New York, randomly ran into him on the street one day, while he was on his way to MoMA [MORGAN laughs]. That was rather peculiar, and not long after that, I found myself working with Danny on the North Shore of Oahu where the two of you surfed as teenagers.

MORGAN
No way. That’s like the full circle of our lives coming together.

MICHAEL
And now, years later, look where you are. You’ve opened Saturdays stores in Australia and Japan, in Tokyo —

MORGAN
Kobe, Nagoya —

MICHAEL
You took a risk — as opposed to taking a road that’s already been traveled — and that is key. A lot of my work is shot in a studio, a road that’s been travelled for one hundred years by people like my grandfather, and Irving Penn. But there are always new humans whose imagination inspires ways to capture them as they never have been. For instance, I recently photographed Lady Gaga — someone who’s been shot countless times — and gave her a narrative that allowed her to channel her inner thespian and cry for my camera.

MORGAN
Saturdays is approaching its seventh year, and I’m curious as to how we make it to 20. There are a lot of different projects that excite us, like going into womenswear.

MICHAEL
And then I will do the first photographic exploration of that inaugural Saturdays collection!

MORGAN
Exactly! The fun part about what’s happened since we opened is seeing all the different types of people who gravitate toward the lifestyle the brand promotes — which is authentically inspired by my lifetime of surfing. It’s a broad group, from Danny Fuller, to Jonny [Johansson, the co-founder of Acne Studios], to you, a native New Yorker. To me, that’s rad.

MICHAEL
Our species is endlessly astonishing. I’ve always said I’ll photograph anyone, from a model to a murderer. I’m not advocating the latter, but you can’t subject yourself to one point of view —

MORGAN
You can’t put yourself in a box.

MICHAEL
No. As I said, I’m interested in contradiction, because the world is filled with it. And if you can harness that, then you’re really on to something interesting.

CREDITS

Photography byRyan Petrus

Conversation moderated byAnthony Rotunno

Special thanksSant Ambroeus

Michael Avedon is a photographer based in New York City.
Morgan Collett is a New York City-based co-founder of Saturdays.

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THE END