Images by Paolo Simi. Interview by Elisa Lusso
Getting a hold of These New Puritans drummer George Barnett—who moonlights as a model for the likes of Dior, Prada and more—was no easy feat considering he’s currently in the middle of the band’s European tour. (We caught him in Milan.) On days off, he’s working with Hedi Slimane and squeezing in additional runway and editorial work. But somehow this dapper Englishman manages to do it all…
Elisa Lusso: How did your modeling career start?
George Barnett: I was working with Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme when he asked me to be in his show, and that was the start. After Hedi left Dior, I got out of the modeling world and concentrated on music. Actually, I went straight from Dior into recording Beat Pyramid… Then as time went on, I kept being asked to do modeling. Eventually I said yes in the offices of Models1, realizing then that I didn’t have to let go of my credibility by being a model—think Matthew Barney.
Elisa: Tell us about working with Hedi?
George: I worked as Hedi’s assistant. I spent lots of time in the Dior Homme atelier walking and sewing. I would sew a lot with a lovely French lady called Annie—she was great—plus lots of time spent drawing and working on computers.
Elisa: What did you learn from him?
George: I learned not to compromise.
Elisa: Do you like doing fashion shows? Or do you prefer editorial/commercial jobs?
George: It depends. I like working with certain people, but generally I enjoy fashion shows more than other modeling work. Spending a couple of weeks in the Prada building gradually piecing together the conceptual side of their show—from the distance of being a model—is great. The quickness and efficiency, or the inefficiency, of the team in certain houses, the politics… Fashion shows are more like football than people think.
Elisa: Spending time backstage often means making good friends. What kind of relationships do you have with the other models?
George: I’ve made some really good friends modeling. A few are now some of my closest friends.
Elisa: What about the clothes? Any style references/icons?
George: My style icon is the pope; I think he has a personal hair roadie. It’s so sharp, the hair cut.
Elisa: You’re first a musician than a model. When did you start playing drums? Do you play any other instrument?
George: When I was 13, I started playing the drums. I used to play some pitched percussion and I’ve gone back to doing that recently.
Elisa: What kind of music do you listen to?
George: Right now, Talk Talk, Neneh Cherry, Outside by David Bowie…
Elisa: A record to buy?
George: Hidden by These New Puritans.
Elisa: A record you love?
George: Birthday by The Sugarcubes.
Elisa: Your twin brother, Jack, also performs in These New Puritans. What are the best and worst things about being a twin?
George: There is not much bad. He is my best friend. We work closely together. The great thing about it is, when we work together we don’t have to spend time being polite.
Elisa: You live just outside of London. Describe your neighborhood.
George: Leigh-on-Sea is the town I grew up in. It’s a beautiful place, an urban area that looks over desolate marshland. But I’ve lived in Paris and London, and would like to live somewhere else after my touring has finished.
Elisa: What do you usually do at home when you are not working or touring?
George: There hasn’t been a long period of time that I haven’t been doing anything for the last three years. When I do get a week off, I go somewhere I haven’t been, ride a bike or watch a film.
Elisa: Any upcoming projects?
George: I have many things…It’s all money and time.
Elisa: In ten years?
George: [I’ll] be making my fourth collection and my second film.
Elisa: In one year?
George: The soundtrack for a film.
Elisa: One day?
George: A show.
Elisa: What is the meal of your dreams?
George: Olives, lemons and tuna.
Elisa: Is there anything you cannot live without?