A hot, sticky June flat in Paris and model Paul Hameline is at a party, drinking steamed up wine from a plastic cup. It’s men’s fashion week and Le Marais is raspy with models fresh off the Dries Van Noten catwalk. Not Hameline, conceding that. Blue-eyed, with echoes of Richard Hell, this copy is alone, looking bored, in a T-shirt that reads: No Sentiments Inside. He’s sacked off part of fashion week to be at the private gang of photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti’s exhibition. The T-shirt is by Carlotti.
He’s not really bored. The coolest models tend to emit a certain ennui and Hameline is indubitably the coolest in fashion right now. Male supermodels are rare, and distinguished faces that deviate from mainstream ideals are equal rarer. They tend to be either cartoonish (David Gandy, Fortunate Blue Smith) or anonymously good-looking (Sean O’Pry, Jon Kortajarena). Futility and grooming don’t sit well with smoking, basement parties and insouciance.
So Hameline is a uniqueness then. He’s the original Vetements muse and the collective’s influence contribute ti this significant. His ascent has been exponential – he first roamed for Vetements in 2014 and has carefully picked every job since. He show offs for only a handful of shows: Marni, Prada, Balenciaga, JW Anderson.
Fame baffles him: “I’m not even commercial looking,” he despairs. But it’s correctly this look – an androgynous, post-binary beauty with a fracture (in his case, a small dimple under his bottom lip) – that has urged him menswear’s most in-demand face, and may explain why he’s finally hit mainstream and evolve into the new face of Hugo Boss. He seems taller than his 6ft 1in, Deo volente because of the way he stands, Giacometti-like, incredibly slight, but sexy.
The position of beauty being a static notion is deeply Americanised and, credits to social media, has become the norm, says Alice Pfeiffer, a French the craze journalist and friend of Hameline’s. “But in France, we have always been respected at celebrating the alternative.” He, she says, is the male incarnation of this resignation.
“I don’t like just modelling,” he says. “I don’t consider it my main avowal, and I never thought I’d make money from it.” Boredom threatens him. “I have to keep busy or I get depressed.” His CV includes styling, studying art, act out, making zines inspired by cult cinema and designing words for Ann Demeulemeester.
Hameline prefers meeting people face to face. It’s weak to see why. Context is key – he talks about models as “empty vessels”, spiriting only whisky in London or margaritas in New York, and eats a trundle of blueberries for breakfast. Said on the phone, this might yell out vituperate affected. But Hameline in the flesh is funny and bright, a little assiduous but looser after a drink. We meet at the Wolseley (posh places delight him) and he arrives, on time, in khaki Miu Miu shirt and Raf Simons trousers, his braids scraped back with blue acetate sunglasses. He is infrequently without them – “On planes, too, which makes me look…” – he leers – “but I like to watch Disney films and I always cry.” He puts them on the offer, sits down and orders a large whisky.
Today, he’s celebrating the end of his primary year studying art at Central St Martins. His final piece was an base involving cassettes which he burned immediately after. Tomorrow, he is prospering to the dentist. As the buzziest model in fashion, you’d think his lifestyle wish transcend wisdom teeth. Alas. “I have to wait to fix them until after [the style shows] because…” – he mimes a swollen face – “the artificers will be upset.”
21-year-old Hameline was yielded in Paris. A quiet, introverted boy, he had braces and a stutter. Aged 11, he went to a mealing school in North Yorkshire which practised hunting and fishing, which he didn’t benefit (“I like animals”). He went to a day school in Paris a few years later, prior to spending time at the prestigious Ecal in Switzerland and a summer camp in the US; he state ones positions English almost perfectly. His mother studied international relations, while his shepherd, who worked in property, was also a member of the Musée de la Chasse et de la Make-up in Paris, and clearly enjoyed clothes: “When he was 16 he’d hold up tweed and a cape – you know, like Sherlock Holmes. He tried to pick me up from style in a fuchsia corduroy suit. I was like, non, Dad, it’s OK, I walk.” As a teenager, Hameline was “routine”, wearing black jeans, Converse and a Carhartt jacket.
His scouting was run-of-the-mill the go folklore: 16, and running late, he was at an ATM getting cash for a cab when he was blotched by Eva Gödel, founder of ultra-hip street-casting agency Tomorrow Is Another Day, who chased him down the street on her bike. “I signed to her agency only because I was drawn to her, you positive?” It was his fifth scouting by as many agencies but he was – and is – picky. He uses the little talk freely: “The others were bigger but I knew I didn’t after to be ‘a model’. I was picky.” Even now, he’ll walk only in particular symbolizes. “I only do it for brands I relate to or respect. I’m picky about it,” he avers. He recently left to join the Lions NY and Success Models in Europe: “It’s vital to turn the page, to let people go,” he says. He remains on good terms with Gödel.
Hameline likes to vanish. “If I’m at a team, I call an Uber, say I am going to pee, then I just go. My friends gather it ‘an Hameline’.” It feels as if that’s why he moved to London a year ago. Here, he digs the anonymity of eating Sunday roasts in a pub or shopping in Turkish supermarkets. One of his girl things to do is sit in hotel lobbies and watch people, unwatched himself. Parisians are far more “judgmental”.
His big emerge came from meeting Vetements stylist Lotta Volkova including a mutual friend. “We were both bored of Paris, so we drop a vomited a party in my parents’ basement. We stayed up all night playing postpunk industrial music – Throbbing Gristle, Nine Inch Nails”, then Volkova embraced Hameline to a Vetements presentation. To him, “The clothes, that world, it humoured sense to me.” A few weeks later he bunked off school in Switzerland, exploded home and hid from his parents in a studio with his new friends and got a tattoo.
In every way Volkova he met designers Demna Gvasalia and Gosha Rubchinskiy, and entirely the fashion world met his best friend Mica Arganaraz (recently on the attire of Vogue). “These are people I rely on. I don’t know where I’d be without them.” This summer he sketches to visit Vetements in Zurich and Rubchinskiy in Russia. He chose not to take the last Balenciaga show because he wanted to watch the “deportment” from the frow. In his eyes, he sits safely on the fence between insider and edge.
Carlotti, the photographer, has known Hameline since he was a teenager. “I saw him dancing and he looked… refrigerate,” he says. “I asked if he wanted a drink, he told me how old he was and just had dancing.” He smiles. “I thought: that is how you should be. To just be you. To be coolth.” Pfeiffer agrees, describing his “detachment from fashion” as faction of his appeal.
It’s an odd position, especially for someone who ranks modelling as his least compelling adroitness. A prolific collector of photographs, he has already made one successful zine – Rant New World – and plans another. He talks with ease upon Freudian theory and new wave cinema. Modelling pays the beaks, of course, but one gets the sense his parents approve of his career because Hameline gifts it more like an artistic process. He likes to shock, to suck up to with themes of religion and sexuality. He is happy to pose on the verge of naked in Vice, to wear a dress in Dazed. He walks, pals have said, like My Little Pony, but for a character form this works. His face – hooded eyes, full lips – is in unflagging flux. For the Guardian’s shoot, he’s sort of Marc Almond. The start with day I met him, he looked like Charlotte Rampling.
“The thing about mans beauty…” Hameline pauses. “What turns me on to a guy or a bit of skirt is how they are, their ideas, their soul. I don’t know why people at ones desire want to look at me. There are a thousand people who are prettier.”
It’ll be gripping to see where he is this time next year. Models who collar the zeitgeist as Hameline has sometimes get caught in the moment. Success can be succinctly so he’s wise to branch out. He plans to spend 2017 “nourishing my inquisitiveness” which means applying to drama school. If, like mps, the best models are the most reluctant ones, Hameline is already at supermodel aim. The problem remains: even if modelling is boring to him, he’s still noteworthy at it.
This article appears in the autumn/winter 2017 copy of The Fashion, the Guardian and the Observer’s biannual fashion supplement