I’m also curious about the lighting for both campaigns. Because it feels like it’s almost dusk. Or kind of like an overcast. And for Rihanna’s it felt more nighttime. 
For Rihanna we shot at night and wanted the storefronts to be illuminating. But otherwise, that’s something we kind of decided to add in the grade just to make it feel a little bit more real. It was feeling too clean to me. I’m really interested in transitional times of day. It just gives it more depth and makes it more full. Some of the references we pulled were Jamel Shabazz photos. I was also looking at one walking sequence in Taxi Driver that was slo-mo. I wanted it to be a little seductive.

I also loved the music. Can you talk about that?
We worked with Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda on music. I’ve worked with them a lot. And they’re both super talented longtime friends and collaborators. 

What were you all trying to do with the music?
I sent them a couple different cues. I wanted it to feel like you’re in the city with a little bit of the hustle and bustle. I wanted it to sound like I have places to go and people to see. I told you about that opening sequence idea, but you know when you see someone from across the street or down the street and they look really good? And you track them down wherever they are going? I feel like this happens to me less in LA, but it happens a lot in New York, or Paris. I wanted the piece to sort of have that. Because we all know what that’s like. Sometimes you are like, I need that jacket. That’s sort of the feeling I wanted it to have. 

I know costuming is important to you, but I’m assuming they told you ahead of time what the clothes would be. Did you have any say? 
We had great stylists who worked on this. Jahleel Weaver and Matthew Henson worked with Rihanna. We talked about concepts and they pulled a lot of great stuff and had everything laid out. The collection is really fun. There were so many cool pieces in it and I was interested in texture and having some color. Matthew and Cactus Plant worked with LeBron.

What was Pharrell’s feedback when he saw the campaigns?
He was really hype on set. He’s very encouraging. He’s one of my heroes, so I’m always happy to work with people like that. As I was walking through the plan for the day, he was super encouraging. He was kind of like, Martine you get it, just do your best. Go off. It was fun. He was there the whole time and it was very collaborative. Be Good Studios. It was just a lot of people I enjoy working with.

You’re an artist and you’re a thinker. And I know you’ve worked on fashion ads before. But what’s your overall impression of fashion campaigns and their purpose? 
What I try to bring to these projects… if I think about it in terms of a subculture, and I know that’s a funny thing to say about Louis Vuitton. But my friend actually sent me this thing that said art is the spiritual expression of culture. And so I kind of think of subculture similarly, meaning it’s a spiritual expression of a group of people or a culture. So if I just think of what the brand is, and I pretend it’s punk or it’s hip-hop or whatever. And if you think of a brand that you love, it’s like, what would you distill that to? And what would make you be a part of that? And what I tried to tap into. Part of that is having some strong images. I feel like images are really powerful, obviously. It’s really a way of visioning and what can we vision? And sometimes you have more time to do that or less time, but I try to approach it from that place. 

And congrats on the success of your film The African Desperate. So clearly you are very interested in filmmaking. Are you thinking about the next project? 
I’m working on the next project. That’s been my focus the last couple of months and it will be my main focus this year.

Are you able to offer anything info on what it’s about?
Unfortunately, no. But it’s coming soon. 

OK, that’s exciting. And I was reading up on your exhibition Present Goo that showed last year in London, and there was a video of Jay-Z dissociating? Oh, was it that one post his Summer Jam performance with Damon Dash speaking?

So you said you could really relate to that. Why?
Have you ever been in one of these moments where you finally achieved something you’ve dreamed of or got something you really wanted, and then the dream is always different than the reality? Even when it’s at its best. I was talking to my friend last night about this because she’s having an incredible year. Unlike most of us in 2023, she had a great fucking year and she was like, “It’s pretty crazy to get everything you want.” And I think it is really a crazy feeling. And I think sometimes when that happens, you start evaluating shit.

That’s funny. Because I’ve watched that clip and you assume he’s being silent so Damon can talk shit for him. But you looked at it as if he was thinking deeply about the state of things.
We will never know. But I know the look of dissociated. 

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