Iris Apatow Fashion Shoot: Hollywood Vigilante


Not all superheroes wear capes. But more of them should wear Ferragamo corsets. At least, that was my first impression when I saw Iris Apatow done up as a Hollywood vigilante as envisioned by photographer Lenne Chai.

The idea of casting Apatow in the role of the heroine with a secret double life—both glamorous starlet and lethal femme fatale—has percolated for Chai since she met the actress on set more than a year ago. Apatow mentioned how much she’d like to play a darker character on screen one day, and the idea began to take form.

“If Batman was a hot young woman with a spectacular home in the Hills,” Chai mused, “how would she spend her nights off?” The answer: lounging on antique velvet sofas high over the San Fernando Valley, plotting to rid the town of evil in a blood-red Versace leather suit, and tracing her eyeliner in a mirror with the help of a miniature Malay dagger.

On a video call, Chai shows me her storyboard—or, as she says, her “terrible, terrible sketches” (which, I should note, are not terrible at all)—on which she maps out poses, locations, and lighting, annotated with notes like “bat signal lol.” The lighting is especially important here because she’s used one of her favorite techniques, creative cutout-style lighting, to call to mind a superhero’s mask without getting too literal and frame her subject with a subtle yet unmistakable winged silhouette (the bat signal in question).

Iris Apatow

Dress, Corset, Heels: Ferragamo; Jewelry: DeBeers; Gloves: Lael Osness

Iris Apatow

Blazer: Alexander McQueen; Briefs: MoschinoRing: Eriness, Future Rocks; Necklace: Djula; Heels: Naked Wolfe

Coveteur: How did you come up with the concept for this shoot?

Lenne Chai: “With Iris, a long time ago, when we first worked on a shoot together for Teen Vogue, someone on the team told me that it’s her dream to be a superhero, and that was a tangent we went off on. For this shoot, I was about to fall asleep one night when I had a vision because I always do this kind of cutout lighting with shapes on people’s faces. And I was like, ‘that’s actually a really good analogy for vigilantism.’ And so this whole shoot was born from that one moment before bed.”

Did you have any particular superhero in mind? Was it related to anything you were watching or thinking about?

LC: “I was thinking about Batman specifically. What would it be like if we explored someone who is eccentrically rich during the day but also very into vigilantism at night? What would that look like as a fashion story? What would that look like in today’s context if it was a female lead in the center of it—like, hot Batman?

I was rewatching Batman Forever and all these kinds of campy ’80s and ’90s Batman vigilante shows and [thinking about] how they used to approach these concepts. I feel like we’ve entered a post-superhero era where the genre is very polished. It’s so glossy and so commonplace. It was nice to think about when there was a place for something just fun and camp, and maybe people don’t take it so seriously.”

I love that. I think we could all use a little more camp in our lives.

LC: “Although that was the starting point, I think Iris and the location shaped it into something else. They really made it their own. Firstly, Iris has a very serene energy about her—there is a gentleness about her that fits in the house in a kind of Joan of Arc way because the house itself has so much history. We took photos at the Mosaic House, which was the house of architect George Ehling. He built the entire thing by hand, a single person. According to his wife, who now owns the place, he laid the last tile and told her, ‘It is done,’ and then passed on the next day. So, the whole thing is very biblical. Being what it was, the house was also a character in the story, and it took us a little away from Batman and pushed us more into Joan of Arc territory.”

Iris Apatow

Dress, Heels: Prada; Earrings: Future Rocks; Bracelet: Autore; Ring: Autore

Iris Apatow

What were your conversations with Iris like going into the shoot? Were you creating a character?

LC: We tried that at the start, but it was too funny. It was too ridiculous to think about. I was like, ‘You’re a femme fatale, and this and that. And then I was like, ‘Okay, try licking your lips.’ And she tried it, and we all burst out laughing. Eventually, we just went with the flow, and Iris was just herself. She’s such a great model. We shot way more than I thought possible, given our very short time. It ended up just being a bit more ‘bad bitch with a sword.’”

Tell me more about the swords.

LC: “Well, when I saw the house, I was like, ‘Oh, it looks like an actual castle.’ And they have two chairs from an Italian castle in the house that are literally priceless. Also, I’ve been doing US-Chinese martial arts classes and learning how to use a sword. I even borrowed a sword from my Wushu teacher. In the end, we used the one that I rented from a prop house. But I think that was the starting point. I was also thinking about what kind of weapon Iris would use if she was a vigilante. Some of the classic superhero weapons feel a bit too violent. And I wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted to glorify, but a sword feels reasonable. She could use it for cooking. Who knows?”

How do you think about creating that chemistry, and what impact does it have?

LC: “I care a lot about how well people are cared for on set. I think that’s a very basic thing. For people to enjoy themselves and have a good collaborative experience, you need to give them all the right building blocks. The set has to be safe, and people have to be well-fed and well-hydrated. Good music is a really big one. One thing that was really nice to hear after this shoot was people saying, ‘This was one of the nicest, fun-est sets I’ve been on in a while.’”

Iris Apatow

Jacket, Skirt: Versace; Earrings: DeBeers; Ring: Basliq; Heel: Malone

Iris Apatow

The clothes here are incredible. What was your approach with capturing these looks and thinking about how they fit with this character?

LC: “The stylists were amazing. Luca and Amanda, I have worked with them separately before, and it was so fun working with them as a duo for the shoot. We had talked a lot about what kind of clothes this vigilante in our head would wear at home, keeping in mind that she’s still a cool young girl and not getting too lost in the Batman-ness of it all. So that was one thing that really drove a lot of the styling choices.

We had a rough storyline that we were thinking about when we captured each image: this is a look when she’s being a vigilante, and this is when the night falls, and she’s overlooking the city like Bruce Wayne. Those were the things we had in mind that guided our rationale and decision-making process. When I shoot, I care a lot about silhouettes. I feel like they really influence the look of a shoot because I think our brains recognize certain silhouettes with historical significance. So when we see that specific silhouette, our brains are like, ‘Oh, okay, this is meant to be a Renaissance drama,’ even though maybe everything they’re wearing is completely modern.”

How did you see that idea play out in this shoot?

LC: “I feel like it’s very medieval, and we talked a lot about things like chainmail and questions like, ‘Do you think it’s practical for a vigilante to be wearing a long flowy skirt? Would it get in the way of their movement? Should it be more skintight and figure-hugging? And if it’s a girl at home, would she be wearing this?”I

think this idea of the double life is really interesting, especially within the context of Hollywood and celebrity. But is there a reason it resonated with you?

LC: “Being in Hollywood as a foreigner and as a new transplant, I am blown away by the fact that a house like this exists in Hollywood Hills. I drive past all these houses, and I think about what people are doing inside. What lifestyles could they possibly lead in these insane spaces? I guess this is my most exaggerated version of this. And, of course, it helps that Iris is also very well-connected in Hollywood. Her being a Hollywood star herself, I think, completes the concept. If I had shot the same thing with a model, it would not have not the Hollywood-ness of it all. I’m so glad that she said yes.”

Iris Apatow

Dress: Acne Studios; Tights: Fogal; Heels: Alexander McQueen, Earrings: Rat Betty;

Choker: DeBeers; Necklace: Autore

Iris Apatow

Rapid Fire

If you were a superhero or supervillain, what would your power be?

“I feel like ever since I got really into Buddhism, I’ve been very at ease with life as it is. Although it would be really nice if I could stop time but still set up lighting to buy more time on set.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

“Gaming when there’s a deadline looming. I’m playing this new game called Chants of Sennaar, where you don’t understand the language of the world around you. To move on in the game, you have to decipher what people are saying and learn new words. It’s like learning a new language but in game form. The language doesn’t exist. I wish it were a real language. It would be so helpful.”

What is your hidden talent?

“I feel like I have none. The only talent I have in my life is my ability to make images. So I’m really lucky I can make a career of that.”

Irrational fear?


Something you used to hate but you love now?

“Eating salads. LA changed me.”

In a biopic about your life, who would play you?

“Maybe Maya Erskine—the way she dressed in Pen15.”

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

“There are two: More time is always better than more money. I feel like that’s super relevant to everything in life. And then the other one that makes a lot of sense is to succeed as something you have to fail nine times, so you might as well get started with failing.”


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