It was a great pleasure to share this portrait series of one of the greatest models of our days, Garrett Neff – not only one of the good guys of the fashion industry but also ranked #11 in the world on Models.com’s ‘The Money Guys’. Many of you will recognise him as the face of Calvin Klein for some years, but campaigns have also included Moncler, Barney’s, H&M, Gant, DKNY, Belstaff, Ralph Lauren and many many more! A true seasoned model. Garrett was photographed here by one of our favourite photographer’s, LA-based Yu Tsai, again one of the good guys of fashion, who also shot Garrett for a cover of this issue, which you can view HERE.
As well as these portraits, we’ve also posted the full interview below, giving you a great insight into Garrett’s world.
The print issue has sold out but you can purchase a digital edition of this issue via our eBook Bundle offer
GARRETT NEFF INTERVIEW BY YU TSAI
YT : Good day Mr. Neff. It’s nice to see you and work together again.
GN: You as well, Mr. Tsai.
YT: Is Garrett Neff your real name?
GN: Yes, Garrett Neff is my real and official name. It’s such a difficult name to pronounce for so many people that speak different languages, and in the U.S. it’s so uncommon. Is Yu Tsai your real name?
YT: Actually, the full name would be Daniel Yu Tsai. I decided to drop the American name “Daniel”, after I graduated college. In high school though, I had a Future Farmers of America jacket that actually had Daniel embroidered on the left chest.
GN: Daniel? I don’t see it.
YT: Me neither – anymore.
GN: Wait… Future Farmers of America? What? ( puzzled )
YT: ( shrugs ) Yeah, I thought farming was going to be my future. I used to show pigs and cattle at county fairs. But, all the same – in this industry I am still surrounded by people that behave like farm animals. Maybe some just prettier than others. You are one of the pretty ones of course – more like a show pony.
GN : ( Laughs ) Thanks. I guess.
YT : So when did you decide to get into the modeling business?
GN : I didn’t decide – it just happened. I was taking a college course in Barbados during the summer between my junior and senior years. I believe we were studying economics in a tourism based economy but I don’t remember, its a bit foggy. I just remember having a really fun time and then getting scouted at the Miami airport. I was 21.
YT: That must have been exciting because you seem to be a pretty fashionable guy. Fashion must have been in your blood, even when you were young. When you were a child, did you understand and like fashion?
GN: If you would have asked me then, I would have said, “Yes”. But now, looking back I would say, “No way that is or was fashion”. ( laughs ) In retrospect, I rarely give myself enough credit.
YT: ( puzzled ) Explain yourself – then and now please…
GN : Well, I remember being very specific about what I wore from an early age, but I think it had more to do with comfort and rebellion. My mom dressed me in Lacoste and Ralph Lauren, and I was just as happy in something that I traded for from lost and found. I liked unique clothing until middle school. That’s when labels became important, which is the point where I would have told you I was into fashion. Looking back, there’s no way that was fashion.
YT: Hope you kept the clothes. Fashion always comes back in style and we call it “vintage”.
GN: ( laughs ) Right!
YT: Do you remember your very first modeling job experience?
GN : Yes, I will never forget it. It was for GQ on Good Morning America. We wore the back to school looks for Fall. I had to walk out on a tiny runway. I was scared out of my mind and I think my jaw was so tight that I wouldn’t have been able to produce sound. ( laughs ) Oh yeah, and my call time was really early in the morning so I don’t think I slept the night before.
YT : I’m sure you didn’t realize then, what this business had in store for you. You’ve had a great career so far. Today, with more understanding of fashion, who and what inspires you?
GN : I think I’m most inspired by the other people in the fashion world. Designers like Karl Lagerfeld and photographers like Bruce Weber who have been able to stay consistent over the years and who are humble, loyal and generous beyond your wildest imagination.
YT: It sounds like you have a great relationship with Bruce?
GN: Bruce was my biggest supporter when I first started modeling.
YT: I am certain you were in good hands. Bruce has launched many models’ careers.
GN : Bruce Weber showed me the best side of this mysterious and fickle industry. We collaborated many times during my early years. He taught me that modeling isn’t just about your looks. One must have that inner dialog with him or herself that allows them to dream and be transported somewhere. The shoots are normally in beautiful places so its not always hard to imagine the things that make you feel what you need to, to make that amazing picture. So yeah, Bruce is a real sweetheart.
YT: Last time we spoke, you were telling me about your own passion for photography. Are you still shooting?
GN: Yes, very much so.
YT: Will we be seeing them soon?
GN: Soon, I promise. In fact, I am working on my website now. I will be sharing my own photographs on the site. I have been taking lots of pictures during my travels.
YT: I can’t wait to see them. Where was the best place you have ever traveled?
GN: Alaska was amazing!!! Flying in was an experience of its own – so beautiful. If not there, then maybe Jamaica. I stayed at the resort where Ian Flemming wrote all of his James Bond films. I sat at the same desk. It was surreal.
YT: That’s really cool. Well, I would say you’re a graduate of the modeling business now. For those aspiring models out there, how would you describe modeling?
GN: Being a model isn’t the most difficult profession in the world. It has its moments though, where all you want to do is stop and take a break because you’re cold or sick or have personal things on your mind, but the sun is going down and another day of production can mean lots and lots of money to the client and you just push through it and forget that you have to take care of yourself the way you normally would.
YT : It’s a job that comes with responsibilities but like me, you get to travel around the world a few times.
GN : Traveling is amazing, but after a while, the travel takes a toll on you, mentally and physically. I do think if anyone has the opportunity to do it, they absolutely should! You get to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and experience everything that comes with that…new cultures, food, and climates.
YT : I never get tired of traveling. I love it. Only thing I miss is my French Bulldog, Soy when I am gone.
GN : I feel privileged to have that opportunity. I think traveling helps break down barriers we have with others. To become a minority in a different way is exciting. You witness the local tragedies and triumphs, and this makes you appreciate who you are and where you come from, and understand where your role is in the world. The best part is that you’re constantly surrounded with some of the most talented and creative people in the business. I’m inspired on a daily basis.
YT : Did you figure out what your role in this world is yet?
GN : Enjoy every moment of it.
YT: Ditto. What’s next for you?
GN: I am really focused on building my website. Other than that, my friends and I have this ongoing joke. We record and edit ourselves in faux pas situations. Laughing with friends is so important, you know?
YT: I know. I enjoy laughing at myself even more. Maybe you should share those videos on your site too?
GN: Maybe… you’ll just have to wait and see when the site launches.
Very special thanks to Garrett Neff and Yu Tsai. For more, visit: