Elysée Sanvillé and Ari Fournier are archetypes of their generation: artistic, inspired, and never tied down to one thing. Like much of Gen-Z, Sanvillé and Fournier are highly aware yet undeterred by the harshness of the world, and in fact, are determined to face it head on. The two are founders of Fashion 4 Humanity, a non-profit charity that raises money for crisis relief, and recently received its official registration of being a 501(c)(3) foundation. Their first venture with the organization involved cleaning out their own closets, their friends' closets, and partnering with brands such as Alo Yoga, Vybes, and Phoebe Tonkin’s brand Lesjour!. Sanvillé and Fournier set up a vendor station on Melrose, and ended up raising $10,000 to donate to Ukranians through Nova Ukraine.
Elysée and Ari both have distinguished careers in the modeling industry, and are ready to branch out into the world to discover different parts of themselves, to grow both as people and as artists as well. Their friendship reflects the importance of honest connection, and their art, such as this photoshoot, displays the type of beauty that is born out of playful creation. The two spoke with Flaunt about inspiration, about being in their twenties, and about occupying the world in an intentional and meaningful way.
Can you two start off by telling me a little bit about yourself: where you grew up, what you're doing now, and what you might hope to do in the future?
Elysée: I grew up mostly on the East coast- well, up and down the East Coast-and I'm an artist now and I just hope to explore art in every capacity throughout the future and just never let go of that.
Ari: I grew up in Montreal. I started getting into the arts by modeling when I was very young, when I was a teenager, I think I was 14 or 15 when I first started. It opened a lot of doors for me-in terms of work, in terms of life. In the future, I hope to stay in the industry, but I want to be creative in any way, in front of or behind the cameras. I think it's important to shoot and create art, not just for work, but also for yourself, and finding that balance between art and commerce, I think, is a little complicated. You want to do things that are going to be good for your career, but you also want to do things that are going to motivate you and that you're going to be stimulated by.
As I understand, both of your careers started based around the camera, and now you're branching out. Whether you're in front of the lens or behind it, what does it feel like to focus in and capture one aspect of life through photography?
E: For this shoot in particular, it was so intimate. We're very close friends. We were shooting in her home. We were able to just capture all of these. I think all photos in general capture these really beautiful little moments that we can freeze in time forever, and to have that with someone that you care about so deeply, I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life. I hope to shoot her again. I hope to shoot her throughout my career, and I hope to shoot a lot of the people who are close to me throughout my career so I can have these special bonds and moments with them from the beginning and later on in my life as well.
A: I feel the same way. I don't see photography representing life as a whole because our lives are way more complex. To me, my life is not an image, but it is kind of like seeing a snapshot of a memory. I think in that way it is very important. Or, if it's a memory, if it's a personal shoot, if it's art, then it means maybe a piece of history that we need to remember. If it's journalism, it’s the same- I think photography is very important in that regard to have this snapshot of a moment. For me, that's what it represents. It doesn't represent life in any way for me.
How did you guys become friends?
E: We were set up on a blind date, a friend blind date from our mutual friend from New York. We got tacos and immediately became best friends, we just clicked right away.
A: I think it's the best way to make friends, when common friends of yours are already saying, “Oh yeah, you guys are going to get along really well.” I think that's the best way to meet new people because, for me, I get more vulnerable with people that are friends with my friends because I feel that my friends’, friends are already my friends. So it's nice to meet someone like that, that you already kind of feel a connection with through somebody else. She was my first friend in LA actually. It was really just nice to have someone show me around the city, because I didn't know anything about LA when I first moved here.
So you're 24 and 22, can you speak to what it's like being in your twenties, especially being a creative in your twenties and trying to figure out who you are and what your work means-how is that going for you guys?
A: I'm almost in my mid-twenties, so I can say that so far, it's a very cool and beautiful journey. Every year you change so much, you get to discover yourself. Especially in the arts, it's like every couple months I just change my mind completely about what I think is great art. What I think is good photography, what I think is good fashion. Every month is a huge evolution. I think that's really beautiful in itself. I think when you get in your thirties, you know who you are a little bit more, and that's also beautiful. But what's really fresh and cool about the twenties is that aspect of finding yourself. I think that's really the most beautiful thing.
E: My twenties-I just wanna really explore myself as an artist. I think to piggyback on what Ari was saying is that every day I feel like I'm a different human. I wake up and I'm like, “Well, you don’t know me today, you knew me yesterday.” So, I just think that every day getting better, in whatever sense that may be: that may be a personal wellness choice, it may be an artistic choice. I just want everyone in my life to feel this way about themselves too. That every day they're different. They're changing, they're better, they're growing.
Can you speak on why you think photography is important? What do you think it can provide for people?
E: I think art in any form really inspires. It can inspire people to move out of where they're from, or start a new life or embark on an adventure alone in another country. I think that to be able to have a medium like taking photos can really transcend and freeze an image in time and have an idea mark off of that. People read art in different ways. So someone can look at a photo that I took of Ari, or a photo that I took in another project and read it with a whole different emotion than what I was trying to convey. I think that's beautiful. I think that I have my meaning to it and they can have their meaning to it, no one will ever really know- that's what's awesome about it is everyone has their own perception.
A: I feel exactly the same way. I mean, to me it goes back to what I was saying earlier about art, where it captures that moment in life, not life as a whole. I think that is very important. Like you're saying, photography is- I mean, I don't do photography professionally, but I sure love to shoot my friends. My best friend is now a photographer and my boyfriend is also a photographer. I'm always amazed by capturing those moments. You don't see them in real life. You only see them after, when you're looking at the picture, and I think that’s important to keep for your memories.
E: Especially with film-I shoot exclusively film. So for it to be developed and to have that process of not knowing what's going to come out on the other end of the negative… and you see it and maybe you have an image that got exposed by light, maybe you have a perfect image, you still don't remember what you shot. You can't look back on it. There's no playback in the moment. So at the end of the day when you see everything, you surprise yourself more often than not.
Is there anybody who inspired you to start getting into photography, or anyone who sparked your interest in art?
E: An artist that inspires me on the whole is Jean-Michel Basquiat. I went to one of his exhibits and it just absolutely blew my mind. He's so childlike and the way that all of his art is, it really makes you think how you can be so rudimentary with your thoughts and create something so massive that is so life changing. Also, Annie Lebovitz. I think that- well, I just think she's the best photographer ever. I have her book, Wonderland, and I read it every day. Every morning I open up her 400 page book and flip through different sections of it. I just think she's a master.
A: I really admire Vivienne Westwood- and you know, she passed and rest her soul. I really think that she's always done her own thing. She's always leaned into her punk rock aesthetic and she kept going for her entire life and career. The industry chose to let her in, exactly the way she was. I think that is definitely something to be admired because a lot of people change who they are to be accepted in the industry, and I think that is really something to keep in mind. On the modeling side, I really admire Gisele Bündchen for being able to become a businesswoman with her career. Not just staying in modeling, but having a balanced family life and many other businesses on the side. I think that is something that models should take example of because now, being a model is great, but you need to be yourself and you need to do more than modeling for sure.
Speaking of modeling, you both started in the industry when you were young, when you were teenagers. What did you learn from the industry? How has it made you into the person that you are today?
E: I was 17 when I started professionally modeling. It's crazy to think of the independence that you're given at such a young age. You're traveling the world alone, you're meeting teams of people who have now become-well, your team. They're your agents and your go-to people, your managers. You're having people book you jobs in other countries, and you're completely alone for weeks or months on end. So you're left to explore cities and to really find out who you are in a sense of self, not even an art related sense at all, but just like-if you were in another country, what would you do? How are you going to spend your free days? I think that is beautiful and I'm so, so grateful for the opportunities that it's given me in that sphere. I am ready though, to move behind the camera completely and kind of say goodbye to that chapter of my life. I think that I owe a lot of fond memories to it, but I'm ready to create art in a different perspective.
A: I think when you're younger and when you're a teenager, you tend to compare yourself a lot to other people in general, even if you're not in arts or in fashion or anything. So I think when I was younger, I used to compare myself to the other girls or with whichever girl would book the job. I didn't have a clear perspective on who I was yet, and it actually helped me a lot because I realized early on that comparison was completely pointless. I am who I am and people actually accepted me like that and I was totally fine. You know, I think that's very important to learn and I think that speeds up the learning process of who you are and learning that you are enough and that your body is fine and all these other things. I think when you're growing up, you're always wondering, is this weird? Is that weird? When you grow up in the industry, it can distort your reality a little bit. Building a shell against that is very important. I think that's what it did for me over the years and over a lot of work on myself.
Lastly, do you two have any New Year's resolutions or big goals for 2020?
E: I want to be really present.
A: That’s mine too.
E: I want to be there for all these moments because life is going to pass us by and if we're not enjoying every moment to the absolute maximum full capacity, what's the point? What’s the point of rushing through it? Slow down, take your time. Also, to not be so focused. Don't be so focused on work. Play and have fun with things and see where it takes you. For example, this shoot happened because I needed more images and wanted to create some. I just asked Ari to shoot, and we shot it and we didn't end up thinking that it was going to be in a magazine, but we just wanted to have fun. I think the best art comes from fun.
A: There's a very childlike aspect to good art, in my opinion. It’s having it be pure and light and fun. For me, it's being present as well. I lost a really important person to me last year and it made me realize how every single moment is important, and it also made me realize how fast life has gone by. I think now we're almost conditioned to having such a short attention span, and the next thing you know today has gone by and tomorrow's gone by and, and I barely remember today, because I've been running and answering emails and phone calls the entire day. I think sometimes sitting down with your friends at a restaurant, sitting down with your parents, you know, telling your sister you love her-these things are very important because you never know what next year brings. You never know what tomorrow brings and what really is important is right now.
I'm really sorry to hear that you lost someone. This makes me think back to last year, how many days I spent worrying- just worrying about things.
A: Oh my God. Yeah. If you worry so much, you're going to suffer twice because life is still going to happen. If today you're feeling good, and if today you're feeling happy, then just enjoy. Enjoy that moment, you know, and especially with the people you love, making sure to spend quality time with family and friends and for your relationships, I think it is really important.
E: People think that you need these grandiose things to be happy or these really big, impactful moments. No. The most mundane things are my favorite memories. The smallest, smallest, tiniest blips of time are my favorite memories that I daydream about.
Photographed by Elysée Sanvillé