Andrew T. Vottero is a man you may not know by name (yet), but his work has resulted in headlines like this one in Vanity Fair (“Jeff Goldblum’s Style Is a Pure Shot of Joy”) or this one in The Guardian (“Who is the male fashion icon for now? Jeff Goldblum, of course.”). His work with Goldblum has transformed the 66-year-old actor into a bona fide menswear superstar. This is no accident; for Vottero, it was all part of a masterful plan.
Vottero was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Wilbraham, the son of a journalist/writer/editor mother and a prosecutor father. “In high school I was definitely one of those kids in class, like, ripping up Vogue and super into women's fashion,” Vottero told GARAGE. Years later, he wound up with an internship at Vogue before making his way over to Zac Posen — “back when Zac Posen was still kind of cool and small and independent.”
“Then I was a BUTT intern” he says, proudly recalling his time post-Posen, which led him to Amsterdam to work for the quarterly gay men’s mag, which he credits as sparking his interest in menswear. Next came a stint NYC menswear boutique Odin before landing his big break as a fashion assistant at GQ.
Vottero says his time at GQ still to this day informs his sensibility around menswear. “When I was younger I think I was definitely really interested in wild, sort of more avant-garde fashion. I appreciated things that were really outside the box. I still appreciate those things from an aesthetic standpoint and from a place of inspiration, but when it comes to actually dressing a man, I have to admit I can be a little bit conservative.”
“I almost feel like I... maybe I shouldn't even say this, but I like men's clothes to feel like men's clothes,” admits Vottero. His reticence in response towards an overarching cultural push toward gender omission or gender deviation in fashion, with male-presenting celebrities like Ezra Miller and Pose’s Billy Porter donning “womenswear” or atypical menswear on recent red carpets.
“Obviously I believe gender is both a spectrum and performative,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in the strictness of canonical male clothing and the narrow rules of dress men often subscribe to. I’m interested in using those codes as a framework, a starting point — the traditional suit/shirt/tie, jeans and leather jacket, khakis and penny loafers — and then playing with those codes, using a standard pant but one that’s zebra striped, or a simple shirt that’s cut out of silk, or a suit out of velvet or aman’s boot but with a good-size heel, that sort of thing. I may not put a man in a skirt most days, I do work within the typically male-gendered codes of clothing, but I try to find ways to let them breathe and feel more free. This is my approach for both cis and trans men. I want to celebrate masculinity and classic menswear while at the same time gently pushing at the borders of what we’re used to seeing men wear.”
Despite all this, Vottero’s own gay identity is still a part of his work. “I wrote my thesis at Brown about the language of fashion and how there's sort-of an unwritten language of clothes and we used clothes to communicate things to the people that I even referenced. Sort of like the design of the Margiela label on the back of a sweater and how those four little stitches are really small. And they actually communicate to a really small audience. But it's like self-selecting for like the people that I want to know that I'm wearing Margiela, they'll see that and they'll know, you know. And so for like that language of clothing in that way of forming identity… I think that that is related to being gay in some way.”
Now, onto the Jeff Goldblum of it all; Vottero began working with the actor five years ago on a serendipitous GQ shoot. “I think that Jeff and I are kind of like a match made in heaven,” he says. “The thing that I think I sort of can't overstate enough the importance of Jeff’s energy and personality before clothes even enter the conversation.” Vottero, at various points in our conversation, calls Goldblum “positive,” “kind,” “curious,” “genuine,” “patient,” and “gracious.”
“it's so funny to me now because he's getting all this press that’s like ‘Jeff, he’s always had the best style’ but I think if you look back at some old photos, it was a mess,” says Vottero, adding that Goldblum’s passion for clothing may have led him to wear clothing in the past that wasn’t him.” These days, Goldblum is expressing himself by pairing a flaming banana-print Prada shirt with zebra-print Isabel Marant, stepping out in piped marble-print satin Dries Van Noten and electric teal velvet Saint Laurent.
Since Goldblum is not a sample size, the pair decided to purchase the teal suit from the Saint Laurent store. “I think it’s weird how celebrities expect free clothing and how they… if a brand wants to dress them, they'll just put on whatever the brand is sending them. That's never really been how I work and I feel like , you don't really get the best results when you're dependent on gifts, you know? And I feel like Jeff and I have always been a little bit more intentional and we have always gone after the thing we want and are quite happy to pay for them and to support the people that are working there.”
Asked for his thoughts on the current state of celebrity male dressing, Vottero says he sees an increased attention toward how men are presenting themselves. “I think for years and years and years and years and years, there wasn't a lot of necessarily so much thought. I mean, obviously there are outliers — Oscar Wilde, for instance — but for the most part, I think men have sort of gotten a free pass to coast through because their appearances are not as heavily scrutinized as women’s are. And I think that as time goes by, men are increasingly finding themselves to be more scrutinized and not only are they being more scrutinized, I think that there also is an increased desire for men to put more energy and thought into how they look and what they're communicating about themselves to the world.”
This article originally appeared on VICE US.