interview by MARIE-PAULINE CESARI

Actress and fashion designer Zoe Bleu was most recently seen co-starring in Patricia Arquettes film Gonzo Girlopposite Willem Dafoe and Camila Morrone. For the film, Zoe also designed the costumes. In 2022, she won Best Actress at the Brooklyn Film Festival and Rome Film Festival, for her lead role in the 2022 indie feature Signs of Love.

You most recently starred in Gonzo Girl. Can you share your experience working alongside Patricia Arquette, Willem Dafoe, and Camila Morrone, both as an actress and as the wardrobe consultant for the film? 
Working on ‘Gonzo Girl’ with Patricia Arquette, Willem Dafoe, and Camila Morrone was a magical experience. Initially I was hired as an actress, then I became the wardrobe consultant a few days before filming, ending up as the main stylist for characters like Walker (Willem). Teetering between characters in my mind in the vintage stores in Utah was really fun for me. Despite my limited time, I tried to emphasize their personalities through their wardrobe. I felt really nurtured on set both as an actress and member of the wardrobe department. I auditioned like everyone else; it wasn’t just because Patricia directed that I got the role.. Producers’ approval matters too. I observed and learned a lot from the cast on set. I am excited for the world to see their work, and especially proud of Patricia’s fabulous directing.

full look authentic antique ballerina outfit

What drew you to this role, and can you give us a glimpse into your experience through your character in the film? 
I was drawn to Rose’s character in ‘Gonzo Girl’ because she’s goofy, caring, and a bit kooky. She’s the kind of girl who felt chemically changed after reading works by writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Anaïs Nin. Rose feels like a strange angel to Allie (Cami) and their friendship is like a sisterhood, providing a comforting space. Rose and Allie navigate life independently, but find solace in their friendship during tough times. I love Rose’s character as she reminds me of my middle school self—doe-eyed, a true fan of music, art and literature and always seeking bizarre experiences. She’s a little romantic, a little lost, and trying to figure things out on her own clock. Some of the things I did to become Rose was immerse myself in playlists of music I felt she would listen to, watched movies and immersed myself in poetry she’d love, enhancing the depth of the character. I even cut off all my hair like Jane Seberg because I felt she would be one of Rose’s idols, perhaps there would be a “Breathless” poster on her wall.

Where does your passion for cinema come from, and are there any actors or filmmakers that inspired you to venture into this industry? 
My passion for cinema comes from my mother, Rosanna, who introduced me to films like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘La Belle et la Bête’ at a young age. I wasn’t allowed to watch “trash” she would call it, until I was older. Our weekends were filled with movie nights in Big Sur. My mom emphasized paying attention to details of each characters’ body language, and the nuances of their performances, specifically what happens behind their eyes. I was particularly drawn to films with strong love stories and fabulous wardrobes. Actresses like Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Gina Rowlands, and Mia Farrow left a lasting impression on me as a little girl. Their beauty and bravery, both on and off-screen, inspired me. Despite facing personal challenges, these incredible women transformed their pain into art, a quality I aspire to in my own life—turning sorrows into stars in my art, music, poetry, and garments. I believe that from experience, we create art, and through art, we cultivate empathy and understanding of the intricate human inner world.

Youve won Best Actressat prestigious film festivals like Brooklyn Film Festival and Rome Film FesKval for your lead role in Signs of Love. What does this recognition mean to you, and how did you approach bringing your character to life in the film? 
Winning ‘Best Actress’ at prestigious film festivals like Brooklyn and Rome felt surreal for me, as I struggle with compliments. The Brooklyn win was particularly special, as both my grandmothers were born there. My character Jane in ‘Signs of Love’ is a love bug, much like me. Jane loves without judgment. Similarly, in my life, I tend to see the light in people, even in darkness, sometimes to a fault. Jane makes pirouettes through life with a balance of strength and delicacy that I can connect with. 

top JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
skirt PRADA
headpiece JULIANN MCCANDLESS
shoes Zoe’s own

As a multi-talented individual involved in both acting and fashion design, how do these two creative pursuits influence and complement each other in your career and life? 
Since childhood, dressing myself has been a form of metamorphosis, time travel, and a way to express my inner world without words. It has always been a practice for me to get closer to a higher version of myself, embody characters, evoke feelings, or recapture memories. Dressing has been a means of escaping into an illusion, especially during times of self-doubt. My garments often hold cryptic clues about my interior world—colors reflecting moods, emblems tied to memories or dreams.

The way a garment holds or doesn’t hold the body becomes a silent dialogue with myself, echoing back through time. Merging the worlds of acting and fashion feels very natural and fun to me. Preparing for a role involves mapping the character’s inner world, and having a say in their garments allows me to outwardly express their essence. For instance, if my character is a repressed Victorian woman in an unhappy marriage who is secretly passionate about poetry, I’d consider how she conveys feelings of being trapped. Perhaps she wears bird wings in her hair, silently expressing her dream of flying away, or she hides embroidered poetry on the inside of her sleeve.

full look ACNE STUDIOS

jacket BALENCIAGA
blouse, underwear and shoes ACNE STUDIOS

Can you tell us more about KAKA and the inspiration behind your fashion designs with Sarah Sitkin? 
I design KAKA with my friend Viktor Gichev, combining my love for antique garments with Viktor’s technical expertise and merging our collective (extensive) knowledge of fashion history. Our collaboration balances the past and the future, creating a Ying-and-yang dynamic. The theatrical costumes I create with Sarah Sitkin hold special emotional weight in the project titled “GROWING MY OWN GODS.” It’s a series of mythology of modern-day goddesses inspired by nature. Each goddess, like MANDRAKE, represents an element and has a unique story. This series, born during the pandemic, emerged from my personal journey confronting trauma. The first goddess, MANDRAKE, is the goddess of rebirth. The inspiration for this project came during a dark moment in my personal life, that lead me to write a ballet that I hope to turn into a short film—one centered around forgiveness and self-love, dedicated to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Sarah Sitkin, the artist I collaborate with, is my hero. We’ve also started on the second goddess, THE VEILED LADY MUSHROOM, who is the goddess of protection.

How would you describe your personal style, both in terms of fashion design with Kaka Couture and your own everyday fashion choices? 
Since the pandemic, my everyday style has become more practical, leaning towards a cozy and comfortable scrappy look, quite different from my pre-pandemic extravagant attire. I used to wear elaborate outfits even for simple tasks, like taking my dog for a wee. Nowadays, my style looks more like Fievel the mouse from “An American Tail.” There’s no distinction between my personal style and KAKA Couture; I create clothes that I want to wear. KAKA isn’t for sale—it’s for me, my friends, and fellow artists to borrow if they like. I use deadstock vintage fabrics and buy vintage to align with my commitment to sustainability. Given the negative impact of the fashion industry on the planet, I’ve sworn off buying new clothes. I design for art, not money, as many mainstream fashion items lack quality and soul, reflecting the industry’s decline.

top and bottom antique chainmail pieces
shell ZOË BLEU ARQUETTE X SARAH SITKIN

How do you see your designs reflecting your personal style and artistic vision? 
I aspire for my designs to reflect my deep connection to the Earth and my inner spiritual realm. In a world where we often forget our roots, I want to emphasize that we are not owners but custodians of this planet. Through my work, I aim to echo the love I feel for the elements and the exquisite designs found in nature. My color choices and textures draw inspiration from Water, Fire, Air, and Earth, and I frequently incorporate egg shapes, reflecting my fascination with them. With a name meaning “life,” I seek to convey my profound relationship with life on Earth, celebrating my love for the theater of nature through my designs.

dress ZOË BLEU ARQUETTE X SARAH SITKIN

TEAM CREDITS:
talent ZOË-BLEU ARQUETTE
photography JASON RENAUD
styling JULIANN MCCANDLESS
make up ADRIANA GONZALEZ
hair TANIA BECKER
photography assistant ANYA TERTERYAN
styling assistant JASSA RAE
production designerTAYLOR VENEGAS
production assistant NATASHA PARBHU
editor TIMOTEJ LETONJA
interview MARIE-PAULINE CESARI
special thanks to CHRISTINA LIU