The mother-daughter duo recount their favorite fashion moments and discuss how their differing personalities come out while modeling together.
Pat Cleveland initially set her sights on being a fashion designer, but while standing on a subway platform in 1966 her unique look caught the eye of a fashion assistant working for Vogue, from which sprang an article about her burgeoning design career. Ebony saw and took note, approaching her to model in their Fashion Fair national runway tour. She would go on to become one of the first African-American models in the industry and would appear in Vogue in 1970—just a few short years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 abolished segregation—before going on to walk in the legendary Battle of Versailles Fashion Show in France in 1973. Never keen to be singular minded, she recently wrote her book Walking with the Muses, and released a song on iTunes in tribute to jazz legend Joséphine Baker entitled “Tonight Joséphine.”
Her daughter, Anna, appeared in her first fashion shoot at 10 days old in 1989. The younger Cleveland would go on to star in a number of campaigns with her mother before breaking out on her own in the Giles Spring/Summer 2015 runway show. Since then, she’s lead campaigns for Lanvin, Bottega Veneta and Moschino. Document spoke to the mother and daughter pair about working together for the newest David Webb campaign shot by Juergen Teller, passing down the family jewels, and the modeling world.
Ann Binlot—Has your mother ever passed down a meaningful piece of jewelry to you? If so, what? How did it make you feel?
Anna Cleveland—My mother handed me down my grandmother’s diamond ring that was so precious! Because of the stories it holds, she lived with that piece of jewelry, as do I.
Pat Cleveland—It’s not that I actually gave it to her. We kind of fought over it a bit because it was my mother’s ring, but then she won because come on, let’s think of the future.
“Because of the stories it holds, she lived with that piece of jewelry, as do I.”
Ann—What does it look like?
Pat—It’s from the 50s. It’s a small diamond, though. My mother was a painter, so she didn’t wear extravagant jewelry every day, but this one ring has a lot of energy in it. You know when you get something precious that has energy in it, like some of the David Webb rings, you would want to pass those down because they’re so delicate and beautiful, you could wear them every day as your everyday ring. That’s the kind of ring she gave to Anna: an everyday little diamond.
Ann—What was your first David Webb piece?
Pat—I had this little panther ring earlier in the ‘70s that someone had given me, with two heads on it. It was like a dream. I had this boyfriend; he was this big music producer who gave me that ring, and I was so excited because I was always looking at those advertisements of the jewelry in the magazines, and then thanks to him I finally had one [laughs]. It was like my little totem, my little animal friend. I unfortunately lost the ring during my travels.
Ann—You’ve starred in a number of campaigns together. What is it like when you work together?
Anna—It’s a moment of pure joy. Because we do not want to be anywhere else but present. This particular campaign with David Webb was a celebration filled with joy and laughter.
Ann—How often do you see each other? Is it a lot?
Pat—Well we see each other for bookings. That’s why we had such a good time with David Webb because it was like a reunion, and my daughter does very serious and classical, and I’m whimsical and comical in my pictures, and she always says, “Ma, you’re making me laugh too much, I have to be serious!” And that’s why in that David Webb picture we’re really cracking up. They captured some really true interactions. We were sparkling and looking at each other astounded that we were so bejeweled [laughs]. It’s like mom and daughter playing with jewelry. That was a great day.
Ann—Pat, what was the first campaign or editorial that you starred in together? Was she a baby?
Pat—Yes, I think she was ten days old. It was for an Italian magazine. I think it was Gioia or something like that. One of those weekly magazines in Italy. I just had Anna so it was a whole story about me, Anna, and my son Noel, who was in the pictures too. But then he kind of got cut out because it was all about jewelry. So that started her off.
“I was always looking at those advertisements of the jewelry in the magazines, and then thanks to him I finally had one. It was like my little totem, my little animal friend.”
Ann—How did your mother being a model influence you to go into modeling?
Anna—I watched her crafting her strength in the external work of beauty and nurturing her inner light. I was exposed to the feeling of reaching out in knowing that beauty exists.
Ann—Pat, how did you feel when Anna told you that she wanted to go into modeling?
Pat—I think she was 3 years old because I used to dress her up in high heels and lots of jewelry hanging all over her with hats and we would always play modeling. Since she was two weeks old, she’s always been photographed. She’s pretty much been doing that all of her life. That’s how she grew up—being backstage with the girls and being photographed. I mean she was ten days old when she had the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelry in her mouth. Pearls! She’s had some pretty great experience with beautiful jewels. I enjoy looking at the rainbows in jewelry and I always tell her to look for that too.
Ann—Were you ever hesitant about her going into modeling as an adult because of the pressures that the women face in the industry?
Pat—I think it’s the people you hang out with. Runners and bikers feel pressure. Playing basketball is pressure. I mean it’s just like anything else, you know? You go for it. You just have to have some good training in the beginning. For me it’s always listen to your mother’s voice, hear what she says.
Ann—What kind of stuff did you tell her to watch out for?
Pat—Well, don’t get closed into a room with somebody you don’t know. Just like with the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Just watch out for the wolves, that’s all. There are wolves in every industry, and we know that, but she has grown up knowing the right people. Fashion is our family.
Ann—Anna, What are some of the most difficult things models have to face now?
Anna—The difficulty is in always refreshing the courage to understand how you can offer your image of beauty to help others to wish and care about being precious.
Ann—What is your most memorable moment as a model?
Anna—I remember coming out of a vacation in the jungle and i went into a Moschino fitting with Jeremy Scott; the outfit he had made for me was a lotus flower from the jungle, what a coincidence! Taking inspiration from my journey, I pulled out petals one by one from my dress and gave them as a gift to share with the audience. That gift of creation, with a meaning, taking an object for more than its superficial aspect. Taking an object, creating a meaning as a gift for sharing the inspiration of creation that all connects us together.
“That’s the whole thing: breathing together. Taking a breath, having coffee, drinking a tea, bubbly champagne, having a dance, romancing the night, dressing up, you know, being grand.”
Pat—If you put it all together, the collage of all of those moments, it’s just one big heartthrob. You know I think of all these wonderful designers that I worked with—the names are from A to Z. I feel so blessed that I got to stand in their studios and be stuck with pins by them and watch them drape their fabrics. You know I got to work really close to the designers; I did pictures and locations and small movies and documentaries, even had a mannequin made of me. I think that was one of my high points, to have my own dummy [laughs].
Ann—Who made it? What was it made for?
Pat—It was made in London by a famous woman named Adel Rootstein, who made life-like mannequins. And so my children have have become mannequins too. You can see each of them in the store windows in New York as well. I loved working with artists: sculptors, people who make things. I worked with amazing photographers such as [Horst P.] Horst from the age of 19—the same ones who photographed the stars of Hollywood in the ’20s. I think the highlights in your life are when you meet people that you really admire.
Ann—Did you meet Coco Chanel?
Pat—I was able to work with Madame Grès, but I just missed [Coco]. I was doing something else and I couldn’t do it. But then later everybody else brought me into the Chanel house. I worked with Karl, and the people who were there before Karl.
Ann—Did you do any work with Yves Saint Laurent?
Pat—Yes, I worked with him. You know I had personal relationships with these people. In their homes and on vacation. It’s not a job. The work is keeping each other up and interested and excited about life and enjoying every breath. That’s the whole thing: breathing together. Taking a breath, having coffee, drinking a tea, bubbly champagne, having a dance, romancing the night, dressing up, you know, being grand, like to dream.