Troye Sivan

HERO 30 cover story: Troye Sivan in conversation with Jonathan Anderson photographed by Ryan McGinley
Music | 20 September 2023
Photographer Ryan McGinley

jacket by FENDI FW23

This article is part of HERO Vault – Gems from back in time

Troye Sivan’s new (and third) album Something To Give Each Other is a throbbing, living, breathing pop masterpiece. Out next month, it’s choc-full of hooks guaranteed to grab you by the cochlea and drag you to the dancefloor. With this record, Sivan delivers an impassioned message of euphoric joy, epitomised by lead single Rush; a pulsing ode to after-hours ecstasy, visualised by a Gordon von Steiner-directed video that sizzles with sweaty, horny energy. It’s hot, it’s provocative, it’s 3:42 of pure, unfiltered sexual liberation. 

We first featured Troye in 2015’s HERO 13, just as he was putting out music for the first time. Since then he’s evolved into one of the most important talents of this generation. At Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe SS24 menswear show in Paris, Troye attended wearing only an oversized yellow tee and boots from the FW23 collection. Toying with sexuality and sensation are second nature to both Sivan and Anderson; through music, clothes, dialogue, these are two artists changing the way we live and love. 

trousers and boots both by CELINE HOMME W23

Jonathan Anderson: So, what can we expect from your new album, Troye? The video for Rush was insane by the way, I feel like I heard it everywhere, on a daily basis. Every time I opened Instagram it was there, it was everywhere. You must be really happy. 
Troye Sivan: I’m so happy. I’m really proud of everything I make and put out, but you never know how other people are going to react. I was quite surprised to actually have people respond in this massive way, it felt so much bigger than what I’m used to, it was pleasantly surprising! It’s also kind of nice because I didn’t feel that different – although I did feel awesome and amazing, it made me realise I don’t really need ‘commercial’ success to feel good, because I feel pretty much the same as when I put out something that doesn’t have this kind of reaction. 

JA: What you do is rare. We work in two different industries but ultimately they both want to make money from commerciality, and when you add the layer of queer culture – we’re embraced by it, we operate inside it and we transcend out of it – you realise to big business it is still a small demographic, which is kind of crazy. So when I see people taking things outside that comfort zone I find it very remarkable; ultimately as much as we are in a progressive society, there is something in terms of commerciality that ultimately starts to suffocate it somehow. So, when I saw the video for Rush I was just like, “This is fantastic,” because there is an energy to it. No matter what you’re into, you’re into the energy. 
TS: That’s great. 

JA: It’s contagious. I remember you did a very strange video that was an illustration and I really liked that. You’re not compromising on what people think they want, ultimately because I think you’re very good at making people question what they want. 
TS: That’s so good, thank you. The process felt similar to me [to previous work] so now I’m like, “Did something change out there or did something change with me?” I don’t know what is different this time, but it’s really nice. What are your markers of success, personally? What makes you feel like you did good? 

JA: It depends. When I do a show you can kind of tell. I know something is right when you suddenly gain creative momentum outside of the show space. In fashion you’re trying to do visuals, song, set. You also have a very narrow amount of people in the room, so you have to trust those people are able to transcend that outside the room, and the clothing has to be really good. You have a very strange amount of things outside of your control, then it has to hit the right moment, socially, politically, and financially. Fashion is a weird game of predicting the future because you’re making something that is going to be sold in six months; you have no idea what is going to happen. When the pandemic happened, I did a show in a black-and-white space, I thought it was a great show but by the time I’d finished it a week later, that collection would never ever go into store. You start to realise as much as you can try to predict the future, you can’t really. You have to take a risk. So each time it’s sort of like trying to see where society and trends are going to be in six to seven months. 
TS: Is that a logical thought process, or do you trust your gut? 

shorts and wings both by LOEWE FW23

“This album, for me, was about having the biggest go I’ve ever had at trying to do the main pop girl thing.”

JA: You have to trust your gut. At the same time you always have to remember it is going to make your life feel incredibly fast, because you’re projecting into the future and then you’re re-seeing what you’ve done again. [laughs] It’s a very strange process. It’s been ten years now that I’ve been doing both JW Anderson and Loewe at the same time. I just wrapped up working on a film with Luca Guadagnino, which is based on Queer by William S. Burroughs, and it was the first time I’d stepped outside of my industry. I planned everything, went away for a month, did this film, then suddenly your life slows down slightly and you’re like, “Oh my god, what the fuck is going on?” [laughs] “Who am I? Why do I do this? Why do I want to produce creativity?” I have never found creativity a job and it’s never felt like I’m getting up to ‘do a job’, but as I get older and as things become bigger, it changes. When I joined Loewe it was tiny, and now it’s this giant monster that just continues to get bigger and bigger, parts of it do become a job. You forget to go, “Oh, I need to stop now.” I always think of myself ten years ago being like, “I’m here, I’m proving myself,” and you continue going with that energy. Then as it does start to work… It’s not that you get more confident, it’s that you get more confident in the process. 
TS: I feel exactly the same way. I have to actually stop to recognise things are very different now to when I first started, and I don’t have to have that same frantic ambition. I’m still very ambitious, but you have to realise you did it, you can relax a little bit and enjoy the process more. I like that you jump around [between industries]. When I started working more in film and TV, that felt like a holiday compared to music, because it was much less for me to think about; I showed up, I was told what to do and say, I just had to worry about that for the day. But after a while, coming back to music felt like a holiday because I was like, “Oh my god, I can do whatever I want!” I think taking the time to move around and change when you’re still creating, just in a different form, can sometimes be a nice reset. Then sometimes it’s important to do nothing at all as well.

jeans and hat both

JA: That’s one process I’m trying to get my head around – learning to do nothing at all is one of the hardest things. I think sometimes the arts are seen as frivolous, maybe it’s just in Britain, but it’s like you decide to write books because you have time to write books, or the knowledge and wealth to write a book, or the anxiety to write a book. Or you’re a musician because you have the luxury to be a musician, so therefore you’re a free person within society. When I was at school, everyone who was incredibly intelligent wanted to be a doctor. I wasn’t incredibly intelligent in terms of maths and doing whatever homework we had to do, so the arts was this strange get-out clause somehow. I didn’t fit the mould so it was like, “You’re going to go out and be a vagabond.” People underestimate how creativity is an incredibly draining muscle in the brain, because you’re trying to make something that’s 360. It has to be able to surround people in a room or a club or a concert, and that takes another type of mindset. If you look at fashion over the last ten years, the growth as an industry in terms of sales is insane. You’ve got so many markets that are now buying it, and it’s never been more part of popular culture, The Met [Gala] has turned into the Super Bowl. Fashion shows happen at great landmarks around the world, it has become this bigger thing and that’s a lot to do with social media – which you know more about than I do. Do you think social media has changed music? 
TS: One thousand percent. I grew up in Perth, which is the most isolated city in the world, the next city is a three-hour flight away. So there was no music industry or anything like that. I started online and I just don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for social media, I don’t know where I would be. I was addicted to it, both personally, professionally, sexually, it was my way to connect to the world because my ‘real’ world was so small. Then, over time, as my real life started to get bigger, I started to travel and meet more people, and I kind of drifted away from it. This is my first time releasing an album with TikTok being a ‘thing’ and I’m actually re-connecting with social media in a way that was unexpected for me. I’m remembering how much joy it brings me to just share – it’s constant content creation. I think, “This might make me laugh,” or “This might make people sad,” it’s just another form of expression. I’m starting to really value what TikTok has become, for a while it was like, “Go on there, do a dance and that’s what it is,” now it’s totally changed. It’s really just this open platform that can be anything you want it to be, or anything you make it, I think that’s been really freeing. I actually feel more connected to people now than I have in the last six or seven years, it’s become my friend again rather than something I actively avoid, but I still try and keep a pretty big distinction between real life and social media. It has been such an interesting thing, going through the process of promoting an album with TikTok as a platform. It can be weird – for example, when I’m at one of your shows, you’re experiencing it in real life but the event is also like this meta-online event. It’s like you’re existing in this cyber world at the same time as real life, any moment of your day can permeate online, and that’s a new thing. 

vest by DSQUARED2 FW23; jeans

“My ambitions will change, and that’s the nice thing about being in the creative field, you can push and pull with your mood, your desire and your ambition throughout time.”

JA: How old are you?
TS: I’m 28.

JA: I’m a decade older than you. I remember when there was none of it, I witnessed this complete transition in fashion. You used to have to make sure Anna Wintour liked you, then you’d have to meet with her, or you’d meet with journalists, and you would try and get an interview. It was very clunky, there was a bandwidth you had to get through, whether it was magazines, or TV. I remember when blogs started, I tried to set up a blog and it was ridiculous, I’m useless at technology, my brain doesn’t function that way at all. It is a very strange sensation to be able to have this feeling of what it was before and what it is after, there are pros and cons to both. I love to share, I’ve always been about taking the veil down and removing hierarchy. Having to prove myself to a small group of people doesn’t work so, for me, social media is a really good way for me to say, “I’ll launch the campaign, why should we have someone else launch the campaign?” We are the media ultimately. The danger is you then fall into the media and lose yourself, you’re playing an invisible battle to promote something, get interactions or comments. As much as the algorithms on social media can probably tell you what you are most likely to have for dinner, or your favourite colour and who you like – the problem is, I think society has been able to use it as a type of algorithm for themselves. You can work out the psychology behind someone very quickly. We employ a lot of people and I usually do it through the vibe or the body language or character, I can always tell when I do an interview with someone, I’ll never really look at their portfolio. When you have something like Instagram, you can also see how people interact socially. It’s quite strange, you start to see when a certain designer is not in a good mood, or someone is unhappy or incredibly happy, or if someone’s in love and when they’re not in love. It is quite scary, and also quite amazing, because without knowing it we give everything over. That is fascinating to me, I think it fundamentally changes how we operate in society.
TS: I’m really enjoying being hyper-aware of my life and the content that comes from it at the moment – I’m enjoying that process right now, I know I’ve got new music and I’m really enjoying connecting with people in that way, but then I’m also so excited to just not think about it afterwards. That’s a luxury I think I have, as a musician, there is a really nice cycle, you go and hibernate to make the album, then you put it out and that’s peak exposure, then you get to go on tour. Tour for me feels quite insular. Even though you’re in front of all these people every night, it’s strangely a lonely experience sometimes. You’re travelling, you’re in hotel rooms, it’s peace and quiet until the show. That cycle works really well for my brain. Right as I feel I need something, I get it through that process. I’m really looking forward to just not having to be loud all the time, it’s not in my nature. Innately it’s not comfortable for me. 

jacket from ELLIOT SORIANO ARCHIVE; shorts by MAISON MARGIELA FW23; boots, worn throughout, by JW ANDERSON FW23

JA: There is nothing worse than over-exposure. Especially in luxury, the more you over-expose the more dangerous it becomes, and I think that applies to many different things, the more you over-expose something the less impact it has, people become used to it. Film is different because they go into this weird blitz of press because it has to make the money quickly. But sometimes I find with certain singers – not you – they have hit after hit and you’re like, “I can’t listen to this anymore.” You want people to have longer careers but I feel like the system is built around shorter careers, especially in fashion. I’m even surprised I’ve been at Loewe for ten years, it makes me feel like a fossil. Every single creative industry goes at such high speed, which means you have to sometimes put the brakes on, even when it’s really good. As much as you’re about trying to connect to a large audience, you don’t want to bore them. 
TS: That’s really interesting. This album, for me, was about having the biggest go I’ve ever had at trying to do the main pop girl thing. I was like, “This is the moment when I want to try, this is where I’m full throttle. Let’s make the pop video, the pop album.” Not for any sort of commercial motivation, but I’m just such a fan of pop music, pop culture, and real pop stars like Janet Jackson. That’s so inspiring to me. I’m curious what the pendulum swing is going to feel like for me after this, because this [specific approach] is not something I want to maintain for my entire life. My ambitions will change, and that’s the nice thing about being in the creative field, you can push and pull with your mood, your desire and your ambition throughout time. After this, the thing that sounds nice to me is making something where I purposefully push myself to not think about connecting with as many people as possible, to make something that is just interesting to me. But at the same time, when I was making this album, making [a big pop record] was what was interesting to me – and it still is. So I’m just curious to see where my brain lands next. 

jacket and shorts both by JW ANDERSON FW23

“Because of the world I exist in, nothing I’m making feels particularly radical to me. So I think sometimes I forget that, to other people, some of these choices are quite bold.”

trousers by CELINE HOMME W23

JA: You’re in this lucky position where you can work within two different creative fields, sometimes you have to break into another creative space to be able to fuel the one you’re already in. That cross-pollination should happen more, that’s why I love doing collaborations with artists, because being an artist is my dream. I would probably be bored as hell but I would love to be able to just paint a painting and then be like, “I’m going to only paint four paintings a year.” Oh! To just paint a painting, being able to create this thing that is nearly an entire show in one. When you work with these people, it fuels you in a different way and makes you think differently. Fashion and music work really well together because I think there is an appreciation. Whereas, when I work with architects… or when I speak to a very good writer, I always feel slightly on the hop, I feel very, “Of course, I work in a frivolous, disastrous industry!” [laughs] I’m already destroying myself. Let’s move on to sexuality and masculinity, because we both push boundaries in this area. Why is that important to you? What is gender to you right now as a queer person? 
TS: Because of the world I exist in, nothing I’m making feels particularly radical to me. So I think sometimes I forget that, to other people, some of these choices are quite bold. I’ve always done what’s felt genuine, I’ve let that guide me and I don’t really think about it that much. I put something up on Instagram the other day and I was like, “I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I’m just gay, so I was being gay in the music video.” That’s sort of my approach to it. I want to celebrate my sexuality, my friends’ sexuality and I want to celebrate real life. When it came to the Rush video, for example, we were like, “Is this too much?” And I was like, “No.” I made the video with friends and we’re at parties with dark rooms every weekend, it’s our life. It’s just always been about being real. I’ve never really struggled with my gender, I think because I’ve always thought everyone should be able to exist however they want. I’ve always felt comfortable identifying as a man but what does that even mean? If I want to wear a dress I do, if I want to wear make-up I do, I think that’s always been something I haven’t really stressed about. But I will say that’s something I love about your clothes. I feel like you make clothes for me. [laughs] When I was at the most recent Loewe show, I would have worn everything. You’re obviously trying to make clothes that appeal to a lot of people but your clothes still feel very queer to me. How does that push and pull work for you? How do you manage to pull off that inherent fluidity?

trousers by CELINE HOMME W23

JA: For me, it feels like the idea of looking good, or thinking about yourself, is somehow this ‘effeminate or queer’ cycle in a human. In the 1800s it was seen as a symbol of status, if you were in the French Court you would be perceived as a very wealthy person. Then we had the Second World War and everything changed in terms of men’s fashion. The interaction between men and fashion has now gone to this other stratosphere I would never have imagined – they have embraced the idea of fashion, beauty and looking after themselves. When I was younger, David Beckham coming out in a sarong was the front page of the Daily Mail, it was ‘horror’. The first collection I did, I had no money, I made a lot out of felt that was used for making duffle coats. It was ruffled shorts, bustier tops, and shift dresses cut in duffle fabric, but really it was just a sleeveless t-shirt that went to a certain length with knee-high boots. It was a very simple collection, one of the simplest I’ve ever done, and I remember the next morning waking up to the Daily Mail destroying me. It was like, “How could this person get funded by the British Fashion Council? What is this circus?” This was more than fifteen years ago, which makes me feel old. My whole obsession was with these two images of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe and they’re both wearing the white shirt. For me, in my head, it was like, “There is no distinction between the two of these things, it is a white shirt.” It wasn’t subconsciously about gender, because [Jean Paul] Gaultier had tackled queer culture within fashion, this was more practical. It was like, “This garment is not unisex it is just a shirt, who wears it is what will make the difference.” It was kind of crazy to see the reaction in people and how people either really loved in a way that was like, “This feels very new,” or it was met with the rejection of, “Why would you put this out?” Now, when I do fashion shows, if I was to put that down the runway they would be like, “That’s incredibly boring, what is that?” I’m at a different stage now where I feel like I’m stripping everything away, I’m even finding that in my own life, I feel like I need more white walls in my house. I really liked the last menswear show I did because it was really just one silhouette. 
TS: Which I loved. 

JA: It’s amazing what time can do, and it’s amazing what time can do to undo. As much as things have progressed loads, you still realise part of society is not there yet. As much as it feels like it’s changed, there is so much that hasn’t. 
TS: Because it’s such a huge operation that you run, I’m really interested in creative delegation, how you manage that and how you trust or don’t trust. How good are you at relying on the people around you creatively? 

JA: It’s a very difficult one because ultimately, you don’t want to turn people into pens. I’ve got better at it over time because I could see myself as a little bit of a control freak, I think that has been the success and sometimes the downfall of it. [laughs] I feel like the people I work with the best are people I could completely fall in love with or could get completely wasted with. They’re thinking in the same mindset as you but at the same time, you can joke about it. I hate ‘yes’ people, and I hate people who sit there and I have to write it out. The minute I have to pick up a pen and draw something to explain is when I know that something isn’t working. 
TS: That is so interesting. 

“I’m really looking forward to just not having to be loud all the time, it’s not in my nature. Innately it’s not comfortable for me.”


JA: I feel like if you’re on my wavelength and you believe in the project, it should just tell you what to do. 
TS: How do you make people feel comfortable enough? Because surely they don’t always get it right. 

JA: I get it wrong sometimes. Then you have to pretend you didn’t get it wrong. [laughs] I think you have to trust. The biggest thing when you learn to delegate is you have to understand people are human and they’re going to get things wrong like you do, but if you have a clear enough message, they’re going to get on your wavelength and suggest better things. I work with Frédéric Sanchez who does the music and there is nothing more exciting than when the music is bang on. You’re like, “I never thought we should have Sylvia Plath reading a poem meeting Daft Punk, but let’s do it I love it.” 
TS: It’s so interesting to think about it like that, because with the privilege of an audience, or a big company behind you, you can become a platform for other people to bring their talent and perspective. I’m so inspired by this conversation, it makes me want to go into the studio with people. I’ve always said my favourite thing when writing a song is when the song surprises me, that’s when I’ve made myself proud. I know my instincts like the back of my hand, and they’re boring to me sometimes, I wait for that magic moment when something surprises me. Sometimes it comes from me, but oftentimes it comes from other people. That’s one of the most joyous parts of the process for me. Once you have those people you can really trust around you, it’s cool to think about it like you’re all using this platform together rather than it being one person’s.

JA: I work with the stylist Benjamin Bruno, I’ve worked with him for fifteen years. What I love about him is that he will take absolutely zero bullshit from me. He challenges me creatively and personally. I think you need these individuals who are the hard-mile people, who bring out creativity inside of you. When you have someone who can trigger good and bad feelings out of you, you can get really good creative results. When I did the last menswear show I think I was completely lost, I’m still in the process of trying to work out, “Why am I doing this? What is happening in my life?” But I would have never been able to create that collection if I didn’t feel like that – because it became about the search for the new. So I think it’s about surrounding yourself with very dynamic people, working with Luca Guadagnino is dynamic, working with Daniel Craig is like you’re seeing a different kind of mentality. 
TS: It makes me think about my ex-boyfriend. Without realising it, he used to creatively direct my projects. It was always really beautiful, he actually later ended up becoming a creative director, which I’m super happy about because I think that’s what he’s destined to do. But I used to get frustrated with him at the time because he was one of the only people who could make me want to cry about a creative decision I had made, because I valued his opinion so much. When I first became single, that was something I really missed. Having someone creatively hold you to task and push you, I think I don’t respond well to creative pushback because I’m really not used to it, but in hindsight, and now speaking to you, I want someone who is going to make me upset! [laughs] Someone who is going to say, “You’re not pushing it enough,” when I think I’m at my limit. 

JA: I think having it in a relationship is probably the most difficult thing, it’s better to find it outside of a relationship. I’ve been in a situation where you become addicted to that drug, where you rely on the tension because you want their creative kickback, and at the same time want to sleep with this person. [laughs] When you find it outside of a relationship, it’s actually quite amazing because it is not about sexual chemistry. But I understand that feeling 100 percent. 
TS: I do have it now in people that I’m not in romantic relationships with, and it just feels less personal – which is a good thing – but sometimes I miss that extra fire. Thinking, “This is the person whose opinion I care about most in the world,” so when they give you creative feedback it’s the most intense experience. 

JA: Or where people don’t care at all. [both laugh] I’ll be like, “Oh I did this amazing show,” and they’re like, “I didn’t see it.” 
TS: Heartbroken. 

vest by DSQUARED2 FW23

Interview originally published in HERO 30. 

photography assistants BYRON NICKLEBERRY and AUSTIN DURANT;
fashion assistant ELLIOT SORIANO;
digital tech MICHAEL PREMAN;

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