She blazed into the fashion ﬁrmament when Gucci launched a bag named after her. But just who is Zumi Rosow?
Rosow at the Gucci Zumi launch party in Chengdu.
Zumi Rosow was in the van last year on tour with Atlanta-based garage rock band Black Lips, when she received a phone call from her agency, telling her that Gucci was going to make a bag and name it after her. “I honestly thought I was dreaming; it was so surreal. I started to scream,” she tells BAZAAR. Known in the punk rock milieu as the saxophonist in Black Lips, Rosow also plays in a pop duo called Crush with her boyfriend, guitarist Cole Alexander, acts in experimental films and designs jewellery. Since becoming the muse of Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele, her exotic image has been invading the mainstream media.
“When I saw him [Michele] for the first time, my impression was that he was angelic, very attentive, absorbing everything around him, like a beautiful, sweet and enlightened prince,” says Rosow, who designed a piece of jewellery for Michele as thanks for the homage.
Rosow's eclectic style encompasses lace gloves, loud prints and chunky pearl accessories
The Zumi launched at Gucci’s spring/summer 2019 fashion show at the Théâtre Le Palace in Paris, when Rosow walked the runway in a black nylon two-piece, toting a python leather version of the bag. Since then, the bag has taken off, seen on the arms of celebrities like Salma Hayek, Saoirse Ronan and Lou Doillon. It has a formal, structured design and carries much of the House’s history within it—boasting not just the signature horsebit but also the iconic interlocking Gs. “It’s beautiful, timeless, elegant and classic,” Rosow says, finding it a rather ironic joke to have a bag that contrasts so sharply with her own personal style.
Fashion-wise, Rosow goes for clothes that make her feel powerful and sexy. “I don’t like anything that restrains me.” Sheer fabrics, cutouts, plunging necklines and hot pants are as welcome in her concert looks as trouser suits and retro dresses, almost always signed off by Gucci.
The bag also comes in a smaller version—the Gucci Zumi Mini Chain Shoulder Flap Bag.
Indeed, even off-stage Zumi’s look is striking: An eccentric, off-kilter aesthetic stamped with a strong rocker footprint. Lean and tall, she has a singular and unusual beauty that references Eastern European standards more than Los Angeles ones, where she was born. From her black hair finishing in a pointed fringe contrasting dramatically with her pale skin, to the broken tooth that she decided not to fix, to her expressive nose—her features somehow combine to make her the ideal muse for the current Gucci moment.
In the midst of the fashion buzz, Rosow car r ies on with her commitments as an artist. She and Black Lips are about to finalise their ninth album, due to be released in October—but only the second one with Zumi in the line-up. The band has been on the road for 19 years. “I started six years ago as a part-time member,” she says, adding that since then, in tandem, she and Alexander have been recording several songs and videos together. “We intend to release them soon,” she says. “Some time ago, we decided to call ourselves Crush. I love it because it’s just the two of us creating something totally new.”
Rosow took on DJ duties at the Gucci Zumi launch party in Kyoto.
If Crush is about complete intimacy, Black Lips for Rosow is about being part of a family, one that has existed for a long time. Through the years the members have changed, such that the current line-up is completely different from the original one. In addition to Rosow and Alexander, musicians Jared Swilley, Oakley Munson and Jeff Clarke now appear onstage.
Her acting career follows a similar trajectory, and she has worked in independent horror and thriller productions such as Scary Love, released last year, in which she shared the screen with Tommy Wiseau, an actor best known for The Room, a cult classic considered the worst film of all time.
Rosow on the runway for the Gucci spring/summer 2019 show.
Being on a stage, she says, is like casting spells. “I’m not playing a character, it’s just me, but a more electrified version. The stage demands it from you, the audience demands it from you, so you become enlightened and radiate that heat back to the audience, hoping to enchant and intoxicate.”
ROSOW’S THOUGHTS ON...
I like to carry two bags: A small one with a chain strap and a larger one.
It’s magic to be able to make a living through the pure expression of one’s self.
I found a diary from when I was about eight. In it, I wrote that I wanted to marry a famous European director and be his muse.
I don’t create collections, but I’m always working on individual pieces.
There are many: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Patti Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, Suicide, Stan Getz, Alice Coltrane, Gene Rosow (my father), Linda Post (my mother).