What does it take to be the next big thing? Whether you say innovation, irreverence, or lots of flash, it’s undeniably the elusive It factor—that can’t-look-away but also can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it instinct—and we’re doubling down for It Girl, It Brand, our latest series, speaking to who and what is on the edge of being huge.
This month, we paired actress Hera Hilmar with Copenhagen-based brand Rotate by Birger Christensen. The marriage was a no-brainer: These are simply two of the most exciting up-and-coming names in entertainment and fashion. Hailing from Iceland, Hilmar is striking it big stateside with two buzzy projects this fall/winter season, The Romanoffs and Mortal Engines. Meanwhile, Rotate—launched by friends and street style fixtures Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Madsen—has already developed a cult following among the fashion set with its debut ready-to-wear collection, complete with ’80s-inspired minidresses and gorgeous textures. My advice? Add them both to your ones-to-watch list immediately.
In preparation for my interview with this month’s It Girl, It Brand subject, Hera Hilmar, I found myself one evening cheering for the Icelandic actress at a special screening and the very next morning shouting at my laptop in hatred. In less than 24 hours, I am introduced to Hilmar’s incredible range as an actor.
Eager to meet the talent behind such evocative roles as the resilient protagonist Hester Shaw in Peter Jackson’s latest fantasy-adventure film Mortal Engines (based on the young-adult novels by Philip Reeve) and the ruthless Ondine in Amazon’s The Romanoffs (trust me—it’s an episode not to be missed!), I brave a rare Los Angeles downpour and drive 30 minutes downtown to the Fashion District, the location for our Who What Wear shoot.
Of course, the Hilmar I meet in person is not at all like her devilish Romanoffs character. She is a warm presence on a chilly December day, arriving fresh off a prior press appearance wearing a floor-length black dress paired with a leather jacket and chunky boots, her blue eyes as captivating in real life as they are on the big screen. Not long into our time together, I learn she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t bat an eye at the suggestion of wearing not one, but two leg-baring minidresses despite the low-50s temps outside—all in the name of fashion, of course. She is cool, down-to-earth, and perfect company.
After a successful shoot (it was almost as if the rain stopped just for us), we post up next to a tiny portable heater and get to talking about the fun stuff: her biggest projects of the year, working with the UK’s It stylist, and why Iceland is her favorite destination for fashion inspiration. Keep reading for our conversation.
Mortal Engines is an adventure-fantasy film with a badass female at the center of it. What was the most exciting part of playing Hester Shaw and, on the flip side, the most challenging?
I think it’s kind of the same thing. To be able to go into the mental state, the physical state of someone who is carrying as much grief and anger as she is and then has to live with that every day, plus doesn’t really have any human interaction from the age of eight, you know, it’s a hard thing to imagine how it is for her. You know, what that is [for her] and how it feels, and how she can survive in that place. So, I thought that was the biggest challenge. But when you get there, and to go on that journey, is also very rewarding. You learn something new, and I guess you start to feel for her and know her in a way that you couldn’t really unless you went there.
Is there a day on set that stands out to you?
There is one where we had been shooting this scene—without spoiling anything—that is on top of an airship with one other person. It took like three days to film it; it was very action based and very emotionally filled. I think on the third day of shooting that scene, I just felt like I’m going to collapse, I just don’t think I can go any further, genuinely. And, of course, you don’t go like, Hey look, I’m absolutely drained; you just keep going.