In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an unlikely haven for big-name celebrities existed beneath the Marc Jacobs store in New York City. Inside the original flagship on Mercer Street, past the dressing rooms and clothing racks, at the back of the store and down the stairs to the basement, was Robert Rich, Marc Jacobs’ vice president of public relations for the store at the time. A windowless office that doubled as a safe haven for her famous friends — Winona Ryder, Sofia Coppola, Kate Moss and Grace Jones.
“It was like my clubhouse,” Rich told me on a recent afternoon from his home in Manhattan. “Nobody could see us. “It might be noisy outside with the paparazzi on the street, but down in the office we’ll be fine.” In that basement, Rich spent countless hours photographing stars coming in and out of his workspace for fittings (or just hanging out) with a Polaroid camera. And there, he developed what he describes as “instant trust” and a decades-long friendship, especially with Ryder, with whom he became quite close over the years. Standing in front of the infamous “mood board” wall of Rich’s office – where he taped photos taken out of magazines for inspiration – Ryder posed with silly abandon, wearing strange get-ups or making funny faces. Felt free. Camera.
Now, a collection of those intimate photos of Ryder will be published in a hardcover book, titled Winona, From publisher IDEA. The book includes more than 100 images of Ryder in Rich’s basement office — but it also includes paparazzi photos of the two of them shopping or having lunch in Soho, taken straight from the pages of. star Magazine and New York Post, (Rich has been described as a “mysterious man” in these articles.) There are images of their more glamorous nights out, such as when Rich and Ryder attended the 2009 Met Gala together. Rich recalls, “Mark was hosting with Kate Moss, Selma Blair was there, Anne Hathaway was there, Madonna was with Mark because she had just done the LV ads.” “And Mark’s table was full of Brazilians.”
And of course, there are plenty of images of their time spent together as BFFs. “We went to movies together, we relaxed at night,” says Rich, pointing to photos of Ryder taken on his bathroom floor. “I was in LA for a long time and she was in New York for a long time, so I would see her whenever I was out there, and vice versa. And it was so funny, because every time I saw her, she was doing a different movie and I wouldn’t recognize her right away. She was always completely different – with blonde hair, long hair, short hair. “It takes me five seconds to realize – oh my God, it’s Winona.”
Both worked together on the book. “I let her take out whatever she wanted or whatever she didn’t like,” says Rich. But when he came to the decision that he would publish photos from 20-or-so years together, There were some photos he knew he had to include. “The day we were hanging out with Kate Moss was in my office with Keanu Reeves’ mom Patricia Taylor – she’s a good friend of mine,” he says. “It was just a fun day. Even Mark stopped by to say hello. Kate was cutting clothes off Winona’s body; “We had long dresses, she would make them into short dresses.” Rich believes this was the first time Ryder and Moss met: “I think they saw each other once at a party or something, but this was the first time they talked and got together.” Roamed around,” he recalls. “I always thought they could be friends. It was a great place for them to meet without anyone around. And he hit it off.
But photographs of Ryder at his weakest do not show his face at all. There are a group of images that show her naked midsection, breasts covered with her hands. They look like they were shot on a flip phone camera, capturing a level of intimacy you won’t see in professional or editorial shots. Here, however, Rich’s memory gets a little hazy: “I don’t think there’s a story behind those pictures,” he says. “Maybe we were getting ready because she was wearing a ‘Protect the Skin You’re In’ T-shirt? Maybe we were preparing for this… because she had never taken off her clothes for a photographer before. But he did it for Marc and Robert Rich!”