The Gospel According to Ethel Cain

That’s something Anhedönia is not only aware of, but has actively attempted to harness. Her sentimental attachment to the culture of her upbringing is a potent force, even as she gently satirizes its motifs of hymns, American flags, and crucifixes. Raised on a diet of Christian music and Gregorian chants—punctuated occasionally by the strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd when it was just her and her father in his car—Anhedönia’s only glimpses of the world outside came through peering the slats her grandparents’ staircase as they watched horror movies or true-crime documentaries in the evening. 

This breezy blend of the sacred and the profane has come to define both Anhedönia’s music and her razor-sharp eye for fashion. Even over Zoom, she has the air of one of Shirley Jackson’s troubled heroines by way of Sissy Spacek in Badlands, with a touch of Picnic at Hanging Rock’s Gothic femininity thrown in for good measure. A cross necklace might be paired with a thrash metal band tee, or a floaty Gunne Sax dress given a more dangerous edge by the delicate tattoos that line her hairline and hands—including one of her most beloved lyrics, “God loves you, but not enough to save you.”

“My parents pretty much dressed us until I moved out of the house, and so I had no autonomy or creativity with clothes when I was growing up,” says Anhedönia. “After I moved out, I had this explosion of being able to buy any clothes I wanted, and for about two years I rapidly cycled through everything, just seeing what stuck.” She remembers rewatching Little House on the Prairie a few weeks after she moved into her first home, and immediately searching Etsy for dresses in that style, finally purchasing one that a seller had made by hand. “It came in the mail and I put it on and it was like I was being possessed,” she says. “There’s no reason I should have felt that amazing in this stuffy old dress, but ever since then, I’ve just been obsessed with the high collars and the bell sleeves and the tasteful modesty of this American old-timey garb.”

Given Anhedönia’s distinct sartorial identity, she seemed long overdue for discovery by a major fashion house. The first to come knocking, somewhat surprisingly, was Givenchy, whose identity under creative director Matthew Williams is rooted more in sleek tailoring and industrial details than the gloomy, romantic Americana of Anhedönia’s style, even if the pairing does make an unexpected kind of sense. Their collaboration began when Anhedönia reposted an Instagram story from Williams in which he professed his love for her third EP, Inbred. “Someone messaged me saying, ‘Wait, do you know who that is?’” Anhedönia says. “I honestly didn’t know, as I don’t really follow fashion.” After exchanging a few DMs that involved sending a copy of the EP Williams’s way, a year or so later, she was invited to Paris to shoot a campaign for Givenchy. “As an artist, singer and songwriter, Ethel has created a world all her own,” says Williams of his fascination with Anhedönia’s work. “While addressing serious themes, she weaves all these different inspirations and threads together into a unique form of self-expression and beauty.”

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