Karlie Kloss may be known as the quintessential girl-next-door, but make no mistake about her ambitions as a young woman in the fashion industry. She is a supermodel hell-bent on achieving her dreams and making a difference in the world.
In person, Kloss comes across as endearingly sweet and exceedingly determined — qualities that have served her well over the years in cementing her supermodel-entrepreneur status. It is perhaps this duality of beauty and brains which prompted Carolina Herrera to sign Kloss as the face of the ‘Good Girl’ fragrance (which, incidentally, was only launched two years ago and has become one of the best-selling perfumes of all time).
Below, our Editor-in-Chief Haleh Nia interviews Kloss while in New York. The two discuss work ethic, dualities in women, and much more.
It’s been almost two years that you’ve been working with the Carolina Herrera brand now, Karlie. What has the experience been like?
I absolutely love it. I worship and adore Mrs. Herrera, and actually every woman in the Herrera family. There is this realness and strength, a real duality, to this fragrance, which I really identify with.
I think every woman has duality in who they are. We are not just one thing, and that is evidenced by Mrs. Herrera herself, who is an icon and an incredibly elegant woman that I got to work with over the course of my career. I just love and respect the way she is so powerful. The world that we are living in today is all about the shock factor, and what I value is her elegance and strength and grace and the power in it. It’s not simple at all.
And she’s hysterically funny, too. She was telling jokes [at dinner] last night. We couldn’t stop laughing!
Oh my God, yes, she has a wicked sense of humor!
Can you talk about your experience shooting the Good Girl campaign?
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to take on so many different characters. In the ‘Good Girl’ campaign, I am this powerful, elegant, and fearless woman who has a very dramatic effect when she walks. When Good Girl moves, cars crash and tables flip over! The shoot was really fun and empowering.
I think every woman has duality in who they are. We are not just one thing.
Do you get the impression sometimes that you are living in the middle of a campaign?
Absolutely! That is the magic of fashion and beauty, that you can take on new characters and personas. Even better, you can feel like the best version of yourself. When I walk down the street, cars don’t crash and tables don’t flip over, but I love the feeling the perfume gives me. It’s a silent confidence.
Mrs. Herrera told me last night that she thinks of you as “The quintessential good girl with a dark side”. Do you agree with this statement?
I love this statement and I am so honored she thinks that. There are so many parts of what I am and what I do and that’s just being a modern woman. I wouldn’t say that I have a dark side, but I do have a fun side and a less well-behaved side. I mean, I am 25 years old and I have so much left to do!
Do you believe there is a double standard with women having a “naughty” side? We wouldn’t think twice about a man with one…
“Naughty side”, in my opinion, has something to do with being bold and being daring and taking risks. I don’t think a naughty side necessarily has a negative side; I think it’s more of coloring outside the lines or being confident in whatever it is you are doing that is not expected, but I think that culturally or in society it’s kind of expected for men to take risks, and for women not so much. And I think that is a double standard. That’s false. I think women are capable of everything and there are so many examples in the history of the world, with so many incredible women like Mrs. Herrera who have the duality to manage all aspects of life: Raising a family and being an incredible mother, but also being a businesswoman and taking risks. I think she defies the odds.
Good Girl has become an iconic fragrance in a very short time. Apart from its unique shape, a midnight blue stiletto, what makes it so special?
The bottle is unique; there is nothing like it out there. But the message behind the fragrance is what really sets it apart. Good Girl encourages us to embrace every aspect of who we are, which is really powerful.
Do you wear perfume everyday?
I do. It doesn’t matter if I am wearing jeans or a gown, the last thing I do before leaving the house is spray on some Good Girl. It is the ultimate accessory.
How would you define the Good Girl woman? What does she mean for you?
I identify with the dualities of Good Girl – that we can be many things all at once. The ultimate Good Girl is Mrs. Herrera herself! She represents that juxtaposition: she is sophisticated and elegant, but she is also fearless and free-spirited.
You know the brand very well: you opened and closed a show for Carolina Herrera in 2008 — it was one of the first shows you opened and closed in your career. Which values of the brand do you feel you identify with?
I adore this house, not only for its style and aesthetic, but for its spirit. Carolina Herrera is the epitome of New York style. The designs are classic and modern. I also value Mrs. Herrera’s definition of elegance. It goes beyond what you are wearing — it’s how you carry yourself and how you live your life.
You started out very early in your modeling career, and it is a very different time now for young models. Do you think it is more difficult for young girls to make it in fashion considering all the pressures of social media?
I think it’s an interesting time in the fashion industry. I think everyone feels this pressure to market and brand themselves on social media, and that is the part of the game that has changed since I started out. And everyone has to become a part of it, whether you are a brand or a person. I think as a model you have this opportunity to be a muse and you have this career that you really can use in so many great ways. I think it’s actually a great time! I think if I would have started today, it would have been a very different experience, I feel very lucky and grateful that I started when I did because I got to experience being backstage when there was no such thing as lifestreaming or tweeting from backstage and there was a lot more energy and presence as opposed to sharing with the world, but actually physically and emotionally being present. So I feel like the whole industry has changed and I think for a model there is something, a bit of a magic that’s been lost because everyone is distracted with trying to manage other things. But I think there is a positive side of doing it too because I wouldn’t have the ability to send a message to many people if I didn’t have these platforms. I think it’s still important to be great at the job and that’s a part of my career and I love it.
Being happy is the best moisturizer!
What is your biggest beauty secret?
Take care of yourself from the inside out. Eating well, exercising, and practicing self-care will have a positive impact on your mind and body. The most useful beauty hacks are things that money can’t buy: how much sleep you get, how much water you drink, and having a sense of inner peace and happiness. One of the values of Mrs. Herrera is her joy of life — la alegría de vivir. Being happy is the best moisturizer!
Our moving culture involves taking planes and cars, continuously answering phone messages and checking work emails when we should be resting… All this can be exhausting. How do you manage to stay in shape and maintain peace of mind?
Even though we have busy lives, we should never compromise our health. I try and find smaller moments throughout the day to take care of myself. When I can’t go to the gym, I take the stairs instead of the elevator or I do floor exercises in my hotel room. I also carry healthy snacks with me and meditate whenever I have any downtime, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
You studied ballet when you were younger, what did you learn from that discipline?
Ballet makes you aware of your own body, which was really useful when I started my modeling career. I understood movement and posture and all of these other things that are integral to walking down the runway or modeling during a photo shoot. I also learned a lot of discipline and self-motivation from ballet. When you’re dancing every day after school for a ballet company, it pushes you to show up and work hard for it. Ballet was the best possible training ground for my modeling career today.
It is important to invest in yourself and never underestimate what’s possible in your life.
Could you describe your experience working with Carolina Herrera and Carolina Herrera de Baez?Seeing them together as both a dynamic entrepreneurial duo and family unit is really inspiring. I admire their elegance, charisma and joyful attitudes. It’s such an honor to work with people like the Herreras who are passionate about what they do.
Who are the women that inspire you?
I have always looked up to Carolina Herrera, who has been a role model of mine since I began my career. I greatly admire her powerful elegance and sophisticated grace. I also value her naughty side — she has a wicked sense of humor! I grew up in a house full of women. I have three sisters, and my mum and my grandmother were incredible role models for us all. My grandma was this positive, warm and incredibly strong person. I have learned a lot from her.
With Kode With Klossy you are helping to break the stigma that you have to be a math or engineering wiz to be interested in code; can you talk about that project?
Kode With Klossy is an organization I launched in 2014 to empower girls to learn code and become leaders in tech. We provide free, two-week summer camps where girls ages 13 to 18 explore concepts in front-end and back-end software engineering. Code is a life skill that can be applied to so many industries, but too few women are represented in STEM careers and classrooms. We work to provide early access to computer science education, breakdown the barriers to entry for women in STEM, and increase the representation of women in technology.
When did you decide it was important for you to make a difference?
Giving back has always been important to me. Growing up, I wanted to choose a career that would help others, such as being a doctor or teacher. While my career took an unexpected turn in fashion, I knew I wanted to use the platform I had developed as a model to give back, which is part of how Kode With Klossy started. After I took my first coding class in 2014, I immediately thought of the young women and girls who followed me, and knew that they would benefit from this learning opportunity as well. The most rewarding part of this experience has been the Kode With Klossy scholars and the community of brilliant young women that have emerged from our camps. They have gone on to win hackathons, build apps that serve their communities, and pursue computer science degrees at top universities. They inspire me every day and are the reason we continue to grow our program.
Why do you think there is no gender equality in technology?
There have been great women in computer science throughout history, but unfortunately their names are often less known. Ada Lovelace, a tech visionary, was the world’s first computer programmer, and during WWI and WWII, many women were working in technical positions. Women exist in these fields but not in equal numbers, and the gender gap is unfortunately increasing. In order to close the gap and increase representation of women in tech, we need to promote early access to computer science education opportunities and celebrate the women who are currently working in STEM fields, so young women and girls have role models to look up to.
You demonstrate a really strong work ethic. Where does it come from?
Thank you! My father is an emergency room doctor and growing up I was always inspired by his strong work ethic and dedication. Both my parents taught me that hard work and kindness towards others are the keys to success.
What advice would you have for all the young women who look up to you?
Don’t put limits on your potential. If you told me ten years ago what my career would look like at age 25, I would not have believed you. It is important to invest in yourself and never underestimate what’s possible in your life.