‘Gloomy’ is an apt adjective for the weather in Geneva, Switzerland over the course of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the world’s most luxurious and exclusive watch fair. But on the morning of Savoir Flair’s interview with Karolina Kurkova – who turns 35 today – light has finally broken through the clouds. It almost feels as if she brought the sunshine with her.
In person, the radiant supermodel is warm, gregarious, and vivid, painting the air with graceful lines as she throws her arms up to mimic a basketball move when she talks about her dad’s coaching days or to relay her enthusiasm at the idea of zooming around the sky in a Spitfire aircraft. Although she passes two decades in the modeling industry this year, her face belies the years. She is preternaturally beautiful, yet spirited with her facial expressions. She is a natural when it comes to interpreting the myriad characters she has been asked to play and portray in photos over her long and legendary career, which underscores her continued relevance in the modeling world.
Incidentally, Kurkova is as versatile in real life as she is on the runway and in photoshoots. Not only is she a brand ambassador for IWC Schaffhausen and a perpetually booked supermodel, but she is also a mother of two young boys. Additionally, she’s a sports enthusiast, an amateur chef, and the co-founder of a brand new wellness brand for children called Gryph & IvyRose. One gets the sense that she would be restless if she was forced to just do one thing all of the time, that her boundless and cheerful energy would wane if she was asked to focus on a single project for a long period of time.
What’s more is that her enthusiasm and passion is infectious. It takes only a few minutes of basking in her glow to see how her magnetism works on a room full of people who want to stay in her orbit. In this exclusive interview, you’ll learn more about her dedication to the IWC family, her most memorable shoots, and what it’s like to raise two young boys as one of the world’s most notable models. Listen in.
How does being a IWC brand ambassador rank alongside your other significant career accomplishments?
It’s incredibly important to me. It’s nice to work with a company for longer than one season, to have a real relationship with the brand. You get to know each other, collaborate on things together – whether it’s for advertising or social media. You get to create content that is authentic because you know and understand each other.
IWC tailors the ambassadorship experience to every ambassador depending on where they are from, what their background and interests are, what their style is. You have a lot of creative freedom with IWC. It’s very rare to see that nowadays. It feels like you’re always coming back to your family. The longer you are together, the more beautifully the relationship develops.
You’ve been part of the IWC family for quite some time. Looking back, what have been some of your favorite moments working with the brand?
Oh my god, we’ve had so many. That’s one of the cool things about IWC – it’s always an adventure, always an experience. And always very different. I’ve been part of the ‘Portofino’ collections, so I got to travel to Portofino with IWC and experience the feel of the city, the food, the vibe, the music. Then we went together to visit Florence for the IWC Da Vinci collection and learn about the history of Leonardo Da Vinci and the beauty of that time.
The “Top Gun moment”, I haven’t experienced yet. I haven’t been in the Spitfire yet, but maybe I’ll get to sit in the plane, maybe even go up in the sky. We have the two pilots who are going around the entire world for IWC’s #SilverSpitfire activation, which is amazing, and I thought it would be cool for myself to go up – if I can even do that? I don’t know how fast it goes or what it requires, but even taking a picture in it would be cool. It’s hard to pick just one moment that I’ve loved the most with IWC because there have been so many, all so different from one another. They’re each an immersion into a theme which, to me, coming from a modeling background. It’s great to have that kind of inspiration.
I vividly remember a 2001 shoot for which you dressed up as Marilyn Manson; Pat McGrath had done an amazing job on your makeup. Which other shoots have allowed you to explore different characters and sides of yourself?
Well, every time I work, I have a chance to embody different roles. I’m not afraid to be raw, weird, or funny even. I’ll take any role that isn’t me personally, but I am still drawing from myself at the same time.
The Marilyn Manson shoot was one of the most iconic ones I did. I had to get my whole body painted white, get the eyeballs and the hair right. I remember when they were casting everyone for the story. When they were telling people I would be Marilyn Manson, they were like, “Uh, really?” Because I am this blonde with long legs. Even I was like, “Me? Marilyn Manson?” I couldn’t picture it, but it turned out really good. I remember walking around the studio, saying hi to people, and they didn’t know it was me! So they would look around like, “Why is [Marilyn Manson] saying hi to me?” I looked just like him, and people close to him said he loved it because I embodied him so well. That was definitely very memorable.
Wearing Victoria’s Secret Angel wings and those diamonds bras come to mind – being an Angel was also very memorable. I didn’t grow up like that, so it was an amazing experience. Over the years, I’ve gotten to play so many roles: I’ve played a boy, I’ve played Monica Vitti in the Versace campaign, I’ve played Sofia Loren.
Just as you’re incredibly versatile when embodying different characters on set, you are also versatile with your interests. Beyond modeling, you are interested in sports and even have a cooking show called What’s Cooking with Karolina? What made you decide to launch this venture?
I have two boys, so I cook a lot at home. I’m not a professional chef, and I do not pretend to be one, but I admire them and love cooking. Maybe one day, it would be great to get proper training. That would be fun and exciting. But people always ask me about what I’m making, how I’m making it – even asking me to post about it. So I thought this was a great way to show natural, simple, and quick healthy recipes, and doing so in support of my children’s wellness brand, Gryph & IvyRose. It just made sense as an extension of that. It’s also part of my daily lifestyle, and people respond really well to it.
Tell me more about the philosophy behind Gryph & IvyRose.
Gryph & IvyRose was softly launched last year, but we are really launching this year. We’ve been testing the market, and we’ve gotten an amazing response. We know wellness and beauty is such a big business for adults, but fewer brands are targeting children. And children are so precious that parents will do anything to make sure they are healthy. Parents want to do everything right, you know? So we really wanted to create a brand offering that option. It’s all plant-based, herb-based – we’re going back to Mother Nature and all of these ancient formulations.
We have a bath and body category, and probiotics to make the gut healthy and strong. Your immune system lives in your gut. Your immune system also lives in your skin, so we want to protect the natural biome. We also have herbal elixirs to address four common aspects: the sleep, the belly, the immune system, and the mood. We are expanding and developing these categories and adding more to really become a holistic wellness brand for children. We also plan to expand to adults – like products for pregnant mothers – because adults are buying our brand for themselves, as we’ve discovered. It’s safe for children and they’re like, “If it’s safe for children, it’s safe for adults too.”
Your adorable son Tobin recently got a taste of your world when he joined you on a modeling shoot. What did he think about it? Is shooting an editorial with mom a dream come true or did he have to be goaded into it?
We did a few things together when he was little, but we haven’t do anything in a long time. You know, it makes it more natural to use a family member for a shoot. It would be weird to use a stranger’s kids. We’re at a point where we want to teach him about work ethic and what work is really like. He’s at that age when he wants a lot of things, so I think it’s important to teach him about the value of buying something that you’ve worked for. It was a great lesson for him to see.
Today’s younger generation is so used to getting things fast, without discipline and a work ethic.
Work is work, and he saw that. It’s not all fun and play – and this was just shooting a few pictures, mind you. When you want something, getting it should come with effort. Today’s younger generation is so used to getting things fast, without discipline and a work ethic. It’s important to have both, so that everything isn’t just handed to you. He really understood that it takes hard work, and took appreciation from it. Am I doing this everyday with him? No. But if he chooses to do it in the future, that’s good.
Choice is something that is important to you when it comes to children. You’ve been vocal about your brand’s intention to empower children. Can you talk more about that?
Our products are very kid-friendly, and our goal is to empower children to be connected to their products. So it isn’t parents telling children, “You need to put this on.” It’s more about children deciding for themselves. It’s also important for kids to understand why a product is good for them, to educate them about ingredients and give them choices.
The packaging is super important when it comes to this, so we use animals to help with that – to be visually connected to the product. Our bubble bath, for example, features penguins. That way, a child can say, “I want my bubble bath with the penguins.” It’s been a really positive experience to approach it that way.