The poster girl for Generation K: Supermodel Karlie Kloss on using her tech know-how to change lives – Daily Mail
Between her passion for coding, social-media domination and prime position in Taylor Swift’s squad, KARLIE KLOSS is the crowning jewel of a new breed of supermodel. She tells Charlotte Pearson Methven about building the Kloss kingdom
Karlie in New York: NECKLACE, £159, RINGS, from £39 each, and WATCH, £249, all Swarovski
A supermodel has just handed me a cookie, which feels somehow odd. But this is no ordinary supermodel – and no ordinary cookie. I am with Karlie Kloss, at 24 one of the world’s most successful supers, who was reportedly paid nearly £200 for every step she took at London Fashion Week S/S 16. A former Victoria’s Secret Angel, alongside the likes of Miranda Kerr, she is also Taylor Swift’s bestie.
The two graced the cover of US Vogue last year, and Karlie was a guest at Taylor’s recent star-studded and much photographed Fourth of July bash, along with the singer’s new boyfriend, British actor Tom Hiddleston. Karlie and Taylor met through fellow model Lily Aldridge (Taylor has said their reaction to meeting each other was: ‘You. My friend. Now.’ Big words from someone who could have pretty much any friend she wanted).
Karlie with her mum Tracy and, right, with boyfriend Joshua Kushner
On top of all this, Karlie truly is a model for the millennial age: a star of social media with five million followers on Instagram. It’s no wonder that Austrian jewellery house Swarovski has rolled out the red carpet to fête her as its new brand ambassador. When we meet in New York to discuss the announcement, Swarovski jewels twinkle from her ears, neck and wrists. I have been allowed to borrow a few pieces from the new collection myself. ‘You really wear them well,’ she compliments me earnestly in her American drawl, in which I can detect tones of her native Midwest diluted by a patina of New York City sophistication (she has been based there since her modelling career took off in her teens).
Karlie is quick to deflect attention from herself, despite the fact that global media have assembled in Manhattan to adore her, with a glamorous party at the top of the Rockefeller Center thrown to celebrate her new role. (All smiles at the bash, she works the red carpet like a pro.) Karlie is the star of the brand’s new Be Brilliant ad campaign, which is a series of videos shot on the streets of New York and is aimed at women who want to ‘sparkle’.
RING, £99, and BANGLES, £49 each, all Swarovski
The digital platform is a perfect fit for Karlie, who also has her own YouTube channel, Klossy, which features videos of everything from behind-the-scenes craziness at fashion shows to charity missions and, of course, her beloved baking. Klossy has nearly half a million subscribers, making her a poster girl for a new generation of tech-savvy supers (see also: Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid, all of whom are among Karlie’s close friends). ‘It’s been a fun process for me, being involved in the creative conceptualisation of the videos,’ she says. ‘As a model, you don’t always get to be a part of the process, so I am really humbled.’
A pretty face she may be, but Karlie has a lot more than that in her arsenal. She is the second of four daughters – there’s an elder sister, Kristine, and younger twins, Kariann and Kimberly. Her father Kurt is a doctor, and Karlie – a straight-A student and, for a long time, an aspiring ballerina – had intended to follow in his footsteps, never realising that modelling was even ‘a real job’, until she was discovered while appearing in a local fashion show for charity. Not long after, she was signed to walk for Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week. She hasn’t looked back. Her ballet training prepared her well. ‘Walking the catwalk is a performance, just like dancing. I think I thrive on that kind of adrenalin.’
Karlie with friend and fellow model Jourdan Dunn at Balmain’s A/W 16 show
To her credit, Karlie has found a way, amid the glamour of the fashion world, to keep her academic alter ego alive. She tells me excitedly that the achievement she is most proud of is the Kode with Klossy scholarship programme, which teaches computer coding – ‘a big passion of mine’ – to high-school girls each summer across two-week camps in Los Angeles, New York and Karlie’s hometown of St Louis, Missouri.
The testimonials from the girls who were in last summer’s pioneer programme brought tears to my eyes, such was their gratitude and sense that this opportunity might be life-changing. Karlie’s hope is that the students might end up inventing the apps of the future or landing jobs with tech giants such as Apple or Facebook. ‘Thank you so much for asking about this,’ she says, looking proud. ‘It is amazing for me to see how learning to code ignites this curiosity in young women who are already brilliant, and to see how transformative it can be for their futures. I really feel that fashion and technology, engineering, science and maths do go hand in hand.’
Karlie Kloss with YOU writer Charlotte Pearson Methven
This is another reason why the Swarovski role has suited her perfectly. ‘People may have been a little surprised that on the day of the Be Brilliant shoot my main interest was in asking the family members who work in the business all about the scientific process: how they cut the crystals, the precision needed to get each one perfect. I find it fascinating. To me it represents a true marriage between art and science.’
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WHAT DO YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST? Scrambled egg whites with avocado and hot sauce, or a protein smoothie.
LAST BOOK YOU READ? Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt.
DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS? Grace Kelly, Oscar de la Renta, Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai.
ON YOUR IPOD? Hip-hop, indie rock and a ton of 90s throwbacks! Anything you can dance to.
WORKOUT SECRET? I love to run. The first thing I do when I arrive in a new city is put on my running shoes and hit the street.
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION? A few pieces of jewellery given to me by my family. I treasure them more than anything because they remind me of home.
IN THREE WORDS YOU’RE… Curious, passionate and kind.
FAVOURITE BEAUTY PRODUCT? I’m a big believer in facial oils, and coconut oil to moisturise my body.
CAN’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT… A pair of sneakers and a snack in my bag.
MOTTO? Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success.
There is something endearingly sincere about Karlie that no doubt comes from her salt-of-the-earth Midwestern upbringing. Throughout her modelling career, she has relied on family members – rather than an entourage – to travel with her and keep her feet on the ground.
She is effusive on the topic of baking, another nod to her roots. And – for the record – her gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, vegan Kookie is a revelation. As someone who cannot abide the likes of a sweet potato brownie, I was sceptical, but it is delicious: nutty and sweet without being sickly – so much so that I’ve found myself Googling ‘UK Kookie stockists’ (to no avail; they’re only available in the US for now).
Karlie – who donates a portion of the profits to the charity Feed, which provides school lunches for children in the developing world – reveals that almond flour and agave are her secret ingredients. ‘My grandmother and mom taught me the basics of baking and it’s something I have always loved and returned to because it reminds me of home and is a great way to relax. When my family visit me in New York, we’ll usually bake something together. Taylor also loves to bake, so we do that together sometimes.’ Karlie spent her first pay cheque on a KitchenAid, which must be a first for a model.
Karlie’s boyfriend is a lucky man – she is pretty loved-up with investment manager Joshua Kushner. The couple recently celebrated the anniversary of when they met, which Karlie marked on Instagram by posting a picture of them hugging, with the words, ‘Four years ago today I met my best friend. I love you more every day.’ Joshua hails from one of New York’s wealthiest families and, in a fascinating collision of celebrity personalities, his brother is married to Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, which means that Karlie and Donald have probably sat around a table together at some point…
Karlie, with her sunny nature and seemingly sensible head on her shoulders, goes some way towards debunking the theory that social media and its enthusiastic users are dangerously detached from reality. ‘As long as you keep a clear perspective on what really matters, it can be a very powerful tool and a great way to share creativity. I started my modelling career before Instagram and Twitter, but since they came around I’ve been able to reach more people to show who I am, and to use my reach to bring light to causes that matter.’ She does, she admits, ‘have a detox from my devices often. Otherwise I think you become too consumed.’
Karlie and Taylor together on the Victoria’s Secret catwalk
Another myth Karlie dismantles is that the modelling circuit is a bitchy place. ‘Gosh, no!’ she says. ‘There are so many creative and brilliant souls in this industry. I have made some of my best friends along the way.’ (One of whom is her ‘dear, dear friend’, British model Jourdan Dunn, whose son Riley is Karlie’s godson.) I ask if she feels she is part of a ‘new generation’ of supermodels – like the famous 90s crop, but for the digital age? ‘Well, possibly. Those are huge shoes to fill. But it definitely is an interesting time to be a model, with social media giving a new dimension and so many amazing girls growing up together in the industry.’
I tell her that in a recent magazine interview I read, Elle Macpherson called Karlie her favourite of this new generation. ‘Wow! I didn’t know that. That is so flattering,’ she beams. ‘Those women – Elle, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford – were my icons growing up. I was skinny and gawky and didn’t use it to my advantage. I wore my sister’s clothes, which were ill-fitting, and I never felt beautiful. I would look at those women and think not only are they amazing looking, but they are entrepreneurs, and have used their platforms to build businesses and make a meaningful impact on the world.’ I’ve no doubt that they are all looking at her now and thinking the very same thing.