If an aspiring businesswoman ever needed a role model for successful branding, she should look no further than Karlie Kloss. At age 26, the American supermodel has nearly 40 Vogue covers to her credit, as well as having established a massive social network presence, and being Taylor Swift’s principal BFF.
Apart from headlining advertising campaigns for Swarovski, Topshop, and L’Oréal, Marc Jacobs and Dior, Kloss has also launched her Karlie’s Kookies health food line which pays for free school lunches all across America. Meanwhile, she has personally funded an ambitious scholarship programme for young women to study software programming as part of her Kode With Klossy initiative in cooperation with the Flatiron School and NYU in New York where she herself has been pursuing computer studies for the past two years.
An All-American girl who has embraced the goal of trying to make the world a better place, Karlie Kloss hopes that other young women will feel similarly inspired. “One of my motivations to have a successful career is to be able to use my name to build a platform that will give something back to the world,” Kloss says. “I want to do my part to help motivate others and create or support projects and organisations that will help young people and young women in particular to achieve their goals.” Karlie is relentlessly and refreshingly earnest.
Karlie, much of your personal mission is to motivate other young women to succeed. What motivates you in life?
KARLIE KLOSS: I want to be the best version of myself. I think it starts with that and that will take me to where I want to be in terms of being active in the world and helping other people with various projects that I’ve been developing or helping sponsor. It’s very gratifying to be in a position where I can make a difference in people’s lives and give them opportunities that they might not otherwise have. We all need some help along the way and I want to do my part.
You’ve said in the past that there’s no substitute for hard work when it comes to success. Where did you get that kind of work ethic?
KK: I owe a lot to my ballet training. I was ten when I started this very intense programme, and I worked very hard to develop the technique you need for ballet and the kind of rigorous training that involves. That requires a lot of discipline and mental preparation and I think ballet has been the key to how I’ve evolved as an individual and much of what I’ve been able to accomplish.
You’re known for being the fittest model on the planet. Did your early ballet training make you want to continue working on your body and being very physically fit?
KK: Ballet involves more than just training. It gives you an awareness of your body and movement in general which is very important obviously if you’re going to be a model. You feel a sense of pride in looking after your body and I think that fed my interest in sports and fitness which in turn gave me a lot of confidence at a time when I was being teased at school because I was so tall and skinny.
Being fit gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself and that helped me deal with people making fun of me back then or even today when you see yourself getting criticised online.
What do you think is the one quality which has helped you stand out as one of the world’s leading models?
KK: You need something that goes beyond just your appearance. I’ve always tried to be very real and express as much of my own personality in my work as possible. You have to be able to go beyond just the clothes and find something that makes your work real and meaningful. You need to bring out something unique about you that’s going to resonate with people. Models come and go very quickly in this business. What makes you stand out is what you bring of yourself to each job you do and that’s what people are going to truly appreciate about you. You have to be very curious and engaged in the world around you and if you’re able to do that a lot of doors will open up to you.
Do you consider yourself a style icon?
KK: I believe that style is an expression of your own individual personality. As a teenager I always loved to dress very comfortably and as a model I’ve never been someone who likes to wear the flashiest or trendiest outfits. I love basic looks like a leather jacket and short skirt or a classic little black dress. In general I prefer classical pieces that I can mix and match and create different styles that are simple rather than fussy or flashy. I think that kind of approach helps you create a look that reveals your own personality much more because you’re making your own fashion statement.
You’ve been very active outside of your modelling work such as launching your own Karlie’s Kookies company which funds school lunches and other projects that benefit young women such as your computer coding scholarship programme. How important are those activities to you?
KK: I always had it in mind that I would use my success to support causes that I believe in and help other people. I particularly wanted to help young women to be able to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, and to feel confident and good in their own skin. As a teenager, I struggled with a lot of insecurities, most of which related to my being a head taller than all the girls and guys in my class. That was a horrible time for me and most girls go through similar kinds of things where they deal with their appearance and their self-esteem. I want to be able to help young women to overcome their insecurities and self-doubts and enjoy very productive, healthy, and happy lives. Just one little moment of inspiration or one particular activity or goal can change an entire person’s future.
What led you to promote computer coding amongst young women?
KK: I was fascinated with coding and that’s why I wanted other young women to be able to explore that activity and be part of a very important industry that is reshaping how we live. Women need to be part of that world.
In your modelling career, was there any one moment that changed things for you?
KK: It was making the cover of Vogue Italia. I was photographed by Steven Meisel and I also worked with Pat McGrath and Carolyn Cerf de Dudzeele who are also icons in the business. The cover of any magazine is a dream come true, but doing Vogue Italia was one of my goals and that was a milestone in my career that really earned me a lot of attention and helped take me further than I ever imagined.
Your presence in social media has been a prime factor in propelling your career forward?
KK: The internet is such a powerful means of communication and I’ve tried to use it to reach out to people and try to help them get to know me and see who I really am away beyond the runway and fashion shoots. When I first started modelling, the social networks didn’t have the kind of impact they have today. So I was lucky that when my career started to take off I was able to take advantage of those means of connecting to people. It’s made a huge difference in my career and I love being able to allow people into my life. I hope in some way to inspire others and send out a positive message.
Do you feel you have a responsibility to your fans?
KK: I want people to see my true personality and go beyond the impression they have of me as a model. I also want to promote an active and healthy lifestyle and the importance of taking care of yourself physically. Exercising and eating healthily are very important. Being fit and healthy is what really makes me feel the most beautiful.