For the Pirelli Calendar 2023, photographer Emma Summerton focused on the theme ‘Love Letters to the Muse’ which saw many of the zeitgeist’s most recognizable supermodels elaborate on their super powers and transform into a captivating, highly stylized version of those interests and skills. For Karlie Kloss, it was a rare chance to show her tech-savvy side in such a high gloss and aspirational way. The mom-of-one has had a career that belies her 30 trips around the sun, but by the sounds of it, the world is her oyster and there’s much, more more to come. We caught up with her last month at the press preview to get a sense of what she’s cooking up—in this world, and the digital one!
What was it like getting back on set, this time with a mostly female team?
It was amazing to work with Emma for this project. Her vision from the beginning of celebrating these muses and her approach to any project I’ve ever worked with her on is this deeply thoughtful, artistic celebration of beauty and whatever story it is. I feel so grateful I’ve been able to be on her set for editorials and campaigns throughout the years and she has this incredible intentionality and thoughtfulness that she brings to every process, so I knew this would be the same.
How was it getting to show a side of you that you probably don’t get to show often?
Most editorials don’t have the budget anymore to do this type of really beautiful and artistic imagery, which was more commonplace even in the beginning of my career. Because Pirelli really got behind Emma and her vision for this project, Emma was able to take the time and build out these sets and bring co-collaborators into the process like Amanda [Harlech] and Viki [Rutsch,] the costume designer and prop stylist, although they were so much more than that. It was very special for all of us involved to be a part of this artistic, editorialized storytelling through images; particularly in the fast-paced world we live in today where the media landscape has changed and the budgets don’t really exist anymore.
You mentioned that you’re a nerd at heart, are there certain things or guilty pleasures of yours that people might be surprised to learn?
I am a total nerd at heart, and I embrace it! I’m reading this book right now that’s pretty interesting, it’s literally called The Metaverse. It’s written by this pretty prolific guy, Matthew Ball, and it’s talking about how it will revolutionize everything. It’s fascinating, because it’s both about the technical infrastructure that is being built and has yet to be built to really enable mass application of this digital existence—which I find so thought-provoking on an industrial, human, and creative level—and that’s the space I get really nerdy about! Then also I love to read business leaders’ biographies and pay attention to interesting thought leaders in business. Hmm, what else do I nerd out about? I love sports! I have a fantasy football league—but I’m devastated because I think I’m going to lose this week.
That’s a surprise! I know you really keep young women and people at the forefront, what do you hope they feel when they see this depiction of tech, that’s not ‘nerdy’ or ‘masculine?’
Thank you for that question. I think part of what drives me to authentically embrace all aspects of who I am is that it actually helps other people to realize they can be more than just one thing. The world doesn’t often tell us that enough. For me, it took time to realize that for myself. Yes, I love my job in fashion and utilizing the power of fashion and beauty to express myself, or to transform or transcend into another character, but that doesn’t take away from the intellectual curiosities that I also have in other spaces. I think when I was growing up, I don’t feel I was told that enough or saw that enough. I now appreciate the power of social media to be able to show and tell all aspects of who I am, and I want girls to see that they can not only embrace all aspects of who they are, but that’s where their strength lies.
View this post on Instagram
A great message. You turned 30 just before Fashion Month, and I was wondering did it change your approach to life and work?
I’m curious if you can relate?
Oh yes…you definitely just care less!
It’s amazing, isn’t it! It’s so freeing. In a profound, peaceful way. I completely agree since turning 30, and it’s probably a combination of things including becoming a first-time mother and also the pandemic in the past few years, but [I have] so much more perspective as to what really matters and what doesn’t. It’s funny because we’re so young at 30, relatively speaking, and God-willing we have many more years on this planet, but I can also appreciate the journey of life over this past decade and my career—which has been for half my life now!
I know you had a crazy Fashion Month and were back on the runways, do you plan to wind down for the holidays?
It feels really nice that the world is some semblance of normal again. I think, for me, it felt so good to be back on the runways, back on set, and back with my peers. I’m also simultaneously really focused on my work off the runway; building Kode With Klossy and different projects that I’m spending time on, including investing in different companies and working on a project in the digital fashion space. I feel really inspired right now in a lot of different aspects of what I’m doing. I am going home this weekend for Halloween, and my son is going to have five costumes. [Laughs.] This poor child has no idea what’s about to happen. We’ve big plans: the pumpkin patch, apple orchard, and all my childhood favorites with my parents and sisters. Any time to celebrate—it doesn’t matter if there’s a tradition or a holiday—but just spending in-person time together, I appreciate more than ever.
View this post on Instagram
I love the ‘love letters to the muses’ concept of The Cal, if you could tell anything to your younger self, what would it be?
Mmmmm…this conversation is inspiring me to sit down and write a letter to her! This milestone of 30 has definitely provoked a lot of reflective thinking. I appreciate how Emma is celebrating these women who celebrate her; there’s so many women in my life who I actively try to celebrate, including my Kode With Klossy scholars. I feel like I should sit down and write a love letter to them, because they inspire me so much! But I think all of us have people who we probably should tell more often how much they actually mean to us and how much they motivate us. I mean Ashley [Graham] is an incredible friend and someone who I really admire. She’s so passionate, she’s truly an amazing force in the world and mother. I think I should write her a letter too!
Well, speaking of—I thought it was so nice how many people in the industry posted old memories with you for your 30th.
It was so sweet. I really feel like I have a true fashion family, it’s very special!