How Karina Bik Went From Teen Model In Russia To One Of NYC’s Most In-Demand Influencers

by Freya Drohan

If you haven’t already laid eyes on Karina Bik’s feed, it’s time to do so immediately. The perennially chic Ufa, Russia-native has an eye for style, outfit accessorizing, and sourcing emerging brands—and her dedicated Instagram following of almost 500,000 is certainly proof. A regular at our soirées, we decided it was time to get to know her a little better and hear her backstory. Here’s how it all began! 

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a city in Russia called Ufa. My town sort of straddles the divide between Europe and Asia, so it’s full of cultural influences from everywhere. The people in my city look like a mixture of Asian and white, and the food, customs, and culture are all drawn from Central Asian, Turkish, Russian, and Persian influences that passed through the Silk Road at various times. Also, even though we’re in the middle of Russia, we have our own language, culture, food and many people identify as Muslim.

You started modeling at 14. Where were you discovered and what was your experience like working in the industry?
I grew very quickly when I was in grade school, and I was always the tallest in my class, much to my displeasure! As a result, I was scouted leaving school one day by a local modeling agency, which led to some small beauty shoots and teen fashion shows, and that was my intro to the industry. But I caught my first real break when I was driving with my mom in the car one day, and we heard an ad for a pageant casting. I think my mom secretly always wanted something like that for herself (pageants are super popular in Russia), so she pushed me to apply and I grudgingly agreed! I had zero expectations and viewed it as a bit silly, but I wound up in the top 10 and later placed 3rd in the show. After that, I did around 15 other pageants, which introduced me to the best mother agent in town. My affiliation with this agency brought me several national TV spots, ad campaigns, runway/fashion presentations with top designers, and I even got to do some weather forecasting along the way!

When did you decide to become a content creator?
When I first started on Instagram, I was mainly using it as a portfolio for my work with professional photographers and it was pretty dull, to be honest. But in 2017, I spent a week in LA for work and just started taking some lifestyle photos on an iPhone doing super exciting things, like eating gelato on the street, shopping on Rodeo Drive, and snapping photos with confused tourists. I noticed that people were reacting way better to content that I never thought would be of interest to anyone (apart from my mom), so I bought a real camera and immediately set out to document other aspects of my day-to-day life and work. The content creation side really took off when I was invited to Milan in 2017 to participate in some events for the 125th anniversary of Harper’s Bazaar with Glenda Bailey, Giorgio Armani, Angela Missoni, and Christian Louboutin. I spent a month there, and had tons of fun capturing all these little moments from street style outfits, to boutique launches, pasta, and the beautiful scenery along the Navigli canals where I lived. After that, my account started to get a lot more traction and I got great feedback and partnerships, so I just kept going and I haven’t looked back ever since!

What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
In a word: freedom. Even though many creators I know work longer hours than traditional 9-5 roles, I think the freedom to pursue whichever creative project comes across my desk, hone my own brand, and manage my schedule is a tremendous gift that I’ll never take for granted. It’s also a wonderful feeling to control the collaborations and brands I partner with, which is something that I wasn’t ever able to do as a model.

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about your job?
Cliché warning ahead, but it really is the sheer amount of effort that goes into every bit of content that I produce. I recently hired a part-time assistant to help out with some small tasks, but before that, I had to be stylist, photographer, retoucher, video editor, copywriter, music scorer, you get the idea, and the list goes on and on! So that “effortless” picture of me posing next to some coffee run ootd wasn’t ever as effortless as it might appear. The Italians have a lovely expression for this in fashion and art called “sprezzatura,” which basically means a studied carelessness that conceals the amount of work that went into something, and I subscribe to that principle wholeheartedly!

What have been some of your favorite campaigns and projects to work on?
I love working on beauty campaigns, and skincare and perfume are among my favorites. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the top fashion houses including Dior, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Armani Beauty, Sisley, La Prairie, Guerlain, Maison Francis Kurkjian, Lancôme, and others!

When did you move to NYC?
I moved here nine years ago, and I was head over heels within weeks. The city is a cauldron of every sort of wild creative energy one could possibly imagine, and I thrive on it!

What’s a go-to outfit for you?
During the day, it’s all about comfort—I ride an electric scooter around the city, so I either wear sneakers or combat boots, jeans or leather pants, and a t-shirt with an oversized coat on top. At night, it’s a totally different story. I typically dress in fabrics like velvet, jacquard, and I love feathers, lurex, and shiny fabrics (like the outfit I wore to the FMAs) and I’m always pushing my fashion boundaries, sometimes even successfully!

Karina Bik (Hannah Turner-Harts)

Favorite new brands you’ve discovered?
Peter Do, Materiel Tbilisi, Rokh, Bevza, Stand Studio, Stine Goya, Lovechild, Malene Birger, and Chopova Lowena.

Fall trends you’re excited about?
I’m particularly excited about the use of sequins and metallic elements for daytime wear, purple/lavender colors in wider circulation, loose-fitting denim, oversized jackets, and puffy bags and platforms, among other new trends.

What’s next?
TikTok and hopefully a little cottage Out East so I can roll out of bed sprezzatura style and into some more amazing DFR events next summer!

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