To toast her ZARA collaboration, the young supermodel tells us about becoming a designer and why she wants Patti Smith to preface her autobiography.
At just 21 years of age, Kaia Gerber has already put her name to a seriously impressive list of accolades. One of the most emblematic supermodels of our time — following in the footsteps of her mother Cindy Crawford, one of the original 90s supers who gave way to the term — she’s won over fashion fans with her ability to pull off any look with near-unparalleled insouciance, both on and off the runway. Recent years have seen her broaden her reach beyond fashion circles by turning her attention to acting — landing a recurring role in American Horror Story — and earning a reputation as fashion’s biggest bibliophile, launching a buzzed-about book club during the pandemic.
Now, she’s adding yet another string to her accomplished bow, this time as a designer. Putting her impeccable taste levels to the test, she’s created a 30-piece collection of garments, shoes and accessories with ZARA, releasing it at the close of Paris Fashion Week. Comprising what she describes as ‘new classics’, the offering covers all bases, with clothes imbued with the sleek 90s minimalism that defines Kaia’s personal style. Sharp masculine blazers, bright blue Canadian tuxedos, cowboy boots and easy-wearing slacks convey tomboy-ish ease; while slashed cream silk gowns, itsy-bitsy bralettes and shirts with open backs bring an effortless, feminine sensuality into the mix — the perfect mix-and-match wardrobe.
To toast the launch of Kaia’s very first collection, we hopped on the phone with the fashion fave to discuss her experience of the design process, how she’s styling the collection, and what she’d do to have Patti Smith write the foreword of her autobiography.
Hi Kaia! Congratulations on the collection! How are you feeling about the launch?
I'm really excited! Mostly because I've been wanting to wear it for so long, and finally I'll be able to.
Let's start with the experience of working on a collection — obviously, you're someone who's well known for your multifaceted relationship to fashion, but how did it feel to work on the design side of things?
It's really been an eye opening experience, especially working with a brand that's as established as ZARA. I feel pretty lucky that they trusted me and wanted to work with me — especially because I've been a customer of theirs for a very long time. ZARA's a very well oiled machine, but their team was also really open-minded, so it made for a really wonderful collaborative experience.
What sort of conversations did you have at the beginning of the design process?
Well, from the beginning they were super open to hearing my ideas. I'm always making moodboards of things that inspire me, so I actually already had hundreds and hundreds of pictures saved. This was an opportunity to put them to good use — I sent them so many things, and they were so helpful in drawing a specific narrative from this jumble of images and inspiration, and creating a collection that aligned with both of our styles in an organic way.
What sort of things did you have on your moodboard?
Well, with a lot of the images, it was kind of hard to explain — it was less about what the image was of, and more about the way something feels, or a certain perspective. But there were a lot of minimalistic, classic styles and inspiration from the 90s: images of Kate Moss and pictures of men posing. I've always been drawn towards a masculine feeling, and I really wanted to bring that to the collection as a way to complement more delicate pieces.
You’ve previously said that your starting point for the collection was attempting to "ask if it is possible to do a collection that has everything you would ever need in your closet". What are your absolute wardrobe musts?
One of the main things I wanted to achieve was really building a collection that, if you were to head out on a really long trip, would have everything you need. As someone who travels a lot, it's nice to not have to think about it. Everything goes together, and I really do believe that I could get by only with the 30 pieces in this collection. In terms of my musts, though, one thing that I always wear are black trousers — I always have trouble finding a pair with the perfect fit, so that was something I was really excited to create. Another of my hero pieces is the long cream silk slip dress with the spaghetti strap and a low-scooping back — the way it falls on the body is just so beautiful! And we also did a classic cowboy boot, which was a nod to the American in me. But I wasn't just thinking about what I would want to wear when designing this — I was also thinking about my mum, my friends and so many other people around me. I really wanted to make sure that was reflected and that they're really clothes that anyone could wear!
The cowboy boot is one of a few pieces in the collection that have an air of Americana to them. It's something that we've seen a bit of a resurgence of in recent seasons, often in a way that feels quite politicised. What does Americana mean to you?
There are certain really classic things that I think of when I hear Americana — blue jeans, for example. But at the same time, because America as a notion is fairly new, so much of what has come to define 'Americana' is drawn from other places. So many of our American staples have come from different places around the world, so 'Americana' is a sort of melting pot.
As one of fashion's best-known bookworms, tell us: which literary character do you see wearing the collection, and what are they wearing from it?
Ooh! Oh gosh, I don't wanna screw this up... I actually just read Stephanie La Cava's I Fear My Pain Interests You, which is coming out this month, and I think the protagonist would wear it. She's a character I really identified with — I think she'd probably in a very similar way to me, just throwing different pieces on!
If you were to write an autobiography, what would you title it?
Hmm... I've actually been asked this before and haven't been able to come up with a good answer... It's still being written, so I'll have to come back to you!
Final question — who would you have write the foreword?
Well, if there was a universe where anything’s possible, I would literally crawl on the floor to have Patti Smith write it... But hey, you have to dream big, so I'll say Patti Smith!