While many high school girls have bought copies of Vogue, few can say they’ve been featured in the iconic fashion magazine. But Webster Groves 18-year-old Karlie Kloss is the publication’s ‘it’ girl, gracing its pages more than any other model in 2009. In between couture shows in Paris, magazine photo shoots in New York and classes at Webster Groves High School, the rising star slowed down long enough to tell us about life as a supermodel.
The daughter of Dr. Kurt and Tracy Kloss, Karlie was ‘discovered’ at age 15 at a charity fundraiser at West County Mall. “The event was raising money for the family of a friend of mine,” says Kloss. “It was a fashion show. I went to see what I could do, and ended up in the show—my very first modeling experience.” As luck would have it, also involved with the show were Jeff and Mary Clarke, owners of Mother Model Management, a local agency. “I met Jeff and Mary at that show. They asked me if I had ever considered modeling. I hadn’t—it was never a world I envisioned myself in, but before I knew it, everything was taking off,” she says.
By ‘everything,’ Kloss means the launch of her meteoric rise to the top of the notoriously fickle modeling industry. In the past three years, Kloss has walked the runways in New York, London, Milan and Paris for designers such as Gucci, Valentino and John Paul Gaultier. Her magazine work includes extensive exposure in American Vogue (as well as its sister publications in England, Italy and France), where she has been photographed by such iconic names as Patrick Demarchelier and Steven Meisel. She has also been the face of campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Dior and Dolce & Gabbana.
But it all started with the mall fashion show. Afterward, Kloss signed on with the Clarkes, and by the first week of her freshman year of high school—when her classmates were busy finding their lockers—Kloss was doing her first runway show in New York, an exclusive for Calvin Klein. “It was so amazing and happened so quickly—I’m still recovering,” jokes Kloss. The following year Kloss walked in more than 70 shows in four countries, and did dozens of print advertising campaigns and editorial spreads.
“I sometimes get goose bumps when I think about it,” says Kloss. “I have been so incredibly lucky at every turn. I am supported by my family, my friends, my school and also my management. It has been unbelievable.” When not traveling back and forth between St. Louis, Los Angeles and New York (not to mention Paris and Milan), Kloss can be found in the classroom at Webster Groves High School. “They have been so completely encouraging from the very beginning. I go to class whenever I can, and when I’m on the road I take my classes online.” Kloss is on track to graduate with her classmates in 2011, which seems to amaze her. “It has gone by so quickly. Everyone always says it goes by fast, but my friends and I can’t believe we’ll be graduating next year!”
Kloss says she remains close with her St. Louis friends, despite her travel. “I miss them when I’m gone, and they can’t wait for me to come home. Sometimes they get me at the airport, and we pick up like I never left.” Kloss also speaks highly of her friends in the modeling world. “I have met such amazing young women from all over the world. We work together, travel together, and survive this crazy and sometimes intimidating, fast-paced business. We can relate to each other, and I know I’ll have made some friends for life.”
Despite the fun of jet-setting, modeling is hard work, says Kloss. “At the end of the day, this is a job, and as much fun as it can be to travel, be in Vogue and work with designers, it can be incredibly difficult, too,” she says. “But I take it all with a grain of salt. I’m lucky I’m able to have this lifestyle. I know how far I take it is up to me. The sky is the limit.”