We’re mad about models with personality at i-D, and Lili Sumner is just that. Icy blonde, with high cheekbones, eyelashes so pale you can see through them and a whole lotta attitude.
Kiwi model Lili Sumner sort of looks like Karolina Kurkova, but instead of oozing sex and glamour, has more of a Jamie Bochert inspired awkwardness. She looks like a mischievous and gangly night sprite, or one of the bleach blonde sisters from Harmony Korine’s bleak and nihilistic directorial debut, Gummo; the one that’s not Chloe Sevigny. Born and brought up in New Zealand, when she was 14 Lili’s sister Bonnie saw her potential and took her to see her own modelling agency in Hawke’s Bay where she was signed on the spot. But rural New Zealand wasn’t exactly forward thinking when it came to fashion and it wasn’t until she moved to Auckland aged 16 that she really started getting noticed. Now 19, and living in Stoke Newington, Lili was recently cast by Hedi Slimane on exclusive for Saint Laurent’s spring/summer 14 show. Looking every inch the rock-goth starlet, she hit the catwalk in an asymmetric flame printed top and snakeskin micro-skirt, followed by a long-sleeved, gold lamé wrap dress. To say she embodies the brand is an understatement. You can picture Lili slouching around all pale in the sun with a group of similarly skinny, pale friends on Venice Beach, or stalking the banks of La Rive Gauche like an upper class rebellious teen; she’s the epitome of Hedi’s ideal Californian grunge. But when you speak to her, she’s got a soft New Zealand accent; she’s polite, a little bit crazy and not as much of a goth as Hedi would have you think. We talk about dream dates and dreamy parties…
“I think I am beautiful in some people’s eyes, but certainly not in everybody’s.” Lili Sumner
Was it difficult modelling whilst still at school?
Pretty difficult, it was ok but I became aware of all the fun things I could be doing instead of going to school! I did correspondence at school for a while too, where they send you the literature and you send it back in the mail, you’re like your own teacher.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I never had a particular dream of what I wanted to be, but I was always sure of the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of thing I wanted to do; something creative, but I never decided on a particular job.
What’s your career highlight so far?
Definitely walking for Saint Laurent and working with Hedi [Slimane] in the Grand Palais. He’s quite quiet, nice guy though. I was there for a week before the show, there were four or five of us just doing looks and everything so we were all working together for long hours every day. Anmari Botha is one of my closest friends. She’s from New Zealand as well.
Was there an after party?
I prefer to go to gigs than fashion parties, but there was a party after the Saint Laurent show, that was fun! Hedi left straight after the show and it was just me, Hanne Gaby, Edie Campbell and Lily McMenamy. They’re so much fun, we had an after party in the Grand Palais and it was really funny because there was no DJ and no one had an iPod and everyone’s phones were dead, so we were listening to the same four songs over and over again. Then we went to some club in Paris, I don’t even know where it was, it was hilarious.
What was your last birthday party like?
I didn’t actually have a party. I just went to a lot of other people’s parties. It was a mobile party!
Are you a tomboy or a girly-girl?
Probably somewhere down the middle, I’m not really either, but I guess my attitude’s more tomboy than girly-girl. I shop at second hand stores a lot and kind of just acquire clothes, I don’t really go shopping. I guess my style is thrown together.
Have you got any tattoos or piercings?
I don’t. I do want to get something but I change my clothes five times a day so I don’t think I can decide on a tattoo!
Who and what would your dream date be?
Probably the guy who plays the photographer in the movie Blow Up and he would take me somewhere I’ve never been before, like a lake or somewhere amazing and the conversation would have to be really good.
Have you been in love before?
Do you have a boyfriend now?
Yes, I do. We used to go to the beach and stuff back in New Zealand, and go to the jetty and jump off the end and just hang out there all evening. He lives in London now.
Do you think you’re beautiful?
I think I am in some people’s eyes but certainly not in everybody’s.
What do you think about comparisons to Jamie Bouchert?
I’ve actually never heard those comparisons, but it’s not a bad one!
What’s your favourite film?
Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders. It’s the most beautiful film ever. Every single shot I would put on my wall as a picture.
If you could organise your own shoot, who would you choose to be photographer, who would be stylist and what would you wear?
I would get Sally Mann to shoot it, I would style it and I wouldn’t wear very much.
What are you wearing right now?
I’m in Indian pyjamas because I’m at home and little slippers.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I just hope that I’m happy and wiser than I am now.