introducing kye howell, australia's next favourite daughter

Kye didn't move to New York to model, she was there to study. Less than six months later, she found herself backstage at Dior's PFW show, speaking to Maria Grazia Chiuri. i-D hears the newcomer's impressive story.

by i-D Staff
21 November 2016, 11:15pm

Kye Howell's story is something of a fairytale: girl moves to New York and winds up living with a supermodel, girl gets signed within months, girl is flown to Paris, girl walks for Dior, then Chanel. Most model profiles reveal years of behind the scenes work leading to those special moments —spoiler alert, Kye's swift accent was nothing short of magical. Although, that's not to say her success was a stroke of pure luck. Rather it was an instance of perfect timing.

As the industry moves towards street casting, or at least, increasingly favours models with a brand of their own, the moment was right for a model like Kye. Years ago, she might not have had the same incredible story. But today, the hair, the piercings, the sense of style are exactly what casting directors crave. We called the model — originally from Melbourne, spending time in Sydney right now — to pause for a moment and reflect on the past year.

Let's talk about what you were like in school, before all of this happened.
School wasn't my favourite thing. I think in high school they put a lot of pressure on kids. I finished, but didn't love it. I got into RMIT to do Youth Work, but I took a gap year and went to London and New York. That was a couple years ago. I went back to New York in March this year to study makeup — not to pursue modelling.

New York was very good to you.
Yeah, towards the end of the makeup course I was hanging around my close girlfriend, Cat [McNeil], and her agency showed an interest. My student visa had run out, so I went to Canada for three days and then came back to New York on a tourist Visa, and moved in with Cat. We met years ago when I first ever went to New York, I was a little baby at 18.

So you're already living the dream, in a sense, but then it gets even better — you go to Paris.
I mean, it's definitely a dream to live with a girlfriend and explore New York. And by that point I had already signed with Society. They decided I should go to Paris for Fashion Week, 'cause I couldn't do New York Fashion Week — I didn't have a work Visa. I arrived in Paris about a week before Fashion Week, and honestly, I wasn't expecting anything. I didn't want to get my hopes up. But I ended up getting the semi-exclusive for Dior, which I'm still so thankful for. It was amazing.

And then there was Chanel.
I don't know how, but I got that as well. I appreciate everything that everyone has done for me in order to get that. I stayed in Paris for another month with the Elite team and I couldn't say a bad word about them—they treated me like their child.

Did anyone ask you to take out your bridge piercing?
Actually, when I was getting ready for the Dior show I assumed I would have to take it out, but Maria [Grazia Chiuri], she loved it. She came out and told me "if anyone tells you to take it out through the show, tell them to go speak to me." Then at Chanel, I left it in for them too.

You kinda came back to Australia with a completely different life.
Yeah, that's the thing: I didn't expect any of this. Honestly, I was only supposed to go to New York for four months and come home, try and get a job doing makeup here and slowly, slowly work my way back to New York. I'm in such a lucky place.

Can you put your finger on why you think it's all come together so neatly?
It might have been my style or it might have been my haircut. I think a lot of the people aren't into having models serve as blank canvases anymore. The industry is looking for people who have their own style. Plus, the fact that I'm 22 — and not 16 — can actually appeal to some people in a way, because I already know who I am.

Would you encourage Australian creatives to get out there, to travel?
Definitely. I think the best thing I ever did was go to New York. There are so many people in Australia who, if they had the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to have, they would thrive just as much as I've been able to — just by being in the right place at the right time.

It sounds like you have a real connection to the city.
New York makes you feel like you can do anything. In Australia, I didn't always feel that hopeful. I'm excited to see everyone back in New York and I miss the city itself. I miss what it brings out in everyone. The work ethic of New Yorkers is incredible.

What was your favourite place in the city?
There was a garden that I sort of adopted as my own, but it was definitely not mine at all. It was called Elizabeth Street Garden and it's full of sculptures. I would just sit there anytime I had a spare hour to kill, and read or listen to music, anything. It was a beautiful.

The interesting thing about your journey is that you've done Dior and done Chanel, so it's kinda like you're working in reverse now. A lot of models aspire to walk those shows.
Totally. Now my goal is, ideally, doing a full fashion week. I'd love to be able to do every show, and I need to work at getting a campaign. That's the dream, right?



Photography Duckie Thinh Dong
Creative Direction Kurt Johnson
Makeup & Hair Isobel Claire
Model Kye Howell @ Society

catherine mcneil
kurt johston
kye howell