karen elson on how instagram has changed the nature of modelling

The icon reflects on how social media destroyed mystery, and why she always tries to keep it charming.

by Isabelle Hellyer
24 October 2016, 11:03pm

Photography Daniele + Iango

Karen Elson is nothing short of an icon. The red-haired model-turned-musician ushered in the new millennium by bridging the gap between 90s waifs and 2000s superstars. These days Karen is much less involved in fashion; she stepped back to focus on music, parenting and herself. In a rare press moment last week, she spoke to WWD about how far the industry has come since she began modelling. As always, she was articulate and insightful. Here's what we learnt from their chat. 

On Instagram...
The thing for people with Instagram to understand is it is an idealised version of yourself. It's not you. I mean, it is you but it's not really. I just try to keep it charming. Yes, I post personal opinions on there. Yes, I'll post pictures that I like. But I'll stop short of sharing too much because you've got to keep something to yourself. That's my philosophy. I don't think everything needs to be put out there. I don't believe in it. I think you've always got to keep a little mystery. Maybe that's the biggest difference these days to when I first started is models still had a lot of mystery. Even actresses had a lot of mystery. We all did. And now the mystery has sort of gone with social media.

On the industry getting better...
I still think fashion has a long way to go as far as diversity, be it racial diversity, body type diversity. I think Instagram has helped. A lot has helped in getting different types of beauties in the fashion industry.

On the changing nature of supermodels...
I do think the art of having your photograph taken has changed a lot the past few years. But, again, change is inevitable. And I don't want to sit here and complain about change when I'm sure when I first started modelling, all the girls from the early Nineties probably thought I was — what's the word — a different generation that they don't understand. I don't want to be derogatory toward any of those girls. I think I've said this before. They work hard. It's just a different business. It's a very different business to what my business was. I'm finding my way in it, finding my way but at the same time I'm at the age where there are certain things I'm committed to that I'm not going to budge.

On why she'd never really leave fashion...
I think as far as fashion is concerned, these are my people. There's always going to be some place for me in the fashion community. As a model, there is a point where you get older you do have to start stepping away a little bit because it can be so brutal.



Text Isabelle Hellyer
Photography Daniele & Iango, The Role Model Issue, No. 331, 2012. 

Karen Elson
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