Ewa Wladymiruk photographed by Hannah Scott Stevenson

how instagram created the modern muse

With a generation searching and finding inspiration online, we meet some of the freshest faces hot off your feed.

by Elsa de Berker
24 July 2016, 11:30pm

Ewa Wladymiruk photographed by Hannah Scott Stevenson

People love talking about the influence of social media—good and bad. Among more serious allegations, it's been blamed for the depletion of the dinnertime discussion and the devolution of our language. It's a carefully filtered mask behind which we hide both our emotions and our not-so-perfect complexions. But let's not obscure the positive effects.

Thanks in particular to Instagram, unconventional models are being cast as campaign stars and those with exceptional feeds are seeing themselves take on the role of brand ambassador—turning the notion of the untouchable fashion muse on its head.

This is possible because Instagram doesn't automatically celebrate a one-size-fits-all approach. In the world of carefully curated internet success there are no restrictions around weight, height, age, race or gender. The emerging stars are those who have approached social media on their own terms.

It's why legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath—a woman with access to the world's most beautiful faces on a daily basis—turned to the image-sharing app when it came to selecting a diverse mix of women to front her makeup line. A lengthy scroll and search led her to four new faces, including artist Carlotta Kohl, New York-native Kate Bowman and 24-year old student Paloma Elesser.

"I grew up in Los Angeles, chubby and educated," says Paloma, who inked a modeling contract with Muse in NYC post Pat's campaign. An academic who balances modeling with working towards her doctorate she explains, "Instagram gave me a voice I didn't quite know I had. It helped me navigate a new chapter in my life that I never thought would be possible." Bowman echoes the sentiment, branding the whole experience "an insane honor," while Kohl says she still feels like the opposite of a muse. She continues to use the platform more as a tool to seek inspiration from the accounts of others, rather than actively further her own career.

Another unlikely story of Instagram success is Jake Levy's; a creative club kid from Los Angeles with a fondness for women's clothing. Jake was getting by working multiple jobs when stylist Katy England started following his account. After a period of mutually reciprocated 'likes,' the duo began to exchange a series of photos. This eventually led to England extending an invite to come to a casting for Marc Jacobs.

Never thinking the opportunity would lead to anything, Levy went along for the fun of it and was surprised when he was called back and eventually cast in the designer's Spring 2016 campaign. Naturally, when the time came for the ad's big reveal, he shared the news on Instagram. "I was completely enthralled by Marc Jacobs' aesthetic growing up and used to have his campaigns plastered all over my bedroom wall," says Levy, "It was all kind of a joke and then it just became real. The whole experience has just been incredible."

As well as the chance discoveries, there's also the case of non-celebrity models using Instagram as a way to show more of their personality than ever before. Case in point: Simone Thompson aka Slick Woods, who was recently revealed as one of Calvin Klein's faces for Fall 2016 and serves as a muse to Gypsy Sport designer, Rio Uribe. Woods has gapped, crooked teeth, claw-like nails, an abundance of tattoos, and a clean-shaven head—maybe not that exact person one would expect to follow Kendall Jenner in an all-American #mycalvins ad campaign or be cited as a CFDA-winner's most-frequent source of inspiration.

"Instagram makes this big ass world smaller and makes muses out of people who used to be ridiculed for their features—it's a beautiful thing," Woods offers by way of explanation. Perhaps less extreme-looking, but equally refreshing in their individuality are platinum haired stylist-slash-model Alexis Jae, self-proclaimed "hippie" model Michi, and Eastern European models Sasha Kichigina and Ewa Wladymiruk. They have all been recognised through their Instagram handles which are rich in personal style, but devoid of the typical trappings associated with social media model stars.

But if you had to pinpoint exactly what is it about each of these people's vastly different accounts that's making the fashion world take notice, what would it be? It may sound obvious, but apart from a combined total of over 200K followers and counting, they each have the kind of characterful authenticity that can't be faked. So if you're looking to get ahead in life and you want more Instagram followers, drop the bullshit and just try being your genuine self.  

Ewa Wladymiruk wears stylist's own vintage turtleneck

Jake Levy wears Christian Dior turtleneck, camisole and leather pants Tuza vagina necklace

Carlotta Kohl wears Bror August sheer top and Levi's

Paloma Elesser wears Tuza hoop earrings and Versace knit

Sasha Kichigina wears Miu Miu velvet dress

Kate Bowman wears Emilio Pucci dress

Alexis Jae

Simone Thompson wears Tuza hoop earrings and Christopher Kane dress

Mishi Kat wears Collina Strada leather jacket and dress


Photography Hannah Scott Stevenson 
Fashion Editor Britt McCamey
Casting Emily Coyne
Hair Sirsa Ponciano
Make-up Nancy Siler

ones to watch
Carlotta Kohl
fashion stories
kate bowman
alexis jae
ewa wladymiruk
jake levy
mishi kat
paloma elesser
sasha kichigina
simone thompson