edie campbell is not like other models
We talk social media, beauty and brains, with one of the cover stars of the 35th Birthday Issue.
Edie wears jacket shirt and tie Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane
''As a model you reveal a lot about yourself,'' explains Edie Campbell - opening Marc Jacobs' final show for Louis Vuitton dressed in nothing but a headdress, glittery thong and the sprawled scribbles of Stephen Sprouse being one of her most extreme examples. Nudity aside, we seem to know a great deal about the 24-year-old from West London: she has two horses named Dolly and Armani (no, she didn't name them), a famous boyfriend (fellow equine enthusiast, Otis Ferry) and a sister, Olympia, who is fast becoming one to watch in the modeling world herself. Open any magazine, and you'll see constant comparisons of Edie to a young Stella Tennant, as writers fawn over her quintessential Britishness and achingly cool quirks. She's also praised for being of both beauty and brains, as if the two were somehow incompatible. Such is the rhetoric that surrounds Edie. It's only when you compare her to others of her generation, the quick-to-click breed of selfie-satisfying models, however, that you begin to realize how much there is about her that we don't know. In a world where our senses are constantly overloaded with information, bloated by our access to absolutely anything, it is this air of mystery and reluctance to reveal all which makes Edie so fascinating and unique.
The daughter of Vogue Fashion Editor-turned-architect Sophie Hicks, and granddaughter of model and muse Joan Hicks, fashion has always been in Edie's blood. It's also how she began her career in the first place, having been street cast at the age of 15 for a story in British Vogue by Sophie's long time friend, Lucinda Chambers. It was here that Edie met Mario Testino, who cast her in a Burberry campaign a few months later. As we seem, increasingly, to exist in a society of trolls who love nothing other than to bring people down as opposed to celebrate them, one wonders whether having a mother who worked in fashion has ever been used against her. After all, it was only the other day that a model wrote an open letter to Kendall Jenner, saying that Kendall wouldn't be where she was if it wasn't for her famous family. ''I think it has been a massive help,'' Edie replies, candidly. But the one thing you can never accuse Edie of is being idealistic, a rarity in an industry that so often seeks to bewitch and beguile. ''Things like that definitely open the door, but I think you have to keep the door open yourself, and I think I've paid my dues.''
With her long locks of honey colored hair, cherubic features, and a fringe reminiscent of Jane Birkin's, Edie's early career could be defined as a series of 60s inspired shoots. ''It was frustrating; I never really felt at ease in the '60s girl' thing. I always found it overly feminine and almost infantilizing,'' she recalls before cackling, ''there was always an evil, mulleted gremlin within!''
When you think of Edie's many achievements, it's hard to imagine anything other than the confident and beautiful young woman we see projected before us. But it hasn't always been bright lights and blue steels. ''It was quite soul destroying. You'd go to each casting and give yourself a pep talk saying, 'you're going to nail this one, just charm them.' Then you go to the next one and give yourself the same pep talk.'' But even when Edie would book jobs, it wasn't like there was some Next Top Model Handbook outlining exactly what to do. ''I was really uncomfortable with the idea of having to perform. You go to this white space and there is no one there but you. You don't see anyone else modeling, so you don't know what the norm is.''
It wasn't until 2013, when Edie had her locks chopped off into a mullet and dyed jet-black for a punk themed shoot in American Vogue that her career really took off. ''It was great, very liberating. I looked in the mirror and thought I actually looked like me… Having a defined look for people to pick up on, and having a real idea of who you are, was quite powerful. It helped that a lot of people who are seen as tastemakers within the industry liked it. People can be like sheep, when one person says they like something other people suddenly decide they like it too.'' That season Edie opened the Louis Vuitton show and won Model of the Year at the BFAs.
Fast-forward to 2014, when Edie and Cara Delevingne were all anyone could talk about. Fashion was calling out for youth, Britishness, and a sense of quirky cool, and these were the girls who fit the bill. But with fashion moving faster than the speed of 'likes', the tides of change began to pull again and, as we welcomed in the new year, we also welcomed in a new trend for all-American it girls. Cropping up on catwalks and cluttering up our homefeeds, these girls shone brightly amidst the trolling and lolling of the digi generation. While Kendall Jenner rose from reality TV star to fulltime model, the Hadids and the Baldwins became celebrity clickbait for the hashtag-happy. Even as you read this, Lily-Rose Depp, the 15-year-old daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, is being touted as fashion's newest fetish. A far cry from the 'supers' of the 80s/90s, those mythical, magical beings, these girls are accessible, relatable, and have an innate willingness to share everything online, from heartbreak to hanging out with Justin Bieber (although not many of us can relate to the latter). It also makes them perfect tabloid fodder, which is where Edie really begins to stand out.
''Agents have spent the last 35 years of their lives creating these women who are untouchable and suddenly in the last year all the world wants is touchable women. So suddenly they're like, 'fuck we need to create women that people think they know,' as opposed to these distant beauties.'' Indeed, 35 years ago no one could have predicted the relationship between how many followers you have online and how many campaigns you book in real life. ''Everybody can see via Twitter or Instagram how much clout you have, how many people are interested in you and, therefore, how much product you can flog. It's a difficult one. I'm having a sort of internal conflict with it at the moment, because I'd like to keep earning money, but I don't want to post pictures of myself in a bikini silhouetted against the landscape - not that I would judge anyone who did. I just don't think it's very me.''
Far from being lumbered in with the rest of the so-called 'insta' girls, and no longer defined by having an 'edgy' new haircut or simply by being British, Edie has managed to carve out an identity for herself that transcends the waxing and waning trends of fashion. That's not to say Edie is some social media recluse; in fact, a quick flick on her Instagram and you'll see the same #thankyoutomyglamsquad hashtag and obligatory Coachella selfie that adorns many a model's account. The only difference being that the hashtag accompanies an image of a sumo wrestler getting his hair did, as opposed to a lesson in contouring; while the Coachella pic is a photo of Edie lolling in front of a Chevy as she jokes about conducting ''some serious and hard-hitting investigative journalism for @voguemagazine." This pretty much sums up who she is: sharp, witty, intelligent, willing to share things without revealing all, whilst, most importantly, remaining true to who she is, which is ultimately why everyone loves her, and why she'll always be more than just fashion's latest 'thing'. As Edie surmises, ''fashion is fast-paced; you have to maintain who you are and be relatively honest, maybe not completely, but there has to be an element of honesty, when it comes to what you want to represent in the world.'' We couldn't agree more.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Styling Benjamin Bruno