FASHION

Joan Smalls & Karlie Kloss: Super Modern Supermodels

Meet two glamorous girls who are not just sitting pretty.


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When somebody recognizes me, I’m always a little shocked—like, Wait, really?” Karlie Kloss says. “Hang on…me?” But the girl, it must be said, is noticeable, ­waving animatedly from a stool at One Lucky Duck, a raw-food shop in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, all six feet one inch of her unfolding like an elongated, enchanting dragonfly. Kloss and Joan Smalls have spent the day across the street being photographed by Steven Meisel, and you get the feeling that the two cover models, who together represent the new face of fashion, may just have to get used to being recognized.

Marc Jacobs has named a bag for Kloss. Smalls’s feline frame was immortalized in this year’s Pirelli calendar and in yellow jeans on a giant Calvin Klein billboard above Manhattan’s Houston Street. These are the signs of certified critical-mass appeal, and yet to each, in her own way, it’s all still somehow unexpected.

“Let’s be honest,” says Kloss. “I think it’s the fact that I’m eight inches above the average person walking down the street. I’m somewhat in my own cloud.” At 19, she already knows how to be disarmingly self-deprecating, but yes, let’s be honest, it’s not just her meteorological height that attracts attention. Kloss also happens to have the face of a fairy, with a small constellation of freckles on her right cheek, and the kinetic effervescence of a sprite.

Karlie Kloss

When Kloss was growing up in St. Louis, the discipline of ballet training provided a positive charge for her lightning-bolt limbs. “You learn to control every ­aspect of your muscles, your face, your toes, your fingernails,” she says. “And that is how you tell a story, through movement.” Her first shoot in New York, at 14, was with Arthur Elgort, who photographed her doing a split on a ballet bar.

She might look like a living line drawing—one encased in custom-made 3×1 pants, the first jeans she’s ever had that actually touch the ground—but it took Kloss a long time to “own it,” she says. “My sisters have always been these gorgeous glamazons, and I’m, like, this tall skinny stick in the family. And I still am the tall girl, even on the runways. Every time I see Karl Lagerfeld, he’s always, like”—she puts on a German accent—“ ‘Karlie, have you stopped growing yet? Are you taller?’ ” She laughs loudly. “It used to be something that I really disliked about myself, being tall and lanky, but it turned out to be the greatest asset I have—how uniquely weird I am.”

Anyone who has seen Joan Smalls stalk the runway like a warrior goddess might not think that she ever needed any kind of encouragement—but what she did need was the chance to convince others. “When I first started,” Smalls says, “it never picked up for me, doing shows.” That changed when Riccardo Tisci booked her to walk the Givenchy Couture runway exclusively at the 2010 fall collections. “He saw my potential,” she says. “And it changed people’s perspective.”

She’s now so well known for that regal mien that it’s almost a surprise to discover just how playful she can be. After the shoot, when she’s leaving the set, ­rocker-chic in a baseball jacket and Helmut Lang leather pants, Smalls rides down in the elevator with the assistants. Holding the door for them, she snaps her fingers, teasingly telling them to “C’mon, hurry, hurry, hurry!” before falling into a gale of giggles.

“People don’t expect me to have a girly voice when they see me walk like that. They might not think that I’m funny,” Smalls remarks. She pulls off the false eyelashes that were applied for the shoot and says, laughing, “I feel much better.” But with her tilted, seductive eyes, she looks as though she’s still wearing the fake lashes. Smalls, who grew up in the countryside of Puerto Rico, gets the “What is she?” question a lot. She takes out her iPhone to show the spectrum of skin shades in her family. (Her mother is a fair Puerto Rican; her father is black, from St. Thomas.) “I’m a little bit of everything,” she says. “Sometimes people think I’m not Puerto Rican, because my name doesn’t sound Spanish.”

But as if there were any doubt, the 23-year-old boricua proved her birthright on the shoot. “They put on Hector Lavoe, the famous Puerto Rican salsa singer, and I started dancing in my six-inch stilettos,” she explains. “They had me jumping, I was dropping it to the floor, I was whipping the jacket in the air. But you have to have coordination, to know where the camera is, to make sure you give a good angle, because sometimes you do weird faces when you dance”—she illustrates, biting her lips and scrunching up her nose—“and you have to realize you’re still working!”

For both Kloss and Smalls, making that kind of effort look perfectly effortless is all in a day’s work. “I just have something to prove,” Smalls says. “I know I’m representing a group—black, Latin, whatever you want to put me with—and I want to show that they are beautiful the way they are. I think that’s really important for our youth to see. Fashion is part of our culture,” she says. “And it’s about more than just a pretty dress.”

Joan Smalls & Karlie Kloss: Super Modern Supermodels

Smalls wears Bulgari 18k white gold and diamond necklace (around arm).

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Kloss wears David Webb 18k yellow gold, platinum, emerald, and diamond necklace.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Prada tricotine belted jacket, pants, and embroidered poplin shirt.

Beauty note: Skin gets a youthful glow with Estée Lauder Perfectionist CP+R Wrinkle Lifting/Firming Serum.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière black silk jumpsuit. Oscar de la Renta white silk georgette blouse with black satin ribbon necktie. Derek Lam shoes.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Miu Miu purple and peach jacquard vest, blue gazar shirt, blue and purple jacquard collar and necktie, blue crepe pants, and belt. Fabergé 18k pink gold, silver, amethyst, sapphire, and diamond ring; Derek Lam shoes.

Beauty note: A swingy hairstyle begins with daily doses of Sebastian Professional Trilliance Shine Preparation conditioner.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Tory Burch plum silk blouse. Proenza Schouler white cotton trousers. Bulgari metal and glass-stone belt; Cartier at Siegelson 14k yellow gold, citrine, and diamond bracelet; Derek Lam shoes.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Kami Shade black sequin-embellished rayon and Lycra bodysuit. Gucci black feather jacket and black velvet pants. Bijou Van Ness feather, silk satin, and crystal-detail headpiece; Oscar de la Renta earrings; Dior Fine Jewelry 18k yellow gold cuff; Diane von Furstenberg by H. Stern 18k yellow gold ring.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Louis Vuitton black and blue vest and pants. Etro black silk blouse. Vhernier diamond and quartz ring; Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry 18k yellow gold, onyx, and diamond cuff; Derek Lam shoes.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Viktor & Rolf silk shirt and pants. M&S Schmalberg flower headpiece; Pomellato 18k gold earrings; Marcus & Co. at FD Gallery antique gold, enamel, and emerald necklace; Tommy Hilfiger belt; Diane von Furstenberg by H. Stern 18k yellow gold ring; Salvatore Ferragamo heels.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Kiki de Montparnasse black lace bra. Adrienne Landau black fox-fur jacket. Sportmax blue satin pants. M&S Schmalberg flower headpiece; The Woods for Chris Benz spinel tassel earrings; Jason Wu belt; Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry 18k yellow gold, onyx, and diamond cuff; Manolo Blahnik sandals.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Tom Ford black silk jacket and pants. Anna Sui gold and black metallic lace shirt. Emporio Armani belt; M&S Schmalberg flower brooch; Dior Fine Jewelry 18k yellow gold, onyx, sapphire, and diamond ring; Derek Lam shoes.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Rochas gold silk jacquard shirt and gold jacquard and brocade pants. White + Warren red cashmere blend turtleneck. Solange Azagury-Partridge 18k yellow gold and diamond earrings; Chopard 18k yellow gold and diamond ring; Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci belt; Marc Jacobs loafers.

Hair by Oribe for Oribe Hair Care; hair color by Anthony Palermo for Anthonyleonardsalon.com; makeup by Pat McGrath for Cover Girl; manicure by Jin Soon Choi for Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa. Models: Joan Smalls at IMG; Karlie Kloss at Next Model Management. Produced by Steven Dam for PRODn at Art + Commerce. Digital capture: Dtouch. Photography assistants: Stanislav Komarovski, Christian MacDonald, Victor Gutierrez. Fashion assistants: Felicia Garcia-Rivera, Caroline Grosso. Jewelry assistant: Tina Huynh.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Hair by Oribe for Oribe Hair Care; hair color by Anthony Palermo for ; makeup by Pat McGrath for Cover Girl; manicure by Jin Soon Choi for Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa. Model: Joan Smalls at IMG. Fashion: Dolce & Gabbana cotton and silk blend ruffle-detail blouse. Beauty: Estée Lauder Invisible Fluid makeup; Five Color Eye Shadow Palette in Film Noir; Double Wear Eye Pencil in Graphite; Sumptuous Extreme Mascara in Extreme Black; Pure Color Blush in Alluring Rose; Pure Color Lipstick in Beige.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful

Hair by Oribe for Oribe Hair Care; hair color by Anthony Palermo for Anthonyleonardsalon.com; makeup by Pat McGrath for Cover Girl; manicure by Jin Soon Choi for Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa. Model: Karlie Kloss at Next Model Management. Fashion: Yves Saint Laurent silk jacket. Beauty: Cover Girl & Olay Tone Rehab foundation; Cover Girl Eye Enhancers eye shadow in Brown Smolder; Queen Collection Vivid Impact Eyeliner in Truffle; LashBlast 24 HR mascara in Black Brown; Checkers blush in Soft Sable; LipPerfection Lipcolor in Delish.

Photographer: Steven Meisel Stylist: Edward Enninful
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Hair by Oribe for Oribe Hair Care; hair color by Anthony Palermo for Anthonyleonardsalon.com; makeup by Pat McGrath for Cover Girl; manicure by Jin Soon Choi for Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa. Models: Joan Smalls at IMG; Karlie Kloss at Next Model Management. Produced by Steven Dam for PRODn at Art + Commerce. Digital capture: Dtouch. Photography assistants: Stanislav Komarovski, Christian MacDonald, Victor Gutierrez. Fashion assistants: Felicia Garcia-Rivera, Caroline Grosso. Jewelry assistant: Tina Huynh.