Friday, November 22, 2013

Exclusive Interview - Kayla Clarke

The Spring/Summer 2014 season afforded many golden opportunities for models of colour to showcase their modelling prowess on the runways with the greatest influence and prestige. For African-American newcomer Kayla Clarke, this translated into pivotal runway bookings at Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Giles, and Ruffian. The eighteen year old Ontario native with Guyanese and Jamaican roots has experienced a meteoric rise since being discovered two years ago while shopping at a local Zellers retail store. It's no wonder Clarke stood out from the throngs of shoppers with her magnificent 180 cm lithe frame, sculptural bone structure, voluminous lips, and heavy set brows. Clarke's striking African-American beauty bears distinct shades of former nineties supermodel Karen Alexander and runway goddess Debra Shaw. Whether balancing an elaborate feathered head piece at Louis Vuitton, a raggedy Anne blonde wig at Marc Jacobs, or concealed behind a glittering bejewelled face mask at Givenchy, Clarke emitted an elegance and sophistication on the runway which had show-goers in awe.

With representation by Trump Models in New York, Marilyn Agency in Paris, and Monster Management in Milan, Clarke's phenomenal success during the Spring/Summer 2014 season is only a hint of what lies ahead for the promising newcomer. With key industry support from Fashion Editor and stylist Katie Grand, and designers Marc Jacobs and Riccardo Tisci, all eyes will be firmly trained on Clarke as she propels towards the Fall/Winter 2014 collections in February. Clarke's rich luxuriant skin tone, exaggerated bold features, and penchant for gliding down the runway with the kind of lyricism akin to Yves Saint Laurent's multi-hued band of beauties during the 70's and 80's, has IMA completely transfixed. Clarke continued to weave her magical spell when she caught up with IMA post-Fashion Week to discuss her epic debut season, the thrill of spreading her wings abroad, and her deliciously wicked baking skills.

Kayla Clarke
Photographer - Mitchell McLellan
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Inoubliable Model Army (IMA): Hi Kayla, thank you for chatting with IMA. You emerged as the true dark horse of the Spring/Summer 2014 season with a tightly held show list which included appearances at Marc Jacobs, Ruffian, Giulietta, Giles, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton! Has the enormity of your achievements over the past show season sunken in as yet?
KC: No problem, thank you for taking the time to chat with me ;-). I've only been home for a few weeks now and I still find it hard to believe that I've accomplished so much in so little time. As it was my first season in Europe and New York, I never had any idea that I could be participating in such amazing shows; so this season I've definitely over-exceeded my expectations. I'm still in awe but more than anything grateful to my agents and to everyone that helped me to succeed this season.

IMA: Would you mind sharing your backstory with IMA's audience?
KC: I actually just turned 18 last week, and am based in Brampton, Ontario, Canada where I have lived all of my life. My parents are of Guyanese and Jamaican descent and both immigrated to Canada at about the age of 10. They both instilled in me the importance of hard work and education. Thus at the age of 16 when I was first scouted in the local Zellers Canada (when it still existed), they were skeptical but allowed me to try out modelling. The runway teacher/scout that spotted me in the cashier line, then introduced me to my current mother agent in Toronto; Spot 6 Management.

IMA: You were one of the most striking and memorable newcomers of the Spring/Summer 2014 collections with an Amazonian-like 180 cm silhouette and strong bold features. Were you at all conscious of your modelling potential growing up, and what was your initial reaction to being scouted?
KC: Growing up, I was simply one of the tallest in my class. I had no idea that I could be a model and the thought never dawned on me until I was scouted. At first I was flattered because I thought that being told you could model was a huge compliment. I was also curious to see how the world of modelling would work and overly excited to learn how to walk the runway like the pros.

Giles - S/S 2014
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
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Marc Jacobs - S/S 2014
Photographer - Fablo Iona
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Givenchy - S/S 2014
Photographer - Monica Feudi
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Louis Vuitton -  S/S 2014
Photographer - Fablo Iona
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IMA: Having scored some of the most coveted runway bookings of the Spring/Summer 2014 season, what are your secrets to impressing casting directors and designers at castings?
KC: I think that in as casting it is important to radiate confidence, not only in your walk but personality-wise as well. Casting directors can tell when you are nervous and questioning the way that you walk. So I try to my best to be comfortable and to hide the nerves.

IMA: What were your personal highlights for the season both on and off the runway?
KC: My personal highlights show-wise were walking in Marc Jacobs, Giles, Givenchy, and closing for Louis Vuitton; especially since it was Marc Jacobs' last show as designer for the brand. Other than runway highlights, the best part of the season was being able to travel to Europe as I had never never been there before. I also met some amazing designers and people in general that I could not have imagined I would be working for!

IMA: Some of the looks you wore were mind-blowingly beautiful - a Kewpie doll wig at Marc Jacobs, an elaborate bejewelled mask at Givenchy, the screen print dress at Giles, and that amazing Louis Vuitton feathered head piece during the show's finale. Describe how it felt to wear some of those creations, and what was racing through your mind as you closed Marc Jacobs' final collection for Louis Vuitton?
KC: I was honoured to walk in all of the shows that I did this season, especially Louis Vuitton. On the runway, I always tell myself to walk strong and with purpose, proper posture and one foot in front of the other. At every show I participated in, I really wanted to make the clothes look as amazing and awe-inspiring as I thought they were. At Marc Jacobs wearing the Kewpie doll wig helped me to get even more into character, not to mention how fun it was to be white-blonde for a day! The featured head piece and corset were by far my favourite runway garments this season. It was a little difficult to balance on my head but I held my neck stiffly and my back straight to ensure I didn't lean forward or backwards. I told myself before hitting the runway what an amazing opportunity it was to even be there and that I would give 500%, and show Marc Jacobs that he had made the right decision in choosing me to close his last show.

IMA: Has your sense of style evolved much as a result of your industry exposure? Describe your street style and fashion aesthetic?
KC: I would definitely say that my style has changed the past year while being in the fashion industry. As it was my first time abroad travelling for Fashion Week, I was exposed to many different clothing styles in different cities and I would definitely say that New York street style is my favourite. My personal style is laid-back and comfy more than anything :P. I love wearing cropped and skinny jeans with a muscle Tee or chunky knits with a white collared shirt underneath; a trend I picked up while in Paris. I love my Doc Martens and usually never leave the house without a hat.

The Future Looks Bright
Image courtesy of Trump Models

Kayla Clarke's Street Chic
Polaroid courtesy of Trump Models

Kayla Clarke & Stacy McKenzie
Open Lab - F/W 2013
Photographer - Saty +Pratha
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IMA: You recently appeared in a stunning editorial for Open Lab featured alongside the enigmatic top model Stacey McKenzie captured by Saty +Pratha. Did you enjoy the process of collaboration and did Stacy offer any modelling advice to you as a new face in the industry?
KC: Thank you! I loved working with Stacy McKenzie and Saty + Pratha. Stacy was so energetic and friendly. After calling me cute several times, she had simply told me to keep headed where I'm going and to be confident in everything that I do. It's important to have personality and to not let anyone outshine you. It was also awesome getting encouragement from her after walking the show in Toronto Fashion Week backstage.

IMA: IMA had a good look at your blog "Let them eat Cake!" (located at, and was particularly drawn to the chocolate boarder cake! Tell us more about your passion for baking and are there any plans for a Magnolia Bakery takedown ;-)?!
KC: Baking for me is really just a hobby and I love to bake for my family and friends. It seems quite contradictory to have a model that bakes but it's what I love to do in my spare time and possibly as a part-time career in the future. As for a Magnolia Bakery takedown? Baking is just a hobby for now but who knows, I might just open a bakery down the street and see what happens ;-)

IMA: Your New York agency Trump Models had some of the most exciting new modelling talent of the Spring/Summer 2014 season with yourself, Hollie-May Saker, and Nadja Giramata ruling the runways. What do you appreciate most about Trump Models' management philosophy, and what has been the most insightful piece of advice your agents have imparted to you?
KC: I really appreciate how honest Trump is with us. They're straight to the point especially when they notice something that could be holding us back. Trump Models has really helped me to improve my walk and confidence to do well in castings. The whole staff at Trump genuinely cares about their models and wants to ensure that we are safe and comfortable with all the jobs we do. The most valuable thing they have told me is to overcome my natural shyness and let me true personality shine through. That has really helped me to do better at castings and when meeting new people.

Kayla Clarke
Image courtesy of Storm Models

Kayla Clarke
Photographer - William Lords
Image courtesy of Trump Models

Kayla Clarke
Image courtesy of Spot 6 Management

IMA: Do you enjoy the travel component of modelling? What was your favourite fashion capital and why?
KC: I really loved travelling for Fashion Week because I had never been to Europe before. Although it was a bit difficult to be away from my family and friends for a while, it instilled me with a greater sense of independence. It was so interesting to see the different fashion styles, runways, and designers based all over Europe which I would never have got to experience if I had remained in New York or Toronto. My favourite city was Paris because of the overall beauty of the old buildings and being able to see monuments I'd only ever heard of back in art class. Also, being able to work and go on castings in Paris gave me the opportunity to see more of the city. The people were so friendly and even the weather for the most part was amazing. Of course, the shopping was wonderful, and the pastries and coffee were to die for!

IMA: This season saw a whole new generation of black models taking centre stage; Leomie Anderson, Kyra Green, Cindy Bruna, Binx Walton, Malaika Firth, Kai Newman, Betty Adewole, Samantha Archibald, and yourself included! How does it feel to be part of this vibrant group of multi-ethnic beauties who are redefining modelling's landscape?
KC: It feels grew to be a part of this group of models changing the modelling landscape. As an African American it is much harder in the fashion industry and I feel so blessed to have achieved all the things I have this season. Being part of the new generation of black models I hope to lead the way for a completely integrated equal race model community.

IMA: What do you hope to achieve in your modelling career and what would you be doing otherwise if modelling hadn't interceded?
KC: As any other model would say, I would hope to be enormously successful and one day possibly reach iconic status like Naomi Campbell. And also as I mentioned before, help in paving the way for a multicultural model society. If I had not become a model, I would be in my first year at University; most likely studying in Toronto, Ontario. I'm very determined that I will go back to school in due course. At first thought I wanted to major in broadcast journalism, but that has changed since June. I'm not exactly sure what University studies I would like to pursue at the moment, but modelling is certainly giving me the time I need to think about it.

IMA: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
KC: What makes me "Inoubliable" is my big eyes and thick brows. I also have long legs and an amazing personality. And if that isn't enough, I can bake you a chocolate boarder cake from scratch ;-)!

Kayla Clarke
Photographer - JD Barnes
Image courtesy of Trump Models

Special thanks to Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rochas and Claudia Veizaga at Trump Model Management. For more information on Trump Models, please log onto

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