This story originally appeared in The Window in print Spring ’16 issue, accompanied by photos from Juergen Teller’s Spring ’16 print campaign for Barneys New York.
It’s 85 degrees in Miami. Seventy-seven thousand people have descended on the city for Art Basel Miami Beach. The streets are swarming with art lovers, industry vets, and hung-over young people looking for the next party. At the Rubell Family Collection, there’s an unusual nexus of activity: As part of an interactive performance designed by Jennifer Rubell, a woman and a man, elevated on a platform, slice, butter, and pass out bread to gallery-goers throughout the day. By 9 A.M., hundreds of people have already lined up to collect their slice. The piece is called Devotion—and, at the center of it, for a few moments at least, wedged between the human automatons and a mountainous pile of butter is, improbably, 23-year-old supermodel Karlie Kloss. At well above six feet in heels and swathed in sculptural cashmere, Kloss could very well be a part of the artwork. In fact, she’s only in town for a few hours to be photographed in and around the fair by legendary photographer Juergen Teller for the Barneys Spring 2016 campaign.
“[The experience] was pretty surreal,” says Kloss with a laugh when I catch up with her back in New York. It was also fairly chaotic. “We were driving in a van around the city, which was very crowded because of the fair, running out to do shots, with me changing in the back,” explains Kloss, who, for the record, sounds delighted by the melee. At one point, remembers Kloss, she and Teller ran out to the beach to shoot alongside muscled men. Later, she found herself lounging in a wheelbarrow on an active construction site. “It was definitely one of those moments where I go, ‘I can’t believe this is my job!’ ” trills Kloss.
Teller, for his part, immediately knew she was the right model for the gig. “I was like, Karlie would be perfect,’” he says. “An American sporty supermodel—that was the key for this because Miami is a muscled, sport environment.”
The two first met back in 2008, “which, in fashion years, is a lifetime ago,” says Kloss. It was on the set of her first major campaign, for Marc Jacobs’ Lola perfume. She was only 15 years old at the time, and her aunt had flown with her to London as her chaperone. “She told me she hadn’t even kissed a boy yet!” remembers Teller fondly. Despite her naïveté, however, Kloss knew the shoot would be a game-changer for her career. “I was very much new to the industry,” recalls Kloss. “But, even then, I knew what a privilege it was to be shot by him. I had done my fashion homework. I knew he was an icon.”
Since then, Kloss has become something of an icon herself. Besides her status as an A-list model, Kloss’ extracurriculars include membership in Taylor Swift’s #girlgang, a successful line of gluten-free cookies with Momofuku, and a role as a tech advocate (she recently launched Kode With Klossy, a scholarship for girls who want to learn to code).
Kloss, now a bona fide supermodel, and Teller run into each other at “dinners and cities around the world.” Teller remembers seeing her at a dinner party in Madrid and being blown away by how much she’d grown up. “She filled the room and had a really great presence and aura around her,” he says. “She was basically super-elegant, friendly, positive, and open.”
Despite their mutual admiration, the pair hasn’t worked together since that first shoot in 2008—until now. Art Basel Miami Beach, an aesthetic explosion that gives new meaning to the phrase sensory overload, provided a fitting backdrop for their reunion. “The shoot was right at the center point of where fashion and art overlap,” says Kloss. “Juergen lives in that center point every day.”
“I still consider it such an honor to be shot by him,” Kloss continues. “I admire him so much as an artist and as a person. He is so healthy and has so much energy. That day in Miami, he ran circles around the crew and me—and he had already run a few miles before we started at 5:40 in the morning.”
Incidentally, that’s not all she admires: “I wish I had his legs!”