It’s been fifteen minutes and Konrad Annerud hasn’t said more than two words. He’s standing in the corner on the sixth floor of Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship, in a country he’s never visited before, with ten or so people he’s never met until today—stylists, tailors, and other Barneys team members eager to meet him. Annerud has come to New York from Sweden alone, and while as many as three people hem and haw over the length of his jacket’s sleeves, he is looking down at his wingtip-clad feet. “Oh man, I love those,” he says in charming, halting English. It’s this third outfit—a trim grey suit, white shirt, tie, and those wingtips—that finally loosens Annerud up. “I like suit pants,” he tells us. “I usually wear those with a white t-shirt and some leather shoes. I can skate in that.”
A tailor in the corner sews cuffs and pins back material on the clothes for tomorrow’s shoot, all pulled from Ralph Lauren’s re-imagined version of its legendary Purple Label. It’s the modernization of a classic U.S. brand, with a slimmer, tighter edit of the classics we’ve come to know and love from Ralph Lauren. And on the surface—especially in the eyes—Annerud is the embodiment of that sentiment. After some discussion by the stylists about what shows warranted the most buzz in Milan, the slender twenty-one-year-old Swede gives the room a knowing smile, wide-eyed, and perhaps slightly embarrassed that this entire hoopla could be for him.
A few months ago, Konrad Annerud was working at a bar, playing drums in two bands, preparing for his debut as a solo artist (he recently signed with Universal), and skating semi-professionally. It was only after a precipitous phone call from a local newspaper in his small town of Linköping, Sweden, that Annerud became a celebrity of sorts. In short, Konrad Annerud looks diabolically similar to Leonardo DiCaprio, specifically the ’90s, Basketball Diaries-era Leo—something that hoards of people on social media have been quick to point out. (Annerud himself now has over 200k followers on Instagram.) “When the first paper posted it, my phone started to ring and it didn’t stop,” he says. “They were calling my mom and my relatives and friends, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is getting too big for me.’” But back on Madison’s sixth floor, after all the suiting is properly tacked to his slim silhouette, Annerud takes advantage of his good fortune and heads out into the cold to walk the paths of Central Park and stand under the billboards of Times Square for the first time.
The following day at the photo shoot in Outpost Studio in Brooklyn, Annerud admits that he was recognized twice walking around Manhattan. This happens a lot, which is understandable. When Annerud changes into a white double-breasted dinner jacket, he’s a dead ringer for DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby. But as the day wears on, the would-be model is singing and snapping his fingers between shots, growing more and more comfortable in the clothes. “We don’t have that much Ralph Lauren in Sweden,” he says. “We have all the classic polo shirts with the patch.but these clothes—I like them! Especially the suits.”
In Annerud’s mind, all the attention is worth any discomfort, especially if the exposure will bring notice to his music. He may look like Leo, but he moves and sings like Michael Jackson, and he wants the world to know it. “He’s like Jesus to me,” Annerud says, pointing to his arm. “I have Michael Jackson right here,” he continues, slapping his upper bicep where a large black-and-white portrait of the singer is inked. “This whole arm is going to be a smooth criminal theme.”
Konrad Annerud is fully aware that his day draped in Ralph Lauren’s newest collection and even his subsequent music career may never have happened had he shared a passing resemblance to, say, Danny DeVito or Matt Damon. But that’s fine by him. “It’s positive,” he says of the attention. “Even if all people talk about is the fact that I’m a look-alike, fuck those guys, I’m here in NYC modeling.”