It’s pretty impossible to trounce Lara Stone in the modelling world right now. Stylist’s Joanna McGarry talks to her about knitting, sleeping and Nigella Lawson.
It’s that particular kind of stuffy, summer heat that puffs up hair and threatens to ruin make-up, but here on the top floor of east London’s Shoreditch House – which has been transformed into a tropical garden for the launch of new fragrance, CK One Shock – the scent’s face 27-year-old Dutch model, Lara Stone, is remarkably unruffled.
And while, rather disappointingly, the curves that catapulted her to the top of the modelling pack – as she sits before me, poured into a pale jade body-con Calvin Klein dress – are somewhat diminished, it’s clear why Stone is considered the world’s number one fashion model. With cheekbones that look as though they were carved from crystal, deep chestnut eyes and a mane of Nordic blonde hair, she’s truly an other-worldly beauty.
Born in Holland to a Dutch mother and British father, the eldest of two daughters, Lara was scouted on the Paris Metro at 12. But it wasn’t until she signed with IMG Models in 2006, that she began to set the modelling industry alight. Flung to the forefront of the catwalk, Stone has routinely opened shows for Givenchy, Prada, Marc Jacobs and Balmain. Her unutterably sexy gap-toothed mouth and impossibly feminine, Bardot-esque shape providing a much-needed antidote to the sea of androgynous waifs that predominated. In fact, it’s to Stone that consequent gap-toothed models, Georgia May Jagger, Lindsey Wixson and Ashley Smith owe their burgeoning success.
Pretty perfect, right? Well no. She’s far more interesting than that. Her voice, an odd flat European lilt, acts as a sort of souvenir to a difficult adolescence – one that set her apart as different.
As we chat, I warm to her curious mix of vulnerability and strength and the subtle hint of a dry humour that rears itself from time to time. It’s a strength that presumably comes from having conquered the many obstacles that have littered her path: being considered large compared to her contemporaries and a now-beaten battle with alcoholism following a stint in rehab in 2009. Later the same year, Stone met comedian David Walliams, 39, at a Chelsea football match. Following a whirlwind romance, they married in 2010 much to everyone’s surprise. There really is more to this Dutch assemblage of perfect genes and biological good fortune.
Not since the supermodel movement of the early Nineties has the fashion industry been so united in its love for one aesthetic. “Sometimes a girl just touches you,” explained Carine Roitfeld, ex-editor of French Vogue of her affection for the model who decorated the pages of her magazine on an almost monthly basis. Her power didn’t go unnoticed. Last autumn, Lara picked up the highly coveted gong for Model of the Year at The British Fashion Awards, indelibly sealing her place in fashion’s hall of fame…
Was modelling a childhood ambition for you?
No, definitely not. It wasn’t on my radar at all. I remember looking at all those amazing photos of Kate Moss but at first I didn’t realise it was an actual job. I came from a standard family – my mum was a stay-at-home mum and my dad worked. So you think that’s what your life is going to be; meet a nice man, get married and have some babies. I know when I was younger I wanted to do tonnes of different jobs. I used to come up with these crazy jobs to try and provoke my parents but they said you can be anything you want. So I was like, “I want to be a garbage man” and they were like “That’s OK we’ll still love you!” And I was like “I want to be…” maybe not quite a hooker… I don’t know something outrageous and they were like “that’s OK!”
Growing up, were you treated differently because of your beauty?
I think it was the other way round. People found me ugly and weird looking. All those years of that whole insecurity thing just makes you feel horrible then really slowly you start to think if they can make me look nice in the picture then it’s not that bad.
Were you encouraged to change your looks to fit into the modelling world?
People were like, “Oh maybe we can change your teeth” and I thought that was going a bit far. You have to be really strong in this job and realise that you are your own boss and if someone tells you to do something, you don’t have to do it. I really like my teeth.
Is changing people’s perception of you as a model something that is important to you?
Yeah, I think people’s perception of models is quite funny. We’re treated as though we’re not human beings at all, it’s weird. Models can still crack jokes and have insecurities.
You’re surrounded by images of beauty in your job, what do you find beautiful in a person?
For me, it has so much to do with people’s personality and the way they just are. You can have the most beautiful face but if you’re a real bitch, it takes away so much from your beauty. In my world, it’s really nothing special to look nice, you have to have something else I guess. At the moment I’m obsessed with Nigella Lawson. I think she is just the most gorgeous thing ever. Her skin practically makes me drool. I’d love to be just like her.
You’re feted as not only beautiful but sexy too. How do you equate the difference between the two?
Most people can be made to look beautiful – someone can do your hair nice and put some make-up on – but being sexy is something inside and not everybody has it. I don’t think I ever really had it, a lot of it is to do with confidence. Lady Gaga, for example, walking around in her bra and knickers and being really sexy but still she’s just not sexy at all, to me.
“At the moment I’m obsessed with Nigella Lawson. I think she is just the most gorgeous thing ever”
Is there a photographer that can bring the real Lara out on shoots?
I love working with Alasdair McLellan. When he shoots film, the pictures aren’t too photoshopped and they have a special mood to them. On the other hand, Mert and Marcus are the complete opposite; they always make you look like a strong, sexy woman and I want to be just like me in the picture. Over the years, my favourite shoots have been the ones that Carine [Roitfeld] has styled. She has something so special and so naughty.
Do you ever find it difficult to recognise yourself in pictures?
Yes. It’s really bizarre sometimes especially when you hold them next to your holiday snap shots and you’re like, “I’d rather be like her!”
How do you get into character?
I don’t really know what I do. I get really nervous when I have to work with people I’ve never met before. I just think, ‘What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t know what to do?’
What’s been your most surreal fashion moment?
The other day when I got to work, I was told, “Oh guess what, we’re doing an underwater bondage shoot” and I was like, “How does that work?” There are so many when you’re just like, “Really? How? What?” The things people come up with! It keeps it really fun.
You were born in Holland. Do you go back very often to visit family?
Yes. My family all live there and I usually visit three or four times a year; it’s not really enough because it’s quite close. But they come here.
Do you surround yourself with things that remind you of home?
Dutch liquorice, it’s like this really salty liquorice and every time I go to Holland I have to I buy these really big bags – they’re like 10 kilos each – and I have a big jar of liquorice next to my bed.
You’ve done so much travelling with your job – what’s your ideal holiday spot?
I go on quite a lot of holidays. My favourite is Portofino, it’s so beautiful and the food is perfect. I went skiing for the first time this year and I didn’t fall over! For a weekend break I just go somewhere where there’s nice food.
What foods can’t you resist?
I like nice comfort foods like shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash. Or the simple things: nice English breakfast, fish and chips.
How do you like to keep busy outside of modelling?
Knitting. I started two months ago when I quit smoking. I have a totally addictive personality so I instantly downloaded all these apps for patterns. I’ve made lots of squares in different colours and then I’m sewing them together to make a blanket, it’s getting quite big now.
Picture credits: Patrick Demarchelier and Getty Images