The face of Stylist’s s/s 2020 fashion issue tells us about her fairytale start in the industry and her off-duty style.
Kenyan-born Malaika Firth’s start in modelling sounds a lot like the opening sequence of a film. When she was 17, Firth and her mother watched Channel 4’s The Model Agency, a documentary about Premier Model Management. Her mother phoned up the agency on her daughter’s behalf and after one meeting Firth was signed up.
However, in an industry where there is a new top model as frequently as there is a new It bag, Firth’s tenacity, talent and unique aesthetic have meant that her story has continued beyond its incredible beginnings.
At 19, her trajectory was spurred on when she became the first black model for almost 20 years to front a Prada campaign. The last woman who did that? Naomi Campbell. “I was pretty young and naive about the industry so I really didn’t appreciate how big an impact this made,” Firth tells Stylist. “I was just grateful for the opportunity and to be working [doing] something I loved. I don’t even remember getting the call. Looking back, I appreciate it so differently and I’m incredibly proud.”
In a career that has spanned eight years, the 25-year-old has walked for every major fashion house you can think of, from Marc Jacobs to Miu Miu, which naturally has had an impact on the way she dresses. “I love both of the trends we shot [minimalism and maximalism], but I guess I lean towards minimalism,” Firth says.
“If it’s a big event that warrants a beautiful dress I’ll go for it, but I prefer to be pared back in a simple suit. I have been so lucky to receive so many beautiful clothes from working in fashion – I have some Burberry pieces from when I worked on the campaigns that I will always keep – but it’s the relationships along the way I appreciate the most.”
And what if her mother hadn’t stumbled across that documentary? “I had a humble upbringing so I would want to do something that benefits the needs of the many, not the few,” says Firth. “I’d want to do something significant, like working for the UN, enacting some kind of change.”
Malaika Firth is represented by Premier Model Management
Photography: Aitken Jolly