Karlie Kloss on Designing for Adidas and New Life As a Mom

Karlie Kloss on Designing for Adidas and New Life As a Mom

by Ana Escalante

For many of us, this summer will mark a return to gallavanting and fun New York City after more than a year of lockdown restrictions and tremendous loss. But for Karlie Kloss, our "new normal" won't be eclipsed by fancy celebrations or traveling across the globe, things the 28-year-old supermodel used to do in another life. Instead, it's filled with stained maternity bras, chronic sleep deprivation and baby barf.

Still, Kloss senses there's something magical in the air about New York this time of year, and she wouldn't trade it for the world. "You can feel life coming back into the city," she says over Zoom from her Manhattan pad. She gushes about her love of running outside in the springtime. (With real shoes! And real pants! What a concept!)

But for anyone who follows Kloss, none of this should be surprising. The new mother to baby Levi, just shy of his third month, has always been on the go. Modeling is her life, quite literally. She's been in this industry since she was 15-years-old, each retrospective of her career more eye-opening than the last.

"When I set out on starting a career as a model years ago, I had no idea what would be ahead in terms of the opportunity to have a voice and have a platform," Kloss says, with a nostalgic tinge to her voice. "I've always felt a responsibility to do more with that." (While some of us were struggling during precalculus, Kloss was walking on Calvin Klein runways. No big deal – she's just built different.)

Indeed, whether it's leading coding boot camps for young girls, designing her sophomore Adidas x Karlie Kloss collection (dropping June 8) or plotting her long-awaited return to the catwalk, Kloss is a force to be reckoned with. Below, PAPER checks in with the model and new mom about the past year and what's in store for her next.

Photography: Ben Ritter

What excites you about this current Adidas collaboration and how has the creative process been compared to your first season?

It's been a really incredible learning experience for me. The first collection that we started working on, years ago at this point, we had design meetings all throughout the world. The process started very much in person and being able to touch fabrics, try on samples, and be super collaborative in the design process. And obviously, the world shifted versus virtual over the past year. I was shocked by how we were able to not only keep the design process and collaboration going but how we created and captured all the content remotely. The supermodels in our campaign are creators and athletes that we found all across the country. We sent them the product, iPhones, and equipment and they self-captured the content. You wouldn't even believe it by seeing it because it looks like a beautiful campaign if I do say so myself.

Sustainability is such an important part of not only this collection but also of your personal life. What is one thing we should all be doing to preserve our planet for future generations?

It's so important that more and more companies are conscious of the role that we all play in creating a better, more healthy, sustainable planet, but also creating sustainable pieces when it comes down to the fabrics that we've used for this collection, which are actually recycled yarns. Something I always think about is the fact that about 90% of clothing is thrown away long before the actual kind of useful life. For me, what I love to do is buy vintage pieces, or really go to buy something knowing that I'm going to wear it many, many, many times. That was also part of designing this collection, I wanted to create pieces that were timeless, that were made with best-in-class tunable fabrics, but also sustainable just the use of being able to throw them on every day and feel confident walking out the door.

So much of your work revolves around empowering young women, whether it comes to your Kode with Klossy charity or your enthusiasm for healthy living through sport and exercise. What is one thing you hope young girls will take away from this current Adidas partnership?

A huge part of my life is the Kode with Klossy community – these incredible, passionate, changemakers of our world today. I get really energized and inspired by being around them. I grew up in a big family and I'm all about community. This collaboration is so much about both the individual role that sports can play in our lives to help us feel our best and most confident, but also the power of community and sports. For me, it's always been a communal thing, whether it's playing on a team growing up and how important that can be in young women's lives. It certainly was in mine. It's the power of a community to kind of support you and push you, on your best days and on days where you're feeling low.

I know you said you ran for the first time outside in months the other day.

Oh, I love running. For the last decade and a half of my life, I've been living out of a suitcase and traveling for my job. I love that aspect of my life, or at least the way it used to be. But for me, no matter where I am, I always have to go for a run because all you need is a pair of sneakers. It's just to get outside and go, just a mental drive to push yourself to do it. And with pregnancy and quarantine, it was hard to get outside and be able to keep up that normal part of my routine. I don't know why but it took a little extra mental motivation to lace the sneakers back up and get out there. It just felt so good.

What is one thing you're currently loving, but maybe you didn't expect, about being a new mother?

Oh, my gosh. Well, everything in my life has changed. My whole world really revolves around my son now, and it's so cliche, but it's so true. I never knew I could feel such a deep love and adoration for anything. It's so inspiring, but also humbling. I have so much respect for every woman on this planet. It's truly the most rewarding, but also challenging, job. I'm enjoying every second of it.

You gave birth to your son, Levi, in one of the most chaotic times where there are lockdowns and so many people feel isolated from the world. How was that experience?

I luckily was able to have my husband in the delivery room with me. I have so much empathy for every woman who wasn't able to have that experience because of COVID precautions in the hospitals. I have a huge community in my life of just family and friends and I do feel so grateful that I've been able to have their support whether it's virtually or having my family with me during this really inspiring, but at times overwhelming, new chapter.

How has motherhood impacted the way you view personal style, if at all?

I think lately, that's the last thing on my mind. It's a little bit more functionality above all and convenience. I think I've worn the same maternity bras for the last two months, and it's not cute or fashionable whatsoever. For me, fashion has always played such a huge part of my life. I get dressed in the morning because I want to feel my best. Part of designing this collection from the inception was always to make something that was fashionable, sustainable, and functional at its core. I appreciate pieces that are just easy to grab and go. That's kind of all I have time for these days.

As your position within the fashion and modeling industry has grown significantly over the last few years, how does that shape the projects, personal or professional, that you align yourself with?

I really feel so grateful for the partnership with Adidas because they've been such a supporter from day one. They share a kind of values and alignment around wanting to empower young women and help them realize the full potential through access to education, like what we're doing with Kode with Klossy, and also access to sport, which is something that I really care about.

You have your hands in so many different worlds – fashion, design, philanthropy. What's the next big thing you'd love to tackle in the future?

As the world begins to kind of cautiously open back up, I can't wait to be back really where my career started: on the runway and working with my fashion family. I miss everyone. I'm also working on a number of really exciting entrepreneurial projects, and you'll definitely be seeing more of me in the philanthropic space. This last year has taught us that we all must play an active role in making the world a safer, more equitable, and sustainable place. That's definitely going to be a big focus for me going forward.

Photos courtesy of Adidas