EMMA ELWICK-BATES, VOGUE
What does a girl with the world at her feet wear after dark? Kendall Jenner—model-of-the-moment, social media sensation, and the new face of Estée Lauder—plunges into party season.
It’s called Sphere-360°. Download immediately!” instructs Kendall Jenner, her face illuminated by her iPhone 6 across a table at the Bowery Hotel’s Gemma restaurant. This app, she swears, will change my life.
A willowy nineteen-year-old brunette, Jenner emerged as an unequivocal star at the spring collections. She walked thirteen major shows and became the talk of the fashion crowd, from New York’s front row to dinners at Paris’s Caviar Kaspia to Twitter, where she topped the season’s most-discussed personalities.
“Kendall is the new pop-culture model,” declares Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, talking from his Paris office. “She’s inspiring girls in the way Claudia Schiffer or Naomi Campbell did. They aspire to look like her.”
As an It girl, Jenner is the perfect storm: Raised from the age of eleven in front of reality-show cameras documenting her Kardashian half-sisters, she has recalibrated the public/private filter of her generation. Unlike other contemporary models who have learned how to harness social media to further their careers, Jenner has grown right out of the belly of the beast. She is a self-created phenomenon, with some fifteen million Instagram followers; the modeling came later. “I enjoy letting my fans into my world,” says Jenner, dressed today in skinny gray Point Sur jeans, a Rag & Bone T-shirt, and a Barbara Bui fringed-leather jacket. “Instagram is my edit of my life.”
Along with her digital ease comes the one-two punch of her extraordinary classical beauty, worthy of a Goya portrait: huge, wide-set eyes, well-drawn eyebrows, pillowy lips, lush cheeks, feminine curves. “She has that dichotomy: darkness and sweetness at the same time,” observes Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, who cast her in his fall campaign. Tisci was struck by her unswerving work ethic—another hallmark of the ambitious, tech-savvy stars of right now. “She arrives with a big smile on her face because she feels privileged to be able to do what she wants to, and that’s priceless,” adds Tisci. “She works hard, and it pays off.” Jenner recalls that her parents—her manager-mother, Kris, and former-Olympian father, Bruce—would wake her up three hours before school to do extra study. “I learned early that being a perfectionist and providing quality was the only way to do business,” she says matter-of-factly. “Workaholicis a good word in our house.”
Back home in L.A., she recently bought an airy high-rise apartment in Beverly Hills with her modeling earnings (her floating Arteriors chandelier got 477,000 likes). Here she throws parties for such friends as Gigi Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and Jaden and Willow Smith. “We dance crazily to our favorite music,” she says. (Straight-talking feminist rapper Tink’s hit “M.E.N.” is at the top of her playlist.)
Jenner’s latest power move? She has been chosen as the new global face of Estée Lauder, news that came by text backstage at the Sonia Rykiel show—and then had to be kept secret pending this month’s announcement. Mikael Jansson will shoot her first campaign, alongside Carolyn Murphy and Joan Smalls. For Lauder—which for many years picked movie stars to represent the brand for the wider audience they could bring to the table—its new 360-degree star has the add-on of her built-in social-media following. And just to underline the point, the company is having Jenner launch the news via Twitter and Instagram.