INTERVIEW: KAROLINA KURKOVA, MODEL & ENTREPRENEUR
words by DANIELLE RANSOM • Beauty
Twenty years later and Karolina Kurkova is still a force to be reckoned with. From the fresh-faced model I met when I was a styling assistant, to the entrepreneurial power-house she is today, there has never been doubt about the heights this woman can reach.
The mother of two celebrated her 20th year as one of fashion’s most successful models by co-founding her own children’s wellness line, Gryph and IvyRose. We took a trip down memory lane to where it all began and also discussed what’s next for this unstoppable Karolina (including the launch of her collaboration with CYBEX Strollers - which launches today!).
JVB: Twenty years in the industry! Can you believe you started so young? That must have made you very independent from a young age?
Karolina Kurkova: I know, it’s crazy! I learned about discipline and work ethic from a very early age. I was a (near-professional) gymnast from the age of 6 and would have to train before and after school [most days]. I have always been very driven and hard working. Not because I was told to be, but I because I had that drive to be the best person I could be.
JVB: Tell us a little about how were you discovered?
KK: I was always this very tall, long-legged girl - not the typical 13-14year old. Everyone around me started to grow curves, but I was a very different body type. I was not confident with my body, it definitely made me a little shy.
But a friend of mine from class actually started taking images of me when we were really young - [they were] super innocent, but we had so much makeup! And fake lashes! They were super simple images, but she took these photos and then sent them into an agency. And they wanted me straight away!
JVB: And when did Prada happen? That was your first major show, right?
KK: I was 15 when Prada happened. I was sent to Milan around fashion week. I met Miuccia in London, and then went right after to Milan. I guess they liked me straight away because they put me on exclusivity. And that collection was then fit around me. That was definitely the moment I was sort of put on the map.
JVB: You must have learned so much during that time. Working with a team like Prada so early on in your career. That must have given you such an insight into the business?
KK: Absolutely, I mean I was only 15 so I certainly wasn’t sure then that [modeling] was going to be my life, but I definitely took it all in. I made sure I was always present, always alive, always very respectful. And definitely, the experiences I had from early on have helped me a lot today.
JVB: Did you ever see yourself and your career heading in this direction?
KK: Did think I would be where I am today? No. [laughs] But I definitely knew I wanted to give [modeling] my best. And it paid off. I [like to be] very involved and hands on. I am creative and like to be a part of the team.
JVB: Which is fantastic! That’s what makes someone a dream to work with; as a stylist or photographer, we want to work with people who want to be involved - you have always been a dream to work with I have to say!
KK: Oh thank you - as have you! My upbringing also [shaped me]. I was very independent and I learned how to take care of myself form a very young age, like cooking and cleaning. All of those things have helped me through until now.
JVB: Speaking of cooking, wellness obviously plays an important role in a career as a model. Were your own health philosophies and regimes what inspired you to develop your children's wellness line, Gryph & IvyRose? How did this project come about?
KK: They definitely played a role. And then I met my co-founder, Rachel Finger, who had been introduced to now Gryph & IvyRose herbalist and his father, now Gryph & IvyRose Physician (who is like a kids whisperer!). I found out that we had a lot in common. We just respected each other personally, and we felt like there was nothing on the market like this. We wanted to provide for children what we were already doing for ourselves - like drinking green juice and taking supplements - but do it in a way that would connect with children. We decided we were going to do three categories: bath & body, probiotics, and ingestible herbal elixirs.
We are also developing an eczema balm and coming out with adult chocolate probiotics very soon - because we found that the adults just loved them! They were always eating [their kid’s probiotics]. We are developing a lot of new products actually, and we will expand into pregnancy products soon, too.
JVB: My daughter put one of your chocolates into my hot chocolate the other day. She didn’t say anything; she just said there is a surprise at the bottom! And it was one of your hearts!
KK: Oh that is so sweet! What a gorgeous daughter.
JVB: And the packaging is so sweet too. I just love it.
KK: Thank you, that was an important element for us. A lot of the beauty and wellness brands out there have beauty and quality on the inside, but their packaging is not attractive and isn’t connecting with the kids, nor [is it] something you want to have displayed in the house. We wanted to do something modern, we were making something that was beneficial with quality and good formulation, so wanted this reflected on the outside, while still making it sweet and fun.
JVB: And tell me, you recently partnered with CYBEX strollers. How did you get involved with them?
KK: When I had my second baby, I remember someone emailing me about this company [and] the founder's parent’s background were Czech so, of course, I was very interested and excited. They were about to do a store opening so I said why don’t I come to that and we can meet in person. My parents and my kids came with me, and we all got to meet each other. There was so much symmetry, so much we had in common. They wanted me to give my insight into the product range. And now I have designed a whole line for CYBEX! Not just the stroller.
This is not typically an industry models enter into, but I just agreed with their philosophy. I thought how fun to be able to do this. I have had two kids and thought it would be so fun to do something in the children's design space.
I went to their HQ in Germany and met with their very small team, and we came up with this design. It’s something that I am really happy and proud of.
JVB: And you should be! As a mother with two young kids myself, I always pay attention to how a stroller looks and works. When it comes to kids, I always try to pick substance over style, which is so much easier said than done.
KK: Our designs are so much more technical [with a focus on] safety and functionality, [but] with a message. It’s very much about a family. We really went from scratch to build this line and it really took shape on its own. Thirty percent of the material is actually recycled, which is quite revolutionary for this kind of business. It’s a lot about love, fun, and silliness.
This process has [been] so interesting, I [am learning] about things I have never had to deal with. But there are still a lot of [things] I have gained, from [being] 20 years in business. Everything I was exposed to over my career comes in handy now with [all of] this. You do learn the different aspects of a business from working with magazines and companies.
JVB: And I am sure you have many other projects in the pipeline for 2019! Can you share anything else with us?
KK: Well, we are actually working on [a children’s book] at the moment. We have all the animations and everything ready to go, now just working through the logistics! So that’s one little exciting thing I can share.