“Someone once told me I was the thinking man’s model,” says Edie Campbell, “which I thought was both a contradiction in terms and incredibly flattering.” Despite her discomfort with the label, the British model is exactly that – an art history graduate of the Courtauld Institute in London, an activist, an avid horse rider, and one of the most recognisable faces in fashion from the past decade. In 2009, Campbell made her modelling debut in a British Vogue editorial shot by Mario Testino – she self-effacingly credits her entry into the industry as being through “pure nepotism” (her mother is Sophie Hicks, a former fashion editor) – and has since walked for and starred in campaigns for nearly every luxury fashion brand in existence; Burberry, Miu Miu, Alexander McQueen, and countless others.
In 2017, Campbell penned an open letter in WWD detailing the abuses of power within the fashion industry, moving above and beyond the rulebook of what is expected from models. “We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations,” she wrote. “This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits … our inaction makes us complicit.” Speaking about that moment over the phone from her lakeside house in Northamptonshire, she says, “I can be a bit of a gobshite, and I was in a position where I felt like I could say those things in a public forum and not be overly punished for it.”
Despite her activist streak, Campbell’s default mode on the catwalk is one of cheekiness and debauchery – she walked Molly Goddard’s Spring/Summer 2018 show with a glass of white wine in hand and a cigarette in her mouth, and opened Marc Jacobs’ final show for Louis Vuitton in nothing but body paint, a jewelled thong and feathery headdress.
Now, Campbell has brought her wisecracking sense of humour – and androgynous style – to a new womenswear capsule collection created with British heritage label Sunspel. Comprising of lime-coloured fisherman’s jumpers, tweed coats and houndstooth suits, the collection is inspired by the style of Jarvis Cocker and, bizarrely, Danny DeVito’s character Harry Wormwood in Matilda. “There’s a bit of humour to it and a kind of relaxation,” she says of British style – and the same can be said of her Sunspel collection – “but also in the same breath, it’s quite uptight.”
Below, Campbell answers AnOther’s 50 questions.
1. What most inspired your collection with Sunspel? The starting point was ‘trad’ menswear codes and people who wear menswear well, like Jarvis Cocker and [the character from Matilda, played by Danny DeVito] Harry Wormwood.
2. Why Sunspel? They approached me and I’ve always really liked the brand. I think it has a really compelling heritage and also, it’s slow fashion, which I like. I went to visit the factory years ago and a lot of it is still made in the UK.
3. How would you define British style? There’s a bit of humour to it and a kind of relaxation, but also in the same breath, it’s quite uptight.
4. What motivates you? Whatever I am, in that moment, finding inspiring. People with energy of any kind – good or bad.
5. What is your daily uniform? A suit.
6. How were you first discovered as a model? Pure nepotism. My mum [Sophie Hicks] used to work in fashion, so [I was discovered] via Lucinda Chambers, who she worked with at British Vogue.
7. What’s the best thing about modelling? Working with really fun, interesting, creative people.
8. What’s the worst thing about modelling? There’s not really anything that bad about it.
9. What makes a great model? Someone who’s not dead behind the eyes.
10. What’s the biggest misconception about models? I don’t think there are any ... the rumours are all true.
11. If you weren’t a model, what would you be doing? I’ve been a model my entire adult life, so I have no idea, and it honestly doesn’t bear thinking about.
12. When did you feel like you made it? When I was doing legitimate things that big models do, like flying to New York to shoot with Steven Meisel. And shooting campaigns and the phone ringing off the hook – that kind of stuff.
13. Where do you go to get inspired? Galleries, mostly. Interesting small galleries and also the big blockbuster shows at places like the Tate.
14. Who are your style icons? Because Sunspel is so fresh in my mind, Harry Wormwood [character from Matilda] and also his wife in the film. They’re extremely glam and kitsch.
15. What’s the last exhibition you went to? You know what, I haven’t seen any art all summer.
What’s the biggest misconception about models? “I don’t think there are any ... the rumours are all true” – Edie Campbell
16. What did you learn from your art history degree? How pictures work, and what makes them compelling.
17. What’s the greatest compliment you’ve ever received? Someone once told me I was the thinking man’s model, which I thought was both a contradiction in terms and incredibly flattering.
18. What’s your most treasured possession? My horses.
19. What’s your favourite fashion show you’ve walked in? Marc Jacobs’ last show for Louis Vuitton – where I was naked but for body paint – because it was very much outside of my comfort zone.
20. And what’s your favourite shoot you’ve appeared in? There are too many to name. I did a story once with David Sims for French Vogue which was Marilyn Monroe-inspired. That was nice.
21. Why did you swap London for the countryside? Because I’m old. [Laughs.]. It was time for change, I like the countryside and I like being outside.
22. What are you most proud of? I’m proud of my puppy Tootsie, who I’ve taught basic commands, like ‘go to your bed’ and ‘come here’ and ‘sit down’. I'm proud of her.
23. What does the term ‘androgyny’ mean to you? Androgyny is kind of obsolete now that we’re in 2022 and gender roles are so played with. I guess it just means a kind of boyishness in women, or vice versa.
24. Who is your favourite fictional character? Miss Trunchbull [from Matilda] or Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
25. What are you reading at the moment? I’m reading Nick Grimshaw’s book Soft Lad at the moment, but I just finished a book called Who Killed My Father Book by Édouard Louis. It’s amazing. He’s the golden child of French socially critical literature.
26. What book can you read again and again and again? The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy. It’s so brutally honest and so beautiful in a stream-of-consciousness way. It blew my mind when I first read it.
27. When and where were you the happiest? I’m always really happy around the horses, or if I’m reading a really good book on the beach.
28. What do you love most about horse-riding? Horses are just really fucking amazing creatures that are really smart. I mean, I get on its back and I jump over things – that’s wild. [Laughs.].
29. What do you consider your greatest achievement? I just called my puppy [over] and she came immediately, so yeah, that.
30. Which film last made you cry? I was talking about The Elephant Man this morning, and that is the saddest film in the world.
31. What is your greatest fear? I’m not particularly paralysed by anything.
32. What do people get wrong about you? People think I’m mean – no, people think I’m cold, or uncaring. But they probably think that because I’m being cold or uncaring, so it actually wouldn’t be wrong.
33. What’s your favourite thing about the fashion world? The people and the ideas.
34. What’s your least favourite thing about the fashion world? The environmental impact.
35. What are you most thankful for? My health.
“Someone once told me I was the thinking man’s model, which I thought was both a contradiction in terms and incredibly flattering” – Edie Campbell
36. In 2017, you penned an open letter in WWD about the abuse of power in the fashion industry. What compelled you to do that? I can be a bit of a gobshite, and I was in a position where I felt like I could say those things in a public forum and not be overly punished for it. Also, I find it very inauthentic when people don’t do or say the honest thing.
37. Has the culture actually changed since then? If so, how? Yeah, across fashion and then also on a bigger scale – globally across business and creative industries – the boundaries have moved and people are more professional generally. So yes, I think things have changed.
38. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? I had a great bit of advice the other day: look hot, stay cool, don’t let the fuckers get you down. I just thought, that is a mantra to live by. It’s tattoo-worthy.
39. If you could go back in time and say one thing to your 18-year-old self, what would you say? I would say exactly that: look hot, stay cool, don’t let the fuckers get you down. [Laughs.].
40. Who would play you in a film about your life? Timothée Chalamet.
41. And who would direct it? I’m not familiar enough with enough directors to answer that with any level of authority.
42. What would your death row meal be? A roast dinner with every possible extra trimming. I want it all, I want stuffing, crackling, I want the whole fucking shebang. And then a very large bar of Dairy Milk and a can of Coke. And also a large bottle of wine. I’m going out with a bang, or with a heart attack.
43. Greatest album of all time? Different Class by Pulp.
44. Which photographer makes you feel the most you? David Sims.
45. Pick three dinner party guests, dead or alive. 90s David Beckham, Maura Higgins the day she walked into Love Island, and Derek Blasberg – a lol mix.
46. Which artist has had the biggest impact on you? It’s really obvious, but probably David Bowie. The look and the music and the whole fucking thing, and the million different versions and rewritings of [himself].
47. What item of clothing would you like to be buried in? The other day I wore a cream silk suit with a hat that was a little bit Steve Strange. That was quite chic, I like the idea of a little trickle of blood and an all-white outfit.
48. If you could dress in just one brand for the rest of your life, what would it be? I would say The Row but that would get a bit boring. With The Row, you would be reliably well-dressed throughout your life because you’ve got to have something you can wear at 80. Or maybe Alaïa, because you could go thotty dress or great tailoring.
49. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to? I would staple together lots of different bits of different parties.
50. Where do you see yourself in ten years? I have no idea. I can’t look that far ahead, I’m too noncommittal.
The Edie Campbell and Sunspel collection is available to buy now.