British-born, but Nashville-based, Karen Elson was discovered in a mall in Manchester as a shy 16-year-old. Soon, she became a favourite of photographers like Steven Meisel, Tim Walker and Nick Knight. When asked about how she feels looking back on the body of work she’s created, she speaks fondly of shoots on which she’s felt more like a collaborator than a model.

These days, however, she confesses to be slightly pickier about the people she works with and the projects that she takes on. “It’s about finding the balance of shoots that I find rewarding and the shoots that pay the bills. But I love it. There’s no way I’d be doing it for this many years if I didn’t enjoy it.”

Rarely does she walk runway shows these days though. And when she does, it’s because they are ones that she feels passionate about—like Marc Jacobs’ and Fendi’s spring/summer 2016 shows. “I feel out of place walking them so regularly these days, it’s a young industry and some of the girls are only a few years older than my daughter,” she muses.

karen elson march 2016
Silk playsuit, Fendi. (On right hand) Gold and diamond Trinity ring; gold and mother-of-pearl Amulet necklace; (on left hand) gold and diamond Love ring; gold Juste Un Clou ring; gold Juste Un Clou bangle, Cartier

What makes her illustrious career in fashion all the more interesting is the fact that modelling was never her original plan. It was always her “dream to make music and to sing [her] heart out.” Not that she’s complaining. Being a model, she says, is a gift that allows her to be surrounded by a world of innovative culture creators. “Being around all of these intensely creative people, watching them as artists, creating their own work, just made me want to absorb it all within my own experience,” she adds.

Now, she’s pouring that experience into her music: Her yet-to-be-titled sophomore album is being released later this year. While her last album was more stylistically focused with whimsical poetic murder ballads and haunting country folk songs, she tells me she took a long time to work on this new one because she wanted it to be different.

“An album is a long process. In a way it’s almost the antithesis to modelling where a shoot is so quick. I gave myself time to push each song as far as each song could go. This album will be less disguised in stories than the last. There’s a much more personal mood to this record; I’ve been just writing straight from my heart.”

The full article appears in the March 2016 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.

By Bre Graham

Photographed by Yu Tsai
Styled by Windy Aulia
Makeup: Rachel Goodwin/Starworks Artists
Hair stylist: John Ruggiero/Starworks Artists
Manicurist: Christina Aviles/Opus Beauty
Producer: Trever Swearingen/88 Phases
Digital technician: Wilder Marroquin
Digital imaging: Luis Jaime/88 Phases
Prop stylist: Alex Bain/ 88 Phases
Photography assistants: Embry Lopez, Graham Dalton, Geff Mau
Styling assistant: Jacquelyn Jones