Karen Elson Is Obsessed With Cara D. & Bakelite Jewelry

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karenPhoto: Will Ragozzino /BFAnyc.com.
Well, we've officially got a new girl crush. Not that we weren't always obsessed with ethereal beauty Karen Elson — as a major model with a serious resume, there's a lot to love. But, after we sat down and interviewed her in a private room at the Tiffany's store on Fifth Avenue for the celebration of the new Atlas collection, we officially fell head-over-heels. Not only is she smart, kind, and down-to-Earth, she's also one of those people who displays a true passion for her interests. Hearing her talk about her musical career and icons (she is a bit of a slashie, after all) made it clear that she's a true creative.

What’s your favorite Tiffany’s piece you own?
“You know, they gave me a key necklace. I’ve done a number of shoots for them, and they sent me this key that I fell madly in love with at a shoot. It’s something I wear very, very often. It’s incredibly chic and delicate. I was so lucky they sent it to me.”

What’s the one piece of jewelry you can’t live with out?
“I have a very sentimental piece of jewelry. It’s a ring that my first love’s mother gave to me. It’s a tiger sapphire, and it’s gorgeous. I usually wear it every day. It’s the most beautiful, sentimental piece of jewelry. I couldn’t live without it.”

Do you mostly wear fine jewelry?
“I do it all! I’ve got fine pieces, and I’ve got things for going out — particularly in New York, I try to do it based on the event. For instance, I’m going to the New York City Ballet benefit, and I’m going to find a fine piece of jewelry to wear because that’s what’s appropriate. If I’m going out to a film screening, costume jewelry works perfectly fine. I love vintage jewelry, too, obviously because I have a vintage store. I have a ton of old bracelets. I used to collect Bakelite bracelets for years. Unfortunately, I lost them when I moved from New York to Nashville. I love Bakelite, though.”

How was your New York Fashion Week?
“It’s been great, really fun. DVF was fantastic. I love her, she’s such a trailblazer of a woman. I just adore her.”

Are you personal friends with Diane?
“Yes! I like her a lot. She’s just foxy, you know? She represents so much femininity. She’s charismatic, smart, and very tongue-in-cheek.”

Who are some of your favorite models working today?
“I love Edie Campbell. I’ve worked with her quite a number of times, on a Meisel shoot, and another really awesome shoot with Tim Walker. She’s just really cool, really easygoing, and really nice, too. I love Guinevere Van Seenus — she’s such an icon. I’ve been hanging out with Frankie Rayder. I feel like she deserves a real resurgence now. And, how can you not love Cara Delevingne? I did a W shoot with her, and I was madly in love by the time it was over. She’s just got such an energy about her, and a sweetness that makes me get why she’s all over the place. She’s such a fun, lovely girl.”

And what about musicians?
“Mazzy Star has always been a favorite. They’re putting out a record at the end of September (which I’ve already preordered). I’m like a super fan of theirs, it’s outrageous. I love this folk singer named Jackson C. Frank. He’s not alive anymore, but he wrote a lot of beautiful folk songs that Simon & Garfunkel covered. My music goes all over the place, but I’m trying to listen to a lot more contemporary music. I feel like from 1978 back is all I know. I’m trying to start to listen to more current music because I feel out of the loop. I love the redheads of course; Neko Case, Jenny Lewis, and Florence Welch (whom I adore). I really admire Neko Case, though. I’m doing a tour with her soon. She’s such an incredible songwriter. She’s something else.”

Do you have any beauty tips for redheads?
“We’re so fair, so it’s all about managing your fair skin. That, for me, is the most important. I live in a very hot place, so I’m always in a hat and protecting myself from the sun. The sun is not my friend. If you can find a good sunscreen that doesn’t give you bad skin, that's great. I’ve found this amazing one from Sonya Dakar that’s effortless. It feels like you have nothing on. It’s got this kick of synthetic snake venom that totally zings your face. Finding a good conditioner is a must, too, because red hair can get particularly dry.”

Do you think you’ll always keep your hair red?
“Probably. I do have days where I want to be a blonde; those days where I think it’d be so fun. I don’t know if I could pull it off, though.”

What’s your favorite item of clothing you’ve ever worn for a show?
“Oh, I don’t know! That’s so hard to say. To me, it’s often about the clothes, but it’s also about the show experience. Like, walking in Marc Jacobs show when I was six months pregnant was special to me. Doing an Alexander McQueen show that was based on the film, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? where we were dancing around to the choreography of Michael Clark brought us, the models, all to a crazy place. We weren’t walking down the runway, we were falling, dancing, and flailing down the runway. It was amazing. Not to disrespect the outfits, but it’s more about that — I remember the experiences better than the pieces, to be honest.”

Do you think you approach model differently now than you did when you were younger?
“When I first started, I didn’t know what I was doing. My success happened very fast. It went from doing nothing to closing the Chanel show, covering Italian Vogue, doing a shoot with Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell...it was so fast. At first, I didn’t know what was going on. It’s a lot easier these days. I’m a part of the fashion industry, and people know me. I’ve got friendships with the designers, photographers, and stylists. It’s like I’m going to work with friends, and people I’ve seen around for years. It’s completely different, and I feel like I know the people. Before, it was anxiety-ridden.”

What would you say to the girls who are just starting out as models?
“It seems like you have to have something that really stands out these days to be successful. You can’t just have a beautiful face and body. There has to be something original about you, and you have to be strong in who you are. The girls who are successful are the girls who have that thing that you can’t put your finger on. They’re not the weird girls; there’s something else to them. My advice would be to cultivate the things you love, even if you’re a quiet girl. That beauty will come through in the photo.”

You’re about so much more than fashion. For example, your Twitter feed is filled with animal rights activism. Is there anything you wish people would be more passionate about?
“There are things I adamantly believe in; children’s rights are big deal for me. This is a loaded topic, but for instance, what’s going on in Syria is a massacre, and we’re kind of helpless when it comes doing anything. I feel like Twitter is definitely a place to put your opinions forth and exercise your free speech. I’m so passionate about women’s rights, because as a woman, we’re in a really funny time. We can go in many different directions. Martha Plimpton has such a poignant view and a way of tweeting that inspires me. She understands exactly what it means to be a woman in today’s world."