Meet The Late Bloomer Who Could Be The Next Kate Moss



topshopPhoto: Courtesy of Topshop.
Most high-fashion models begin their careers before they even graduate from high school. They're thrust into playing the parts of grown women without actually being them. But Drake Burnette is making waves in the fashion industry, beginning her career at the ripe, old age of 27 and opening shows like Marni and Christopher Kane (not to mention landing a British Vogue editorial) within a mere month of being scouted.

While models sit in development for years, this Texan shot straight to the top of the DNA roster (sandwiched between the likes of Alessandra Ambrosio and Dree Hemingway) with little time to comprehend the massive change taking place in her life. And she's the first to admit she held it together due to a natural intellectual maturity that many don't have when they begin at, say, 15 years old. She got to go to college, have unique relationships, and sow her oats. And, now, often 10 years senior to her industry "coworkers," she's being chosen as the face of Topshop fall '13, Missoni's resort collection, Acne Studio’s fall campaign, and yes, that was her in the rag & bone show two days ago.

It's a refreshing change, to know that the woman selling the clothing is just that — a grown adult. Her agent Tanni Foreman, who scouted her in Marfa, TX, said, “I don't think that Drake will be known by specific physical characteristics. Instead, she’s the type of girl who, if you spend any amount of time with her, you want to see her again. I definitely have to give some credit to DNA here. They have had a lot of success with 'older' models lately, and I think it is awesome that they are willing to take a chance on a new face at Drake's age. It has certainly paid off for everyone involved. I think Drake is better able to relate directly with the artists she is working with, being closer in age to them.”

As the craziness of NYFW began, we got the chance to sit down with Drake and talk about the unique perspective she has coming into the industry (just a bit) later in life, what it was like to walk alongside Kate Moss during her first season, and how her maturity has landed her giant campaigns. Because, get ready: You're going to see her a lot this fall. (She gave up her apartment in New York, because she’s so busy — that's serious.)

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marni
So, what's it like, beginning your career closer to 30 when so many others are closer to sweet 16 when they begin?
"It is really interesting. If I were in charge of things, I don't know if I would have girls younger than 18 working. It's complicated."

You’re definitely not alone in that — but why is that? Have you noticed any social trends?
"I'm certainly not an expert from what I've learned over the past six to eight months, but there are ballerinas who have a similar age track as models, I think. For a lot of them, it gets really muddy in their late 20s and early 30s, and it just seems like such an unfair expiration date. Their careers span from their early-teen years through their mid to late 20s, and then that’s when they retire — and a lot of them have problems adjusting into their post-ballerina life. And, I feel like I'm seeing that on the modeling side."

So, it’s safe to say you feel lucky to be modeling at this point in your life?
"Totally. I feel like women really start to flourish in their late 20s and early 30s — as far as knowing who they are, knowing their sense of style, what they like, what they want, and how to actually achieve it. They are the most powerful consumers and tastemakers. It’s definitely weird that the majority of the girls working in the fashion industry that are creating these images that you're supposed to aspire to are actually half your age. But, of course, there are some really gifted girls."

Since modeling ultimately is about a look and a general vibe, do you often have to think about “your image” — and do you get used to that?
"UH-HUH. [Laughs] If you were a gallerist and you were selling art, you'd want to sell as much art as possible to as many high-profile clients. But, when you are the product you're selling, it gets really messy and confusing — and it's totally something I haven't figured out yet. I'm very timidly taking it step-by-step and just trying to interact with social media and this idea of self-branding, but it really freaks me out! I know that everyone is a brand and everyone does it, but it's something that doesn't come that natural to me."

You project a certain strain of steely cool on the runway, you would never know that you’d never done it before. What were those first experiences like?
"Walking in the shows is hard for me. I know the audience is not looking at me as 'Drake, an individual,' but they are in the way. I was talking to myself backstage saying, 'It’s totally okay that you're freaked out and want to die — it’s fine!' [Laughs] It's a combination of stage fright and time slowing down like I'm moving through goo."

Do you ever think about the future of your career or the frightening fickleness of the industry?
"[Last season] I was so new and so freaked out during all of this that even though I was in cool New York shows, and everything kept going through London and Paris — I still knew I could just drop. Girls can have just one good season! I was looking at it just as an experience, so I wouldn't get too stressed out or take anything too personally. I just tried to have that mental attitude and work as hard as I could at each successive moment, and that's the mentality I want to carry over into this upcoming season. I feel like the second you start being like, 'I'm so awesome' is when you get too big for yourself."

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wsjPhoto: Courtesy of WSJ.
With such a whirlwind foray into the fashion world — not to mention traveling around the world — you have to tell us what the most memorable moment last season was.
"Oh, the last 24 hours of Paris Fashion Week at the CR Fashion Book ball. Marni gave me this amazing outfit to wear; I was running around in this beautiful palace. Then in the middle of the night (and party) at 2 a.m., I was told I had to go to a last-minute fitting at Louis Vuitton. I hopped in the car in a Marni ball gown and was whisked to Louis Vuitton. By then it was probably 3 a.m., and we had a 4 a.m. call time. At the fitting — where they just needed to know what color shoes I would wear! — was this beautiful spread of oysters and salmon. So, I had a snack, went to my apartment to take a shower, and 10 minutes later the car came to get me. Then I got lined up next to Kate Moss…"

Your first time on the Fashion Week circuit… and you walk next to Kate Moss! Talk about intimidating.
"[Meeting Kate Moss] was literally like discovering fairies were real. As a little girl, I didn't want to be a model, but she was one of the few celebrities that I was really captivated by. I mean, she's Kate Moss — she's amazing! Getting to hang out with her in line backstage, it felt like forever. She was telling me stories about how crazy and awful the early days of modeling were, but how fun they were at the same time, and she was giving me advice on my walk. She was so nice and so cool, and she held my hand at one point! I left that show that day, and I was just like, 'Woah, this has been a wild ride, and it’s been really hard…But that was amazing.'"

You’ve created quite the stellar résumé in half of a year, from editorial to runway and campaigns — what has the coolest job been, so far?
"It's a toss-up between two. British Vogue with Lucinda Chambers, who is an incredible stylist and was like a fairy godmother to me. It really changed the way I thought about shooting in a studio. And, then my shoot with Viviane Sassen for the Acne Studios campaign that we shot in the woods outside of Amsterdam. It was such an amazingly fun day. It didn't feel like work at all, running through the woods without my shoes on and getting painted blue."

Have your goals or sense of success changed now that you’ve experienced such good fortune in this unexpected career?
"It's been awesome in the sense that it made me realize I could actually achieve some of my goals in life, when I wasn't really sure how I was going to achieve them before. For one, I would really love to have a ranch in the Hill Country. I'm obsessed with Texas. The second I got to New York I was like, 'Annnd, I miss Austin.' I think the best is to be able to travel back and forth, and I know that is a bratty, first-world preference to have!"

So, what’s next, aside from the obvious Fashion Week? [And we had to pry this out of her, because she’s rather humble…]
"Oh, this is kind of neat. I went to Brazil with Josh Olin who shot the British Vogue spread, and I'll be on the cover of WSJ Magazine's September issue with an 18-page spread. Other than that, I’ll just be in the [Fashion Week] zone — sleeping and meditating."