From Art Darling To Marni Muse: Jess Maybury Is The Model To Know

Jess Maybury was 17 when she booked her first modelling job, alongside older sister Reba Maybury (a writer, publisher and dominatrix), for the respected fashion and culture magazine, AnOther. It was an auspicious start and Jess quickly became a regular face on the arty London fashion scene, known for her statuesque figure and unique beauty. With a mix of Pakistani and Welsh heritage, Jess is tall with long, dark hair, an angular jaw and the bored but beautiful almond eyes of a Pre-Raphaelite muse.
Initially, Jess appeared on the catwalk and in photoshoots for emerging designers such as Claire Barrow and Marta Jakubowski, and then more established brands including Gareth Pugh and Acne. Autumn Winter '15 brought her first campaign, a gothic vision for Lanvin, and she recently appeared in the Autumn Winter '18 Vivienne Westwood campaign with Reba. After becoming embedded in London’s art and fashion communities, and working on her own eccentric shoots with partner Joshua Gordon (a filmmaker), Jess has become well known in the industry here.
Ashley Williams Spring Summer 19
This past fashion month, however, Jess burst onto the international fashion stage in a major way. Cast for the Spring Summer '19 Marni show in Milan, Jess was given the prestigious role of opening the show – an honour usually bestowed on a model the designer believes epitomises the mood of the collection, and the current moment in fashion. Having walked for Ashley Williams in London, Jess then finished fashion month walking for Kenzo and Sonia Rykiel in Paris.
Refinery29 caught up with Jess over email to hear about her first major fashion month, and also found out why she quit college, how she came to love her unique beauty, and how she copes with freezing cold modelling shoots...
Where are you from, and what’s your background?
I grew up in a small village called Woodstock which was quite boring and full of old people, and moved to London to do a degree in illustration at Camberwell but didn’t like it – it definitely wasn’t worth £9,000 a year. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with my own work and doing projects with my boyfriend. Working a boring job to pay rent and modelling when something comes up, which makes life far more exciting.
What’s the best thing about being a model during fashion month?
I can get time off work from my job, and love meeting interesting designers and stylists who I respect and adore, like ASAI and Fran Burns, who have really supported me.
What is the biggest misconception people have about modelling?
That it’s all glamour the whole time. A lot of my shoots have been outside in the middle of the freezing winter or swimming in icy water, but I can’t complain because they’re generally amazing experiences with people I love working with, and the benefits outweigh any bad points. I got to hold a fox called Cherry for Print magazine, which was really incredible.
Jess opening Marni Spring Summer 19
You opened the Marni show in Milan, which is a huge deal. How did that come about? When did you find out? And what did it feel like?
It was really amazing and surreal. I was asked to go to Milan for the weekend to visit them and found out I was opening the show the night before, which was so shocking. I kept thinking why would they want this big buggy woman to open their show?
How do you relax after show season?
Because I’m not a full-time model I’m not as busy as other models so I don’t feel too drained by it all, but when I am away I miss spending time with my boyfriend, so I try and squeeze in some day trips to galleries or to a farm to see some piggies with him.
How would you describe your personal style?
Well, my favourite colour is brown so any look with an array of chocolate and caramel tones is right up my alley. Me and my sister have been collecting and sharing vintage Jean Paul Gaultier for years! My style icons would range from Grace Jones to my mum and her collection of Indian and Afghani tribal jewellery.
Marni Spring Summer 19
And what about your beauty routine?
I don’t really have one, I’m quite the lazy pig. I just wash my hair every day and put it in a plait, that’s my only daily ritual. I love a body oil but usually have to steal one because they’re quite expensive.
Have you always been confident in your looks?
Oh, definitely not. I looked like a big tall worm my whole life and then cut my hair into a bowl cut (accidentally) when I was 14 so the teenage years were quite hideous, but I think kids and teenagers need to look like freaks. If you peak when you’re young then the rest of your life is downhill from there. I love being tall now and making men on the Tube feel really small, but I also love that my boyfriend is shorter than me, it’s a perfect combination.
Sonia Rykiel Spring Summer 19
There’s an increasing crossover between models and influencers. What are your feelings about being an influencer, or street style personality?
I suppose it depends on the 'influencer'. It’s only a term that’s existed in the last few years and has little meaning because none of these people do anything and aren’t actually very interesting. But I suppose models and influencers alike are both desired because of their physical appearance. I just wish the younger generation didn’t care about putting all their efforts into street style and selfies and actually had knowledge of art history, literature and good films. People just praise the rich kids of celebrities now, it’s boring.
As well as a model, you’re also a photographer. How would you describe your style and practice?
Jean-Paul Goude and Cindy Sherman have been favourites since an early age. I’m only getting to grips with what I want to do; I often feel pressure to say "I’m a photographer" but I just want to create art that’s not just for Instagram as that doesn’t hold any value to me. I want to work on meaningful projects until I’m happy to put it all out there, no matter how long it takes.

More from Fashion

R29 Original Series