Coco Rocha is definitely one of modeling’s biggest and most ubiquitous stars. Among countless covers, runway appearances and advertisement she also took her modeling expertise to television, appearing in Oxygen’s new series, “The Face,” in early 2013… also the same year Time magazine named Coco’s twitter account one of the 140 best twitter feeds. As one of the first in her field to embrace social media Coco has positioned herself as one of the most digitally-savvy models of her generation; her presence on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo and various other social media platforms has gained her a total of over 16 million followers.
Her first book was launched in September 2014 from Harper Collins. “The Study of Pose”, with foreword by Coco’s longtime collaborator Jean Paul Gaultier, catalogs over 1000 unique poses, each captured from 100 angles by renowned photographer Steven Sebring. The app version of the book contains a staggering 100,000 unique images of Rocha.
In December 2009, Vogue Paris named Coco one of the top 30 models of the decade. The following year she was awarded Marie Claire’s Prix d’Excellence as their “Model Of The Year’ at a ceremony in Paris, France and just three months later she was presented the Elle Style award for ‘Model of the Year’ by Boy George in London, England. In 2013 Coco was awarded the model of the year award at the first ever Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards (CAFA) in Toronto, Canada.
Having designed jewelry collection in 2014 for online retailer BaubleBar, she is now successful launching her own bag collection for luxury brand Botkier.
I don’t know how to describe you to someone who doesn’t know you… model doesn’t suffice… can you describe yourself
I really feel like I’m a full time student. I got my start as a model and I took very seriously trying to be skilled and professional at that. I still model now but I really enjoy exploring and learning about different facets of fashion. Whether it be watching photographers setting up lighting or designers pick fabrics, I love learning more about my industry. With the handbag collection, not only did I learn a lot about leathers and hardware, but I sat in on meetings with store buyers, listened to their thoughts and saw that side of the business. It’s fascinating for me, and something I’m excited about exploring further.
You have been at the forefront with empowering models with social media what was your “aha” moment?
About 8 years ago I found myself on the cover of a newspaper with a headline about me that was entirely untrue. I had kept a blog as a fun diary for a few years previously but I decided to write my true feelings on the article there, in the hopes that someone would hear my side of the story. The blog went viral and was picked up internationally and it was at that time that I realized I finally had a voice. Models for so long were relegated to being these mute pretty faces, but with social media, we can finally be known for whatever it is we stand for. I still faced a lot of backlash early on for using social media, now everyone in fashion is on at least one or two platforms!
How did you figure out that it could be profitable for you to do this?
At the end of the day, all models are in the business of advertising. I knew that if I could build an audience, that would be valuable to someone, someday! It took a few years before that theory became a reality but now sure enough there are clients who will only book a model if she has a minimum of X amount of followers. It’s a new world we live in.
How does it feel that models have “copied” your “model”?
It was inevitable. I feel like my career put me in the time period to try this method of branding ones self, but if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else. Cindy Crawford told me something similar about her career during the “supermodel era” – it was an opportunity intrinsic to that time period, but at the end of the day it’s all about what you do with that opportunity. I feel the same way about taking advantage of social media early on.
A lot of people are hating the “models” with big social media following that magazine, ads, etc are courting them just for that? what is your take on this?
First of all, I do believe the three models with the highest follower count – Kendall, Cara and Gigi – are all hard working girls and good models in their own right. I do feel like we have reached the apex of booking girls based on followers. You know fashion, it’s all about pushing things to an excess. I wont deny that I benefit from having a high follower count myself, but I don’t think that should be the only reason to book a girl for a modeling job. In many ways I think it creates an impossibly high bar of entry for up and coming models these day. As a unknown child of a working flight attendant mom I definitely wonder if I could have “made it” as a model in today’s climate. As always, there will be a backlash to this and I think the pendulum will swing away from the industry’s obsession with follower count. Or at least find some balance.
Hate to ask this as I know the answer…. is it a fair leveling ground?
It’s not, but modeling has never been a level play ground. Even historically, the girls booking the major modeling jobs around the world are complete genetic anomaly’s. They are and always have been the 1% of the 1% of women with the right combination of height, waist size and cheek bones. It’s just now you have to add follower count into that equation.
You’re a designer already… you did jewelry and now bags… tell us all about it?
I’ve always admired Botkier. They are a New York brand that speaks to my kind of girl. I had been wanting to design handbags for a while but previously never found the right team to work with. I never wanted to just put my name on a bag and walk away, I really wanted to be involved in every step of the process and it was clear from the start that Botkier would let me do that. I feel like they really valued my ideas and creativity and in return I learnt so much from them about the business of constructing quality bags from start to finish.
Do you have a fave from your collection… and why?
That’s like asking who my favorite child is! I love them all equally! But seriously, I will say I find myself carrying the London tote and the Paris tote a lot – mainly because I need to carry so much stuff now I have a baby!
Fall Lust… what is your must have this fall?
I am a huge fan of Marissa Webb and she has this amazing fall anorak that I am already sporting around. Its the perfect jacket for fall and always sits so chic.
How did you bounce back in “model” form after baby?
I didn’t really worry about it too much. I think there is far too much pressure on women to defy nature and instantly go back to their pre-pregnancy body. While I was pregnant I made sure I kept fit and active and so that never changed. It’s not like I stopped and gave up on nutrition and exercise and had to get back on the wagon. I think just being a mom is quite the workout by itself!
You’re the ultimate multi-tasker and now a mom…how do you “werk” it?
I’m sort of learning as I go along. I can’t say I have all the answers, but I’m open to finding them. James has been so great, he’s a very hands on Dad. I can only imagine what a struggle it must be for single mothers, or mothers who are home alone all day. Working with James and sharing the joys of parenting with him has been a huge blessing.
Did I hear Ioni has her own Instagram account? She is so young (and I’m so last century!)
She does. I run it of course, and I’m sure by the time she is old enough to use it herself she will be like, “What was Instagram?!”
Did you hesitate to put her out there so visibly at a young age… or is this the new norm?
I’ve always been of the mindset that if you share enough, the public doesn’t ask for more. I know some models and personalities go to great lengths to hide from the paparazzi, and I certainly understand why. For me, I post vacation pictures because I know that if I do, no one is hiring a photographer to track me down on a beach. I’m controlling the message myself. The same was true for Ioni. There was no bounty on getting a paparazzi photo of Ioni because my husband and I released pictures that we were comfortable with. For Ioni, I didn’t originally intend to make her an Instagram account to be honest. While I was pregnant I was using the hashtag #babyconran on my own social media, which is my married last name. Weirdly enough I started randomly seeing another woman tag her belly with #babyconran, which was bizarre… then someone took the @BabyConran username and started calling themselves my “Baby Conran”, which was even weirder. Before we announced Ioni’s name publicly I knew I didn’t want that to happen again, for some creeper somewhere to start calling themselves @IoniConran and posting who-knows-what under her name. I hoped my friends and family would check it out to see updates on Ioni, but I guess she has quite the extended fan base now.