Emily Gafford is this season’s name to know.
Born and raised in Florida, ruling the runway was never her game plan (she dreamed of playing soccer at college), but since being discovered in a New Orleans bar in 2016 the 21-year-old has racked up an impressive CV; for autumn / winter ’18 alone she’s walked for the likes of Thom Browne, Acne and Alexander Wang and most recently starred in Versace’s mega campaign shot by Steven Meisel. Openly gay and a big advocate for the LGBTQ community, Emily shares with HUNGER her thoughts on female sexuality in fashion, first loves (football) and future plans.
Hey Emily! You’ve just come back from Tokyo with Hermes. How was that?
It was so good, it was a lot of fun. I only slept about two days the whole trip I think, there was so much to see. I ended up going to this Japanese-style Karaoke bar. My go-to Karaoke song has to be Phil Collins In The Air Tonight. His voicing is so soothing!
How did you find yourself modelling?
I’d been scouted so many times – people walking around would ask me like ‘come to this event’ ‘come to this showcase’ and I was always with my mum and somebody and they’d tell them to get away basically. We never really thought it was a legit thing. I was supposed to go to college to play soccer and that was my plan when I came out of high school. Coming from a small town (in Florida) it’s hard, you have so many plans and you don’t know which way to turn sometimes. So when I graduated high school my knees got bad so didn’t end up playing soccer and was dating this girl at the time and started bar tending in New Orleans. For a couple of years I kind of was just living life; it was fun.
By the end of 2016, I was bar tending and my mother agency approached me and gave me her card. I kind of blew that off for a couple of months and then the girl that I was seeing at the time we ended up splitting and I felt lost. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and so I thought maybe I’d give it a try and she gave me this sheet of paper of how to shoot a polaroid and so I had my friend take some photos of me and the next week I was in New York, it was kind of crazy how everything happened.
So it all happened pretty fast.
Yeah, but I think I’m handling it pretty well coming in to the industry. A bit late, as a model. It was a benefit to me though because I really knew who I was more than I did a few years before.
You’ve always been open about your sexuality. Female sexuality appears to be discussed less in fashion, what’s your take on this?
I think I would agree with that, I don’t think it is discussed as openly as people would make it seem. I think it’s discussed more amongst friends but not publicly. But my thing with sexuality is it’s 2018, we’ve come to a new generation and they’re definitely changing the world for the better. Sexuality is so fluid – I think everyone has masculine and feminine qualities and I think it’s whatever you choose to show or whatever is comfortable with you. I hate using defining terms – I’m attracted to people. I feel like when I meet people I’m instantly connected to their soul not by what they look like. I’m attracted to people’s minds.
Have you ever had to deal with homophobic comments online or IRL?
In the industry not so much – most people are very accepting. I grew up in the south and definitely there’s so much oppression and it’s really sad but the way I look at it it’s like you can’t change people’s minds – you waste so much energy. It taught me to be patient with people though.
What would you like to see more of in fashion?
To be honest I’m trying to learn about fashion right now – the history, these amazing designers and like two years ago I wouldn’t have to tell you any of these brands outside your basic neighborhood mall. I’m trying to figure it all out really. Every time I walk into a show I’m excited and nervous – I don’t know what to expect. I had never even heard of Thom Browne [before] and then his show was amazing – the hours that go into creating the designs. Oh my goodness, it was insane.
Who is your style icon?
Recently I ended up meeting Jean Paul Gaultier and I think he’s really an icon. He actually signed my skateboard, which is really cool in Paris. It was a regular day, running around had meetings and went to go see him. I walked in and asked if he could sign my skateboard and he drew his symbol (a silhouette with a striped shirt on). I want to get a tattoo of it because I think it’s going to wash off eventually!
When you’re not working, how would describe your day-to-day style?
It’s quite skater-grunge. It’s very androgynous, half the time I’m shopping in the men’s section. Even if I have $1 million I wouldn’t be buying $800 shoes to walk on the ground. For me, simplicity is the way to go.
Finally, what’s up next for you?
I’m planning on going on back to school to study architecture. I don’t have plans to stay in New York but with work it’s easier. But I miss the beach too much, I can’t be away from the beach too long! I hope to end up somewhere I can put my feet I the sand and maybe go to school there.
Check out Emily on Instagram @emgaffs.
26 July 2018