When Ella Emhoff wore that bedazzled Miu Miu coat at Inauguration Day earlier this year, she watched her style star launch overnight.
The 22-year-old step daughter of Vice President Kamala Harris signed a contract with IMG models a week later, made her runway debut at New York Fashion Week in February and even launched her own knitwear collection in March.
More recently, Emhoff spent her September attending the Met Gala, walking shows at Paris Fashion Week and has signed on to be the face of the adidas by Stella McCartney line – and no one is more surprised about her style icon status than she is.
“Growing up, I never saw myself as someone stylish, at all! Obviously, I loved fashion and cared a lot about it. But I was really into doing my own thing and being really comfortable in my own body, you know?” Emhoff tells Elle.
“I never saw myself as a ‘fashion person.’ And I don’t know if my classmates did either!”
Being able to stick with her “true instincts” when it came to style is something that made Emhoff feel “really good”.
“If I had to describe my style right now, it’s not even a way of dressing. It’s just wearing clothes that you feel good in, not really being influenced by what other people want you to be wearing,” she explains.
“And also, not getting boxed in by what you used to wear, or what people think you would be wearing. Because it’s not the actual clothes you’re wearing. It’s the confidence you have, and the ability to live your life, in those clothes.”
Like many Gen Zs, sustainability is at the forefront of Emhoff’s mind, which is part of the reason why she decided to sign on with McCartney.
“She’s [Stella McCartney’s] one of the biggest leaders in this push for sustainability. She was on the ground first doing it, and she’s not only creating sustainable products, but new materials,” Emhoff says.
“She’s not just focusing on her own brand, but also the industry itself… I think that for actual change to happen, it’s not just one person or one smaller group of people. It’s getting everyone to do it.”
Emhoff adds that being a model is different than it was a decade ago. “I think modelling now is not just about modeling, but it’s about creating space for people who do other things, whether it be art, activism, writing, any type of creation.
“I get really excited when I’m able to do things and work with brands that actually let me not only be the model, but actually share my own thoughts and have [conversations] like this where I can talk about sustainability and activism in general. That’s what gets me so excited about the whole industry.”