Since landing her breakthrough gig on America's Next Top Model - the first model with vitiligo to appear on the show - Winnie Harlow's career has shot into the stratosphere: in 2016 alone, she was chosen as one of the BBC's inspirational 100 Women, and was selected by Beyoncé to appear in her game-changing visual album, Lemonade.
Now, Winnie is fronting the final installment of Converse's Forever Chuck campaign, which has taken her to London and Paris to explore the iconic shoe's lasting influence on fashion and street style. In an exclusive interview, we caught up with the model of the moment to learn more...
What's your history with Converse?
Converse hi-tops are something I've always worn. When I was in school and just getting my allowance, they were one of the first things I actually saved up to buy. Shopping in Buffalo [New York] is cheaper than in Canada, and I'd save up for trips there with my church. I was like 'Cool, I'm gonna spend my lunch money savings on a pair of Converse.'
What made this campaign different?
It was really interesting to work with a brand that has as much to do with street style as fashion: a lot of brands I've worked with before are one or the other, so it was cool to work with a bunch of people who brought both together as one.
What was your favourite moment working on the Forever Chucks campaign?
I learned how to ride a low rider bike in a ballroom! I've been riding bikes forever - I was a little tomboy and still have the scars on my knees - so I thought it would be a breeze. When they brought it out, I was like 'it's fine, I'm a pro,' then sat on the bike and almost immediately tumbled over. It was really difficult but so much fun once I had learned how - it's actually even more of a work out than normal cycling because it uses so much core strength.
The campaign also features social media fashion influencers. Does social media - and Instagram in particular - influence your own personal style?
For sure. I pull most of my ideas for things that I like - be it clothes, be it home décor, anything - from the people that I follow. I can get lost on the explore page for hours.
How do you think social media is influencing the modelling industry?
It's giving a different voice to people in the industry; you get to see a different side of people. Once upon a time, a model was just a face. We have a say in different things, and more people are able to be seen. Before this, I had to hope and dream that someone would see me. Now, someone can post a picture, it can go viral and from there, you can get a campaign. It's all about how you use the tools that are given to you: if you use it in a positive way and in moderation, you can't bring any negativity to it.
You've just been in London for fashion week. What do you like about London style?
It's very cool - that's the best word for it. When I'm at home, I wear cosy winter coats; when I'm here I just want to throw on a bomber or a leather jacket, something that's edgier rather than something that will keep me warm! When I think of London style, I think off-duty model.
What was it like to close the Julien Macdonald show this season?
It was a dream! First I went for the fitting and they put me in a short dress, but I could tell that Julien didn't think it was quite right and he said 'We need to get the black knit dress.' I was really honoured that he let me close the show: Julien has been really supportive of my career for a while, but that was my first time working with him directly. Walking for Julien and for Marc Jacobs have been real 'pinch me' moments this season.
How do you switch off and relax during fashion month?
I try not to get caught up in the hype: people see the images from the parties as a lifestyle, but modelling really is a career. I try to rest, take care of my body: facials, massages, going to the gym are all necessary for me to keep myself healthy and keep myself in shape.
Do you think that fashion is getting better at embracing diversity on the catwalk?
I feel like everything will happen in due time. There is definitely a surge of different body types, different looks, different everything, but rather than putting me in a show and people saying 'Oh my God! A model with vitiligo!' they should be saying 'Winnie Harlow is doing an amazing job and she just walked for Marc Jacobs.' I think diversity is starting to become the norm which is what it really should be - it shouldn't be a gimmick or a fad.
Do you have any role models in the industry?
I don't necessarily look at one person and say, 'that person is my ideal of who I want to be.' I think I pull inspiration from everyone that I meet, and everyone that has helped me out in my career so far. Nick Knight, Edward Enniful, there are so many people who have believed in me.