This spring, it was made abundantly clear that older women ruled the fashion world. First, there was Joan Didion for Céline. Then, Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent. Julia Roberts struck badass poses for Givenchy. And, lest we forget, style icon Iris Apfel showed off her trademark circular frames for Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar. It was epic, unusual, awesomely feminist, and we're positively elated that the trend is spilling over into a subsequent season. Case in point: Kate Spade's fall/winter campaign starring artist, actress, model, and former ballet dancer Anh Duong.
For the unfamiliar, Duong was part of the O.G. modeling crew (of which Iman and Grace Jones were also a part) and has walked runways for the likes of Moschino, Christian Dior, and Karl Lagerfeld, to name a few. Basically, she was the Karlie Kloss of the early '80s, so it makes perfect sense why she'd pose alongside her in this most recent endeavor.
Born to a Spanish mother and Vietnamese father, Duong studied architecture and ballet at the esteemed École des Beaux-Arts in Paris before being discovered by a photographer while dancing onstage, as one does. When she hit 27, however, she directed her attention toward art, ultimately becoming known for her raw and emotional self-portraits.
Below, we conversed with Duong about her career, her personal style, and what it was like smizing with Kloss.
What prompted you to make the transition from modeling to art?
"I’ve painted as long as I can remember. As a child, I was praised whenever I was making a drawing or a painting, but I never considered it a career. Then, when I arrived in New York as a young model, I landed in the art world and quickly realized that it was the kind of life I wanted. When I turned 27, I decided to officially retire from modeling—it was at a turning point in fashion when brands and magazines were looking for so-called "real people” to model. Actors and artists were beginning to appear in campaigns. I also thought it was better to leave early than being asked to."
What do you enjoy about the medium of art versus modeling?
"I've had the privilege to work with amazing creative talents as a model. But in my early years, I was very frustrated that I could not make my own decisions and express my own vision. I was always an object to project and carry someone else's expression. I never felt that it was creative enough for me. I had to become my own artist and create my own world. Now, after all these years of solitude in my studio, I am happy to be part of a team and be told what to do. It feels like a relief."
How has your personal style changed, if at all, since you left the industry?
"To be honest, I never gave much thought to defining my personal style. Maybe it's because I’m French. For me, style is more about a mood. One day I want to be comfortable and casual in jeans and flats; the next I want to be sophisticated in full-on couture. The clothes will reflect the woman I want to be in that moment. They will be an expression of how I feel. They are a great escape and expression."
What was it like getting back into the fashion game with Karlie Kloss?
"It's been fun to be a part of Kate Spade’s enchanting world. She’s an example of someone who uses fashion as an expression of fantasy and dreams. There is a lot of play and make believe in her fashion for us to entertain ourselves with."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.