Despite being one of the biggest names in fashion at just 24 years old, Karlie Kloss is defying stereotypes. The Chicago native is utilising her superstar status on social media to encourage a generation of young women to take their first steps into the world of coding, a goal shared with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (7th to 11th November).
Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Victoria’s Secret: Karlie Kloss’s catwalk career has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, but the runway isn’t the only place the 24-year-old is drawing attention. As part of a new generation of millennial fashionistas using social media to promote their brand, Kloss has long believed in the power of tech - so in 2015, she set up her Kode with Klossy project, aiming to inspire young women to get into coding.
“We’re living in an increasingly computer- and technology-driven world and the fashion industry in particular has become very connected to social media via Instagram and the use of live streaming of fashion shows,” she explains. “Learning about the technology behind all that has been hugely useful to me in my work as a model and particularly as a businesswoman.”
She adds: “Kode with Klossy is my way of inspiring and encouraging young women to develop these kinds of skills because I have been so inspired and empowered by my own experience studying coding. Women need to play a major role in the way technology is going to shape our lives and that’s why we need to be part of the next generation that develops that technology.”
Kloss’s indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit makes her the perfect choice for leading the female charge into the typically male-dominated world of programming. Her partnership with Flatiron School in New York City - where she learned to code - also includes a scholarship that gives 20 young women an opportunity to attend the institute’s Introduction to Software Engineering course with free tuition.
“I was fascinated with coding,” Kloss declares. “That’s why I wanted other young women to be able to explore that activity and be part of a very important industry that is reshaping how we live - women need to be part of that world. I think women need to get more involved in this field because our brains are wired differently from men. We can come up with our unique approach to solving problems and creating new apps and other innovations in computer technology that will affect the way we live in the future.”
For Kloss and her contemporaries - a group of fashion forerunners known colloquially as “The Instagirls” that includes Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne - the ability to capitalise on modern technological tools has helped secure them a veritable army of devoted fans across the world, a platform that is still young and ripe for development.
“The internet is such a powerful means of communication and I’ve tried to use it to reach out to people and try to help them get to know me and see who I really am away from the runway and fashion shoots,” the Chicago-born model muses. “When I first started modelling, the social networks didn’t have the kind of impact they have today.”
Not so these days, of course. “If you think about how much time we spend using our smartphones, computers, tablets and everything connected with those devices, you realise how our daily lives have become so dependent on technology,” Kloss remarks.
Her ability to connect with and influence over five million followers on Instagram and elsewhere has not only secured her lucrative campaigns with top brands looking to break into the vast consumer base that makes up social media, but has rendered Kloss a role model as well as a supermodel.
“It’s very gratifying to be in a position where I can make a difference in people’s lives and give them opportunities they might not otherwise have,” Kloss agrees. “We all need some help along the way and I want to do my part.”
Says Kloss: “Taking coding classes has taught me the basics about building apps or websites and how you can apply that knowledge to taking an idea you might have and developing your own apps. It also gives you so much more understanding and insight into how social media sites function and how they are used as marketing and communication tools.”
So far, Kloss’s conquering of social media has worked wonders for her career. In May, she was unveiled as the new face of Swarovski, replacing Miranda Kerr, and during her three-year contract will seek to bring the celebrated luxury brand to a new generation of buyers. Yet, with all her modelling contracts, charity projects and Kode with Klossy, the Amazonian young woman appears to be just getting started.
“I like to keep challenging myself and exploring as many new opportunities as I can,” she says. “I feel happy and very excited about everything that is going on in my life now; I want to keep working hard and learn as much as I can and be the best person I can be.”