‘I am going to send the purple fake fur coat from my collection to Beyonce... if she wore it, I’d die’
Model Jourdan Dunn opens up about her social media super-set and how Enninful will shake up Vogue,
Anew era is dawning at British Vogue, according to the model Jourdan Dunn. She’s firmly on Team Edward Enninful. “He’s going to bring freshness, which is way overdue,” she says and is “so excited and emotional” about the magazine’s new editor-in-chief, who is both its first male and first black boss. “Edward has that energy you want to be around. The thing I love about him is that he loves women and wants you to feel comfortable, asking if you feel good. He doesn’t want women to look like little boys. You know what I’m saying?”
All lithe limbs and sassy flicks of eyeliner, Dunn is full of spirit herself. She looks exactly as she does in her campaigns for Burberry, towering over everyone in thigh-high silver boots and a regal purple velour sweater dress.
Dunn isn’t concerned about what Vogue’s recently departed editor of 25 years, Alexandra Shulman, will do next. “I don’t really care,” she says without enthusiasm, before checking herself. “Maybe she will chill and live her life. She’ll be all right.
“Already there’s more diversity at Vogue,” she adds, referring to the picture of Vogue’s all-white team that Naomi Campbell posted on Instagram with the caption “looking forward to an inclusive and diverse staff ”. Dunn says: “It’s a shame that was the image of the Vogue office but with Edward being there it’s changing.”
Dunn is part of that shift. She was spotted by a scout at Primark Hammersmith aged 15, was the first black model in a Prada show for more than a decade in 2008 and, in 2015, became the first solo black model to appear on the cover of British Vogue since Naomi Campbell, 12 years previously.
“The industry is being forced to change because social media means you can’t hide from anything — now everyone can see if you have just one black model in a show and you will get blasted for it, whereas before it was just people at the show who would see. What kind of message are they trying to portray to kids from all backgrounds and shapes and sizes who will look at the shows and wonder why no one looks like them?”
But we are here to talk about Dunn’s move into designing. The outfit she’s wearing today is from her second collection with Missguided — “pieces you can wear day-to-night, with elements of athleisure”. We laugh about athleisure being a “weird word that no one knows how to pronounce”. Her first collection for the UK-based company in April this year boosted its revenue by 75%.
A floor-length purple (fake) fur coat is her favourite item from this collection. She wants to send it to Beyoncé. “If she wore it, I’d actually die. We’ve met a few times. I’m just going to send it to her.”
Inspiration came from a tattoo she has on her lower arm which reads “fear is not an option”. “It’s a quote from Diane von Furstenburg. Her mum said it to her. Fear is always in the way of what you want to do. We need to just do it. That works hand in-hand with the collection because there are pieces you have to be fearless to wear, like the PVC skirt. They’re about going out of your comfort zone and owning it. Let people react, as long as you feel good. Clothes can help give you confidence.”
The inaugural collection drew on another tattoo, reading “you owe it to yourself to set the world on fire”. That was the headline on Dunn’s first i-D magazine cover, when she was just 18. “I thought if a big publication like i-D sees me in that way I’m going to get it tattooed on me.” A few years later, at 24, she was on the Forbes list of top-earning models, with $4 million in 2014, although she insists she isn’t rash with money. “My first big cheque was £5,000 for a job with L’Oreal. I was 16. I thought I was rich. I made that five grand last a long time — I didn’t go crazy, I just stopped asking my mum for money.”
She hasn’t called on any fashion friends for advice on designing. “I don’t like asking for things.” But she has “learned to speak up”. “Before I had the role of creative director but I didn’t really take it on. I didn’t want to sound like I was being difficult but in truth my name is on it and I need to voice my opinion. This time I thought, ‘I don’t want to look back and have regrets’.” After the collection was finished Dunn took a month off, planning to catch up with friends including fellow model Karlie Kloss, her “birthday sister”. Dunn and Kloss are part of a super-circle, along with Cara Delevingne. “We just chill together,” says Dunn. “Last time Karlie was in London, my son and I just went to her hotel and got room service. [The attention] can be too much. Sometimes you just want to have a conversation without having to take a selfie.”
Kloss’s boyfriend, millionaire tech investor Joshua Kushner, is the younger brother of Ivanka Trump’s husband Jared. But Dunn says she isn’t the person to ask about the presidential connection. “I can only imagine what it’s like,” she says coolly. She’s happier talking about Kloss’s superior baking skills. “She’s amazing. I don’t have the patience for it. I don’t really like sweets.” Dunn’s speciality is main dishes, particularly her chicken curry. Kloss and Delevingne made cameos on Dunn’s YouTube cookery show Well Dunn. Maybe they could open a restaurant, with Dunn on chicken and Kloss on dessert? “That would be amazing.”
Dunn’s fashion fairy godmother, though, is Naomi Campbell. “She’s a good person to have your back. One of the first things she told me was to look after myself and not run myself dry. I held on to that. I make sure I have times where I can breathe and reconnect.”
She’s currently reading a well-thumbed copy of a book called All the Joy You Can Stand: 101 Sacred Power Principles for Making Joy Real in Your Life, which she has with her. “It has chapters like Move More and Pay Attention. I like to have it around for pick-me-ups.”
Dunn has stopped walking shows, which now means she can “enjoy Fashion Week”, although it’s still “hard work”, with three shows a day to attend from 8am and an event every night. She has 2.1 million Instagram followers but finds it “tiring”. If the right show comes up she will do it, and she occasionally misses the catwalk “if I see a great show and think I could’ve killed that look”. But doing 60 shows a season was “exhausting”.
Does she regret going into modelling young? “I don’t have any regrets.” Her mother accompanied her to every job for two years, which kept her grounded. Now her mother looks after Riley, Jourdan’s seven-year-old son, full-time. “I’m so blessed that I have my mum. I can only imagine (the difficulty of ) childcare in London.” Her mother and younger brother, who runs a boxing gym, are her best friends.
Dunn is not with Riley’s father but they share childcare. Her son is a big fan of Dunn’s designs. “He spotted a boy in my M&S LonDunn T-shirt and told me to go up to him. When the ad comes on TV he says ‘Mummy, that’s you’ and gets really proud.”
What if Riley wanted to follow her into modelling? “I’d totally support him. He wants to be a rock star one minute, the next a doctor, then a footballer, actor. He writes songs and makes videos for them on his iPad.” That creativity means she doesn’t ration his use of tech. They play computer games together — Mario Kart is a favourite. “He’s a sore loser so I have to let him win but occasionally I put him in his place.” She’s planning to start giving him pocket money now. “He’s just living off the tooth fairy now and thinks he’s rich — he offers to pay for things for me.”
They’re about to move house — Dunn has just bought her first place in London. She owns a flat in New York. “I’m not good with that stuff,” she admits. “I wanted to buy the first house I saw but my mum told me not to and to never go for the asking price.” Packing will be an ordeal. “I have a lot of stuff, I’m bad.”
Until she moves in she’s at her mum’s house a lot, watching Hollyoaks and “being cooked for, I’m spoilt”.
Dunn “isn’t consistent” about fitness. When she needs to blitz it she goes to her brother’s gym, KOBOX — “he’s harsh with me, which is good”.
She is susceptible to fast-food cravings (“I wanted some KFC yesterday and couldn’t get it so I had two filet-o-fish burgers and some nuggets”) and enjoys a drink. “I know my limits, though. I’ve been introduced to pineapple and tequila, which is a good combination.” The PR tells us it’s called a Craig David.
For now, though, Dunn is all set for a serious autumn, turning the town purple.
My son is a sore loser so I let him win
MODEL BEHAVIOUR: Jourdan Dunn and (inset left) with Edward Enninful
NEW LOOK: Duster jacket, £60, crop top, £18, knickers, £12, all Jourdan Dunn