Meet Florence Kosky, the model bringing attention to youth suicide
Kosky has appeared in Burberry campaigns and countless editorials (Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel, Elle, Teen Vogue, etc.), and she’s spent the past five years filming her first feature film, To Tokyo. And impressively, her directorial debut, The Otherworld, recently won Best British Short at the London Independent Film Awards.
In addition to her creative pursuits, Kosky has been working closely with Papyrus UK, a charity dedicated to the prevention of youth suicides, an issue that she became deeply affected by after the death of two friends. Kosky launched an auction to benefit Papyrus, #DressForLife. It’s filled with designer goods, and sales are open until March 21st. We spoke to her about her charitable pursuits, movies, and how to look like Hannibal Lecter on an airplane.
What sort of work are you doing with Papyrus UK?
I’ve started an auction called “Dress for Life.” We’ve got loads of different donations from great designers, like Chanel, House of Holland, Paul Smith, which is really exciting. I hope that’ll make a big bundle of money for them! [Laughs]
A few years, I actually had two friends who died by suicide. It’s nice to be doing something to make a change, to work for a prevention charity, to hopefully make a difference.
You just made your directorial debut. Can you tell me a bit about The Otherworld?
I grew up in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast, and it’s sort of about exploring the mythology of the area: ancient history, Celts, old Gods. And it’s also about dreams, so it sort of combines those two things. It was awesome to go back to where I grew up and shoot in the amazing landscapes around here. Good to get back to the roots! [Laughs]
How do you compare acting and directing? Is there one you prefer, or do you like to combine them and direct yourself?
I directed myself in The Otherworld, and I don’t know if I’m going to do that again. [Laughs] It’s really hard to concentrate on acting when your brain is everywhere else. It’s really, really great to do both of them, but I think definitely separately. For the directing side of things you have to be thinking about everything at once, whereas acting is a lot more introspective. You’re thinking more about your character’s journey as opposed to the film as a whole, if that makes sense.
And I’m so happy—I have to have a little brag moment now. I found out like two weeks ago that The Otherworld won an award [Best British Short] at the London Independent Film Awards.
Did you study cinema in school?
Sort of. Alongside school, where I was doing a bit of acting and stuff, I was also shooting a feature film called To Tokyo. And that was kind of my cinema education. We were shooting it for like five years. It’s actually just gone into post-production, so hopefully you’ll finally be able to watch it by the end of the year!
Five years?! How did that work?
Err… hair extensions. [Laughs] I actually haven’t aged that much, facially.
Well that’s lucky. I presume it was shooting in Tokyo?
We did shoot in Tokyo, as well as the little villages near Kyoto. We also traveled to South Africa and shot all up and down the western cape. I think it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
How did you balance that with your work as a model?
It’s a kind of a juggling act. It’s basically just trying to do as much as I can on one side without pissing anyone off, and then doing it again. [Laughs] It’s a balancing act, and I sort of don’t have a social life anymore. But it’s really rewarding and I really enjoy all of it. It doesn’t really feel like work.
I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do, you know? Working in all these facets of the media industry really help me figure out what I actually want to do with my life.
What are your favorite movies?
I really like Drive—classic answer. It’s just such a beautiful film. The cinematography’s amazing, the score is amazing, and Ryan Gosling’s incredible in it. It also doesn’t have too much talking in it, which I quite like. But then also recently, I’ve seen this film called Demolition with Jake Gyllenhaal. The opening to that film is so brutal, but so genius. And I think the little kid in it is going to be a huge star in like five years.
But I don’t know. I could talk about film for like five years.
Have you always loved film?
I think I’ve always loved stories. When I was younger it was more about mythology, Greek myths in particular. I’ve loved acting since I was tiny as well. And when I got cast in To Tokyo, the director [Caspar Seale-Jones] showed me all of these films I hadn’t seen before. It really opened up my imagination, and I fell in love with film, particularly. But film is just another way of storytelling.
Obviously you’re a very successful model. How did you come to it? I think I read something about a booker chasing you around a music festival.
It was my first weekend out with my new friends at my new school when I was like 16, at a music festival in London. And my old booker, Luca, who used to look after me when I was at New Faces, he harassed me around the festival. [Laughs] And I was super embarrassed, because all I wanted to do was be with my new friends.
Come on, what could be cooler than being 16 and getting scouted at a music festival?
I guess, in retrospect. [Laughs] But at the time I was I was super embarrassed.
How do you compare modeling to acting? I feel like in both cases you’re telling a story, making a picture come to life, bringing certain emotions to it.
There are definitely elements of modeling that are like playing a character, and I think especially when you’re in a crazy editorial and you get to move freely, when it’s not just about selling the clothes, there’s definitely that storytelling aspect to it. But I would say the main difference for me is with modeling, it’s all about what you look like, what’s on the outside. You’re portraying an image of that story. But whereas with acting, if you’re thinking about what you look like, you’re not in the moment. Oh, that’s such a cliché. [Laughs] But you’ve got to focus on what’s happening internally, on what’s happening with the other person, and the emotional truth of that connection.
What was it like getting the Burberry campaign?
I think that was probably one of the best moments that I’ve had, modeling-wise. I definitely screamed on the phone to my mum. [Laughs] Shooting with Mario [Testino] was amazing, he and the whole team are so lovely. I work with Burberry still now, and this is super cliché, but I feel like we have a little fashion family. And other people on the campaign, like Ella Richards and the boys from Hidden Charms, they’re still in my friendship circles today and I see them a lot. It was a really nice, solid introduction to a good group of people in fashion.
You work all the time. What do you do for fun?
Fun. Does that exist? [Laughs]
I guess I hang out with my boyfriend, and try to catch up on movies. And soon I’m taking a month off and going to travel in India. I’m really excited, it’s going to a nice adventure!
As someone who frequently flies around the world, do you have any jetlag tips?
Drinking a bottle of water on the flight! Even if you don’t think you need it, you will need it. I also love taking along those face masks that look like Hannibal Lecter, and making people feel really uncomfortable next to me on the flight. [Laughs] Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, you’ll need it.
On a final note, is there anything you think would surprise people about modeling?
Yeah! I think the fact that it’s really physically hard for us. You’re flying around all the time, you’ve got early call times. Especially during Fashion Week when you’re working at 6 A.M. and then you’ve got fittings until 3 A.M. And even just shooting, you’ve stood up in heels that probably don’t fit you for like 12 hours. I don’t feel glamorous. [Laughs] I think a lot of time people think oh you’re just a model, you fly all around the world and get treated like a princess. But it’s actually harder than it looks, and I don’t think girls are given enough credit for the work they put in. People say it’s just luck, but honestly some models I know are the most hardworking people I’ve ever met, and I think they deserve all the success that they get.
Florence's auction for Papyrus UK, #DressForLife, runs online until March 21st.