You are such a standout model, with a long and brilliant career. What was it like working with some of the world’s greatest photographers, and what do you now consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
It takes a lot of photographers to truly represent someone. Peter Lindbergh, for example, always represented the very raw, beautiful and emotional side of women; then you have someone like Steven Meisel who could transform you into someone you would never imagine you could be in your wildest dreams! I mean...me as Marilyn Manson! As a model it was my job to bring the personality to that image. Richard Avedon was such a force behind the camera, he was a true director and so engaged when photographing you. He would never look through the lens, but instead would stand next to the lens, so you’d feel like an actor when he was taking your photograph. I also got to work with Irving Penn, who was such a classic, his craft and photography... Everything was so well thought through and beautiful and yet effortless. There was no music, it was very quiet on set, nobody talked. I love music, and definitely working with him with no sound could be intimidating because you had nothing to get lost in, only yourself, and he was also so particular. I really respected and admired the way he worked. Whereas working with Arthur Elgort was really good if you liked movement, which I did - jumping, being happy, not taking myself too seriously.
What was my greatest achievement? Of course, I have many covers and campaigns and have worked with some incredible artists, from which I learnt so much about business and being creative. But honestly, I think my biggest achievement was managing to stay who I am today. I am healthy, I was able to stay on top of things, not let them get to my head too much, and really stay true to who I was: the Karolina from a small town from the Czech Republic. I was able to hang on to my values. When people say I’m nice, I’m hard working, I give my all - and I always give my all, whether it’s a big or small project, that’s how seriously I take my work - it reminds me how important it is to stay true to who I am. Someone who still has a good sense of reality who can get home at the end of the day and scrub the toilet or vacuum!
You did your first Vogue cover at 16, and also your first Victoria’s Secret’s show at that same young age - how did you seemingly take it all in your stride, and what advice would you have for young models starting out now?
Always follow your instincts. With time and maturity you learn that everything happens for a reason. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your goals and dreams and know what you like, but also you need to know not to fight things too hard. If you just stay on your path of remembering who you are, working hard, being willing to learn, taking constructive criticism, and being open minded, good things will happen.
There’s a movement now towards a more inclusive acceptance of body type in the fashion industry. What do you think of this?
When we look at history, models always come in many different shapes. It’s beautiful that there isn’t just one woman representing all women and I think it’s great to have women out there who look different and who are different shapes. I don’t want to just see myself reflected back.
How has having your beautiful baby girl recently changed the family dynamic
OMG so much, she is the queen of the family! I am the princess but she is the queen! I’m so happy for my two boys to have a little sister. They even named her, each one picking a name while she was still in my belly, which we joined as one: LunaGrace. I’m breastfeeding, which with two other kids and work is exhausting but she is most likely my last baby, so I’ll keep going. She’s six months now, but I’m not ready to let it go.
You’re originally from the Czech Republic; what one thing do you miss the most?
Definitely my whole family. I’m the only one of us in the US, and being pregnant through Covid and not having my parents here; also for my boys not seeing their grandparents for nearly two years, has been really hard. We are hopeful that soon they will be able to come. We’ll be reunited and I’ll get a little break!
What's one place should we visit in Miami?
Well, why not visit the place where we photographed these images? Cape Florida Lighthouse Keepers Cottage. The whole beach here is really nice, and it’s one of Miami’s most iconic sights, for sure, with a lot of visitors taking pictures there. The view is so beautiful.
How would you describe your day to day style?
Functional and comfortable. I have three kids so I’m not running around in high heels, but I still like to have a sense of style, be a little chic, add a touch of fun and colour. It depends on what I’m doing but I do like a Johanna Ortiz printed dress, or a Zimmermann dress that I can wear with a little heel. Clothes that are flowing and not too tight. My other go-to would be a little piece of Varley cool - I love their cotton sweats that go so well with a nice pair of leggings and sneakers and are perfect for those days when I’m out and about with the kids, throwing a football with my 12 year old. He makes me run and throw it American football style, so that’s when I veer more towards athleisure and really need to be in comfy clothes.
What are your favourite Varley pieces, and why do you love them?
From this shoot, I really love all those cotton sweaters with the hard zipper that zips up high on your neck so it can be covered up, especially when it gets cooler. You can layer it with a jacket or a coat and not have to wear a scarf round your neck, but equally if you're hot inside you can unzip it, and it looks really nice framing your face. I really like those. And then there are the cargo pants, which look really pretty and they’re comfortable but also elegant looking. I like to wear them with sneakers - they’re casual, functional and practical but you can still be elegant in them, you don’t look like you just came out of the gym. The colours are really nice and I love the quality of the materials, they are very much my style.
How do you style them?
I like to wear the sweaters with high heels and a pencil skirt; they transition really well from dressed down to dressed up. And if you’re a mum, those are the sorts of things you really want and will use a lot. Classic basics. And if your kids smear chocolate on you, they’re not so precious that you’ll get mad at your child!
Which look did you love the most from the Varley shoot and why?
I love the Sherpa vests, The Perry. I have one in light brown. For Fall, that’s my must have, or you can wear it in the spring with a t-shirt, or over a nice dress but with a full hat. Just add your Sherpa vest, some high boots with a chunkier heel, a little jewellery and there you go!
What led you to create Gryph & Ivyrose?
I grew up in the Czech Republic where we’d go every weekend to my grandparents’ country house and eat the fresh vegetables that they’d grown. If we had any little illnesses, my grandmother would know how to use food and herbs to heal things. Everything was very natural; nothing came out of a bottle or from a supermarket. And then it was while seeing Orion [Nevel] a herbalist and Chinese medicine practitioner, when my children were small, that I felt it would be great to work with him, as well as another mum, [Rachel Finger] who was also one of his clients, to create modern-looking remedies based on traditional Chinese wisdom. We felt that while there were lots of natural remedies on the market, they were not always very appealing or easy to use. We developed skincare and probiotics for the gut, as well as sleep aides. Everything is natural, it is safe for children from two years up, and there’s no alcohol, something which most herbal elixirs have.
What is your best tip for a calming bath time with your children?
Definitely try our Gryph & Ivyrose herbal supplement Call It a Night which I give to the kids directly in their mouths, or in an apple juice. It has a lot of chamomile which is calming, and it is melatonin-free. My boys never want to go to sleep, they want to party and have a good time and so I play a lot of music from classical to spiritual to set the mood for the evening. It's a meditative time.
Your father was a professional basketball player. Did this instil a desire to stay fit and healthy?
Probably. Definitely! I grew up seeing Dad play basketball and watching him play and practise. Every weekend his team would be competing so I would travel with him and my mum to watch. I’ve also been doing sports since I was a little girl. I was a professional gymnast from six years old until I was 13, and was very much the tomboy. I need movement - I am that type of person who needs that release and sense of letting go whether it’s a walk or a great workout.
How do you choose to stay fit and healthy now, and how do you encourage your children to do the same?
Having three kids, and juggling work makes it hard sometimes to find time for me. I try and combine working out with spending time with my kids, who are also very active. Sometimes that means bike riding, other times, if they’re getting a little too much, I’ll say “Ok, now it’s time to go outside!” and if I’m in the mood, while they’re running around in the playground, I’ll workout with bands, do some squats, lunges, push ups on a bench for 30 minutes. It’s not ideal - you don’t have the instructor, but you can do a lot with your own body, the hardest thing is to push yourself to do it. I’m just one person and I have to be patient with myself. It takes almost nine months to have a baby and about the same again to heal.
One tip for those days when perhaps we’re running on empty…?
If you’re a mum you’re almost always running on empty! But whatever it is, just do something for yourself, preferably that you have to commit to - so book it, pay for it and do it, be that a pedicure, manicure, or massage or something that makes you feel treated. Someone needs to take care of you!