Gail Elliott was part of the original Supermodel pack in the 1990s. She covered all the major fashion bibles and starred in campaigns for Versace, Valentino and Fendi and on the runway for Chanel, Hermès, Dior and the first-ever Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Today, Elliott and her husband Joe helm their own women’s wear label – aptly titled ‘Little Joe Woman by Gail Elliott’ – and is currently based in Bali.
Here, Elliott talks exclusively to L’Officiel Malaysia about her BFF Cindy Crawford and shares special memories of Gianni Versace and Karl Lagerfeld.
How would you describe your experience in the industry and did you ever imagine your modelling career would have such wonderful longevity?
When I modelled in the late 80s and 90s there were probably about 25 to 30 of us who worked for fifteen years plus, pretty much every single day. Actresses and rock stars weren’t invited so it was a strictly work based event. It was Gianni Versace who changed all that.
He paid us an enormous amount at the time to use us exclusively on the day of his show. Gianni and Donatella would always throw spectacular after-parties and were friendly with actors and rock-stars so models started dating them and it seemed natural for their boyfriends to attend the shows.
Helena was dating Michael Hutchence, Carla was dating Mick Jagger, Cindy was dating Richard Gere, Yasmin was dating Simon Le Bon, Naomi was dating Mike Tyson. We were friends with the designers back then – I remember we all did the first shows of Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and many more amazingly talented designers. They didn’t have the budgets for our fees so we walked their runways for clothing.
Has it been difficult to keep in touch with modelling friends considering you’re all spread across the globe?
When you’re truly friends with someone, however much time passes, when you see that person again you go back to where you left off. Cindy, Yasmin and Helena were my bridesmaids when my husband Joe [and I] were
married twenty-one years ago in the Hamptons.
Cindy lives in California, Yasmin’s in London and Helena’s in New York but I’ve spoke to all of them within the last two weeks…and I’m now living in Bali. Naomi and I are Gemini sisters. We haven’t seen one another for a while – she came to Sydney a few years ago when she was shooting her TV show, The Face and called and asked me to be a guest on the show.
Naomi is amazing, I don’t know how she does it. She’s still attending every event all over the world as well as shooting, doing charity work and being Naomi.
Do you have any special memories of working with Karl Lagerfeld?
I worked with Karl for Chanel, the Karl Lagerfeld line, Fendi and also when he was designing for Chloè. We used to all love walking for Chanel and Chloè! It was such a privilege to have worked with Karl for so many years. He loved to joke that he couldn’t call me by my first name because it was a similar spelling to what he would call a ‘bad’ word in German.
He’d say to people that he couldn’t possibly call this beautiful girl by her first name…. so he called me Miss Elliott… he loved telling this story and had everyone in the room laughing. Karl was always so kind and generous whether it was to make sure I’d eaten when arriving for fittings or to insist I went downstairs to the Chanel boutique on Rue Cambon for a shopping spree on my way out.
I’m so grateful for so many wonderful memories.
Has being based in Bali influenced or changed the designs of Little Joe Woman?
Yes, definitely. I used to design and offer in my collections sheepskin jackets, leather pants, cashmere and in general heavier pieces for winter but have become more of a resort-wear brand. Not just pieces to wear on vacation but pieces to layer and style in cities where the weather is warmer like Australia in the summer, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Jakarta etc but also to wear on vacation.
How did it feel to have Carine Roitfeld give her approval of the Little Joe Woman slip dresses?
Carine is my absolute ‘girl-crush’. She’s the coolest, most beautiful, stunning, amazing, rock-chic, sexy, smartest, most powerful woman in the world (okay, in fashion) and I love her. I used to shoot with her when she was a young fashion editor.
Her daughter was about eight years old at the time and she always talks about how much she loved Julia. She follows me on Insta and likes and comments all the time…. every time it makes me smile.
It’s funny how fashion comes full circle - one of the hottest names in the industry right now is Cindy’s daughter Kaia. What do you think of the latest group of models to emerge?
I know…Kaia’s career is amazing. I mean Cindy negotiated a Marc Jacobs cosmetics campaign for her at like the age of 14! Cindy and I joke about all the castings we used to do, all the catalogue shoots we did, all the people in the business who said she’d never leave Chicago or the ones who told me I was too this or too that.
Kaia’s never shot a catalogue – the closest she’s gotten to that is a look book… and it was for YSL!
Another very exciting project is The Brawa resort with your husband Joe. What can guests expect and what was the inspiration behind the project?
My husband and I have travelled all over the world for many years and in the back of our minds, we always thought that one day we’d own a hotel. An amazing opportunity arose, and here we are opening a 24-luxury suite boutique hotel and restaurant, with a roof-top pool and bar… and a Little Joe Woman store.
It’s our first venture into hospitality and we’re extremely excited. The style is modern Balinese with warm, sexy, dark wood interiors and stone bathrooms with luxurious amenities – we plan to open in late 2019.