The name of Gail Elliott is known to anyone. She was among supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Claudia Schiffer in the 1990s. Today she is a fashion designer and creative director of Little Joe Woman while her husband is CEO of the brand.
Gail Elliott gave an exclusive interview to the Georgian Journal.
Dear Gail, you covered all the major fashion journals and starred in campaigns for Versace, Valentino and Fendi, Chanel, Hermès, Dior and the first-ever Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Let’s look back and tell us how your modeling career started?
I was extremely fortunate to enjoy a successful 24-year career as a model based in New York in the 80s and 90s. Our lives were so full, fun and crazy but we worked very hard. It was so normal for us to be walking the runway for Chanel in Paris one day and jumping on the Concorde to be shooting in New York for Vogue the next. We’d hang out with stylists, photographers, actors and rock stars flying around the world to exotic islands to work or to play. I’m still very good friends with Cindy, Yasmin, and Helena and they were all my bridesmaids when my husband and business partner, Joe Coffey were married, 22 years ago in the Hamptons N.Y. I shot for every major magazine back then- Vogue, Harpers, Elle and Marie Claire with all the major photographers and walked on every designer runway from Calvin Klein, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Gianni Versace, Tom Ford for Gucci, Chloe, Karl Lagerfeld, Prada and every other designer you can think of.
Could you share with us your special memories of working with Karl Lagerfeld and Gianni Versace?
It was the greatest privilege to have worked with Karl for so many years. I was the shy one back then, unlike Naomi, Christy, Cindy, Yasmin, Linda, Marpessa and the other models but he was always kind and made me feel at ease in his company. He loved to joke that he couldn’t call me by my first name because it had a very similar spelling to a ‘bad’ word, as he would say, in German. He’d say to people “I can’t possibly call this beautiful girl by her first name...so I call her, Miss Elliott...” and he’d have everyone in the room laughing. He 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.
Walking the runway for Karl Lagerfeld in Paris was always something I looked forward to during show season. Karl was such an amazing talent. At the time he was the designer for Chanel, Fendi, Chloe, and his own line Karl Lagerfeld and I would show for him for all his lines for many, many years. As a designer now for my women’s clothing brand Little Joe Woman by Gail Elliott I realize how much work is involved... I’m amazed at how he could possibly design four collections twice a year, plus Chanel couture and shoot some of the campaigns and be at all his runway shows. Thank you, Karl, I’m so grateful for so many wonderful memories.
There have been many - every Vogue, Harpers Bazaar or Elle magazine cover, fashion shoot or runway show gave me a sense of achievement but one of my favorite runways shows to walk in was for Gianni Versace in Milano in the 1990s. It was the show where the supers Cindy, Christy, Naomi, and Linda stormed the runway to George Michael’s track ‘Freedom.’ All the other models, myself, Yasmin Le Bon, Helena Christensen, Carla Bruni, etc were all back-stage watching on the video monitor screaming with excitement, the audience was standing and clapping and Gianni and Donatella were crying with joy!! It was the most amazing moment in fashion show history and makes me smile every time I think of it!
Is it difficult being model? Do you have any special rules, of beauty secrets, Could you share them with our readers?
I’m fairly low maintenance when it comes to my approach to beauty and since moving to Bali five years ago, I’ve become even more-so low maintenance Skin-care is very important to me – as a model I’ve always looked after my skin so have been used to doing this from a young age but I’m not a time consuming facial person – every 3 or 4 months I have someone who simply steams and extracts which takes about 30 minutes but I can’t lie there for hours having a facial – I’d much rather be doing something else. I do love great products, I love to have smooth, soft, supple skin and to smell good so have a lot of favorite scrubs and body creams and lotions. I never use tap water on my face...
Living in Bali I use a light facial moisturizer and like the one from Dr, Spilla or one from Penny Frances Apothecary both of which feel hydrating and fresh and have discovered the Environ eye gel which is fantastic.
I like to use something a little heavier when I’m traveling so La Mer Renewal Oil is perfect, which I pat into my face, hair, body, and nails. For every day I use the La Mer body serum which is moisturizing but light and gives my body a nice glow. And finally a generous spray of Joseph of London perfume or Chanel No:19 perfume. I also love Tom Ford’s scents especially Tobacco + Vanilla.
I don't wear much makeup, just Maybelline mascara and nude lipstick and nude gloss from Mac, Marc Jacobs, Shiseido or Bare Minerals. I probably have close to 30 lipsticks and glosses in various shades of beige / nude!
Besides eating well, getting lots of sleep and hydrating, I take care of my body by having a full health check-up in Bangkok at a hospital called Bumrungrad every two years. The full check takes 7 hours and if you need to see a specialist you can do so immediately without having to wait two weeks until one becomes available, like in most western cities. The hospital consists of four buildings of seventeen floors each. It’s an extremely efficient, well-run operation and was recently bought by Arabs so has the latest technology and level of professionalism.
I don’t mind aging and feel stronger, more confident and comfortable with the way I look now than I did in my 20s. I know my strengths, I’m not trying to impress people, I’m more focused, I know what I like and dislike and know how to enjoy life.
You, Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Yasmin Le Bon were best friends and as I’m informed your friendship has lasted for 30 years. Could you tell us some happy or funny moments of being together, or maybe from the shows you starred in?
When I modeled in the late 80s and 90s based in New York, there were probably about 25 to 30 of us who worked for fifteen years plus, pretty much every single day. Clients would get to know and book us through the magazine editorials and advertising campaigns we shot….or through word-of-mouth through various photographers, stylists, hair & make-up people and through our agent's suggestions. Back then runway shows were only for buyers, magazine editors, the fashion newspapers like WWD and big-spending customers. Actresses and rock stars weren’t invited so it was strictly a work based event. It was Gianni Versace who changed all this. He paid us an enormous amount at the time to use us exclusively in his show, the first time a designer ever decided to do this. Gianni and Donatella would always throw spectacular after-parties and were always friendly with actors and rock stars and models had started dating them so 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, etc. Bono and the U2 boys were around as was Elton John and George Michael….and the term Supermodel was born. We would fly around the world to their concerts and they came to our shows, it felt quite natural - they wanted to be around us as much as we wanted to be around them. I don’t know how we flew around the world and got to various locations let alone on-time as there were no computers or barely any cell phones. Our agents would send the hotel we were staying at a ‘fax’ with instructions for our next booking, the flight details, times and next hotel destination. But it all worked and I never missed a flight…or hardly! Now everything is so different and we’re used to the fast-paced life we’re leading. We’d go to after-parties, CFDA Awards, Film Festivals and they would be private events - there was no Instagram or Insta-stories like nowadays. We have such short attention spans now, we flick through numerous images on Insta and want more. There are millions of models in the business now and not many are known and except for a few, most work for six months or a year and disappear. And with Instagram, bloggers and Influencers…everyone’s a model these days! Before I remember people would be shy to have their photo was taken, now in every restaurant or street, whatever age…someone is shooting an Insta opportunity!
Tell us about your women’s fashion clothing brand www.LittleJoeWoman.com “Little Joe Woman by Gail Elliott”
I was extremely fortunate to enjoy a long and successful career as a fashion model for 24 years and had begun to feel a need to express my learnings and fashion thoughts and feelings creatively. Having worked as a fashion model with so many talented designers I became to appreciate quality, luxury and how beautiful clothing makes a woman feel. My first designs were very simple to slip dresses and camisoles, pieces I needed for myself and couldn’t find in stores at the time. I started with 6 silk slip dresses and six silk camisoles in six colors. These have been a staple in every collection because they are feminine, flattering, rock-chic, can be worn with many other pieces of clothing and always look current and stylish. A slip dress never dates, can be worn alone, with a denim or leather jacket, heels, flats, under a coat, for day or evening, in flat solid silk, in shiny silk sateen, in a print. A silk camisole can be worn with leather pants or jeans or skirts. Both can be worn out, to lounge in at home or to sleep in. They are the most versatile pieces in my wardrobe and I have them in many colors. In the current collection I’ve produced silk camisoles with matching Chantilly lace-trimmed panties. I design elegant clothing for women with an edge. My creative process and inspiration happen constantly – I’m inspired by my daily life, things I see, people I meet, the places I travel to and conversations and experiences I have. I design for myself, my friends and for my customers and gather information for the next collection, months before we have to put it down on paper.
I love to wear a dress as it’s so easy to throw on, feel polished in and go. My customers tell me the same thing, that the design of my dresses makes them look and feel confident and that they’re ready for any situation whether it’s to the office, a Friday lunch, dinner date, a business meeting, or to cocktails. It’s so easy to add a silk blazer, denim or leather jacket, flats, heels or ankle boots, a great bag, and shades.
My goal is always to design pieces that would make women feel confident and in-turn makes them feel beautiful…delicately feminine pieces sprinkled with rock-chic glamour.
People often ask me who is Little Joe Woman? She’s a mix of my friends and women who inspire me. She appreciates a little luxury, she’s chic, she’s subtly sexy, she’s a busy person, she enjoys travel and loves life….just like me. It’s always a thrill to receive feedback from customers, see online orders come through or meet customers in-store.
I have a lot of friends and celebrities that wear our brand, a few are - Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Yasmin Le Bon, Elle Macpherson, Eva Herzigova, and Miranda Kerr.
Everyone has a choice of what they wear so when I see someone wearing something I’ve designed on the street or on Instagram or even seeing someone carrying our shopping bags, it’s very exciting and such an honor.
I have heard about your new project - The Brawa Hotel. What can guests expect and what was the inspiration behind the project?
My husband and I have traveled all over the world for many, many years and in the back of our minds we always thought that one day we’d own a hotel. An amazing opportunity arose, my husband took it and here we are opening THE BRAWA HOTEL in Bali - a five-story, 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. Obviously, it’s so much work but very exciting to be creating everything from the concept, to the style of each suite, the restaurant menus, staff uniforms, cocktails, plates + cutlery, bed linens, shampoo scents, lighting, plants….so many details that you take for granted when checking into a hotel.
The style is modern Balinese with warm, sexy, dark wood interiors and stone bathrooms with luxurious amenities.
I can’t believe the life we’ve created here – I pinch myself almost every day of the fact that we live and do business from a tropical island. I meet people who tell me they walk around Bali racking their brains trying to think of what they could do to be able to live and work here. We’ve but beautiful home and are very grateful to be living this life.
Gail Elliott - Co-Founder + Designer - Little JoeWoman by Gail Elliott
Interviewed by Nino Tsipuria