interview by MAREK BARTEK

Model and charitable ambassador Aoki Lee Simmons is dedicated to using her growing audience in fashion to create a positive impact in the world and to continue to work with those who support models with strong values and voices of their own.

From graduating from Harvard to fashion, your career trajectory has been quite impressive to say the least. Can you share what inspired your decision to transition into full-time modelling?
It’s no secret I’ve grown up around fashion. I’ve always dreamed about modelling as a form of self-expression, but I have diverse interests and I’m working on a few projects in addition to modelling. Being well-rounded is big for me.

fringed tank and skirt PH5
earrings and bracelet BEN AMUN
boots NOMASEI

Over the years, you’ve gained a significant follower base, and social media plays a significant role in how you communicate your values and advocacy work. How do you balance the glamorous aspects of modelling with your commitment to social and political causes?
What good is a platform if you don’t use it to promote your values and outlook? Modelling can be glamorous, at times, but causes that are close to my heart are even more important. Young people continue to ask themselves and each other “What kind of world do you want to live in?” I love engaging my followers to help us get to the right answer.

You’ve worked in various different environments, from UN refugee camps to disaster relief efforts. How have these experiences influenced your perspective on the world?
There’s an expression in my family, “Live large, give large”. Dignity is important to me. So whether we were distributing needed items to refugees and displaced populations as a family, or helping survivors of climate disasters get back on their feet, I always focus on the humanity at the core of the work I do, and what threatens it.

full look GIVENCHY
dress PROENZA SCHOULER
bracelet ERIN FADER JEWELRY
shoes NOMASEI

As a young woman advocating for education, what challenges do you see young women face today in accessing quality education, and how can they be addressed?
Young women are sometimes corralled into certain fields or areas of study regardless of whether that’s their true passion or not. Often those disciplines become feminized and are viewed as less than. I’m pleased to see more young women pursuing their passion via fields of study that are, still to this day, dominated by men.

There are still countries and cultures in which girls and women aren’t allowed to go to school. Promoting literacy and education across borders is central to building more equitable societies globally.

faux fur jacket MISSONI
earrings ERIN FADER JEWELRY
dress MOSCHINO
boots Vintage MIU MIU
necklace CHRISTINA CARUSO
earrings LADY GREY

Your work often involves collaboration with organisations and influential figures. How do you choose the causes and partnerships that align with your values and vision?
Again, what kind of world do we want to live in? Because there are a lot of people slipping through the cracks. I want to work with causes and organisations that shore up opportunity and access.

Graduating from Harvard at 20 is no small feat. How did your education shape your approach to both your career in modelling and your activism?
Regardless of what institution anyone attends, education is a passport to encountering different views, outlooks and opinions. It promotes critical thinking skills and encourages us to challenge. It’s also a great privilege to have one and there are a lot of paths aside from 4-year schools to becoming more informed. That’s often forgotten.

dress MUGLER
earrings CHRISTINA CARUSO
cardigan and shirt dress (worn as skirt) VERSACE
earrings BEN AMUN
necklace NOTTE

I think people often view fashion world as superficial. Do you have any advice for both us (fashion publications), but also fashion lovers on how we can be drivers for positive change in the world?
I think we’ve seen a sea of change in social consciousness since I first encountered the industry. Sustainability, equity, access and diversity, we’re miles beyond where we were, with still more work to do. I think the true drivers will be consumers ultimately. Conscious consumerism is an undeniable force.

Looking ahead, what are your goals for the future, both in your modelling career and your activism?
I’d love to be more intentional about bridging the gap between fashion and activism. I’m developing a project that I hope will do exactly that. It’s in its infancy, but I’m excited about that and a few other opportunities. I’m blessed and I’m excited.

bralette and skirt DIESEL
shoes Vintage GUCCI
earrings and rings SENIA
dress AREA
necklace NOTTE
shoes NOMASEI

TEAM CREDITS:
talent AOKI LEE SIMMONS at THE LIONS MANAGEMENT
photographer KOLBY KNIGHT
stylist CHARLIE WARD at SEE MANAGEMENT
makeup MAGDALENA MAJOR at SEE MANAGEMENT using ARMANI BEAUTY
hair YUKIKO TAJIMA at SEE MANAGEMENT using KERASTASE
nails NORI at SEE MANAGEMENT using DIOR
editor-in-chief TIMOTEJ LETONJA
interview MAREK BARTEK
cover design ARTHUR ROELOFFZEN