The 21-year-old Parsons School of Design student signed with IMG Models last month

By Hanna Flanagan
February 18, 2021 02:41 PM
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Credit: Frank Sun for IMG

Kamala Harris' stepdaughter Ella Emhoff made her New York Fashion Week runway debut on Tuesday, after signing a contract with IMG Models last month.

The 21-year-old, who is currently a senior at Parsons School of Design in New York City studying fine arts with a focus on textiles, made a surprise appearance in Proenza Schouler's Fall/Winter 2021 show (presented digitally amid the COVID-19 pandemic). Emhoff embodied the American label's understated cool aesthetic in baggy trousers and an open black blazer fastened with a single button.

The rising star, whose father is Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, also posed in a second look from Proenza Schouler's latest collection: a leather trench coat layered over a printed turtleneck. She accessorized with vintage-inspired circle rim glasses and wore her curly hair in a modern version of the '90s mullet on the runway and in the campaign photo.

During a recorded conversation about NYFW with Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Emhoff said she "definitely lost a little sleep the night before" her runway debut, CNN Style reported.

"I mean I'm walking for the first time, I'm in a professional environment for the first time... It was a very epic first experience with the fashion world," she continued.

Emhoff also opened up about her career goals and what she hopes the future of fashion will look like.

"For a really long time when I was younger I wanted to be a designer. Then I took it a little more seriously, I started taking courses at Central Saint Martins over two summers," she said referring to the London-based art school. "It definitely exposed me to the intensity of design school."

"I want to see guys, girls, people, everyone wearing striped colorful pants or my dresses. I think that'd be great," she added.

In January, Emhoff landed a major modeling contract with one of the most prestigious agencies in the world: IMG Models. The agency's known to represent top supermodels including Gisele Bündchen, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Stephanie Seymour, Lily Aldridge and more. 

"It's not really about shape, size or gender any more," said Ivan Bart, the president of IMG Models, told the New York Times. "Ella communicates this moment in time. There's a cheekiness and a joy she exudes."

According to the New York Times, Emhoff caught Bart's eye "as soon as she walked in the door" during the presidential primaries over the summer. Shortly after, the two began discussing the idea of joining IMG Models. 

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty

"I was pretty surprised when everything with IMG was happening because when I was younger, I never saw that as being part of my timeline. As someone who, like a lot of young girls out there, had self-confidence issues, it is intimidating and scary to go into this world that is hyper-focused on you and the body," Emhoff told the NYT. 

But she's looking forward to being a part of the change occurring in the modeling industry that allows for more diversity and authenticity, whether she shows herself through what she calls her "funky haircut" or "weird tattoos." (She has around 18 tattoos, many of which she "did herself during quarantine" adding that her parents "may not know" about all of them.)

"I pick and choose the times I want to show my style," she told the outlet.