What’s in a name? For Kaia Jordan Gerber, daughter of Rande Gerber, the highly successful nightlife businessman, and Cindy Crawford, who needs no introduction, it means all-access to the worlds of fashion, Hollywood, clubbing, and more. At sixteen, she could be living it up as most offspring of the rich and famous do, but instead is starting to hold her own, walking her now-famous walk at all the major shows New York to Milan, landing her first cover for Vogue Paris, and fronting fashion advertising campaigns that this season alone include Chanel, Versace, Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs. And then there’s Omega: to be the ambassador of a Swiss luxury watch manufacture is something else. It’s more than being a face, or having a famous name … it’s also about representing the values of the brand and being part of their family, which for Omega is the essence of its heritage company that celebrates its 170th anniversary this year.
Talking about family, this interview with Kaia actually predates to 2005, when I interviewed her mother for the December cover of Harper’s BAZAAR. She was in Kuala Lumpur for the launch of Omega Bijoux – the jewellery collection crafted after the signature symbols of Omega — and we got the coup, shooting her on the grand staircase of Carcosa Seri Negara, and in the very suite that Queen Elizabeth II stayed at, where some of these images were selected for their global campaign. It was one of the best interviews of my career, and what resonated most was how she told me that she works for “Cindy Inc”. “It’s all about delivering Cindy Crawford, what she wears, what she would say,” she said, in between leather looks and having a giant orchid tucked behind her ear. “When I am working, I have to give Cindy Crawford.”
Today, in a private space at the uber-chic Soho House in Berlin, one of the coolest cities in the world, Kaia Gerber walks in, a lankier facsimile of her mother, dressed in a blue devoré mini and hair pulled back into a low ponytail. She looks all prepped for her first interview as the face of Omega Trésor with the editors of international publications, and brand executives in audience. What on earth would a 16-year-old say in this arena, I wondered? Cindy was 40 when I interviewed her then, full of the experience and confidence of being a global brand and businesswoman; Kaia is in Grade 11 and schooled online (“I’ll come back from Paris and do pre-calculus the next day,” she says, to give context.) But question after question in rapid-fire – mind you, none were sent beforehand for vetting – she comes across articulate, intelligent and composed without a single pause or teenage-inflected “like … umm … kinda”, which leaves us all practically breathless and awe-impressed. In just 20 minutes flat, Kaia Gerber, daughter of, became “Kaia Inc.”
“People of my generation don’t rely on watches to tell the time,” she shoots back on the first question, on the relevance of timepieces in the digital age, “but I think that’s why they’re important because they’ve become a classic piece. You’re looking at it in a different way, as an accessory, and something that makes you feel good.”
The very timepiece that Kaia represents could not be more classic: the Omega De Ville Trésor, with its round dial, Roman numerals, and slim case embellished with a curve of diamonds. The first Tresor dates to 1949, in reference to its “treasure” – a 30mm calibre movement hidden in its slim golden case. It was relaunched in 2014 with a highly advanced Co-Axial movement in a 10.6mm elegant case. The new Tresor of 2018 is even thinner at 9.75mm for the 39mm model, and 8.85mm for the 36mm model – both housing the treasure of a highly precise quartz movement – enhanced with diamonds, crafted in rose or white gold, or stainless steel, and accessorized with a spectrum of interchangeable straps. You could easily imagine Kaia to be the very personification of the Trésor with its stylish elegance and refined beauty, while holding real power within.
“The cool thing about the Trésor is that it is very classic,” says the new super, who had a hand in the designing of the watch. “I didn’t want to go too far from the classic watch because that’s what’s cool about watches now. They are a piece of history. That’s why I wear them now. I wanted it to be something true to Omega while giving it a bit of a modern twist.”
This duality is something Kaia plays with effortlessly. Off-duty she’s in her denim cut-offs and snapback caps, which her two million Instagram followers laud up. “I follow the rule of less is more. I’m a bit of a tomboy, always have been growing up,” she shares. “I have an older brother so I would steal his clothes all the time and dress up like him, so I think my style is just very relaxed and simple.”
Her brother, Presley Gerber, 19 and an IMG model, was also signed up last year as the face of Omega Railmaster. Meanwhile, her mother is the longest-standing Omega ambassador — 23 years running of “Cindy Crawford’s Choice” — of an A-star line-up that also includes Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Phelps and Abhishek Bachchan. While other luxury watch manufactures act out the generational theme in their campaigns, Omega is the only one that can claim three ambassadors from a famous family in one fell swoop; a bona fide Omega family.
“When I was about six years old, we went to the Beijing Olympics as a family with Omega, and it was one of my favourite trips I’ve ever been on in all my entire life,” Kaia recalls her earliest Omega memory. “I remember experiencing how they were as a family and I think that’s what made me want to work with them. I love being part of Omega especially alongside my family, because that’s more quality time we get to spend together.”
“It’s very important that she’s been in the family,” states Raynald Aeschlimann, president of Omega. “When she was born, Omega was already in their lives. We know her. I had met her many times – one of the last times was when we were in Hong Kong when she travelled with her mother at the age of 14 for Omega. She was very touched but also it was a way of getting close to the brand that she knows.”
“The brand must mean something to me, not just me putting my name on something I don’t have a relationship with,” Cindy said, when I asked her back then about what makes her decide to connect with a brand. “The reason why I’ve affiliated myself with Omega is that it makes sense with what I do and it evolves with my life. Their quality is great, yet not so elite that a regular person can’t afford to have an Omega watch.” Accessibility and values were what she spoke about throughout, now mirrored through “Kaia Gerber’s Choice” – stylistically, the Omega Trésor not only appeals to her generation, but is also the most accessible watch within Omega’s offerings.
Extending beyond product and image, Cindy has always involved her children in her dedicated work with the philanthropic pursuits of the brand. Last year she took Kaia to Peru to support the passionate work of the Orbis International Flying Eye Hospital sponsored by Omega. “I grew up in the Omega family, so seeing those shared family values is what made me fall in love with them in the first place,” Kaia shares. “Going on the Omega Orbis trip and seeing how they used their platform to help other people was also really important to me.”
“My generation has a lot of light on what is going on in the world, so it’s important to help where you can, especially with something you are passionate about,” she says positively about her Generation Y, as opposed to their social media shenanigans we know them for. Such genuine interest, professionalism, and down-to-earthness certainly casted a glowing light on young Kaia, whereupon after the Orbis trip, Omega signed her on as their younger ambassador ever with the announcement at their “Her Time” exhibition during Paris Fashion Week last September.
“Yes, she’s 16 – but if you think about probably one of the best and the biggest advertising that she’s running now is Chanel, and I’m not sure that Chanel is only millennial-driven,” says Aeschlimman. “Her mother was probably the first influencing her in the world of fashion and she is one of them but there is no categorisation that we’ve done. It’s about talking and sharing with the new generation. Omega counts on her to show that we’re modern, we’re fresh.
“At the same time, we did not ever say that we’ll not have Cindy or Nicole, just the most influential personality in the world. So it’s not a coup; it’s about the long relationship that I as a CEO want to make official,” he continues of the decision to bring Kaia to the Omega family. “Her Time’ was a big event [for the announcement], not just because she was starting the Chanel show. It was very clear for us that she would have this career. It’s was all organic, part of the balance and an extraordinary success. It would be different if Kaia were to be a world ski jumper, this is not really Omega’s territory. Trésor is about emotion and beauty. The advertising is also about that moment.”
In the spirit of their “long relationship” and family values, iconic photographer Peter Lindbergh – who has photographed Cindy for decades — was commissioned to capture exactly that “emotion and beauty” of the Crawford-Gerber family, all laid-back and loving in their Malibu home and beach. Shot in his signature black-and-white, the portraits of Kaia barefoot, salty breeze in hair, and relaxed in a black suit were selected for the global communications for Trésor, a beautiful contrast to the high-octane fashion campaigns she stars in, showing her versatility and, more than that, her warm personality, “An old soul,” she smiles.
From this, she talks about being a regular 16-year-old, spending time with her family, cooking dinners, going to school, and living her everyday life. “I try not to let work affect my everyday life and I try not to view myself as anything out of the normal,” she says. “I think people should do what they want to do, especially when you’re young and I’m only 16, so I don’t let it affect my life.”
Lessons from her famous mother, aka the “good girl” of the iconic 80s supermodels, some of whom raised hell while others didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000? “My mom tells me don’t do anything you don’t want to do and to follow your instincts and I think she does a really good job of leading by example,” she shares; obviously her mother has also been coaching her on her killer catwalk, which she’s totally made her own. “People tell me I look like my mom which I take as a compliment, but I wouldn’t call it either or, it’s about having a good role model. I wouldn’t care if she was a model or not a model. The values she taught me have stuck. I really appreciate her.”
Time is running out, and we are on Swiss time here where everything is precise to the second. One last question before Kaia gets up for her next interview, and the next, until her show call at the big launch event that night, where she wears a 2018 black version of the red Versace her mother famously wore to the Oscars in 1994, both iconic. What is the meaning of time for you? “You shouldn’t let time pass without experiencing it to the fullest,” she delivers with sage-like seriousness. “Live life in the moment and don’t take anything for granted.” That night she does exactly that: owns it, and with that dazzling smile, totally loves it.