At 5-feet, 11-inches tall, Grace Simmons already stands out in a crowd. (“My dad is six-four and mom’s 6-foot. I didn’t really have any choice,” she shrugged.) Add fire-engine-red hair and a face full of freckles to the mix and the 18-year-old Brisbane, Australia, native is seriously hard to miss.
Repped by Next, Simmons made her runway debut at the fall 2014 couture shows for Viktor & Rolf and Dior, and for spring, she was promptly booked a semiexclusive for Saint Laurent; that meant she could walk a few other shows, but only pending the brand’s approval. She ended up on the spring runways of Valentino, Rick Owens and Dries Van Noten.
The sweet, upbeat model is soaking up every minute of her time in Manhattan’s Financial District, where she’ll be living in a model apartment for the next few months. “I love the idea that your agency might call and say, ‘Pack your bags, you’re getting on a plane tomorrow,’” she said. “Last week, they called me at 8 p.m. and told me I was going to London. It was so cool. I could be at home at university and working at the local bakery or something, and I’m in New York.”
WWD: How did you start modeling?
Grace Simmons: My mom encouraged me to do a modeling competition in Sydney. I had just turned 16. I entered the competition and I won. I got signed with my agency in Australia and I worked with them for two years while finishing school. I finished school last year and then started traveling.
WWD: Growing up, had you ever considered modeling?
G.S.: I hadn’t thought about modeling that much. People would always say stuff — I was tall, I had red hair and I’m just naturally really skinny. But I would brush it off. I’m really into horseback riding. I thought my future would be going in that direction. We lived on a farm and my parents have always been into [horses], so as soon as I could walk, they were like, “Get on!”
WWD: What was your modeling experience like back in Sydney?
G.S.: It was more commercial, lots of look-book shoots for local Australian designers. It was really good practice; it gave me a good taste of the industry without the high pressure. It was a good platform to start.
WWD: Have your parents always been supportive of your career?
G.S.: Since the start, they’ve been super supportive. They visit me everywhere. I’ve been in Japan, they came to Japan. I was in Paris, they came to Paris. My mom visited me in the city two weeks ago. I think they love it because it’s an excuse [for them] to come on a holiday.
WWD: Do you think you’ll continue studying?
G.S.: Yes, I’m still going to. I would’ve started it this year, but in Australia we can do a thing called “deferring,” where you can put off your studies for a little bit. You can do it a year at a time. I know what degree I want: it’s a double-major in economics and commerce/accounting. Those were my best subjects in school and I really enjoyed them.
WWD: How are you adjusting to life in New York?
G.S.: My best friend and I are obsessed with “Gossip Girl.” It makes you obsessed with the city, and I’d been so excited to come. In the back of my mind, I was worried that it wasn’t gonna be as cool as I thought, but it’s even better. I’ve done all the main touristy things. I live with three other girls and we all get along so well. I’m so lucky. Every day, I think, “Thank God. Everyone’s really normal. Nobody’s crazy.”
WWD: What was your experience like in Paris for the spring shows?
G.S.: It’s gonna sound corny but it’s almost a shot of adrenaline. Everyone’s like, ‘Come here! Get dressed! Hair and makeup!’ It’s a cool atmosphere, and you feel like such a princess walking down the runway. I was lucky that I had been there in July during the couture shows, when it wasn’t as hectic. I got my sense of direction and I could get to where I needed to go.
WWD: Do you think your red hair is an asset?
G.S.: Definitely. My mum loves it, too, because it makes me easy to find [in runway slideshows]. There are usually only two other redheads in each runway show, so it’s something to remember me by. It helps me stand out from the crowd, which, in this industry, is very helpful.
WWD: What are some of your goals?
G.S.: I really want to open a restaurant in New York. It sounds really crazy, but I love cooking. When I’m at home, I’ll cook every night for my family. I love to make lasagna. One of my friends lives in the West Village and we’ve been restaurant-hopping. We went to Rosemary’s and we had to wait like an hour, and she said it would be worth it. It was soooo good. We also went to this other cute restaurant called Aria; it’s kind of small, but it’s got a cute little vibe. That’s my five- or 10-year plan — to open my own Italian restaurant in the West Village.