The face of now, model Lili Sumner, wearing Pringle’s fashion of forever.
Photography by Angelo Pennetta. Styling by Francesca Burns, Words by Ben Reardon.
It’s a sticky summer morning down East London’s finest filmic neighbourhood of Columbia Road and Lili Sumner strides into the studio, making quite the entrance as her enormous piano key teeth smile into view. Standing as long as a piece of string and as angular and equine as a freshly birthed filly, she is louche and languid and born with a body and bone structure that predetermined her current career choice of supermodel du jour. Lili is a distinct and retro beauty that effortlessly evokes Blondie era Deborah Harry by way of Patti Smith.
Sat facing the sun among various flora and fauna on a bench outside the studio, Lili is a natty dresser and wears an eclectic gumbo of styles from top - (a Fifth Element style vintage Harrington) - to toe - (a pair of London tourist socks). So where does she find her personal style inspiration? “I don’t buy high fashion but I’m lucky enough to receive some gifts,” she smiles. “I like to mix designer with vintage. I don’t really like to buy new clothes because there are a lot of good clothes out there already. When I’m travelling I always go to flea markets or vintage stores in each city and I love to shop in LA and Paris, they are my favourites.”
Lili grew up in New Zealand, and the Sumners lived in the city before relocating to a beautiful rural farm 40 minutes’ drive away from the nearest town. The youngest of four siblings, Lili would while away weeks avoiding adults, riding horses bareback through fields, saving stray animals, building treehouses and losing herself in endless, inspiring tomes. “I was always a massive reader, I’ve been obsessed with books my whole life.” She devours literature the same way others do with social media, but instead of squandering hours to Instagram, she chooses to educate herself each day with the written word. “I read before I go to sleep and when I wake up I read again for at least half an hour before I get out of bed. It’s my nice way to start the day.”
Lili’s stratospheric ascendency into the modelling world has seen her collaborate with some of the best image makers in the fashion business including photographers Juergen Teller, Craig McDean, David Sims, Ryan McGinley and Angelo Pennetta and stylists including Katie Grand, Marie Chaix, Max Pearmain and Francesca Burns. To work as a muse to such gamechanging aesthetes, you need to bring character, emotion, depth, playfulness and soul to your portraits, something that Lili does in abundance, perhaps due to her thirst for knowledge and love of literature and classic cinema. “I was always into imagery and film and the story behind a picture.
When I initially started modelling I thought I would do it for a year and then go to university, but it’s going so well and what an amazing way to see the world,” she says, hardly believing it herself. Lili is a sage beyond her years and ambitious with it and she has started to make the transition starring in front on the camera to a role behind the lens. “I took a course in screenwriting and I’ve been writing a script for the last 9 months or so,” she says of a career path following in her fathers movie footsteps. “I shot a screen test yesterday and I’m so excited about what’s going to happen next - I really believe you have to make your own opportunity.”