Ever had someone tell you that you were making a big mistake? Candice Lake has. Many times over. Lucky for us, the Queensland-born model turned fashion photographer didn’t listen to them. “When people told me modelling was a waste of time, I knew it would allow me to see the world. And then later when everyone told me I was insane to quit modelling to go back to art school, I knew it was the right choice,” Candice recalls. She’s since collaborated – both as a model and then as a photographer – for some of the biggest beauty and fashion houses in the world (think Bruce Webber, Mario Testino and Steven Meisel). She then casually gave birth to two blond cherubs, launched a fashion collection, travelled the world many times over, and took on a dream gig as the contributing style editor at Vogue Australia. We spoke with the London-based beauty about her very fashionable life, how she custom-built her slashy fashion career, and the struggle of juggling a family with a full-time career.
Talk us through your career journey…I think modelling was an amazing vehicle to drive me towards photography. I had always wanted to go to art school when I was younger although somehow I ended up at law school. A couple of years into it, I luckily fell into modelling and everything else went out the window. I met the most extraordinary people, experienced things I never would have had access to without modelling. It was an accelerated life lesson and it was a few years into it whilst in between shots on a shoot for Harpers Bazaar, I asked the photographer if I could possibly come with him on his next shoot to assist. That was how I began assisting fashion photographers and transitioned to the other side of the camera whilst gaining a Fine Arts Bachelor degree.
Your most cherished personal highlight?Finding my incredible husband and having our children. There is nothing more incredible than sharing your life with people you love – everything else is secondary.
Do you have a mentor?Shooting the Versace campaign with Steven Meisel. I remember calling my agent distraught telling him I had been dropped from the shoot as he only shot 5 frames of me. And then a few months later I saw the amazing image he shot of me on a billboard. That’s when I began to understand the genius of the people behind the industry and I decided I finally wanted to go to art school and study photography. In regards to entrepreneurial ventures, I am really inspired by Natalie Massenett and her strength of vision when no one else could see it. This determination is so incredibly inspiring.
Did the internet kill self-expression?I remember when I lived in NYC in early 2000’s, it was not unusual to see women walking down the street wearing outrageous outfits. Unfortunately, I think the nature of representing street style to the mass market has changed the way we dress, and in fact, I feel street style has become a little homogenised. Before the internet, there were incredible differences between peoples style in cities from Berlin, Sydney, LA and NYC. What the street style movement has done is blur these once distinct lines a little.
How do you feel about the celebrification of fashion...When I was modelling in the shows 10 years ago, there were never any photographers outside the shows waiting to shoot us, and now it is like a month-long paparazzi pit. Personal style bloggers are everywhere, models have once again become famous and the editors are now celebrities. I think the insatiable desire to see how these bloggers/editors/models are interpreting fashion can be analogised to the reality TV phenomena and the way society now wants to see what is happening behind the scenes.
Any advice for someone hoping to follow your career path?I learnt pretty early on, that nothing just falls in your lap. You have to make it happen and take advantage of any opportunities you’ve been given. I work extremely hard to make sure I am pushing myself to produce the best quality of work on every single job I do. I didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly shoot for big brands.
I hustled, I worked for free for a long time, I carried sand bags up and down and then back up sand dunes for photographers, and learnt to not take no for an answer. I learnt to listen to my gut instinct despite everyone’s doubts.When people told me modelling was a waste of time, I knew it would allow me to see the world. And then later when everyone told me I was insane to quit modelling to go back to art school, I knew it was the right choice. I get a lot of emails from students asking for career advice and I always say these four things: Listen to your gut instinct, take risks, don’t take no for an answer and work your arse off doing something you love.
What's been your most valuable professional lesson?Always do what you’re afraid of. If something seems easy, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. To create something out of nothing is incredibly difficult. When people say to me ‘your job is amazing,’ I don’t think they realise the insane amount of work that goes into it. Being your own brand is the most empowering thing, although it is also an incredible amount of work.
How do you juggle a full-time job with two young children?Having children and wanting to really stop and enjoy the precious, limited time with them, whilst building a brand has been incredibly challenging. I found this very conflicting personally and professionally, trying to balance the two. I travelled with my first child everywhere so we were never separated in the first year, and only took on jobs that were really important to me. Whilst It ended up being a really positive experience and made me really assess my direction, it was incredibly exhausting trying to be a full time parent and not take any time off. We now have a nanny so that whatever I am doing I can put my full energy into. It is a constant juggle trying to be the best parent whilst ensuring you produce your best work.
I have a love affair with colour and I wear a lot of bold statement pieces mixed with classic staples. I tend to wear pieces that I feel comfortable in whilst still experimenting a little.