Making her start in the fashion industry as a model, Candice Lake was a natural in front of the camera but quickly honed her skills behind the lens too, becoming one of the industry’s most recognised – and recognisable – street style photographers. Now, as a contributing style editor for Vogue Australia, Candice’s repertoire includes creative collaborations with fashion’s biggest names. The London-based mother-of-two lives a fashionable life, but not without inspiring determination and drive.
What does a regular day involve in your roles – is there an ‘ordinary’ day?
No day is ever the same which is why I adore my job! I may be in Paris shooting a campaign, New York for fashion week, India with Jimmy Choo or spending an evening at the BAFTAs with Swarovski whom I collaborate with a lot. Other days I’m in my office editing – I never know what a week may entail which is incredibly exciting.
You originally studied law in Sydney before being discovered as a model. Tell us about your start and journey in the industry.
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. Without modelling I would never have had these amazing opportunities in photography.
What are your most treasured professional highlights?
In front of the lens:
– Becoming the face and global ambassador of Tresemme US was an amazing experience.
– US Vogue doing a feature on me in their ‘Best Dressed Issue.’
Behind the lens:
– Having my university graduating exhibition covered in Vogue magazine.
– Having my first exhibition in New York.
– Travelling to Shanghai with Louis Vuitton to photograph a story for Vogue. An incredibly exciting and eye opening experience that began ongoing relationship shooting for LV.
What has been 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.
Who has influenced you most in your career? 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.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
I think people have always tried to find a way to express wildly – 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. It was just a way of self expression. Unfortunately, I think the nature of representing street style to the mass market has changed they 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.
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.
Whilst the fantasy of fashion in magazines and fashion shows is still as relevant as ever, more and more people are interested in seeing how to translate this fantasy into reality, and that is where street style comes in.
What designers do you admire?
What advice would you give someone wanting 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 has been the most valuable professional lesson?
Always do what you’re afraid to do. 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. “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – RWE
Have you experienced any challenges?
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.
You personified ‘street style star’ long before it became a movement. Decode your personal style philosophy:
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. I think that is key – have fun but don’t divert from what your style is. Because I wear such bold pieces I love to keep my hair and makeup minimal with natural, I-just-rolled-out-of-bed hair and little to no make up with a shock of red lips.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Swimming, tennis, learning the ukulele and baking – it’s my new obsession.
How do you measure success?
Waking up and genuinely being excited about doing something that you love and are passionate about – whilst getting paid to do it. I’m still lucky enough to have this most days.
What words do you live by?
“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far…” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson. Basically don’t be afraid to try new things.
In a sentence, describe life in London and life in Sydney.
Sydney is about the bush, the beach and connecting with nature, it’s in my veins. London is kinetic and constantly changing – I love it and it’s home for now.
Follow Candice on Instagram @candicelake