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Alton Mason, the First Black Male Model to Walk a Chanel Show, Talks Selfies and Karl Lagerfeld

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In the weeks since Karl Lagerfeld’s death, at 85, dozens of models have been sharing their memories of the late creative director of Chanel and Fendi (and all-around icon). Few, however, have stood out as much as those of Alton Mason, the 20-year-old Jamaican-Ghanaian model whom the designer befriended in the months before his death. Not only did Lagerfeld photograph Mason for his namesake label’s spring 2019 campaign, but he also gave Mason the opportunity to make history as the first black male model to walk a Chanel show, 108 years after the house was founded.

Mason made his modeling debut at Yeezy Season Three, in 2016, though he’d been making waves before that. Now, represented by IMG in Paris, Milan, London, Australia, and L.A., Mason has already walked 16 shows so far this year; his favorite was Louis Vuitton, which also tapped him to appear in the house’s spring 2019 men’s campaign. He now has just shy of 180,000 followers on Instagram, which is, in fact, where it all started for Mason. (That is, after the scout who discovered him on the app was able to convince him it wasn’t a joke.) He sheds some light into his process behind the thirst traps that have been racking up nearly 30,000 likes apiece, in his Social Q’s, here.

Which was your favorite of the looks you wore on the runway this season?

After choosing the red pill at Alyx, I woke up in an all-black leather suit by Matthew Williams. That’s the day I left the Matrix.

When did you find out that you were going to make history as the first black male model to walk a Chanel show?

When I arrived on set to shoot the Karl Lagerfeld campaign, [Lagerfeld’s head of communications] Caroline Lebar told me she had a surprise for me. I was anxious to find out what it was—she kept smiling and laughing, but she wouldn’t tell me. As we waited for Karl’s arrival, I tried to imagine what it could possibly be—a pair of leather gloves? Or a cat of my own? Either way, it couldn’t possibly be better than being shot by Karl, the legend himself.

Then, suddenly, I heard Parisian accents whispering, “Karl is here. Karl est ici!” So I slowly walked around the corner of hair and makeup and saw the one and only embracing his team with hugs et bisoux. He then turned and looked at me and said, “Hello!” I smiled and thanked him, telling him it was a dream come true. And he replied with, “Thank you for being here. You know you’re going to be in the show, right?” To which I said, “Wait, what?!” And he said, “Yes! For Chanel, only two guys: Pharrell Williams and you.”

Both of our eyes lit up as our hands were still locked from our first acknowledgment. I looked up at his team and saw the confirmation and excitement all over their faces, waiting for my reaction. And then, suddenly, the world stopped.

What was it like to shoot with Karl?

Karl Lagerfeld is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Paris. Working with him felt liberating. All of my expectations went out of the window, especially about him: He was the unexpected. His grace, energy, his vibration filled the infamous library. If the day we shared was a movie, he was the thrill. What I admired the most was how down-to-earth he was; he was so easy to talk to and gave me detailed answers to all of my questions. We shot for two days, and when I changed back into my clothes after we shot he would look me up and down and say, “So chic this one. So chic.” Like, whaaat? Coming from the godfather of fashion himself!

Alton Mason, photographed by Karl Lagerfeld for Karl Lagerfeld’s spring 2019 campaign.

Do you have a most memorable moment from working with him?

Karl shoots very quickly—just a couple of fires of the camera and he has his shot. I’ll never forget when he went back to the monitor to analyze the photos with his team and I heard him say, “Whoa. Oh, wow.” Then he turned back and applauded me, and the entire studio followed.

What’s your secret to taking a winning selfie?

Find your light.

What’s your favorite thing to post?

Skin.

What are your thoughts on, and tips for, thirst traps?

The world would be a better place if everyone drank eight glasses of water a day.

Filter or #nofilter?

No filter.

Do you have a finsta?

What’s that?

What are your social media–related pet peeves?

“Need ARTWORK ! 🎼 ALBUM ART 🎨 OR SINGLE COVERS 🖼 Go to my PAGE or contact me at 1-800-InstaArt for the low 💰 💵!!!”

How would you describe yourself using three emojis?

The zombie, the black heart, and the smiley face surrounded by hearts.

How do you unplug?

I turn off my phone.

Related: Karl Lagerfeld, by His Muses: Claudia Schiffer, Jerry Hall, Abbey Lee Kershaw, and 22 Top Models Share Their Memories





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