Kendal Jenner on carving out her own place in the world of fashion

Jenner speaks about her evolution, loving hard and loving without apology, maintaining a sense of mystique, and more.

Harper's Bazaar India

Kendall Jenner is a Scorpio. And it’s with typical Scorpio reserve that Jenner and I don’t discuss that fact until nearly the end of our time together. But the qualities ascribed to the sign weave throughout our conversation. Jenner speaks often of change and evolution. “I feel like I am coming into my womanhood,” she tells me, “and having so many strong women around me has helped shape my sense of worth.”

Jenner, 27, is in a starkly white room with shelves full of art books and novels behind her. She’s dressed casually in a black tank, her hair pulled back, her skin dewy. She looks as if she’s just come from a hike or a trip to the dog run, the platonic ideal of how one might look lounging around the house. When she speaks, it’s with the self-awareness of someone who has spent her entire adult life in front of a camera. She often qualifies what she’s saying with how it must come off. “I probably sound so LA,” she says at one point. Later: “I probably sound corny.” It reads less as nervousness than as someone who is used to being observed, cutting off the observer at the pass, a reminder that she knows how others might try to fit her into a narrative. Even as she is looked at, she is looking back.

Jenner’s family has been at the vanguard of global popular culture since Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered in 2007. The show, which aired for 14 years on E!, moved last year to Hulu, where it was rechristened The Kardashians. Jenner was 11 when it first aired, positioned early on as the kid sister involved in wholesome scrapes with younger sibling Kylie, in contrast to the inside view of their older sisters’ lives as they worked to build their brand and fame. But Jenner remembers her childhood as a place with spaces of sanctuary. “I just kind of kept to myself,” she says. “I loved hiding out in my room and doing my own thing or riding my horses.”

“She’s always been very definite about who she was,” her mother, Kris Jenner, says. “Her superpower is knowing when it’s too much or when it’s not enough. … She’s a lot smarter at that than I am, and she kind of taught me a thing or two about it.”

Jenner’s ability to maintain a sense of mystique has been crucial to her success in fashion, where she is now one of the most in-demand models. Essential to the job is a persona that hints at knowability while maintaining a sense of mystery, allowing viewers to construct their own story—the dance of imagination that makes up what we understand to be glamour.

“It’s not always the easiest industry to be in,” Jenner says. “It can be really cutthroat and intense sometimes.” But the fashion business now is radically different from the one Jenner entered nearly a decade ago. Her rise mirrors shifts in how brands and careers are made—and where power lies. Jenner was at the forefront of a new generation of models—many of them, like her, either born into privilege or nepo-baby adjacent—using social media to expand their personal brands by offering glimpses of their private lives. She now has more than 292 million followers on Instagram and upwards of five million on TikTok. And Jenner works. Amid her perpetually stacked slate of Kardashians and runway and campaign obligations, she also has her own tequila brand, 818, and she recently announced a new partnership with L’Oréal Paris.

While the Kardashian machine undoubtedly gave her a leg up, she has diligently found ways of moving between the realms of reality TV and ultra-high fashion without being subsumed by either. “I think when things appear to come very easily to people, there’s a lot of criticism,” says casting director (and Harper’s Bazaar contributing editor) Anita Bitton, who cast Jenner in her first Marc Jacobs show in 2014. “But in order to maintain all of that stuff, there’s a certain degree of rigor that’s involved, and Kendall has that rigor,” explains Bitton. “Kendall Jenner is her own person.”

“I feel really balanced right now,” Jenner says. “I started my therapy journey a year and a half ago. I meet with my therapist once a week, so every week I’m learning something new. I’m constantly evolving and just excited to do that.” 

This past spring, Jenner’s sister Kim famously trolled her with a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Kendall Starting Five,” for her penchant for dating pro basketball players. The internet has also exploded over her rumoured relationship with Bad Bunny. It’s an aspect of Jenner’s life that, like most things, has had to play out in full view, but it’s also one she, unsurprisingly, holds sacred. “I love really hard, and I love without apology,” she says. “I don’t like goodbyes, and I will fight to not have to say goodbye. I will always fight for relationships. I’ve been that way since I was little, although I was shy and sometimes very closed off,” she continues. “I don’t give up on anything. Some people aren’t willing to meet me at that level. But that’s okay. I’d rather do that than shut myself off to something and not give it a proper chance.”

I ask Jenner if she’s familiar with the astrological lore around Scorpios, who are said to be so mysterious because they are associated with not one but three symbols: the scorpion, the stereotypical vengeful stinger; the eagle, which uses Scorpios’ capacity for hard work to better their world; and the phoenix, whose capacity for deep love leads to higher understanding. The idea is that Scorpios embody all of these archetypes at certain points, cycling through them, not necessarily in a linear manner. For Jenner, it’s yet another narrative to negotiate. “My affection for people and my empathy have only grown,” she says, smiling. “My favourite part of getting older is the wisdom and knowledge.

This piece originally appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Harper's Bazaar India