From the runway to the big screen and now fashion design, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is proving that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
When it comes to power breakfast spots, you can’t do much better than The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel—a storied dining room where, in the 1940s, Marlene Dietrich famously challenged a house rule mandating that women wear skirts. In 1972, Richard Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, was having breakfast here when he learned of the Watergate break-in. Not much has changed; the place continues to attract attention-grabbing clientele. On the morning I’m scheduled to meet supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, I spot CEO of Activision Blizzard Bobby Kotick having breakfast with ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann. At a nearby table Les Moonves dines with former MGM honcho Roger Birnbaum (who is currently producing a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Rebel Wilson).
On this chilly morning, Huntington-Whiteley, dressed in a long, dusty pink coat by Isabel Marant, slides into a deep booth, orders a fresh juice and takes in the room. “My man J. first brought me here,” she says, referring to her fiancé, chiseled star of Fast & Furious 8 Jason Statham (in February, the couple announced they are expecting their first child together). “It’s like our little thing. We go down to the Fountain bar. You feel like it represents Beverly Hills. If these walls could talk…”
With her blonde hair and endless legs, Huntington-Whiteley is the ultimate California girl—except she was raised on a farm in Devon, England. Her story is legendary at this point. She became a Victoria’s Secret Angel at 19 and then the face of Burberry at 21. The photographer Rankin was so fascinated by Huntington-Whiteley that he devoted an entire book to her, Ten Times Rosie, which memorably featured shots of her covered in black body paint. That fearless, up-for-anything attitude is part of Huntington-Whiteley’s charm, and perhaps what inspired Michael Bay to cast her as a lead in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, despite her having zero acting experience. (Her pillowy lips helped.) She made a more lasting impression in 2015’s Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road, in which she fled across the desert of Namibia dousing herself with water like some teenage boy’s idea of a thirsty mirage.
Huntington-Whiteley is now at an inflection point in her career. Though she walked in Paris last year for Versace and Balmain, she’s finding power in embracing her own voice, following in the footsteps of supermodels-turned-entrepreneurs like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum. Having launched successful lingerie and makeup lines with the U.K.’s Marks & Spencer, she’s now gotten into bed with L.A.-based Paige for her first signature collection, Rosie HW x Paige, which features 17 tightly edited pieces due in stores in February, including a silk bomber and a lamé jumpsuit inspired by her can’t-stop-won’t-stop lifestyle. Of her take-the-reins approach to this phase of her life, Huntington-Whiteley says: “I never liked the idea of waiting on the phone to ring or waiting for somebody else to make a decision.” The future is female.
“I never liked the idea of waiting on the phone to ring or waiting for somebody else to make a decision.”
Huntington-Whiteley began the design process the way any of us might: with enthusiasm, a mood board and a long Pinterest page covered with inspirational images of style icons like Vogue Paris editor Emmanuelle Alt and Spanish stylist Barbara Martelo. “I’m obsessed with Pinterest,” she says, adding: “I’m such a dork. And I love to see what people are wearing on social media. One of my favorite things is being stuck in traffic in London and being able to look out the window and see how people are wearing things.”
Nobody walks in L.A. But c’est la vie. The 29-year-old model embedded herself in Paige’s Culver City headquarters as she mapped out a cohesive collection she describes as “effortless glam that’s cool and feminine but kind of has this tomboy twist. Nothing feels girly.” Expect one-shoulder jumpsuits (“one of my favorite styles to wear”) plus denim with a wide waistband reminiscent of a yoga pant—and a side zipper, “so they’re super flattering,” she says, not even trying to contain her excitement. After a lifetime of wearing someone else’s clothes, it’s nice to express oneself. “They have a little kick flare and an inside seam with the split on the inside and a frayed bottom, and they’ve got these really cool little side pockets.”
Designing a collection is not without its challenges, as she found with getting the dye right on one of her favorite pieces, a bomber jacket in tie-dye silk (“I felt like the fabric added a more luxurious, more feminine feel,” she says). She named the jacket “the Flo Bomber” after her sister Florence (internally they refer to it as “the Sleeping Bag Bomber” because of its feel and comfort): “I love tie-dye. But at the same time, there’s always that challenge of making it cool and contemporary without it feeling like hippy-dippy style.” Rest assured the result is less Woodstock, more Woodland Hills mall.
If she takes her business seriously, perhaps it’s because fashion has been a lifelong pursuit. This is the girl who saved every cent from her first modeling gigs so she could buy her first major bag—Chloé in python—at age 17. “I’m still chasing that high to this day,” she says.
The words “Forever and Ever” are emblazoned on the back of her Paige bomber, and that phrase doubles as her collection’s theme. “It’s romantic,” she says. “It felt like it was an homage to the loved ones in my life. Everybody has a connection with that saying, ‘I’ll love you forever and ever.’” Speaking of forever: While she and Statham have been engaged for over a year, I notice she isn’t wearing her engagement ring this morning.
“I know!” she says, looking at her hand and laughing. “I just realized I took it off in the shower. I feel naked without it!” She declines to discuss when and where they might finally get married (“We’re not going to talk about that!”), but the couple appears to be on solid ground. In March 2015 the pair bought a 7,000-square-foot-plus Beverly Hills estate designed by architect Jeffrey Allsbrook. The house, which previously belonged to fashion designer Jenni Kayne, features a reflecting pool and more decorative wood than the Westworld backlot. There’s also room for the couple’s miniature dachshunds, Dolly and Peggy.
In a way, the house found them. Huntington-Whiteley had first spotted it in Architectural Digest—and naturally pinned a shot of it to her Pinterest page. “Weirdly,” she says, “we were on the MLS and we were like, ‘Hang on a minute, we recognize this house…’” (Browsing the MLS? Stars! They’re just like us.) Of the home’s appeal, she says: “It has a real durability to it. It’s both contemporary and rustic. Nothing’s too precious about it. At the same time, it’s incredibly glamorous and fabulous but real.”
Looking back, this wasn’t always the plan. “I moved to L.A. at 23,” Huntington-Whiteley says. “I was forced! I was dragged.” She is mostly kidding. When asked what she loves about her life in Southern California—besides breakfast at The Polo Lounge—she says: “To be honest with you, whenever J. and I are just at home together, making dinner and watching a movie with the dogs around, or sitting in the garden.” I mention how surprisingly funny he was in Paul Feig’s secret agent spoof Spy—playing a self-important rogue agent opposite Melissa McCarthy. “Everyone thinks he’s like some kind of meathead,” she says. “For me, I’m like, I only know him as being hilarious. I know a totally different side of him. He’s really playful.” How so? Does he, say, Skype with the dogs when he’s away? “Every day,” she says. “It’s like a little family. Everybody gets to say hi.”
Photography by MICHELANGELO DI BATTISTA.
Styling by ALISON EDMOND.
Written by MICKEY RAPKIN.