The modelling veteran with over 20 years of experience in campaigns for the likes of Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent believes the fashion industry must do more to protect models from sexual harassment. Having joined the board of The Model Alliance, she aims to end the abuse of models in the form of sexual harassment and assault amid the #MeToo movement, using her influence to become a spokesperson for the movement.
Karen Elson began working as a model as a teenager and was discovered at age 16 by the owner of Boss Models in Mancheser. Elson's breakthrough came when Steven Meisel shot her for the cover of Italian Vogue on her 18th birthday. She has since worked with most of the world's most renowned fashion photographers including Peter Lindbergh , Mert and Marcus, Steven Klein , Steven Meisel and Ellen Von Unwerth.
Elson has walked the runway for a number of designers including Marc Jacobs (which she did while pregnant), Jean-Paul Gaultier , Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Dior and Gucci. In August 2012, Elson was one of eight British models chosen to walk during a segment at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. She wore a gold gown by Burberry and walked the stadium with her fellow models to David Bowie's song "Fashion."
Her list of magazine covers includes multiple international editions of Vogue as well as W, Dazed & Confused, Numéro, Harper's Bazaar UK, Marie Claire, Elle, Lula, Foam Magazine and Nylon. Photographed by Steven Meisel, she was presented on the September 2004 cover of American Vogue as one of the "Models of the Moment." In 2005, Elson won the British Fashion Award for Best Model.
Elson has appeared in many short films and videos, including Steven Meisel and Darren Lew's “War Opera,” Nick Knight 's Andy Warhol-inspired series “More Beautiful Women” and Craig McDean 's “48 Girls.” Elson is also a singer-songwriter , having written two full-length albums and performed with her band on the Late Show with David Letterman.
She has contributed to Nick Knight's fashion site Showstudio.com since 2002. She also contributed to Knight's project "Moving Fashion" with a black and white video of herself in a sequin gown, perched upon a swing. The images were accompanied by Elson playing the autoharp and singing a verse of Marlene Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again."