In Vogue’s series, “The Secret Lives of Models,” we’re talking to models about their off-duty careers in medicine, the arts, and beyond.
The first time Marland Backus was scouted, she was a 12-year-old kid skating in Brooklyn, chaperoned by her mother. Though she didn’t start taking jobs until she was in her early 20s, Backus was soon on billboards for Celine, ditching class for Gucci shows in Milan, and interning for Phoebe Philo.
Backus always had a soft spot for design, which she studied at the Pratt Institute. With dreams of being a furniture designer, she pivoted to jewelry, which was a much more practical hobby to occupy her during her long workdays and travels. Though she initially only made jewelry for friends, in no time she began selling to major brands and retailers.
Nowadays, Backus considers herself a jewelry designer first and foremost. Though she moved to Tokyo for modeling, the city became the beating heart of her jewelry design career during the pandemic. “Once COVID happened, I didn’t have any modeling jobs, so I was making tons of stuff,” she says. “That’s kind of when it switched from modeling being the main thing to jewelry being the main thing.” In Tokyo, Backus the jewelry designer is ironically much more recognizable than Backus the model. “People haven’t stopped me in the street like, ‘Oh, are you that Celine model?’ But I’ve had people stop me in the street like, ‘You’re Marland Backus, I have like five of your necklaces. Can I take a picture?’”
When did you start modeling?
I started kind of late compared to other models because I was going to Pratt for