Following your family’s footsteps might mean that you inherit a small business from a parent or seek out a similar career path as your favorite cousin. But when your family matriarch is the inimitable late Audrey Hepburn, pursuing a similar line of work comes with a unique set of challenges—ones that are definitely more public-facing, to put it mildly. But that’s exactly what Emma Kathleen Hepburn Ferrer is setting out to do. And it’s completely on her own terms.
As the daughter of the actress’s son, Ferrer (whose grandmother sadly passed before she was born) probably is remembered well for the big splash she made in a 2014 Harper’s Bazaar cover feature where she re-created a few of her grandmother’s most famous looks. “When I was approached by Glenda Bailey back in 2014, I was still in school and at the same time I really had my whole career planned out before me. I was going to be an artist and then eventually be a part of the art world, then that whole shebang happened,” she tells us over the phone. The shebang of course was overnight (if not quicker) notoriety. “Half a billion media impressions,” she recalls, and the start of a modeling career, which she says flourished at first but has since taken more of a backseat.
“I really wanted to be my own person. I didn’t want to be associated with her, and I really wanted to prove myself for who I was and have my own identity,” she explains to us. “It was really quite scary for me because I really had this fear that everything was happening because of who my grandmother was. It sounds so crazy, but I had to come to terms with it and really embrace it.”
Four years later, Ferrer’s landed back on our radar again for her work along the lines of what she always planned. For the past two years, she’s been the artist liaison for the Sapar Contemporary in New York, and this past week she’s revealed her first-ever curated exhibition that centers around a familiar theme. “I just continuously found myself on the brink of art and fashion,” she says of the just-opened “Ideas Get Dressed: Works by Zac Posen, Manolo Blahnik, Roland Nivelais, Raquel Davidowicz, and Geova Rodrigues.”
She tells us it explores “the process that goes into not only making clothes but in making art and in making objects.” It features essentially halfway finished projects from designers in order to get a closer look at how fashion comes together. This comes by way of illustrations mostly and, in the case of Zac Posen—who’s famous for his draping—a mannequin wearing a cross section of a half-completed design.
“I think that the exhibition has a classical nature to its aesthetic, and it’s cool to me because there are certain things that I am just naturally drawn to, and oftentimes these things also overlap with my grandmother’s aesthetic,” she says, adding, “even with what I choose to wear. And I am extremely okay with that now.”
In fact, despite the comparisons made in 2014, which caused her to question her own future, Ferrer’s path today actually mirrors that of her movie star grandmother’s more than it ever has before. And she’s proud. “I found more and more that my career is overlapping in a big way with what her career was,” she says referencing her work in art, fashion, modeling, and humanitarianism, “which is the most important element of carrying her torch on to me.” Oh, and there’s one more thing: “I’ve started acting recently,” Ferrer said. “I’ve always been interested in acting, but I kind of had written it off, funnily enough, because of who my grandmother was.”
If you happen to find yourself in New York City, you can pop by Sapar Contemporary to see Ferrer’s current curatorial work on display between now and April 18. And if not, we encourage you to watch for her name elsewhere, specifically on a book that she and her father are writing about her grandmother, due to release in about a year. While her father is approaching from a more biographical point of view, Ferrer’s tackling Hepburn’s massive influence on her generation as well as pretty much every one that followed.
“The most surprising and inspiring thing to learn was that she totally defied the paradigms of beauty for her time. At a time of [Anita] Eckbergs, [Greta] Garbos, and [Marilyn] Monroes, she chose to be a Hepburn, which meant going against the grain of a feminine aesthetic—i.e., hourglass figure, blonde bombshell hair—think your classic sex-bomb iconography. She was petite, had a boyish physique, and short hair…but she devised a look that worked for her and stuck to it, no matter what. I think that’s a powerful message of individualism and self-emancipation for all young women and men around the world." Ironically (or not), Ferrer is already leading this lesson by example.