Born in Brazil on 6th July 1987, Caroline Trentini’s story did not begin happily. Raised in Panambi, Caroline’s father died when she was only one year old. Living with just her mother and two sisters, Caroline’s life changed dramatically in 2000.
Aged 13, she was scouted whilst walking with her family. The agent, whose previous successes included supermodel Gisele Bundchen, immediately recognised the potential in Caroline. Two years after doing local modelling assignments, Trentini now aged 15, and unable to speak English, moved to New York.
That enormous gamble, especially for such a young model, paid off. In 2003, she was hand-picked by Marc Jacobs to be the face of his diffusion line, Marc by Marc Jacobs. The label, aimed at a younger market than his main, high-prestige label, was pitched perfectly for 16-yr-old Trentini.
Photographed by Juergen Teller, Caroline aced the assignment. Her unusual blend of blonde hair, green eyes and smattering of freckles made her fashion’s newest find. Her quirky charm was perfect for the label, and Caroline’s career was on the up.
In January 2004, she opened the Ungaro show, also walking for Marc Jacobs, Rick Owens, Vera Wang, Roland Mouret and Nina Ricci. Caroline also experienced a stellar season in the autumn, but her greatest challenge came later that year.
Caroline was asked to participate in an editorial for American Vogue. The tone of the shoot was to be edgier than usual for the magazine. Shot by Steven Klein, Caroline would pose in an industrial meat-freezer. The shoot, which also required Trentini to be semi-nude, was nothing less than a feat of endurance.
Not only did Caroline have the usual issues that any model would have to think about on set, but she also had to deal with freezing temperatures and being surrounded by animal carcasses. For any model, this would be a tough ask. For a new model, it had the potential to be completely overwhelming.
Caroline persevered with the shoot, but the experience proved so traumatic she later reported it convinced her to become vegetarian. But Klein was so impressed with Trentini that he sent her flowers and a card thanking her for her professionalism on set.
February 2005 gave Caroline reassurance that her difficult shoot had been worth it. The A/W show season was Trentini’s moment – in demand, she walked in 90 shows, ranging from Alberta Ferretti, Burberry, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Rochas, Valentino and Versace.
In November, Trentini became a Victoria’s Secret girl, walking in the televised fashion show. Her approachable demeanour paired with a body built for runway made her a popular choice for the lingerie brand. Appealing to men but not alienating women at the same time is a difficult balance to strike, but Trentini’s friendly face easily bridged the divide.
But Trentini’s heart belonged to high-fashion, and in 2006 she became the face of Gucci’s 85th anniversary ad campaign, photographed by Craig McDean. She also landed a campaign with Balenciaga, working with Hilary Rhoda and Hana Soukupova.
2007 was to be a crucial marker in Trentini’s career. She became the face of heritage label Oscar de la Renta and opened the A/W Oscar de la Renta show in February, plus appearances for Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Givenchy, Etro and Zac Posen.
Trentini’s stature within the industry was sealed when she took her place on the seminal May ’07 cover of US Vogue. Posing alongside models such as Jessica Stam and Doutzen Kroes, Caroline Trentini was tipped as one of the world’s next top supermodels.
This directive was straight from the coal-face of fashion: US Vogue often pre-empts a style, a mood or a trend and singling out these girls as future superstars was a brave move. Naming them ‘supermodels’ was braver: many in the industry assumed that the big-name, big-bucks era had ended with the likes of Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell. Trentini may not have been a name like Crawford or Turlington, but plenty of people in the industry knew who she was, and that was more than enough to succeed.
2007 brought plenty of editorial work: Caroline appeared in an American Vogue spread called ‘Cloud Atlas’. Brilliantly inventive, the shoot styled by Grace Coddington hinted at Caroline’s ability to fill a frame with personality, not just beauty. Like acting, the key to being convincing on an editorial shoot is to embody a character. No-one’s going to believe your heart is breaking if you’re actually thinking about what to have for lunch.
Caroline’s gift for interpretation and movement was particularly well suited for a shoot in Vogue’s 2008 September issue. Photographed by Arthur Elgort, ‘Flights of Fancy’ showed Caroline suspended in mid-air, dressed in ballet-inspired couture dresses. Another physically demanding shoot, you would never know it from looking at the photos. Sumptuous, daring and dreamy, this was Trentini at her best.
Caroline’s commitment to every assignment explained her schedule for the next three years. After the famous Vogue cover shoot, Trentini’s career exploded. In 2007 she did campaigns for Mulberry and DSquared2; in September 07 she scored two editorials for Italian Vogue and in November, landed the cover of Spanish Vogue.
In 2008, she became the face of DKNY, walked in the A/W Dior couture show and appeared in no less than eight different editorials for American Vogue, being photographed by Irving Penn, Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz.
In September 2009, Trentini walked S/S shows for YSL, Hermes, Oscar de la Renta and Dior and 2010 is already shaping up to be another good year, with covers for Brazilian Elle and Japanese Numero, plus a Sonia Rykiel for H&M campaign under her belt. From high-flying high fashion editorials to campaigns for Gap and Topshop, Trentini’s ascent to the top of her profession looks almost effortless, but in reality, it has been anything but.
With her elfish looks and trademark freckles, Caroline could have cornered the cute-but-quirky market and stayed in that box for the rest of her working life. With 20 Vogue covers to date, Trentini chose to specialise: in creating those magic moments for editorials, her seamless ascent through the ranks is the result of study and perseverance. Caroline possesses the ability to morph into any character or mood that is required, and whether that’s a magazine shoot, campaign or runway, the ability to get out of your own way in modelling is a truly vital asset. That ability and self-awareness is what makes Trentini such a valuable commodity.
Working with top photographers and stylists has enabled Trentini to be more than a Brazilian bombshell. Given her looks it would have been very easy to go down that route and always play second fiddle to Gisele. But, even more so than Raquel Zimmermann (Brazil’s other modelling star), Caroline has built a reputation on a body of work that truly proves that fashion is about more than just the clothes. Great fashion, paired with a great photographer, stylist and model creates great art.
American Vogue’s epoch-making editorials such as ‘Flights of Fancy’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ are nothing short of art meets advert. The dress is the thing, but the efforts of the creative team (and a good model will always be a team player), can turn an everyday editorial into something spectacular.
Caroline’s intelligence and resilience is what makes her a great model. The legendary ‘meat freezer’ shoot would be enough to spook any model, but the fact that Caroline had only been working for two years, and was willing to push through her discomfort, showed that she was serious about having a career with depth and vitality. No-one wants to be a one-season wonder and being versatile isn’t just about personal growth: it can do your career a power of good too.
Caroline’s willingness to go the extra mile to get that one good photograph is what keeps her at the forefront of the industry. Character may not seem like one of the most important attributes a model can have, but working in difficult situations is all part and parcel of the modelling experience.
Some models get to the top by opportunity, others make it because their look makes them a talking-point, but models like Caroline make it by sheer hard graft. It’s an old-fashioned concept in a culture of instant gratification, but when required to excel under pressure not all models are created equal. When it comes to role models, the person who can work through any circumstance and deliver consistently high-calibre work is someone worth emulating. In adopting a philosophy to work by, you couldn’t choose better than Caroline Trentini.