Sunday, 21 February 2010


Born on the 23rd November 1987, Polish Kasia Struss is a very contemporary vision of modern-day beauty.

Discovered by an agent in 2005, Kasia began working in 2006, debuting at Paris Fashion Week. She walked for Louis Vuitton and Prada’s sister label, Miu Miu.

Struss’ new look, conspicuous at a time where doll-like glamour was at its height, caught the interest of the press. In May 2007, listed her as one of their Top 10 newcomers of the season, and she also appeared on influential website as one of the new faces to watch.

In August 2007 she did her first editorial for Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel. Kasia was also booked for couture season, walking for Chanel, Givenchy, Roland Mouret and Valentino. She modelled for Aquascutum’s look-book and featured in the A/W campaign for Dolce & Gabbana.

A lot about a model’s direction within the industry can be determined by the runway work they are offered. In September 2007, and barely a year into her career, Kasia not only booked the following designers, but was asked to open their shows: PHI, TSE, Jil Sander, Balenciaga, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti and Giambattista Valli. This was in addition to walking in shows for Chloe, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Erdem and Giles. These names all represent very different states of opinion when it comes to fashion, but what they all have in common is that they are fashion’s taste-makers. The industry looks to them for the next big trend. The fact that all these designers chose Kasia to participate in their runway collections, indicates that she was already being considered a muse for fashion’s next generation.

In February 2008, Kasia experienced her biggest runway season to date, and was booked for 72 shows. This blockbuster season combined the best of avant-garde (like Jonathan Saunders and Preen) with more established labels (such as Alberta Ferretti, Gucci and Prada). It was self-evident that Kasia had now become a major presence on the international runway circuit.

During the recession, the one constant in fashion has been the allure of the runway. With so much at stake, fashion houses are investing a great deal of financial and creative energy into making great, memorable shows; the late Alexander McQueen trail-blazed this approach with events that verged on the theatrical. Designers are using technology to up their game, streaming their shows live on the internet, because runway remains the most potent way of advertising what their brand is all about, and hiring the right model can make all the difference.

Kasia’s unusual East-European features automatically make her a stand-out, but that’s the draw for designers. With Kasia on side, a brand immediately announces itself as brave, bold and forward-thinking. No matter how esteemed the history of a fashion house, no-one wants to think of their brand as being behind the times.

2009 brought more couture and editorial work, with Kasia walking in the Dior couture show in January and appearing in her 2nd Italian Vogue editorial in March. In July, she walked the couture shows for Givenchy, Chanel, Dior and Armani Prive. Struss also did a campaign shoot for Mulberry, photographed by Steven Meisel.

The shoot, which she worked with Irina Kulikova, was an ode to autumn. Posing in a leaf-covered forest, Kasia and Irina’s gloriously frizzy hair, combined with lashings of high-fashion attitude, elevated Mulberry’s transition from home-grown bag brand to major fashion player. It was the perfect campaign, as memorable as it was evocative.

The campaigns kept coming as Kasia was named one of the new Chloe girls. Working alongside models like Raquel Zimmermann, Kasia’s unique brand of beauty now stood shoulder to shoulder with the industry’s glamour puss-in-residence.

In December 2009, Kasia finally made the cover of Italian Vogue. Shot by Steven Meisel, Struss now completed the ultimate modelling milestone. In acting, an Oscar lets you know you’ve arrived, in fashion, it’s Vogue Italia. This seal of approval finished off an incredible year for Struss, who saw her standing in the industry go from super-edgy runway girl to mainstream big-budget campaigns for Mulberry and Chloe. It was an extraordinary year.

2010 promises to be equally unforgettable, with January bringing a busy couture season for Kasia, walking shows for Armani Prive, Elie Saab, Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and Valentino.
This month, Kasia can be seen in the March editions of Vogue and Elle, appearing in the S/S ad campaign for Alberta Ferretti. Amid a confetti of ribbons and pleated tulle, Kasia models alongside newcomers Constance Jablonski and Hanne Gaby Odiele.

There has been considerable attention lavished on this season’s big-name campaigns. Usually a litmus test of which models are at the top of everybody’s must-hire list, this season, the ads themselves are getting the spotlight. Balenciaga has fun with Photoshop, Chloe borrows a page from Ralph Lauren and Lanvin goes even further with Jamie Bochert’s face obscured from the camera altogether.

It is no surprise that fashion has had to get more creative to keep our attention. The emphasis on products is essential to keep many labels afloat, and the choice to hire established faces, but not necessarily ones that are household names, is a deliberate one. Costs are lowered, and the product and label take centre stage.

Girls like Kasia really do well in this kind of climate. Her fashion pedigree is firmly established, but she does not distract attention away from the product she is meant to be selling. This trend for faceless fashion is something new and sparking much debate. In the latest Prada advert, it is somewhat impossible to miss the bag: it takes up virtually the entire page.

Far from being bad news for models, it proves just how essential that personal contact is for the consumer. After all, if aspiration wasn’t a contributory factor in buying the latest must-have bag, no label would bother using models at all - a mannequin would do. But they don’t and that is because we still need that relatable aspect. If we don’t aspire to look like the girl on the ad, cover or runway, then fashion simply hasn’t done its job.

Kasia Struss has excelled during a tough time for the industry because her look is all about a clean, modern aesthetic. Taking her lead from Nineties models like Stella Tennant and Audrey Marnay, girls like Struss are dominating the catwalk by virtue of their non-conventional beauty.

There will always be a place in fashion for the girl who can pull off the glamourpuss look, but the good news for prospective models is that high-fashion’s tastes when it comes to beauty can vary wildly. Not being a typical beauty doesn’t mean your career’s a non-starter. Modelling is as much about inspiring the designer as the consumer, and editorial looks can help redefine the direction of where fashion is headed, and that in turn, can make you very popular indeed. Just ask Kate Moss.

Models like Kasia Struss will inform the future of fashion by being that bold mixture of feminine and masculine, hard and soft. Sex appeal and glamour will always be required but at the very frontier of fashion, those calling the shots want to work with Kasia.

Struss is centrally placed to enjoy the most exciting decade for fashion in nearly twenty years. Innovation, technical and creative, is what will drive fashion over the next 10 years, with our relationship with technology running through every collection, whether that takes the form of literal translation or a more subtle influence. A face that can deliver any aesthetic, and do so with credibility and authenticity, will not only influence the progress of high-fashion, but also what the next generation of models will look like.

Kasia is the best means we have of determining the face of fashion’s future. She is truly a 21st century girl.


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