Born in Poland, 15th January 1994, Monika Jagaciak is already known by one name: Jac. A catwalk veteran at 16 years old, Jac is fashion’s newest runway prodigy.
Jac’s career began in 2007 when she was signed to IMG Models at the age of 13. In July, she scored her first magazine cover with French magazine Jalouse, photographed by Elina Kechiecheva.
That same year, she landed an incredible coup, becoming one of the faces of French heritage brand Hermes. The campaign was shot by Peter Lindberg and Jac worked alongside established model Daria Werbowy.
In 2008, she travelled to Japan, and her mixture of youth and editorial appeal made her an instant hit, scoring her the November cover of Japanese Elle. Also appearing on the cover for Japanese Harper’s Bazaar, Jac’s career really took off in 2009.
Just a month after her 15th birthday, Jac hit show season with a bang. Chosen to both open and close the Calvin Klein show, she also opened the Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti show and closed the Marc by Marc Jacobs runway collection. In addition to these honours, she also walked for Bottega Veneta, Burberry, D&G, Gucci, Jil Sander, Marni, Prada and Versace.
But her appearance in the Herve Leger show really earned her the title of most talked-about newcomer. Halfway down the runway, she took an unexpected tumble: her knees buckled and she fell heavily to the ground. The knock would be galling for an established model, but even more daunting to someone yet to earn their stripes. But the 15 year old rallied, got up and finished the show.
Despite the slip-up, Jac was nominated as a Top 10 Newcomer by http://www.models.com/ and a rising star by http://www.style.com/. The accolades were well placed, as news followed that Jac had been signed to an exclusive contract as the face of Calvin Klein. Following the likes of Kate Moss and Jessica Miller, it was an extraordinary achievement. Jac filled the rest of her year with editorial work, posing for Teen Vogue in April, French Vogue in June and Italian Vogue in September.
September proved to be a particularly good month for Jac, as she was named Rising Star by Teen Vogue. Adept at spotting new talent, getting the nod from the queen-bee of teen magazines proved to be a powerful ally in Jac’s corner.
To those who doubted that Jac was capable of doing runway at a high-fashion level (after the incident at Herve Leger), Jac’s S/S 2010 season proved otherwise. She opened shows not only for Calvin Klein, but Marni, Bottega Veneta, Etro and Pucci. She was also picked to close shows for Alexander Wang and Gianfranco Ferre – hardly small fry.
But Jac’s standing as an international runway model was put on hiatus when she was denied the chance to take part in Paris Fashion Week. Any models under the age of 18 were banned from participating, leaving Jac (and many others) to sit this one out.
However, Jac’s career continued to flourish, with editorial credits from W, Numero and Italian Vogue to finish off the year. In January 2010, she renewed her contract with Calvin Klein and shot an editorial for Italian Vogue with Steven Meisel.
Now aged 16, Jac progressed to haute couture, modelling for Armani Prive, Dior, Givenchy and Elie Saab, plus opening the show for Valentino. If the trip at Herve Leger had industry insiders questioning whether Jac was ready for a high-octane modelling career, her run of bookings silenced even the toughest of critics. Jac signed on to appear in a staggering 72 shows, featuring the very best of modern design talent. Walking for everyone from Balenciaga to Yves Saint Laurent, the list of bookings was proof that Jac’s career had come of age.
To be an established name by your 16th birthday is certainly unusual even by fashion standards, but it is by no means unheard of. Jac’s success may be treated as a novelty by the mainstream press, but starting early in modelling is nothing new.
Kate Moss was famously discovered aged 14; actress and model Brooke Shields landed the cover of US Vogue at the same age, and in 1988 Kimora Lee Simmons signed an exclusive contract with Chanel aged just 13 years old.
Even now, fashion has its fair share of early starters. Imogen Morris-Clarke signed with agency Storm aged 14; Hana Soukupova started modelling at 13; new model Amanda Norgaard is one year older than Jac and has already featured in shows for Chanel and Miu Miu. Rising star Keke Lindgard is the same age as Jac and is the face of Gucci eyewear.
Modelling is a high-stakes career but mastering the basics at an early age may not be the worst thing for a new model. The fashion world tends to be an easy target for criticism, but the reality is the image of fashion being a heady whirl of glamorous excess belongs to another age. Nowadays, it’s hard work and discipline running the show. The recession has claimed many top names, and no-one can afford to be caught slacking.
One of the most positive things a model can take away from the experience of modelling is a whole clutch of business skills. Learning how to work with other people; the value of being focused, on time and most of all leaving a good impression on go-sees and bookings can all be applied to the outside world.
Jac, as well as working with some of the most brilliant creative minds in the business, is getting a crash course in how to get ahead in the real world. The skills she has already learned – not allowing the fall at Herve Leger to faze her – are nothing short of invaluable. When Jac took a fall during the Herve Leger show in February 2009, far from damaging her career, 12 months on she booked an incredible 72 shows. Knowing that one mistake doesn’t equal disaster is an important life lesson at any age, but learnt young – it’s nothing sort of empowering.
To not allow someone to work because of their age, as happened in Paris Fashion Week, is a curious response to the ‘youth issue’. After all, athletes aren’t criticised for blossoming early, and are often encouraged to strive and achieve from a very early age, so why should models be treated differently?
Jac’s experience of high-fashion won’t always be positive – there will be tough assignments, difficult colleagues and unsociable hours. But it is the same with any job, any career. Some days the negatives outweigh the pay-offs: learning to push through an occasional bad day is something Jac can take with her when she decides to leave modelling.
Knowing how to handle the difficult parts of the job does take maturity, but maturity happens at different rates for all of us: setting an arbitrary limit on when someone is allowed to explore and develop their talent doesn’t take any of these factors into account. Someone may be ready to work at 15, and another model may not be emotionally or intellectually equipped by 19.
It’s clear that Jac has the potential to become one of fashion’s mainstays. She has proved herself to be someone who doesn’t give up at the first hurdle, and that is an instinct that cannot be taught. Already tipped to be the next ‘big thing’, the campaigns with Calvin Klein and Hermes are just the beginning.
As Jac enters the most crucial stage of her career, she is moving from ‘rising star’ to the ‘must-hire’ girl. With the world’s hottest design talent clamouring to work with her, the modelling industry should be prepared. Its newest supermodel has just arrived.