Polish-born Magdalena Frackowiak has built a career on making the fine art of editorial look easy.
A multi-tasker extraordinaire, Magdalena’s body of work spans the complete breadth of modelling experience from campaigns for French Connection to high-edge editorials in Viktor and Rolf.
Born 6th October 1984, Magdalena began her career by winning the ‘Waterproof Model Search’ in 1999. Her career took off in 2006, when she landed the covers of Polish Elle and Italian Glamour.
In October 2006, she got her big break when she was picked to open the YSL show in Paris. Also appearing for designers like Alexander McQueen, Marchesa and Valentino, Magdalena was featured as the Top Model of the S/S 2007 season by http://www.style.com/.
2007 started with a bang for Frackowiak when it was announced that she would become one of the new faces for legendary label Ralph Lauren.
Sandwiching in editorial work for Chinese and German Vogue, Magdalena also landed a campaign for Dior Lingerie. Shot by Craig McDean, this was Magdalena’s toughest challenge to date. On a lingerie shoot there is (quite literally) nowhere to hide. Being photographed in underwear is the least of your problems: keeping the feel of the shoot high-fashion is the real issue. Factor in a photographer like McDean who specialises in sultry shoots and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Lingerie modelling may seem like the soft option, but at this level, nothing could be further from the truth.
Magdalena’s hard work paid off in August 2007 when she got the cover of Italian Vogue. Modelling alongside Maryna Linchuk, and photographed by Steven Meisel, this was a watershed moment.
2008 saw Magdalena become the face of Alessandro Dell’Acqua, in addition to renewing her contract with Ralph Lauren. Magdalena walked in the January couture season, making appearances for Armani Prive, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and Valentino. Her excellent show record continued with a RTW season that included opening spots for Thakoon, Viktor & Rolf plus Alessandro Dell’Acqua.
For the rest of the year, Magdalena clocked up several noteworthy appearances; an Italian Vogue editorial photographed by Patrick Demarchelier; an i-D editorial in March; an Allure editorial in May and the summer cover of 10 magazine.
This rapidly-growing CV also included a feature in French Vogue, where the magazine that can make (or break) a career named Frackowiak a ‘top model’. Magdalena’s flair for editorial continued, with a spread for Interview magazine that primarily focused on Gucci. Pairing the Polish bombshell with the iconic Italian brand was inspired casting. Frackowiak had already proved she could do high-fashion, but she could also bring sex appeal, perfect for an editorial that required equal measure of both.
Magdalena’s standing in the fashion community soared when it was time to announce who had scooped the prestigious A/W campaigns. Magdalena had not only landed a spot with one designer: she had three. Shooting for Oscar de la Renta, Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Ralph Lauren, Magdalena’s pulling power in front of the lens was becoming an undeniable force for fashion good.
In September, Magdalena had the show season befitting a top model, walking in 55 shows. Closing shows for Jil Sander and Proenza Schouler, she also made appearances for Chloe, Chanel, Gareth Pugh, Hermes, Isabel Marant, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Preen, Stella McCartney and Valentino. It was a blockbuster season, putting Magdalena’s name well and truly on the map.
2009 brought more accolades, with Magdalena adding a campaign for Kenzo to her list of credits. Her A/W season in February 2009 gave Magdalena a bona fide fashion moment. She was selected to open shows for Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Matthew Williamson, closing shows for Julien MacDonald and Alexander McQueen.
Being the bookend in major headline shows like Lanvin and McQueen, Frackowiak was now playing with the top names in the business. Her editorial and campaign work had propelled her right to the heart of the modelling elite.
Magdalena filled the summer months of 2009 with yet more editorial work, including French, Russian and Japanese Vogue. Magdalena also hit the headlines when she participated in a shoot for the A/W issue of Purple. Posing topless with Eniko Mihalik, Abbey Lee Kershaw and Freja Beha, the photo shoot garnered plenty of attention. Its near-the-knuckle editorial slant begged the question: was this fashion photography at its most daring or just plain pornography?
Terry is famed for blurring the lines, and his preference on sexuality is borrowed straight from the Seventies. Think bold glamour, gloss and very big hair, and you’ve got yourself a Terry Richardson shoot.
In some ways, a photo shoot like this is the perfect foil to Magdalena’s abilities. She can be gentle and soft-focus in designs by Alberta Ferretti and Blumarine, or full-on raunch for designers like Gucci and Roberto Cavalli.
Terry’s work proves that provocative images don’t have to be just for the boys. His genius is making sexuality part of the high-fashion experience. Where couture can sometimes be accused of being a touch cerebral and other-worldly, Richardson, working with models like Magdalena, brings a note of earthy vitality to a shoot or campaign. It’s not sleazy; it’s just another point of view.
2010 has already begun well for Frackowiak, with an Italian Vogue editorial under her belt and covers for Russian Vogue and Dazed and Confused.
She is very much the 21st century follow-on from Fifties and Sixties models like Dovima, Dorian Leigh and Suzy Parker. They wore cutting-edge couture like was a second skin, and that is what Magdalena does so well. The fashion spread for Dazed and Confused was dedicated to Viktor and Rolf’s latest collection. More avant-garde than ready-to-wear, the ultra-edgy designs in both the cover and editorial have one thing in common: you see the model first, and then you see the dress. It only registers in a second glance that the dress is pushing boundaries and then some. On Magdalena, what is a challenge to wear becomes soft, romantic and even covetous.
When modelling the tougher, more avant-garde designs, it pays to be fearless. This is what Magdalena has picked up from the tough-as-boots models of the 50’s and 60’s. They may have looked the epitome of elegance and grace, but there was no chance of any dress overwhelming them. It’s a tough balancing act because fashion’s built around the see-saw of hard and soft, masculine and feminine. Trying to blend the two and make it believable is the really tricky part. Magdalena’s work with photographer Terry Richardson is a brilliant example of the importance of balance. It’s all about visual semantics: lighting, styling, even the tilt of the model’s chin - in fashion, the tiniest detail often makes the biggest difference.
Look at Magdalena’s runway track record. Note how many designers have kept her on as a runway fixture every season. Alexander McQueen was booking Magdalena in 2006 and still doing so in his last (completed) show in September 2009. Loyalty is hard-won in the fashion world: an incredibly versatile clothes-horse, Magdalena has mastered campaigns and editorials that would make more experienced models quake. It is that quality of fearlessness that makes her such a compelling presence.
With depth and intelligence, Magdalena is merging the point where ‘sexy’ and ‘editorial’ meet. In a post-recession age where many hard and fast rules are having to be re-written, Magdalena provides a very modern take on fashion’s newest (and boldest) identity.
It’s a lesson taken straight from fashion history. After the Second World War, the fashion world had two options: to give up, or reinvent. Christian Dior went with the second, and gave us the New Look. It reignited the industry, and ever since, it’s been the inspiration when times are tough; revitalise and renew.
Models like Magdalena aren’t just along for the ride: they’re changing what we see as beautiful and fashionable. Editorial fashion isn’t about wilful provocation; it’s about moving forwards in order to survive. The models that do editorial best make it look easy: because they’ve worked so hard, you can no longer see the join where work ends and inspiration begins.
Fashion’s latest reinvention is not for the faint of heart, but it’s about more than hemlines. The new look for the 21st century is taking fashion into its next phase. It will be daring, difficult and thought-provoking – but it’s pushing all the right buttons.