Sunday, 6 June 2010


Born June 6th 1987, Canadian model Alana Zimmer’s profile may lack the celebrity kudos of a Lara Stone or Georgia Jagger, but she has been a lynchpin of the fashion industry since her discovery in 2005.

Alana’s story begins when she was discovered whilst working in a restaurant. She was spotted by the friend of a model scout. Encouraged to consider a career in fashion, Alana emailed off some of her prom photos. The response was immediate, and Alana began to model locally in Toronto. In September 2006, she made her international catwalk debut, walking for designers such as Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Prada and Vera Wang.

That same month, website named her a face to watch, and Alana found herself featured on, on their list of Top 10 Models of the Spring / Summer 2007 season.

In October, she landed her first major editorial with fashion heavyweight, Italian Vogue. Capping off the year with a 10-page editorial for Numero, in 2007 Alana became the face of Missoni Sport. It was a brilliant casting for a model whose hobbies include running and yoga.

Fitness modelling exacts very particular requirements. Sportswear shows up poor muscle tone quicker than any couture design and being fit is essential if a model wants to be an all-rounder. Zimmer’s intelligent blend of cardio and body conditioning made her the perfect candidate for the campaign.

Zimmer’s ability to do it all was confirmed when show season arrived in February. Closing shows for Dries van Noten and Jill Stuart, she also appeared for Cacharel, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jonathan Saunders, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Prada. Her comprehensive list of credits got her noticed by Marie Claire, who dubbed her the face to watch in March.

The press attention made Zimmer hot property, and her dreamy, ethereal look put her in pole position for Autumn / Winter campaigns. Later that year came the announcement that Zimmer had been waiting for. She had landed the coveted spot in the new Marc Jacobs campaign.
Jacobs was, and still is, the king of the fashion jungle. Not so much a designer as the pace-setter; walking in one of his shows is an achievement. Scooping the campaign puts you in a different league altogether.

In September, British Vogue (unsurprisingly) feted Alana as a model to watch, and in October, she closed the show for Louis Vuitton. The vintage label, now steered by Marc Jacobs, has been rejuvenated under his guidance, and famously brought back bunny ears as a legitimate fashion accessory.

Dubbed the playful, girlie cousin to Marc’s own label, Zimmer’s pivotal role in the show also meant more bookings from other designers, eager to get the new Marc Jacobs muse on board. Walking for Alexander Wang, Chloe, Dior, Gucci, Marchesa and Rodarte, Alana was landing the type of work that figures on pretty much every aspiring model’s wish-list.

Her ability to command a runway got her the cover of the Italian Vogue couture supplement. The high-stakes booking did not phase Zimmer one bit, and she finished the year with an editorial for i-D and a Numero cover in December.

2008 began with more campaign news for Zimmer, whose versatile look got her the lead role in Moschino’s campaign.

January was couture season, with appearances for Jean Paul Gaultier and Armani Prive, and in February, Alana was closing shows for Moschino and Marc Jacobs. It was a real career high: in terms of runway, it doesn’t get much better. Marc Jacobs also selected Zimmer to open his resort show in June, which she had to balance with editorial work for Japanese Vogue.

The campaigns kept coming with Alana being signed to do the A/W advert for DKNY Jeans. Five years ago, Zimmer’s look would have made her unlikely to be anyone’s first choice for a jeans commercial. Paired with rising star Chanel Iman, the duo made for a new kind of aesthetic. Traditionally jeans advertising has relied on the bronzed sex-bomb approach, and both Zimmer and Iman were the antithesis of the Brazilian bombshell look that had until recently been in favour. Neither models were conventional casting choices, and their appeal was defiantly off-centre, but it worked and it got DKNY noticed. Where cosmetic brands like Estee Lauder are just beginning to adopt a more cosmopolitan look for their campaigns, DKNY showed they were ahead of the curve. It was a brilliantly timed fashion coup, and gave both Alana and Chanel a huge career boost.

Alana followed the DKNY campaign with editorials for Italian and German Vogue during the summer. When show season came around in September, Zimmer was given the honour of opening the S/S show for Louis Vuitton.

Her roster of bookings, including appearances for designers as diverse as Alberta Ferretti, Alexander Wang, Cacharel and Thakoon, points to the importance of being able to pick up a designer’s aesthetic and run with it. In today’s industry you will find precious few one-trick ponies. Alana’s ability to switch between strictly editorial and fashion’s playful, feminine aspect has her pegged as one of the industry’s best team players. Whatever the brief, Alana delivers.
2009 saw Zimmer branch out into more campaign work, including high-street stalwart Topshop. Sandwiching this and an ongoing contract with DKNY in between editorials, Zimmer hit another highlight in September with the S/S 2010 season.

Walking in what was to be Alexander McQueen’s final show, along with appearances for Christopher Kane, Erdem, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Mary Katrantzou, Rachel Roy and the re-launch of Versus (Versace’s diffusion label), Zimmer’s catwalk range featured an effortless mix of editorial high-flyers with more traditionally feminine labels.

2010 is already proving to be a crucial year for Alana, with her move from Supreme Management to Ford Models. So far this year, Zimmer has opened the Jean Paul Gautier couture show and signed up for the S/S Sonia Rykiel ad campaign. The French label, which is a perfect blend of pretty and quirky, is about as tailor-made to Alana’s strengths as it’s possible to get.

With a strong A/W season done and dusted, Zimmer has continued her reputation for being a favourite with up-and-coming designers. Not only walking for press favourite Mary Katrantzou, she has also appeared for Prabal Gurung, who has recently been debuted on the red carpet by Gossip Girl Leighton Meester.

Being able to see-saw from cutting-edge print to mainstream appeal, Alana is doing well in this economic climate because she represents a softer side of editorial. Zimmer’s look translates as clearly to the pages of Italian Vogue as it does on the runway wearing a Diane von Furstenberg wrap-dress.

The fact that Alana is able to do both points to how fashion is rethinking its stance on trends. Just look at the choice available for this summer: there are modern, spare neutrals, nautical (as ever) and edged-up florals and gingham. Trends instead of being polarised are starting to meet each other halfway. The utilitarian nature of the neutral trend is softened by a feminine palette; florals give us attitude when paired with directional dresses.

The emphasis is now on good design, not top-to-toe trends. The idea of copying runway looks verbatim is becoming increasingly outdated. The looks you see on the runway were never meant to be copied, but to be used as inspiration: a sartorial jumping-off point to explore new ideas. Looks were absolutes: the most literal translation of a designer’s vision.

This idea got lost in the pre-recession era where consumerism often outranked common sense. The race to be the first to wear the latest dress, or ‘it’ shoe became so frantic that mere mortals just couldn’t keep up. Allowing fashion to operate in a tortoise-and-hare manner, also robs us of the joy of the experience. Fashion should be about fun and self-expression, not a manic dash to be the first to wear that must-have label.

The idea that you can only be ‘in fashion’ by donning the latest label is a notion that’s had its time. The rigours of a season dictated by key pieces and statement bags don’t allow space for creativity and movement, and isn’t fashion autonomy what style is ultimately about?

Slowing down the pace, partly through financial necessity, has been good for the fashion industry. It’s given everyone a chance to step back, reflect and catch a breath. The return to classic shapes and familiar styles is about more than appealing to the masses; it’s about exploring what truly works. The perennial trends that we keep returning to, however they’re spun, translate across the board.

Tossing out the rulebook is what fashion does best, and this time it’s going back to the start. It’s finally time to stop and smell the roses - even if they’re courtesy of Erdem.


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