Born December 20th 1983, Dutch native Lara Stone is one of fashion’s hottest exports. Taken straight from Hollywood’s template of the femme fatale, Lara Stone is the very definition of a 21st century supermodel: bombshell meets mannequin.
She was first discovered in 1995, aged 12, whilst riding on the Paris Metro. But Stone’s career didn’t take off until she entered the Elite Model Look contest in 1999. She didn’t win, but Elite was so impressed with the 16-year-old that they signed her anyway.
Lara switched to agency IMG in 2006, and that January she debuted at the Autumn / Winter Givenchy couture show. She also made her ready-to-wear debut, walking for designers Cacharel, Miu Miu and Veronique Branquinho.
Lara also scored her first major campaign in 2006, managing to scoop an ad for Sisley. Photographed by Terry Richardson, it was the perfect match of photographer and model. If anyone knew how to photograph Lara’s curves and keep it centered in a sense of fashion, it would be Richardson.
The impact was immediate. Stone got the cover of French Elle in May, and was dubbed a favourite of French Vogue. Editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld remarked that ‘sometimes a girl just touches you’. In an overcrowded industry, even a little ‘x factor’ goes a long way. It would soon become self-evident that Lara had star quality to spare.
October 2006 saw Lara’s busiest runway season to date, with appearances for Burberry, Chloe, Jil Sander, Lanvin and Prada. Her appearance at the S/S 2007 Karl Lagerfeld show also attracted press attention when she tripped on the runway. Even that glitch didn’t stop Lara’s progress: http://www.style.com/ named her (trip or not) their rising star of the season.
In 2007, Lara’s career went into overdrive. She became the face of Givenchy with Hilary Rhoda, signed a cosmetics contract with Calvin Klein and even replaced Kate Moss as the face of Calvin Klein Jeans. She also had the best RTW season of her career, with 62 bookings for the A/W 2007 season. Her appearances included Alberta Ferretti, Balmain, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Derek Lam, Givenchy, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Stella McCartney. It was a resounding stamp of approval.
Lara’s aplomb on the runway sparked editorial fever, with magazines vying for her time. In March, she channelled Sixties icon Brigitte Bardot for a French Vogue editorial. In April, she shot their cover. May saw an editorial for British Vogue (photographed by Mario Testino) and July saw Lara’s first fashion shoot for Italian Vogue. In October, she did two editorials for Italian Vogue and finished off an incredible year with the December cover of Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel.
In 2008 Lara renewed her contracts with Givenchy and Calvin Klein Beauty, plus signing on to become the face of Just Cavalli. March saw Lara hit the cover of French Vogue again. Her status as French Vogue’s favourite was cemented by an extraordinary run of success, including being cited by them as a top model, along with four editorials; two in the May issue and two more in June.
In July, Lara scored the cover of W magazine, along with Vogue, the most influential fashion magazine in America. Taking on cover duty with Kate Moss and Daria Werbowy, the shoot dubbed ‘Summer Camp’ took the best new design talent (including Gareth Pugh and Rodarte) to Miami, shooting their designs to create an incredible 36-page layout. For Lara, this shoot by Bruce Weber was a career-making moment.
The noteworthy appearance for W landed Stone two more campaign slots: Hugo Boss Orange and Jil Sander. The combination of a face made for editorial and a body built for (sartorial) sin was proving to be an irresistible lure.
Her starring role in many of the top runway shows later that year confirmed her status, including opening honours for the Isabel Marant, Giles Deacon and Christopher Kane shows. Also walking for Balmain, Celine, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Zac Posen, Lara’s ability to morph from a fashion girl, to sex-bomb, and back again, charmed the industry. Taking adaptability to a whole new level, Stone undertook editorials for Japanese and French Vogue in October, and a month later, walked in her very first show for lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret. Fusing a high-fashion aesthetic with mainstream glamour? All in a day’s work.
Lara was rapidly becoming fashion’s newest superstar. To prove the point, French Vogue dedicated an entire issue to the Lara phenomenon in February 2009, with editorials shot by Steven Klein, Hedi Slimane, Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier. The other recent example of this happening is with Natasha Poly’s multi-page homage in Russian Vogue.
Natasha and Lara make similar studies; viewed from a distance they should be one-trick ponies, asked to do nothing more taxing than smoulder and pout. But get closer and you see versatile, thoroughly capable editorial models that bring something extra to every assignment.
February was a good month for Stone as show season rolled around. She made a headline-grabbing appearance for Balmain. Rewriting the fashion rule that body-con tends to look its best on the super-slim; Lara appeared on the Balmain runway in a dazzling blue sequinned mini-dress.
Her curves were clearly visible, but she looked incredible. The trend that had up until this point stayed on the sidelines had now become fashion’s latest crush. The press lauded Stone for making the Balmain glamourpuss look finally achievable, and the high street dutifully picked up the thread, making copies of the Balmain / Lara look and sent the body-con trend into the stratosphere.
The show season didn’t end there either. Lara was chosen to close the Marc Jacobs show. Simply as good as it gets in terms of runway prestige; Lara put an end to the claims that her presence was a token gesture, a pacifier for those who questioned whether fashion had really got a grip on the body image issue. Lara wasn’t picked because of the potential for headlines, but like her appearance for Balmain, Lara was chosen because of her ability to enhance clothes without being a distraction.
Lara’s triumph on the runway was followed by yet more editorial scoops, including the cover of Japanese Vogue, spreads for W and French Vogue, and finally in May 2009, she got the cover of American Vogue. Shot by Steven Meisel, it was another modelling milestone done and dusted.
In August, the fashion bible W paid tribute to her in their issue, dubbing her ‘Fashion’s new IT Girl’, if there was anyone left who doubted it. The end of 2009 culminated with not one, but two, magazine covers. The first was another for Italian Vogue, and the second was for British Vogue.
The British December issue was named ‘The Girl of the Year’. Shot by Mario Testino, it was Lara in full fantasy mode. The cover shot was soft, dreamy and uber-feminine. It wasn’t just a celebration of Lara’s achievements, the cover was signposting the year (and decade) ahead. True to its word, fashion has got in touch with its softer side and Lara couldn’t be better placed to take advantage of this shift in fashion semantics.
If 2009 saw Lara as the girl of the year, this coming decade surely belongs to her as well. To date, she has appeared in S/S campaigns for Jaeger, Louis Vuitton, Prada Infusion D’Iris fragrance and H&M swimwear. Couple this with an upcoming A/W campaign for Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, and Lara’s run of success shows no sign of losing momentum.
Being curvier than her peers hasn’t left Lara out in the cold, especially in terms of those all-important, lucrative campaigns. Stone is, just in terms of numbers, way ahead of the pack. The calibre of those campaigns (including Chloe, Jil Sander and Prada) are indicative of her ability to appeal to a wider demographic.
When casting campaigns, design houses don’t only look to the names that are populating the world’s runways or filling the pages of Vogue. That certainly helps, but a great campaign model needs something extra. If it’s a sunny advert for swimwear, coming across as likeable is essential. If it’s selling a bottle of perfume, the model needs to have an allure that’s appealing, not off-putting.
Lara’s brand of sex appeal is aimed squarely at the grown-ups: its Brigitte Bardot meets Veronica Lake, with a dose of worldly-wise Jane Russell thrown in for good measure. Lara’s pitch-perfect ability to charm men and women into buying that perfume explains why she’s in such high demand.
The company you keep in the fashion world says a lot about you. Lara isn’t booking campaigns or features with marginal figures in the industry. Chanel, Givenchy, Prada, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani – these names are not exactly obscure references. Lara has worked with the greatest designers, editors and photographers in the business. She may not be the most prolific runway girl, but it’s quality over quantity.
What makes Lara different is that she has tailored her career to her strengths. Her personal stamp – a postmodern Bardot – has worked simply because there is no-one else quite like her. Some come close: the trio of Brazilian supers (Bundchen, Trentini and Zimmermann) all have the market cornered in doing campaigns that call for plenty of sizzle. But Stone is cut a little differently from the standard sex-bomb mould.
Lara is part of a small group of models who can do the blend of coy sophistication peculiar to brands like Prada. It’s a tough ask, and Lara’s strategy of being (and staying) true to herself has paid off. Prada loves different, hence why she is their campaign girl.
Lara deftly translates intelligent sensuality into something fashionable and covetable. She works so well as a marketing ploy because of her high-fashion connotations. There’s little chance of mistaking the Prada girl for an off-the-peg glamour queen.
As influential as she is now, in ten years’ time, expect to see Lara’s legacy throughout the modelling industry. The soft-sell approach to campaigns that clamour for sex-appeal will eventually reconfigure what we think of as ‘sexy’. Think smart, challenging and a little hard-to-read. A unique presence in contemporary fashion, Lara is undoubtedly a model of substance.