Born on 29th July 1987, Olga Sherer is a couture model with a unique approach to the demands of high-fashion, making her a constant presence in an ever-changing industry.
A native of Minsk, Belarus, Sherer began her modelling career in March 2005, making her runway debut for Issey Miyake. Her CV was somewhat sparse until February 2007 when she took the industry by surprise with a 72-show season, including Alberta Ferretti, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dior, Erdem, Hermes, Lanvin, Prada, Rodarte, Vera Wang and Versace. Reading like a list of who’s who in the fashion world, Olga’s dramatic emergence from bit-player to leading lady was all a matter of timing.
Between 2005 and 2007, the fashion world experienced a revival of Pre-Raphaelite-style beauty. Suddenly models that wouldn’t look out of place on a Victorian canvas became hot property. Names like Lily Cole, Lily Donaldson and Gemma Ward set the industry alight with a new type of beauty that wasn’t glamazon or editorial. Their classically ‘pretty’ looks worked well with the feminine trends and Olga’s striking red hair coupled with her painterly, wistful beauty made her an instant hit.
What also worked for Sherer was her aristocratic look and couture-perfect physique, allowing her to cross-over from romantic to avant-garde work with ease. This meant that Olga’s triumphant success on the runway translated into editorial work, appearing for W and an editorial for Italian Vogue, photographed by Greg Lotus.
She then became the face of Lanvin’s Autumn / Winter campaign. Shot by Steven Meisel, the campaign featuring Olga in a yellow dress became one of the most striking images of the season.
Her success also allowed her to land coveted slots, opening and closing shows. In September, she opened shows for Luca Luca, BCBG and Luella Bartley; closing shows for Paul Smith, Matthew Williamson, Fendi, Pucci, Lanvin and Moschino. It was a stunning 73 show season, with Olga being paired with designers who specialised in using colour and pattern. The punchy impact of Olga’s red hair made her an automatic stand-out in a market dominated by blonde and brunette models, and also provided a brilliant backdrop for the zesty colours used by designers like Williamson and Smith.
In October, Olga got her second editorial with Italian Vogue; this time photographed by Steven Meisel, and in January 2008 got her third editorial with the magazine, plus work for V and Numero.
Renewing her contract with Lanvin, Olga had another brilliant show season in February opening shows for Narciso Rodriguez and Bottega Veneta, and closing shows for Ralph Lauren, Kenzo and Tuleh.
In July, Olga got booked for the couture season, including Armani Prive, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino. Standing at 5’ 11”, Sherer proved she was born to wear couture. Olga was brilliant at embodying the concept of collections, with a presence that paid dues to the couture models of the 1950’s. Sherer’s knack for working haute couture made her consistently in demand right at the very top levels of the industry.
In the latter part of 2008, she got a series of high-profile campaigns including D&G, Bottega Veneta and a cosmetics campaign for Dior. Olga even went international with editorials for Chinese, German and Russian Vogue, with Russian Vogue featuring her as a top model.
In September, she appeared in the ready-to-wear season, closing shows for Paul Smith, Missoni and Rick Owens, also appearing for Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Lanvin and Valentino. Even the RTW component of her CV leant towards designers whose collections borrowed from the principles of couture: Rick Owens’ work is all about deconstruction (a feat that is impossible without an intimate knowledge of how clothes are made), and of course Lanvin, whose dresses are an intricate masterwork of drapery and folds.
In December, Olga took part in a multi-model editorial for V called ‘Couture after Dark’. Shot by Cedric Buchet, the spread was an electrifying series of pictures illustrating that couture is as much of the 21st century fashion experience as ready-to-wear. Working alongside models Ali Stephens, Karmen Pedaru and Siri Tollerod, the shoot was dynamic, daring and utterly modern: a perfect match for Olga’s strengths.
In January 2009, Olga continued with another couture season, this time working for Armani Prive, Dior, Christian Lacroix and Valentino. She scored her 4th editorial with Italian Vogue in February, and hit a major career high-point when she was selected to become one of the faces for a Marc Jacobs campaign. Olga finished off the year with a show season walking for Carolina Herrera, Dior, Elie Saab, Marc Jacobs, and Michael Kors and an editorial for Russian Vogue.
February 2010 saw Olga return to the runway with another packed season. Wanted for shows like Aquascutum, Bottega Veneta, Lanvin, Margaret Howell, Mary Katrantzou, Prabal Gurung and Vanessa Bruno, Olga’s booking sheet was an even spread of established labels and prestige brands, ranging from the Parisian glamour of Lanvin to the very British chic of Margaret Howell. Also working for new talents such as Katrantzou, Sherer was again working with designers whose work hinged on pattern and colour.
With mid-year work ranging from editorials for i-D and a celebration of Russian modelling talent by Russian Vogue coming in December, Olga Sherer’s star continues to shine high and bright.
What is immediately clear is that the main focus of Olga’s career has been haute couture. With a reputation for being the most difficult area of fashion to understand and appreciate, modelling couture is the toughest hurdle for a model to master. Height and good cheekbones aside, haute couture places very specific challenges on a model; it remains, despite the changes in fashion over the last fifty years, very different to the world of ready-to-wear. Still a byword for exclusive (and very expensive) fashion, couture modelling requires a set of skills that test even the most confident model.
Couture is as much about drama as it is about design. To make couture work beyond the runway, you have to tell a story. Big clothes require big narratives, and Olga’s work on editorials such as ‘Theory of Evolution’ for Elle, or ‘Couture After Dark’ for V, showcase how clearly she understands the balance between grounding couture in some sense of reality, and allowing the magic of the clothes come to life. A model isn’t just needed to physically cart a ball-gown down the runway; she’s needed to flesh it out so the dress becomes something other than a mass of material and stitches: it becomes couture.
Modern couture is often drawn as extravagant and out of touch, but what models like Olga bring is a sense of history that blends the old with the new. On the face of it, older and newer styles of modelling seem poles apart, but look closer and there are similarities. Google Jean Shrimpton and her defiant, straight-down-the-lens stare would fit right in with any current campaign for urban fashion.
It works the other way too: visit You Tube and find the Spring / Summer 2010 show for Dior Couture. The equestrian-themed collection allowed the likes of Karlie Kloss and Iris Strubegger to trot down the runway as haughty country-club fillies, with designer John Galliano even getting in on the act. The collection was the show everyone talked about because it tapped into the sense of occasion required to justify the time and effort spent on creating museum-worthy fashion.
Couture is all about creativity in its purest, most undiluted form. Models like Olga have succeeded in the world of modern couture by fusing 1950’s romance with contemporary avant-garde. A grasp of where modelling has been is just as important as knowing what’s happening now. Fashion may be about the newest and the next, but it’s constantly borrowing from the past, and that’s true of modelling too.
A virtuoso performance on a couture runway owes a great debt to the women who walked before; models like Lisa Fonssagrives, Suzy Parker and Dorian Leigh. They helped to define what we now understand as haute couture, and Olga Sherer’s ability to be both contemporary and other-worldly is translating the oldest branch of the fashion industry for the next generation, ensuring its longevity and its survival.