Sunday, 27 June 2010


A true constant in the fashion world, model Irina Kulikova may not be a household name, but she owes her start in the industry to one of Hollywood’s finest.

Irina, born on 6th August 1991, can claim one of the most strikingly original discovery stories in the business. In 2006, Irina was having dinner at a restaurant in Moscow. Her meal was interrupted by film star Liv Tyler, who had spotted the 15-year-old whilst dining at the same restaurant. Liv asked Irina if she was a model. Irina replied that she wasn’t. Liv called over her friend and introduced him to Irina: he was a scout from IMG, the largest modelling agency in the world.

Unsurprisingly, this modelling fairytale became the stuff of legend, making Irina – almost overnight – a name to watch. Teen Vogue dubbed her a favourite, using her in several editorials.

Irina made her high-fashion debut at the Autumn / Winter Calvin Klein show in February 2007. She also got the coveted opening slot for the Prada show, making her one of the most talked-about girls of the season.

Also closing shows for Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent, Kulikova had an extraordinary start for a model that was still, at this stage, an unknown quantity. Prada’s patronage worked its magic: Irina got noted by the fashion press, appearing in V magazine as one of their Top Ten Faces and an editorial in W, photographed by Craig McDean.

In July, Irina got her first major editorial with Italian Vogue, shooting with fellow up-and-comer, Lara Stone. The tail-end of 2007 saw Irina’s career sky-rocket with the announcement of several campaigns. The first to be announced were for Jil Sander and the second for Marc Jacobs’ new fragrance, Daisy.

The fragrance launch was one of the most anticipated of the decade. Jacobs, already a major figure in the world of high-fashion, was now going global with a fragrance. Everybody could now afford a piece of the Jacobs brand. Irina, with her quirky, delicate features, was cast as the campaign girl. Photographed by Juergen Teller, Irina was snapped lying on a field, clutching an oversized bottle of the fragrance. Aimed squarely at girls in their late teens and early twenties, the deceptively simple campaign was a huge success. The shot has since become one of the iconic campaigns of the decade, and nearly three years since its release, the perfume remains a top-seller.

The campaigns kept coming for Irina. She signed up to do an A/W campaign for Pringle and became a fully-fledged Prada girl, when she was selected to participate in the A/W campaign with Sasha Pivovarova and newcomer Anabela Belicova.

In September 2007, show season indicated just how far Irina’s star had risen. Walking for designers like Alexander McQueen, Chloe and Chanel, she also opened shows for Donna Karan, Marc by Marc Jacobs and closed shows for Alberta Ferretti and Rodarte. Doing 67 shows in total, it was a mammoth achievement. In the space of six months, Irina had become fashion’s hottest ticket.

2008 also started well for Kulikova, with another campaign for Prada. Irina did another editorial for Italian Vogue in February (again working with Lara Stone), and one for Chinese Vogue in April. She also landed the A/W campaign for American label Celine. Signed up in conjunction with Karen Elson and Tanya Dziahileva, the campaign (shot by Bruce Weber), was a perfect illustration of fashion’s obsession with quirky beauty, past and present.

In September, Russian Vogue named Irina a top model, and Irina was able to boast another mega show season with 55 bookings. Closing shows for Vera Wang, Giambattista Valli and Sportmax, Irina also appeared for Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Gareth Pugh, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.

2009 saw another career highlight for Kulikova, with her first magazine cover. She landed the February issue of Russian Harper’s Bazaar, with her first U.S Vogue editorial following just three months later.

Irina also got a second chance to work with Marc Jacobs, creating the A/W campaign for the label with photographer Juergen Teller. Teaming up with models Natasa Vojnovic and Olga Sherer, the three models worked perfectly against each other, their off-beat beauty a fitting companion to a label that’s made its name by creating beautiful things that are off the beaten track.

Irina also got cast for the A/W Mulberry ad, which like the Marc Jacobs Daisy campaign has become a modern classic. Shot by Steven Meisel, the campaign pairing Kulikova with Kasia Struss, was a dreamy evocation of couture sensibility. The girls were photographed in a forest sporting wildly frizzy hair. The girls oozed bohemian charm. The ad took the ‘fear factor’ out of high fashion, even reintroducing back-combing to mainstream fashion. The frizzy look, which had previously only been seen on couture runways, became a surprise real-life hit, with back-combed ponytails becoming the party staple that winter.

In 2010, January saw Irina star in another editorial for Italian Vogue and a spot in the Chanel Couture show. She also became the face of Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti. The label’s diffusion line was a piece of perfect casting for Irina: the collection’s ethos of youthfully quirky beauty matched Kulikova’s strengths exactly. Irina also got the lead in the S/S campaign for Marc by Marc Jacobs and an editorial for German Vogue in May, working with new Prada favourite Joan Smalls, plus Aline Weber and Elsa Sylvan.

To date, Kulikova’s career trajectory tells a story about fashion’s progress through the final difficult years of the decade just passed, and how the industry is working to redress the balance.

In times of crisis, there are really only two possible moves: play to your strengths or play it safe. Many larger labels have had little option but to go with the latter to ensure their survival. No-one can afford to take big (and expensive) risks at the moment, but the smaller items like shoes and bags are areas where labels can push a little further. Just think back to the Mulberry advert. Shot at the time where rumours of a recession were beginning to break, the ad is a snapshot of creativity selling luxury – and succeeding. In getting people to spend when times are tough, getting them to want, to lust, over that bag is half the battle. It’s forcing brands to think on their feet, and produce some very creative ideas.

Irina’s blend of quirkiness and high-fashion moxie makes her the ideal candidate to spearhead this new age of creative sophistication. Fashion’s best served as a happy medium: boring and bland make no-one happy.

Lines like Marc by Marc Jacobs and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti are becoming as important as their ‘big sister’ counterparts. Just look at the press coverage given to the revival of Versus, Versace’s diffusion line. Typically aimed at younger consumers, diffusion lines were often considered an after-thought (money spinners at best), but now they are the life-line keeping many brands afloat. These diffusion lines are often people’s first introduction into the experience of buying designer, so therefore it’s vital that the campaign model to be aspirational but also inviting. Irina’s off-beat appeal is perfect for such assignments.

Where this leaves Irina is ideally placed. When the fad for safe-as-houses models comes to an end, models like Irina will be the focal point of the industry. Quirky always sells to the girls who can’t relate to the glamazons, and approachable-meets-quirky is a huge bonus for any model’s CV. Irina’s ability to marry high-street with high-fashion is what will inform the trend for models over the next ten years. Top models are rarely ‘on the nose’ (ie: pure sophisticate, the absolute epitome of the surfer chick). They usually have something that is a little off, but it works.

In the end, fashion is all about numbers. Not only is time money, but aesthetics can cost too, especially if you get the tone of a campaign wrong. What makes fashion wonderful – and able to weather terrible economic storms – is its ability to balance the two worlds. Aesthetics and finance may have little to do with each other in the real world, but in fashion, one needs the other to push it forward. Rather than remain one big negative, the recession has got fashion back in touch with its entrepreneurial spirit. We are now wearing shapes and silhouettes that five years ago were considered strictly avant-garde.

As much as she has already achieved, expect to see Irina’s career flourish over the coming year. Her blend of fashion cool and marketability puts her in pole position to grab the industry’s attention. The way forward will be for models who aren’t safe bets, but thrilling ingĂ©nues who will refashion what we think as being commercially viable.

This is about more than detail – it’s the big picture that’s finally getting the biggest transformation of all – and what comes next? Only time will tell.


Sunday, 20 June 2010


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: 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.


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.