Dutch-born Patricia van der Vliet is one of the success stories that can be attributed to the Top Model phenomenon.
Born on July 14th 1989, Patricia became a contestant in the 2008 edition of Holland’s Next Top Model. Although she did not go on to win the competition, Patricia’s modelling career went live when she signed with NY Models the following year.
In September 2009, she debuted at Fashion Week. Patricia made the headlines, walking exclusively for Prada in Milan and closing shows for Preen, Giles and Balenciaga.
In a move similar to fellow Top Model alumnus Alice Burdeu, Patricia took instantly to high-fashion and the feeling was more than mutual. Also hired to walk in Spring / Summer shows for Celine, Dries Van Noten, Louis Vuitton, Nina Ricci and Valentino, Patricia was a hit with every major designer. If there was ever a career defined by its beginning, this was it: Patricia’s start in the industry was loaded with star-making potential. The impact of her debut was sealed when www.style.com named her a Top 10 Newcomer.
2010 saw Patricia explore other avenues of modelling, including editorial and campaign work. Early in the year, news broke of Patricia being signed to appear in the S/S ad for Balenciaga, along with Mirte Maas, Iselin Steiro and Lisanne de Jong. All faces of the moment, they were a perfect choice for the avant-garde label.
True to form, Balenciaga hired photographer Steven Meisel to create a series of eye-catching, ultra-daring ads. The end result was ground-breaking and immediate in its impact. Zesty bursts of colour, go-faster stripes and a play on proportion that bordered on the surreal all made for a highly unusual but memorable campaign. An absolute stand-out, and one of the high points of last year, the Balenciaga ads were a creative tour de force. For a fledgling model, being involved in such a project was nothing short of a career-making moment.
Patricia’s year continued on a high, with an Italian Vogue editorial in January and her first appearance at couture fashion week in the same month. February saw Patricia appear in simultaneous layouts for Numero, Interview and British and Chinese Vogue. She also had her biggest runway season to date, walking in over 50 shows. Opening the Giambattista Valli show and being the closer for Balenciaga, Patricia walked for every designer from Oscar de la Renta to Gareth Pugh.
What followed was an extraordinary run of editorial work, ensuring Patricia’s career was international in scope. In March, she featured in American and British Vogue; Japanese Vogue in April; editorials for W and American Vogue in May, Japanese Vogue again in June followed by a spread in Russian Vogue in September. Appearing for the taste-makers of high-fashion, Patricia’s initial buzz as a model to watch had translated into global appeal.
Her developing career blossomed further in September with a runway season that had its roots in high-fashion, but began to develop strands into other lucrative pockets of the industry. Walking for Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Rodarte and YSL, Patricia also landed spots with Prabal Gurung, and all-American labels Tommy Hilfiger and Reed Krakoff. Every design house has its own unique style imprint, and being able to interpret any style from the Parisian theatrical glamour of McQueen to the fresh look at American chic from Reed Krakoff, puts you at a distinct advantage.
Patricia rounded out the year with a second editorial for Italian Vogue and her first major cover, starring alongside Karlie Kloss on the November edition of Chinese Vogue.
Patricia’s link with the McQueen label continued in January 2011, with a pivotal role in an editorial for American Vogue. Featuring work from new creative director Sarah Burton, this was an in-depth look at the legacy of McQueen.
Named ‘New Order’, Patricia modelled with Sasha Pivovarova, Lily Donaldson, Caroline Trentini and Mirte Maas in a poignant spread featuring the new collection, just seen on the runways a few months before. With Patricia in the absolute centre of the shot photographed by Patricia Demarchelier, it was an editorial heavy with meaning; new designer, new year, and new start. These photographs were a tribute to, and signal from, the McQueen label: fashion may look back, but eventually it moves forward.
Patricia’s first shoot of the year couldn’t be more aptly named if it tried. The tough times of the past two years required more than a bi-seasonal change of trends, but what fashion gave was a tour-de-force performance in creating a ‘new order’. The fashion world undertook a radical image overhaul, and transformed itself into a wiser, wittier industry that’s now teeming with ideas.
Right now, fashion’s biggest idea is individuality. The models making it big are defiantly different from the glamorous Slavic models and the eclectic band of all-American girls seen operating during the past decade. The new look is recognisably supermodel, but without the formula behind it. The latest newcomers (including names such as Lindsey Wixson, Joan Smalls, Daphne Groeneveld and Caroline Brasch Nielsen) all have one thing in common: they defy category. Not easily definable, even harder to summarise, but that is exactly the point. The once iron-clad terms the modelling industry lived by - editorial, high-glamour, androgynous - are starting to lose their grip. The newest models are at once all of these things and yet none of them either and that’s what makes them a breath of fresh air.
This has been fashion’s response to the recession: regroup and rebuild. Despite the gloomy predictions in 2008; both high-fashion and haute couture are still standing proud. But the uncertainty that continues is what makes this current climate so great for fostering creativity. It’s no coincidence that these past few seasons have produced hit after hit. This winter saw a return to neutrals after years of glitz reigning supreme; and this summer, fashion’s done another 180 with an explosion of colour and print that’s exuberantly optimistic. We’re finally starting to see fashion with the blinkers off. It’s not about sartorial point-scoring, but a genuine appreciation for fine clothes and great design. This is what is so compelling about fashion – its ability to create the next big idea that everyone’s got to have. This time, fashion's big idea is fashion itself.
But fashion’s most brazen about-turn has been to revise the faces it chooses to represent its brands. Models like Patricia are booking covers and campaigns because they are reassuringly different, rather than despite of it. Modelling has always celebrated uniqueness, whether it’s through models like Devon Aoki or Alek Wek, or more recently, Jamie Bochert or Saskia de Brauw. But the shift that has happened is going from one or two models flying the flag for individuality, to a whole industry of models who defy definition. It’s a brave step, but one that finally feels right.
As models like Patricia take their place among fashion’s elite, the way we see fashion – and the way it sees itself – will continue to evolve. If there’s just one message to take forward into the next decade, it’s simply this: the best is yet to come.