Born in the Netherlands in 1988, Anna de Rijk was first discovered at age 16 by a photographer who was attending her neighbour’s Xmas party.
Shooting her first international editorial in June 2006, Anna scored her first cover in October with Dutch Elle. Making her runway debut in October 2007 for Vivienne Westwood and Veronique Branquinho, Anna’s career was very much on a job-by-job basis. Working for two years, but somewhat under the radar, Anna’s initiation into full-time modelling didn’t start until February 2009 when she walked for Blumarine, Christopher Kane, Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton and Prada. Just a month after her comeback, after being in modelling for three years, www.style.com pegged Anna as a rising star.
In July, Anna booked slots in the couture shows for Chanel and Valentino – an unusual honour as Anna at 5’ 9”, is at least two inches shorter than most couture models. Her summer was peppered with editorial work for Dazed & Confused and British Vogue, but in the latter part of the season, Anna was announced as one of the faces of the new Autumn / Winter Prada campaign.
It is the sort of casting that dreams are made of. An appearance in a Prada campaign is nothing short of a career-maker. The eccentric ad, featuring the models in woollen separates and rubber boots, was an iconic piece of Prada whimsy. Miuccia Prada doesn’t do femininity head-on, but always from an angle. The saucepot librarian is in heavy tweeds to off-set the va-va-voom; the half-clad Amazon in snakeskin and 6” heels is channelling evolution rather than seduction. There is always present in Prada an element of the unexpected and that’s why it’s the most famous five-letter word in the fashion world today. Any model even remotely associated with the brand, let alone featuring as one of the campaign girls, can look forward to a career spent working with the best creative talent fashion has to offer.
Anna’s next booking after the Prada announcement was for a multi-model haute couture editorial for Italian Vogue. Photographed by Paolo Roversi, ‘Dream of a Dress’ is a roll-call of all the best and brightest modelling talent. Using the latest designs from Paris, it was a gothic, glamorous masterpiece that showed Anna and her peers exploring couture’s dark side. Anna’s reversal of fortune continued with a 45 show season in September and October, opening the show for Burberry and walking for Prada, Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin, Erdem and Thakoon. Her meteoric rise from fashion girl to face to watch may have been dizzying, but Anna’s performances were grounded by the knowledge and experience gained by working beyond the glare of the spotlight, before her re-emergence in 2009.
2010 was an even better year for Anna, with the model scoring big in January when she was asked to appear in an editorial for Italian Vogue, dubbed ‘Runway’, and shot by Steven Meisel. In what turned out to be a vastly important piece of editorial work, Meisel used every model of note to compile a series of carefully-constructed shots made to look like behind-the-scenes candid snaps from runway shows. Mixed with standard editorial shots (plus a cover of Karlie Kloss about to take a tumble in platform heels), it was a brilliantly self-referential take on high-fashion, and a phenomenal way to kick off a new decade.
Anna took on a challenge in February when she featured in a spread for French Vogue. Called ‘Vogue a Porter’, it paid homage to the controversial 1974 film ‘The Night Porter’. Anna got to take on the topless shot made famous by Charlotte Rampling. A notoriously difficult kind of shoot to get right, it earned Anna major kudos. Turning her classically feminine looks into something altogether more ominous, Anna was the epitome of French Vogue’s point of view: subversive, clever and irretrievably stylish.
The year continued to be lucky for Anna, signing on to become the face of Dior jewellery, and a contract with Chanel cosmetics. The latter booking was particularly important for Anna as it would turn her from a high-fashion favourite to a recognisable presence in beauty halls across America and Europe. Like Prada, Chanel is a label whose image and name go hand in hand, and the fame of Chanel’s make-up is almost on a par with its clothes. The pillar-box red lipstick and the Rouge Noir nail polish are as solid pieces of Chanel iconography as the tweed suit itself. Anna’s face was perfect for the classic beauty with a trend twist that’s needed for Chanel. Again, as with French Vogue earlier in the year, Anna was able to morph seamlessly into that mould. But look closer at the images produced and there is a haunted quality there that takes the Chanel ad to another level: it’s not just about lipstick, but about an entire sensibility.
Bringing an element of individuality is what separates a high-fashion campaign from a more commercial one. The fuss-free look for the H&M campaigns has become synonymous with the brand, but at no stage do these images feel cheap. Freja Beha’s S/S 2011 campaign for H&M is perfectly on-message for the label, but Freja’s personality jumps off the page and that’s what keeps us looking. Great campaigns work because they linger in the mind - and that’s exactly the point.
The remainder of Anna’s year was made up of runway and editorial, plus a new campaign for Sonia Rykiel with up-and-coming model Katie Fogarty. But it ended with another major signing, this time with American icon Vera Wang.
Modelling both her fashion line and bridal wear, Anna became the face of the brand that has changed the way we think of dressing for that ultimate fashion moment. Launched in the Nineties, Vera’s aesthetic rejected Eighties excess in favour of a calmer, more refined look. Anna was a perfect pick to represent the label – she created a look that was soft and yielding but with a high-fashion edge that was aspirational rather than something designed to intimidate. This is especially important when modelling bridal wear, as it has to connect with the customer on a very real level: creating that fantasy image is all well and good, but if the customers can’t imagine themselves wearing that dress, the campaign has failed. Anna made the perfect connection, making the label look desirable but feel attainable – an important distinction.
2011 promises to be off to another good start for Anna, with an early appearance in American Vogue. Shot by Mario Testino, it is an epic multi-page editorial featuring all the trends from the Spring / Summer 2011 runway. Called ‘Gangs of New York’, models were put into groups. Anna was paired off with Frida Gustavsson and Jac. All three were photographed in vintage lace Ralph Lauren. Referencing the more romantic side of the Wild West, the picture is dubbed by Vogue as ‘The New Romantics’. The photo is soft-focus and other-worldly, but at its core, Frida, Jac and Anna are clearly three women not to be trifled with.
It’s a perfect metaphor for Anna’s career to date. Her gentleness on camera belies an inner strength – you can’t reference films like ‘The Night Porter’ or work for designers such as Givenchy or Prada without being able to take a walk on the wild side. Her speciality may be the soft, feminine aspect of high-fashion, her work with Vera Wang being a particularly good example of this, but it is Anna’s willingness to dig deeper and go further that sets her apart from the competition.
Her ability to work with the most cerebral designers and translate their vision, whether it is on camera or on the runway, is all down to the slow-burn part of her career. Having to wait it out for nearly two years would test even the most determined model, but Anna stepped back into the limelight ready to wow us, and she did. Anna’s career will continue to offer up surprises and delights because she recognises the importance of challenge: challenging your industry and your peers, but most importantly, yourself.