Sunday, 17 April 2011


What’s in a name? In fashion, it seems a great deal.

Having previously worked under her real name of Zoe, Muse’s fortunes took a turn for the miraculous when she appeared in the September 2010 Prada show. It was a booking that in no small way transformed her career.

Born in New Mexico on September 18th 1990, the re-named Arizona is now being heralded as the face of a generation. It is somewhat surprising, but Muse’s early career was something of a slow-burner. Signing with Next Models in 2008, her first credits included a beauty editorial with Allure and an appearance in the S/S issue of French Revue de Modes.

Arizona’s modelling plans went on pause in 2009 when she discovered she was pregnant. Taking a year-long break, Muse gave birth to son Nikko and returned to modelling the following year. Her agency suggested a fresh start and together they decided on a name change, swopping Zoe for Arizona (chosen because Muse was living in Tucson).

The name-switch had an extraordinary effect on Arizona’s career. It made her memorable with clients, but it wasn’t just the name that started getting her noticed. Her unusual look – short, softly-bobbed hair and heavy eyebrows – made her a stand out in a sea of new faces, lending her look character and depth.

In September 2010, Arizona finally got the breakthrough she needed. Chosen by Prada, she not only modelled in their runway show in the opening and closing spots, but did so as an exclusive. The effect of the Prada booking was immediate, catapulting Muse into the spotlight.

Having already launched the careers of newcomers Samantha Gradoville, Joan Smalls and Barbara Palvin, Prada was taking a gamble on the relatively untested Arizona, but not only did they put her in the main show, but they also had her headline the Miu Miu show, making her the face of the brand for that season.

In addition to this storming debut, Muse got to open shows for Kenzo and Rochas, and also walked for designers such as Marc Jacobs, Herve Leger, Narciso Rodriguez and Proenza Schouler. But it was the Prada show that got everybody talking. An appearance at Prada has serious star-making potential. As an unknown, getting to open and close this prestigious show is unheard of. Prada’s success rate in selecting new model talent is exemplary – some of today’s best models, such as Sigrid Agren and Ali Stephens, got their break walking for Prada.

Unsurprisingly, Arizona’s runway debut got her featured as a Top 10 Newcomer in and a face to watch by Arizona’s comeback had been, by any standard, a huge success. But if 2010 had marked her return to the fashion industry, four months into 2011, Arizona is already proving hard to ignore.

The year started with the news that Prada had selected Muse to be the face of their ad campaign, along with Mariacarla Boscono, Tatiana Cotliar and Kinga Rajzak. Bold, fun and a sartorial breath of fresh air, the Prada ad is the campaign of the season. Miuccia’s quirky symphony of no-nonsense stripes and baroque swirls has already become the defining look of Spring / Summer 2011: no rules, just fun.

The campaign bookings kept coming, with the announcement that Arizona was to replace Daria Werbowy as the face of YSL. Taking the campaigns for both beauty and fashion, Muse also filmed a campaign video directed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Shot in Marrakech, the video is coolly hypnotic and a terrific example of how campaigns could develop in the future.

In print, Muse’s presence was also felt loud and clear. Taking the January cover of Italian Vogue with Freja Beha, Dubbed ‘2011 Allure’, the vintage-inspired cover was coupled with a couture shoot photographed by Steven Meisel.

On the runway, Muse made her couture debut at Paris, walking for Chanel, Elie Saab and Valentino. The fashion world doesn’t tend to be shy about proclaiming its likes and dislikes. Arizona’s inclusion in this most exclusive of worlds, sent a message that, Prada effect or not, 2011 was going to belong to Muse.

February saw Muse appear in a huge amount of prime editorial work, switching from classics done the Vogue Italia way in ‘So Pure, So Modern’ to angular, awkward joy for Chinese Vogue in ‘Spring Blues’. Also appearing for British and American Vogue, it was the latter magazine that finally cemented Muse’s reputation as fashion’s next big thing.

In the February issue of the magazine, editor-in-chief Anna Wintour dedicated the subject of her editor’s letter to Arizona. Comparing her to Linda Evangelista and Natalia Vodianova, Wintour revered Muse as the model that would take the industry by storm, but the industry was catching on quick. Wintour’s letter made headlines around the world, and when it came to Fashion Week, Muse emerged as the major star of the season, appearing in 64 shows.

Walking for every major label including Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Valentino and Versace, this is a booking list that some models would take years to achieve, if they were lucky enough to reach that level in the first place. Anna Wintour’s championing of new talent isn’t just reserved for designers such as Thakoon. Wintour wants fashion to be the best it can be, and that includes giving credit – and opportunity – where it’s due.

Arizona was well on her way to becoming a success without the nod from Wintour, but for any doubters, she has more than proved that she is worthy of such accolades. There isn’t a lot of room (or patience) for mediocrity in the fashion world. Right now, in this economic climate, the fittest really do survive.

Muse’s ability to score bookings en masse was taken to another level in March, when she appeared for three major magazines. She worked with Raquel Zimmermann and Freja Beha in a street-punk themed shoot for American Vogue; a surrealist editorial (‘Audace Manifeste’) for French Vogue and couture elegance in black and white for Numero.

But further to this, Arizona also made the cover of British magazine ‘Dazed and Confused’. The magazine shot four separate cover tries and instead of selecting one, used them all, squeezing them onto one cover. Called ‘Birth of a Muse’, it was Arizona’s first solo cover (even if she was effectively sharing the limelight with herself).

April ’11 has seen Muse appear in two more editorials for Chinese Vogue, making her truly international in her appeal. What Arizona offers these clients is not just a memorable face. Her work this year highlights a model that is no novelty, but already equipped to excel. Muse’s range is extraordinary, but Google the YSL campaign video and you’ll see that her real gift is movement. Modelling on film is incredibly difficult. There are no kind angles, no spots where you can hide areas of weakness. Shot from every possible viewpoint, the YSL campaign film is almost merciless – but that is the point. Not every model could do it.

Muse’s ability to move well, whilst still modelling from head to toe, is remarkable and rare. Wintour’s comparison of Arizona to supermodel Linda Evangelista is accurate, but Arizona’s ability to create movement recalls models such as Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks – two models who transformed catwalk from perfunctory to performance. They may not have had campaign videos to worry about in the Nineties, but if they did, they would have seen Arizona as the one to beat. As fashion continues to work in tandem with technology, being able to master this new type of campaign will rapidly become a skill update for all new models.

What is unusual about the hype surrounding Arizona is that it’s justified. Her run of print work – an incredible 13 editorials so far this year – also picks up the strength Muse has when it comes to more traditional fashion media. Her already-impressive catalogue of work neatly illustrates why she’s such a catch for the fashion world. From her moving series of pioneer portraits for American Vogue, to her striking, Dali-esque shoot for French Vogue, Arizona is never the same woman twice. Her talent at transforming, taking her from Parisian couture to New York punk, is usually the calling-card of a model that’s been doing editorial for years. Muse’s relatively limited experience, prior to 2010, is what makes this comeback all the more incredible.

Arizona’s career trajectory, if the first few months of the year are any indication, will be nothing short of supersonic. It’s rare to see a model met with such fanfare –the excitement that Arizona has generated sets her apart as a phenomenon not seen since Kate Moss. There have been other fashion favourites since Moss – Bundchen, Stone, Pivovarova – to name a few, but Muse does appear to have that indefinable star quality. Match that with an almost-seasoned approach to editorial and runway, and this all makes for a model that seems destined to carve out a space for herself that is not so much top model, but supermodel.

Already revered in the mainstream press, and a hot topic in the blogosphere, the rising star of Arizona Muse seems an irresistible force as she gets ready to become the most prolific model of the year. It’s no mean achievement for a model that was barely known even by those in the fashion industry a year ago.

Muse’s story may read like pure inspiration, but it is her blend of skill across the board that will keep her from burning bright and fading out fast. As she begins to emerge as one of the year’s iconic faces, Arizona is set to become fashion’s latest – and most remarkable – Muse.


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