Born on 4th December 1987, Dree Hemingway signed with Ford Models at the age of 14. Making her editorial debut in August 2004, she appeared in Teen Vogue, photographed by Alex Hoemer. Four years later, Hemingway made the move from Ford to Elite Models, with the signing creating media interest. Seminal fashion website www.models.com featured Dree as a rising star of the industry.
But Dree’s true breakthrough moment didn’t emerge until March 2009 when she was featured in both Interview and American Vogue. Her family connection (Dree is the great-granddaughter of literary icon Ernest Hemingway) may have sparked some initial interest, but it was no guarantee of quick – or easy – success. From her first agency signing in 2004, it took Dree five years to make it on an international level.
In March 2009, she debuted at the A/W Givenchy show as an exclusive. Just as it would do for Joan Smalls a year later, the Givenchy booking gave Dree’s career an instant boost. The domino effect on Hemingway’s career was striking. In April, she appeared in editorials for W and French Vogue; German Vogue in May; British Vogue in July and American Vogue in August.
Dree’s star factor rose further when her personal style was profiled in Russia’s Harper’s Bazaar and Teen Vogue. As Kate Moss has shown us, having a sense of personal style not only shows the fashion industry that you have good instincts, but also shows you’re paying attention. Being surrounded by the world’s most accomplished photographers and stylists, and not soaking up that creativity would suggest a model who’s not into fashion as much as they should be. The models that are at the top of their game almost are invariably models who love fashion. They have succeeded because that love makes the tough parts of modelling (the travel, long hours) that much easier to bear.
Hemingway’s glorious start to 2009 just kept rolling as she was signed on to appear in the Gucci Autumn / Winter campaign. Gucci does everything on a grander scale, and this campaign had everyone from Natasha Poly, Anja Rubik, Jamie Bochert, to Jacquetta Wheeler and Myf Shepherd. Dree joined fellow newbie Abbey Lee Kershaw to form an unforgettable campaign. Dark, edgy and sexy, it was the perfect summation of everything designer Tom Ford had done to refresh the brand.
Dree’s appearance in this blockbuster of a campaign ensured that her profile was unmissable. Hemingway opened the S/S 2010 show for Topshop, also walking for Karl Lagerfeld, Giles, Chanel, Twenty8Twelve and Rue du Mail.
The designers who signed Hemingway were an indication of how Dree’s own style was influencing the kind of work she was getting. Finishing off 2009 with editorial and cover work for V Man, i-D and Revue de Modes, All three are ultra high-fashion, left-field publications. This section of the fashion press is usually the hardest to impress, and Dree had already won them over.
In 2010, Dree’s career stepped up another notch when it was announced that she would be appearing in campaigns for Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianfranco Ferre and Valentino. This resulted in three very different campaigns for Dree to master. Gaultier went with military chic, Valentino required Dree to headline in black lace and pink hair and Ferre asked for classic Italian feminine. Injecting her own brand of cool into every shot, she lifts each campaign. Valentino goes from red-carpet to after-party and Gaultier has a layer of smouldering sex appeal added to its usual sense of avant-garde fun.
But Dree’s ability to work an editorial was also put to the test, with Hemingway appearing in nearly 20 during the course of the year. 2010 started off with a prestigious signing with French Vogue, appearing in a season preview. Dree transforms into a Parisian lady of leisure along with Lara Stone and Freja Beha, their headscarves and sunglasses off-set by quirky prints from Miu Miu. The key to getting a group shot is working together, but not fading into the background. Working with Stone and Beha, Hemingway fits in seamlessly.
Dree’s success in Europe was compounded by her Autumn / Winter runway season in February, walking for Isabel Marant, Karl Lagerfeld, MaxMara and Vivienne Westwood. For someone with a heritage that’s resolutely all-American, Dree has done a sterling job in appealing to designers from across the globe.
This worldwide appeal saw Dree land her first editorial for Chinese Vogue in July. Shot by Ellen von Unwerth, the beauty piece chronicled Dree’s ability to handle those demanding close-ups. Having been seen in edgy, complex shoots, even when modelling a high-end beauty look, Hemingway projected a softness that hinted at further versatility.
The next high point of 2010, with Dree racking up editorial-duty with magazines from every continent, was in November when she landed three in one month: French, British and Italian Vogue.
Her first shoot for Italian Vogue was named ‘Glitter’, a fun look at theatricality with Dree modelling the Philip Treacy lobster headpiece made famous by Lady Gaga. Wearing fashion that verged on costume, Dree’s challenge was to push through the extravagant designs and make the experience of wearing them believable. The shoot was pure Italian Vogue; couture worn like art.
Her November shoot with British Vogue, however, took Hemingway back to her roots. ‘My Own Private Idaho’, partly a pun on Dree’s place of birth, showed the model in a series of photos that explored the solitary, outdoorsy American that is part and parcel of the country’s cultural heritage. The resulting editorial draws inescapable parallels with her own background, and Dree’s performance creates a set of images that are haunting as they are moving.
This year looks set to be Dree’s busiest yet. Already appearing in S/S campaigns for Daks, Lanvin and Margaret Howell, Hemingway has proved herself to be a formidable presence on the campaign circuit. Featuring for Daks and Howell, she may not have been the most obvious choice for these British brands, but Dree performs in each ad like no-one else was ever in the running. Fashion is never purely skin-deep: if you don’t connect with what you’re wearing, it’s a fail on every level.
Dree’s latest venture has seen her appearing in a short film for a solo exhibit by artists Sofia and Mauro. Called ‘The Young Woman and the Sea’, the piece directly references Dree’s great-grandfather’s famous short story ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Playing on the mythic themes of man versus nature, the film could well signal the future direction of Dree’s career. It may not be a case of putting pen to paper, but it’s clear that Dree’s gift to the modelling industry is story-telling. Her silent performance in the short film brilliantly showcases what she’s learnt from the world of modelling, but also an inherited sense of narrative.
As we move into an age of innovation, first the interactive advert from Burberry and the growing popularity of campaign videos, there is some debate over whether traditional print media has anything left to offer to the fashion industry. After all, can a static image really be any match for developing technology?
The crossroads that fashion finds itself in is being mirrored in many other industries. The worlds of film, fiction and home entertainment are also in a state of flux. Whether you go for 3-D or 2-D, paperback or Kindle, what’s emerging is a two-tier system of technology and tradition. While in some industries, progress is essential, in fashion the addition of technology is more a case of inclusion rather than survival of the fittest.
What fashion’s doing is bringing the best of tradition and technology together to make the most of both, rather than aggressively pushing out one in favour of the other. As an approach to embracing new technologies, it’s revolutionary.
Despite the rapid growth of technology, the classic editorial isn’t losing any of its appeal. Websites that catalogue editorials such as www.fashiongonerogue.com are proving immensely popular, making access to the work of every fashion magazine immediate and democratic.
The reason for the non-demise of the editorial boils down to fashion’s love affair with creating moments. The editorial represents the most permanent means of doing so – a runway show lasts mere minutes and a campaign’s shelf-life is only good for six months. But with an editorial, the moment is there, forever.
Where the editorial continues its hold on our imagination is when it creates moments that both thrill and inspire. To do that, the editorial needs a model who understands how to access those emotions and piece together a narrative. This skill is something that is far beyond the scope of new technologies, and luckily for models, it always will be. Dree’s success – on every platform – indicates that the future of modelling isn’t about innovation, it’s telling stories.