Sunday, 26 June 2011


Born in Brazil on the 4th July 1983, Isabeli Fontana is one of fashion’s longest-serving models, now clocking up her 12th year in the industry.

In interviews, Isabeli describes being drawn towards modelling from childhood, competing in Brazil’s Elite Model Look contest at the age of 13. Placing third in the competition, Fontana moved to Milan in 1997 to actively pursue a modelling career.

Fontana made her runway debut in 1999, walking for Givenchy, Michael Kors and Versace. Isabeli also started what would become a famously-diverse career with her first booking for Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

In March 2002, Isabeli got the cover of French Vogue. The publication took to the Brazilian model immediately, re-booking her extensively throughout her career. Just as they have recently done with Lara Stone, French Vogue continues its role as mentor to new faces, and Fontana is one of their most prolific success stories.

Isabeli took a break from modelling in 2003 after giving birth to her son, Zion. Returning in 2004, Fontana had been much-missed and got booked for an once-in-a-lifetime shoot with Richard Avedon for Hermes.

Her return was celebrated by American Vogue, who placed her on their September cover. Naming Fontana as one of the world’s next top models, Isabeli went on to book a 53-show season for Fashion Week, including appearances for Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and Zac Posen.

2005 saw Fontana score her second cover with French Vogue in June and later that year, she signed a fragrance contract with Viktor and Rolf. Named ‘Flowerbomb’, the early controversy over the name gave way to the perfume becoming one of the industry’s most enduring sellers. Still marketed today as one of the world’s most popular fragrances, ‘Flowerbomb’ has become a modern classic. Isabeli’s campaign shot – ethereal but with a couture sensibility running through it – has remained the defining image of the perfume. Six years on, Isabeli remains the face of ‘Flowerbomb’, an achievement especially impressive when you consider how frequently some perfume houses change their models.

Isabeli hit another career marker when she walked in the 2007 S/S Prada show in Milan. Finishing off 2007 with a cover of Brazilian Elle and editorials for W and French Vogue, Isabeli hit the headlines in April 2008 when she was named by Forbes as the 11th highest paid model in the world. Having reportedly earned $3million in 2007, Fontana boosted her income with yet more lucrative campaigns. Signing with Belstaff, Roberto Cavalli, Valentino and Versace, Isabeli filled the rest of the year with runway and editorial work, ending with the cover of Numero in December.

Opening 2009 with a German Vogue cover, Isabeli got the chance to take part in a very special shoot. Featuring in May’s American Vogue, Isabeli appeared in ‘The Godfather’, a tribute to legendary photographer Steven Meisel, who himself made a rare appearance on camera. Meisel is renowned for spotting and nurturing talent, creating some of fashion’s most memorable moments from his recent plus-size cover for Italian Vogue to his long-standing associations with Balenciaga, Mulberry and Prada. Photographed by Meisel for the A/W Roberto Cavalli campaign, Fontana was a perfect choice for the brand: strong, confident and sexy. With clothes that are deliberately a challenge to wear, Isabeli was more than a match for the heady Cavalli designs.

Fontana worked with Meisel again in January 2010 when she appeared in the mega-editorial ‘Runway’. Isabeli hit another high-point featuring in the French Vogue editorial ‘Vogue-a-Porter’, a preview of S/S trends. Playing against type, Fontana was a tattooed tomboy in stripes and hair-gel. Featuring on covers for Japanese and Mexican Vogue, in June Isabeli featured in a French Vogue editorial that was tailor-made for her. In ‘L’Heure Bleu’, Isabeli worked the sun-soaked smoulder to perfection. Keeping the sizzle but still showcasing the fashion, Fontana made it look alarmingly easy.

In October, Isabeli closed the S/S show for Isabel Marant, also walking for Chanel, Balmain, Hakaan, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta and Proenza Schouler. At this point, Fontana had been working in the industry for over 10 years. Maintaining this level is a rare occurrence in the fashion industry, putting Fontana in the same bracket as Angela Lindvall, Carmen Kass and Kate Moss.

Finishing off 2010 with a Brazilian Vogue cover, shot by father-and-son team Patrick and Victor Demarchelier, Isabeli then made a splash in 2011 appearing in the S/S ad for Dolce and Gabbana. Shot entirely in black and white, the cinematic style of the ads created one of the most striking campaign images of the season, charting Dolce & Gabbana’s roots in classic, Italian style.

Fontana’s next campaign booking was a complete 180 from the va-va-voom favoured by Dolce & Gabbana. Photographed for the Jil Sander collection made especially for high-street store Uniqlo, Isabeli is decked out in cosmopolitan chic. The two campaigns could not be more different, but neither feels like a wrong fit.

Filling April and May with editorials for Spanish and French Vogue, June saw Fontana hit a career high-note that reminded the fashion industry of why she is such a special find. Appearing on the cover and in the pages of French Vogue, Isabeli worked with Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott to pay homage to a 1990 Italian Vogue photo-shoot from Steven Meisel and Linda Evangelista.

The results were incredible. In a short, cropped wig, Isabeli became Evangelista. The cover and editorial were such a huge hit they were even featured in the mainstream press. Every model needs a ‘moment’, and Isabeli’s career has been filled with them. Fontana’s editorial may make us nostalgic for the heyday of the supermodel, but the genius of the shoot is that Isabeli’s rendition is so perfect because she is a master of editorial work, a very modern modelling skill. What for many would be a career-best performance is all in a day’s work for Isabeli.

Where we leave Isabeli now is on the news that she has clinched two major campaigns for A/W 2011. Working for Dolce & Gabbana again, plus Italian luxe label Bottega Veneta, these coveted bookings show just how Isabeli has remained current in a rapidly shifting industry. Where the tastes and definitions of beauty are constantly changing, Isabeli has met them all.

Isabeli’s inclusion in the latest campaign for Dolce & Gabbana is more than a courtesy booking. Working alongside new faces such as Kate King, Liu Wen, Maryna Linchuk and Constance Jablonski, Fontana effortlessly stands out. There’s next to no flesh on display in this ad, but the resulting photos are undeniably sexy. Dolce & Gabbana make clothes for women who want to reveal, not expose. That difference can often be subtle, and Fontana knows how to portray sexuality in a way that sells fashion first. Isabeli has graced the pages of the Pirelli calendar four times, and appeared in Sports Illustrated famous swimsuit edition. But she’s also the face of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren and Valentino.

Isabeli’s strength is that she is a true chameleon. The Linda Evangelista spread in French Vogue is so striking because Fontana and Evangelista are essentially two of a kind. From Victoria’s Secret to Chanel Couture, Fontana has been every kind of model. Her achievement is made all the more extraordinary when you consider how much the fashion world has changed since Isabeli’s debut in New York Fashion Week, 1999.

The no-nonsense minimalism of the Nineties was making way for an exuberant, decadent movement that was all about show. Details took centre stage, with the must-have item of the year being Gucci’s boho-luxe feathered jeans. In a gut-reaction to minimalism, fashion went for decoration, and the more, the better. The details all pointed to a bigger picture that rejected the low-key, invisible branding of the mid-Nineties in favour of indulgence and visible wealth.

Fast forward to 2011, and detail is making a return, but the clothes look very different. We’re all a little battered and bruised from the events of the past 12 years. Boom and bust has not been kind to anyone, but the high-fashion luxury market is making a comeback.

The key difference now is that those able to make large purchases are buying less dazzle and more substance. The emphasis is on the luxury you can’t see. Brands that make keep-for-life pieces such as Mulberry are doing particularly well. The age of the brand isn’t over; it’s just a little more discreet.

The big story of A/W 2011 is texture; shearling, tweed, wool and leather. Thoroughly tactile and encouraging the wearer to engage with the clothes, the industry has moved from celebrating how fashion looks to how it makes you feel. Fashion’s often been criticised for being shallow, but it’s undergone a transformation that’s body and soul.

That change has been partly organic – fashions are designed to come and go – but also change that’s been imposed from outside forces. Fashion reflects what’s going on in the world, but it does more than passively show and tell. It translates as quickly and deftly as any broadsheet.

It’s said that change is the only true constant, and nowhere is this truer than in the fashion world. As one of fashion’s greatest translators, Isabeli’s reputation as an out-and-out chameleon has created a career that’s without equal. Bold, exciting and wholly unpredictable – Isabeli Fontana’s next move really is anyone’s guess.


Sunday, 19 June 2011


Born in Canada on May 7th 1991, Anais Pouliot is set to make the transition from catwalk to campaign this year, emerging with the potential to become one of the most striking beauty faces to hit the industry in years.

Discovered at the age of 14, Pouliot signed with Trump Models in 2007. Later that year, Anais scored her first campaign, working for See by Chloe.

Pouliot didn’t make her runway debut until February 2010, walking for John Rocha, Betty Jackson, Lacoste, Miu Miu, Peter Jensen, Twenty8Twelve and William Tempest. Working with some of the most talked-about young designers in the business, Anais made a great first impression, walking in Paris for Miu Miu as an exclusive.

In June 2010, Anais modelled for the resort presentations for both Miu Miu and Prada in New York. Resort shows are fast becoming more than appetisers to the main Spring / Summer and Autumn / Winter events. The fashion industry is beginning to realise that the four seasons are not as clearly defined as they once were. Trans-seasonal clothes that bridge summer to autumn, winter to spring, are selling incredibly well. The provenance of the layering trend can be traced back to the need for fashion that can accommodate rapidly-changing temperatures. It’s paved the way for a looser feel when it comes to trends, explaining why airy, translucent white is being featured in the A/W 2011 collection for YSL, and how lightweight tweed jackets inspired by Isabel Marant are selling all year round. As our weather gets more extreme, fashion’s adapting by being freer with its once hard-and-fast rules.

Anais’ breakthrough season occurred in September 2010. Working in 36 shows, she walked for established names such as Chanel, D&G, Marni, Prada and YSL, plus newer labels such as Christopher Kane, Holly Fulton, Mark Fast, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Som and Versace’s newly-revamped diffusion line, Versus.

Pouliot’s striking appearances on the runway circuit got her noticed by magazines, and in November Pouliot had her first major editorial, appearing in W. Photographed by Paolo Roversi, the editorial named ‘Family Circus’, was an epic winter fantasy starring Lindsey Wixson, Arizona Muse and Britt Maren. Ethereal and downright gorgeous, it was a perfect starting point for Anais.

In February 2011, Pouliot’s editorial career went international, with a spread in Japanese Vogue. Appearing almost bare-faced, Pouliot’s confidence is unflinching. Anais’ gift for taking a great beauty shot pegged her as a potential face for big-money campaigns. Also featuring on the S/S 11 cover of French Revue de Modes, Pouliot pulled another trick out of the hat, appearing in avant-garde florals. Anais was compelling the industry to think of her not only as a potential beauty headliner, but someone who can handle new design.

In April, Pouliot appeared in Russian Vogue, photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth. Featured in electrifying Armani Prive, the shoot called for a high-glamour affinity with couture, but with an element of fun. Pouliot captured the essence of ‘girl on the town’ brilliantly: flirty, sexy but definitely chic.

The following month, Anais appeared in German Vogue. The editorial, ‘Uber-Sinnlich’ (which roughly translates as ‘supernatural’), featured Anais in an exquisite beauty shot. With her beauty literally shining through a heavily-jewelled veil, the photo is a masterstroke, revealing Pouliot’s ability to command your attention.

This month, Anais appears in Russian Vogue and turns her hand to working the smoulder. Working sex-appeal in editorials requires razor-sharp instincts. You need to convey seduction, but the wrong angle or the overplaying of a facial expression can turn seduction into parody all too easily. The line between silly and sexy is wafer-thin, and remarkably quick to cross.

Anais’ confident handling of the shoot, in Gucci’s S/S 11 collection whose heady Seventies glamour has become one of the summer’s most popular looks, points to a model who is not easily phased. A model with a poker player’s nerve is a model tipped for greatness.

Sure enough, Anais’ work on the runway and for some of the world’s most respected magazines has culminated in a booking with serious star-making potential. Earlier this month, pictures of the A/W 11 campaign for Louis Vuitton were previewed by WWD. Photographed by Steven Meisel, Anais works with Daphne Groenveld, Zuzanna Bijoch and new British modelling hopeful, Nyasha Matanhodze. The theme is military glamour, playing allure against discipline.

The signing with Vuitton marks a massive rise in status for Pouliot. The French label, now steered by Marc Jacobs, has a well-won reputation for producing some of the most striking images each season. Just these few teaser images are enough to give you an indication of what to expect this autumn. Neutrals working side by side with block-brights, bring the best of last winter and this summer to make what has the potential to be an incredible season.

The rise of Anais through the modelling industry charts how glamour and beauty are making a comeback. The latest beauty ads to emerge: Arizona Muse for YSL, Lara Stone for Tom Ford and Jac Jagaciak for Chanel all have one thing in common. The images may waiver between wholesome and wanton, but they all chronicle beauty that’s recognisable and readable, not just to the fashion industry, but to us as well.

Beauty ads are all about the face – seems an obvious point to make, but with little else to showcase, every ounce of meaning has to count. Although Pouliot is a fashion girl, it’s clear that her strength is being able to take a great close-up. It is this ability to grab our attention that makes Anais a fairly safe bet when it comes to figuring out which faces will become fashion’s next big-hitters. Pouliot’s traditional type of beauty is a surprisingly good fit with high-fashion. Going from haute-couture glamour to edgy florals, Anais never looks out of place – no mean accomplishment for a model endowed with a face that looks like it came from another century. Pouliot’s old-world, painterly type of look makes her curiously modern. In an industry filled with models that run from tomboy to sexpot, there’s not many names that can step and fill that niche for prettiness.

The idea of a model that’s objectively ‘pretty’ does seem at odds with everything we’ve learned about the fashion industry. But this swing from quirky and cool to gently feminine is symptomatic of a wider move. Whether you chalk it up to the Middleton effect, or bigger economic influences, the rising mood of the moment is ‘real-girl’ fashion. Knee-high boots, petite florals and white cigarette jeans are all flying out of the shops, but they are noticeably missing from this season’s runway.

We’ve been happily delving into trends for the past decade – harem pants, asymmetry, platform heels – we’ve worn the lot, experimenting with shapes and colour to our hearts’ content. But there’s been a tide change, with tastes visibly moving towards the conservative. Simpler silhouettes and lower hemlines have returned – they are a reaction to fashion’s desire to shock, but not from the direction you might expect.

The literal opposite of neon and tribal print jumpsuits would be full-on minimalism. But instead beauty is making a power-play for control of our wardrobes because it offers a viable alternative to fashion’s wilder, experimental side. For the past few years, fashion has been devoted to challenging us to wear new shapes, textures and colours. While this is fashion at its purest, encouraging us to be braver and bolder, it has left a gap in the market for the days when you just want to look good and feel good with minimal effort required. Even the urban uniform that has evolved from designers such as Rick Owens, The Row or Zadig & Voltaire, requires an awareness of how to layer different fabrics and what boots work best with leather leggings. It certainly looks good when done right, but it can’t beat jeans and a t-shirt for ease of use.

What’s developing is a movement aimed at catering to people who want a look in three moves or less. But this emerging trend isn’t about indulgence, but something that’s grounded in a real fashion literacy that’s all about the detail. Those white cigarette jeans may not be ultra high-fashion, but look closer and they will be from a brand such as MiH or Citizens of Humanity. No-one likes to be left of the loop and this new trend for prettiness is fashion by stealth. The ingredients are all there – they’ve just been mixed a little differently.

Anais’ growing career is part and parcel of this very movement – her height allows her to do runway, but her face is her unique selling point. Fitting fashion’s interpretation of ‘pretty’ is a rare gift. Too much ‘girl next door’ and you’re better off finding work in the lingerie / Sports Illustrated mould. Too left-field and you risk your looks not translating in big-brand cosmetic campaigns.

The beauty that Pouliot represents is an able translator because it works with high-fashion, not against it. Now that fashion’s relaxed the rules, it’s a whole different game. Playing with a portfolio that’s anything but simple, Anais demands you take a closer look.


Sunday, 12 June 2011


Born on 5th August 1988, Kendra Spears is part of a growing group of models that are putting America back on top when it comes to producing globally-recognised talent.

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Spears began attending Portland State University in 2007 to study sociology. In January 2008, Spears entered Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition. She didn’t win, but Ford was so impressed by her, she was signed with the agency anyway.

That September, Kendra made her international runway debut, walking in high-prestige shows such as Valentino, Lanvin, Gucci, L’Wren Scott and Costume National. Spears got her first cover try in December 2008, fronting the January issue of Italian Amica, with an editorial in Italian Flair the following month.
Kendra’s features made her a good fit for the Italian market, but her look began to garner attention at home. With a similar look, right down to the trademark mole, Kendra’s resemblance to modelling icon Cindy Crawford was unmissable.

Hype began to build around Spears – would Kendra’s looks take her into a global, highly lucrative career just like Crawford’s had done twenty years previously? Combining the vintage feel of an Eighties supermodel in a new face meant that Kendra’s profile was only set to get bigger.

In February 09, Spears added new designers to her runway credits, including Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Prada and YSL. In March, listed Spears as a star on the rise.

Kendra switched agencies in the Spring, making the move from Ford to Next. Changing agencies doesn’t normally make headlines, but on the 6th May, Ford Models sued Next for allegedly ‘poaching’ Spears. Kendra did not allow the controversy to break her focus and continued to work, being photographed for the Spring / Summer issue of Revue de Modes and the cover of British fashion bible Dazed & Confused in July. Kendra made her couture debut the same month, walking in the Autumn / Winter show for Givenchy.

But Spears’ biggest career coup came later that year when she was presented to the fashion industry as one of the faces of the new Prada campaign, featuring alongside Anna de Rijk and Julia Hafstrom.

Prada are known for taking chances on a new face when it comes to their runway shows, but campaigns are a much bigger gamble. Those images are in circulation for months, representing the brand’s ‘big idea’ for that season. Get the casting wrong, and it can spell disaster. But hiring a model that, up to this point, was untested when it came to campaigns was the type of move that could only come from Prada. The label known for risk-taking once again proved its reputation for picking talent. Sporting one of Prada’s most memorable looks, in frizzy hair and waders, Spears doesn’t look like a fish out of water, but completely at ease.

The Prada campaign had the desired effect in launching Spears into the big-time. In September, Teen Vogue featured Kendra as a rising star, and in the same month, Kendra got to open shows for Badgley Mischka and Diane Von Furstenberg. Also appearing for Alberta Ferretti, Cacharel, Calvin Klein, Derek Lam, Oscar de la Renta and Prada, Kendra was making her move from rising star to firmly established.

Closing out the year with a spot as W magazine’s ‘This Week’s Model’, January 2010 saw Kendra hit the cover of Chinese Vogue. Choosing to skip Fashion Week, Kendra padded out 2010 with editorial work, appearing for Japanese Vogue in February, Harper’s Bazaar in July and British and French Vogue in August. This wealth of photographic work proved to be beneficial for Spears when she landed the booking of a lifetime, appearing in the Calvin Klein White Label campaign.
Already experienced at handling a high-stakes campaign with Prada, Kendra was signed up to appear in the Autumn / Winter campaign. Matching the quintessential American ‘face’ with the label that most clearly defines American style, it was a win-win for both parties.

Forget the jeans and t-shirt, think American high-fashion and you find yourself thinking in the sartorial language Calvin Klein has created. Crisp clean lines executed in a palette of neutrals or blocks of bright, bold colour, it is the template of great American design: when in doubt, keep it simple. Klein’s influence may be vast but its effects can be most clearly seen close to home in the work of Michael Kors, Reed Krakoff and Jason Wu.

Modelling these clothes however is far from straightforward. Play it too low-key and you run the risk of fading into the background; overdo it and the whole effect of minimal chic is ruined. These clothes need more than a pulse, they need a character that’s in sympathy with what the designer is trying to achieve. Great modelling isn’t just about embodying a brand’s ideals; it’s about becoming their ideal customer.

The Calvin Klein customer is an easy read; intelligent with sophisticated tastes but doesn’t take themselves too seriously. There are plenty of brands that offer the ‘wow’ factor, but the Calvin Klein customer at this level appreciates good design, but they don’t need their wardrobe to do the talking for them. The selling point of Calvin Klein is in the detail you don’t see.

Kendra’s success at translating Calvin Klein created more runway bookings, resulting in a 33-show season including Prada, Chanel, Fendi, Lanvin, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney and Roland Mouret.

Renewing her Calvin Klein contract in January 2011, Spears also got another blue-chip campaign signing with Diane Von Furstenberg. With Kendra’s ultra-feminine features, she was a perfect sell for the DVF name made on the back of those famous, and much copied, wrap dresses.

Spears also got asked to appear in the campaign for Etro, with Frida Gustavsson and Toni Garrn. The brand has come into its own this season with the resurgence of print for S/S 2011. Every label has its moment, where the feel of the season neatly dovetails with their look. With print and colour being an Etro speciality, this summer will see labels who favour the maximalist approach go super-stellar.

Kendra switched it up in January with a Japanese Vogue editorial named ‘The Legend of Simplicity’. Wearing simple designs, but endowing them with bags of personality, Spears took what she learned from working with Calvin Klein and used it to great effect.

With a body of work that’s visibly growing in diversity, Spears is proving to be more than just the American girl of the moment. Her latest campaign signings – Calvin Klein, DVF and Etro – are testament to how Kendra handles high-fashion. The requirements of a brand like Calvin Klein will be very different to those of Etro, but that’s entirely the point. A model that’s at home in eclectic, bohemian print as she is in clean, minimal lines understands that fashion is rarely pure and ever simple: each new trend taps into another. This kaleidoscopic effect of modern fashion means there is no such thing as an ‘absolute’ trend, untainted by fashion history or other cultural influences. Some designers’ tracks are easier to uncover: Gucci delves into the glamour power-surges of the past, and Miuccia Prada borrows references from Warhol to Baroque. One look at the Prada runway and it’s no surprise that Miuccia is one of the world’s most prolific art collectors.

Spears may have an undeniable resemblance to Cindy Crawford, but her career is proving to be anything but retro. The American model has moved from plain and simple concepts: the minimalist, the beach babe or the girl-next-door. Strip away these preconceived ideas about American beauty, and you get a generation of models that are a whole lot harder to figure out.
Fashion’s striving for a richness and individuality that is at odds with the industry as it was just a few decades ago. There’s no one ‘in’ colour or hem that’s the only fashionable length to be seen in. It was once stated that in the fashion industry, hemlines went up and down like the stock market. Good financial times in the 60’s brought us the mini-skirt. The economic woes of the 70’s saw ankle-grazing maxi skirts as the only way to go.

What does it say about us now when there are no hard and fast rules? Colour is back after a winter of neutrals, but no one shade takes precedence. As to hemlines, the choice as varied as denim cut-offs and maxi dresses, with midi skirts literally sitting somewhere in-between. If fashion’s a mirror, reflecting what’s going on all around us, is it about giving us choice or an unwillingness to commit – a fear of backing the wrong horse? From whatever angle you look at it, fashion has never been more interesting than it is right now. But this relaxing of the rules is good news for the modelling industry.

Assigning models is no longer a process of ticking boxes. A model with a tomboyish look and personal style can get seriously girlie for Chanel and a model with curves to die for can front a label that’s all about simple, no-nonsense lines. There’s a definite shift occurring in how we think about models. With the labels removed, everyone’s a potential perfect fit. Making assumptions about who can do what no longer works for the models making their way up the ladder. There’s a difference between being limited and exclusive: it may be small, but its effects are substantially felt.

Kendra’s old-school charm and her more-than-passing resemblance to Cindy Crawford has given her a head start in an industry where a little hype can take you a long way. But Kendra, like her peers (Karlie, Dree, Jacquelyn and Chanel) is on-target for a career that’s complex and undefinable, and all the more exciting for it.

The current generation of models are lucky because having fewer definitions means fewer limits. As fashion grapples with forming its new, post-recession identity, the models that are breaking into the industry are not only fresh and modern, but ready, willing and able to adapt. Meet the front line of fashion’s evolution.