In September 2010, Clauson made her debut at Fashion Week, walking for Calvin Klein, Gucci, Versace, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Miu Miu, Elie Saab and Lanvin. Hailey’s popularity with designers was immediate: her affiliation with the ‘money labels’ already marked her out as a possible campaign signing.
Hailey’s progress continued in October with an editorial for Italian Vogue. Now a rite of passage for every top model in training, appearing in the magazine is the surest sign that your career is only going to get bigger.
‘Short: The New Ease’, photographed by Craig McDean, sees Hailey featuring with Hanne Gaby Odiele, Hannah Holman and Patricia van der Vliet. Appearing in a set of fashion portraits, the models’ slouchy, contemporary poses are off-set by the retro styling. Deceptively simple, the editorial shows everything and everyone working together in absolute harmony. The editorial is somewhat unusual for Italian Vogue; quieter in tone, but it provided a storming debut for Hailey.
Hailey finished off 2010 with an editorial for Dazed and Confused. Clauson appears in a set of black and white portraits, but unlike the gentleness of the Italian Vogue shoot, this editorial is deliberately dark and deliberately edgy. Clauson carries it off with aplomb. Her hiring for this piece was undoubtedly influenced by her earlier work for Italian Vogue. The tone of the shoots differs a great deal, but the stillness and concentration required for both is something Hailey has clearly mastered. One of the more difficult areas of editorial modelling is generating a ‘still’ image that has life behind the eyes; intent, a story. It’s all too easy to turn ‘contemplative’ into ‘flat-lining’.
Clauson’s career, in timescale still in its infancy, is fast developing and making her a contender, especially when it comes to competing against more established faces. To prove the point, 2011 started with the news that Hailey would be joining Karmen Pedaru and Joan Smalls to become the face of Gucci.
In the Gucci campaign, Hailey gets to channel and play up her sexpot features, in a campaign that celebrates sun-soaked sensuality. There are few occasions in high-fashion where you get to play the siren, but working for Gucci is definitely one of them.
Hailey also appeared in campaigns for Jill Stuart and Italian design duo, Dsquared. In February, she had her best show season to date appearing in a total of 31 shows. Walking for Gucci, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Reed Krakoff, Versus, and YSL among others, Hailey got to feature in some of the best shows of the season.
Her runway credits got a major boost when she also flew to Paris to appear in couture shows for Elie Saab, Azzedine Alaia and Giambattista Valli. Both Alaia and Valli are two new houses recently credited with couture status, vying for a slice of the lucrative luxury market.
The new customer bases in China, Russia and Japan are giving haute couture a new lease of life. Haute couture’s future in 2008 was far from certain, but in 2011, couture is now reclaiming its position as taste-maker, informing the shapes, colours and fabrics that will go into making the clothes we buy and wear. Even with Dior currently in flux, the couture industry is going from strength to strength.
In March, Clauson went back to editorial work, appearing in shoots for W and Vogue China. Her shoot for Chinese Vogue, ‘A Child in Time’, is a bold aesthetic, once again utilising Hailey’s ability to take a great ‘still’ shot. Being still – and confident – in front of the camera is a game of nerve. Hailey’s gaze is unflinching, but she is visibly at ease.
Hailey also got to flex her muscles for W, appearing in a narrative editorial for Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Brasch Nielsen. ‘Against Nature’, photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, is a dark, atmospheric shoot. Featuring neons against a flat landscape, the results are compelling, and even a little disturbing.
Hailey went on to appear for Numero in May, shooting ‘Memory Motel’ with Greg Kadel. It sees Clauson take on a solo editorial. Fully in control, Hailey delivers a performance that is assured and cool-headed. ‘Memory Motel’ references Seventies glam-rock but the narrative of the shoot owes more to the Coen Brothers than David Bowie. A difficult balance of traditional Americana with Seventies style, Clauson delivers a message that is anything but mixed.
June saw Hailey take on another solo editorial, again for Numero. ‘Tribal’, photographed by Sebastian Kim, is a sepia-toned epic. Woman meets Nature in couture-like detail. Modelling through ultra-high fashion styling with an ethnic twist, the demands of this shoot would be asking a lot of a more experienced model, but Hailey played it note-perfect, making the resulting editorial a triumph.
Clauson is choosing to end the year as she began – with highly prolific campaigns. For Autumn / Winter, she will be appearing in the Topshop campaign with British model Nyasha Matanhodze.
The store is leading the way in creating campaigns that rival labels with a much higher price-tag. Self-billed as one of the UK’s favourite fashion destinations for the under-25’s, Topshop understands that to sell fashion successfully, it must be sold as an aspirational object, no matter what the cost.
You can attribute it to the couture effect: the confidence borne from continuing success in Paris is trickling down and creating a sophistication that is spreading across every level of the fashion industry. Topshop has learnt this lesson particularly well, because nothing in this campaign feels (or looks) cheap.
Hailey forms part of a new wave of American models that are showing the industry that they can compete on the fringes of high-fashion. Highly regarded for their editorial and runway work, the American girls (including Charlotte Free, Ruby Aldridge, Ashley Smith and Arizona Muse) are going head-to head with the Russian / Eastern European stable of talent that has dominated fashion in its dark, minor key.
Perhaps more so than any other recent model from the U.S, Hailey bridges edgy contemporary style with retro glamour. She is a model who could very easily go for the big beauty campaigns and runway slots for Victoria’s Secret and get them. Her runway CV shows she can ably represent the biggest labels in the world without missing a beat. But the exciting thing about Hailey is her tendency to go for the road less travelled.
She has appeared in Italian Vogue, but has also worked for Dazed & Confused, Numero and W. Vogue has the world on a string, but these magazines offer alternative viewpoints that make the fashion feast that much richer. When it comes to getting a handle on fashion, seeing it from every possible angle is fundamental in getting the whole picture.
Hailey’s work with Numero in particular, deftly illustrates the type of model she is likely to become. Off-kilter shoots, loaded with references to film, photography, even anthropology, give Hailey an opportunity to build a library of skills.
Interpretation takes insight, and Hailey’s clear-headed approach to potentially difficult bookings, shows a model totally on-game, but also with a highly evolved sense of what it takes to create great fashion moments. Working against the grain often produces the best work. It takes some models years to get that, but Hailey already has the advantage.
What this generation are bringing to the industry is a type of fearlessness, exhibited by models such as Freja Beha, Jamie Bochert and Saskia de Brauw. Every model owes a debt to the previous generation, but what is happening now is that the back catalogue of talent is so impressive, it gives newbies the confidence to make choices that are smart and unexpected, building a new layer of history, with faces that are free to reject the mould, and that sense of freedom can’t be anything but good.
The fashion world excels at learning from its own past, the key editorials, those memorable runway shows, to filter through and learn what failed, what worked and most importantly, why. Fashion isn’t about rehashing old ideas, but finding different ways to express the concepts that fashion is built around: self-expression, confidence, elegance and beauty. Even when they’re being inverted (usually by Prada), these are the ideas that keep the fashion world turning.
Economic crisis has shown the fashion world that no matter what, a good idea will always sell. The means of survival are very clear: bigger, better and brighter ways of selling those ideas. With models like Hailey leading the way, the road less travelled has never looked so good.