Sunday, 31 July 2011


Born on April 17th 1981, Dutch model Saskia de Brauw is fashion’s very own comeback kid, re-emerging at the age of 30 as one of its most sought-after faces.

Saskia started modelling in 1996, when she was discovered at the age of 15. Quitting a year later to concentrate on studying art, Saskia returned to the fashion industry in 2010, signing with DNA Models.

Saskia made an immediate splash in the industry when Eres Swimwear decided to replace Lara Stone as their face of the brand, instating de Brauw as their new campaign model.

In July 2010, Saskia was profiled by and made her international catwalk debut in September. Walking for Reed Krakoff, Matthew Williamson, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Daks, Saskia was an immediate stand-out. Her debut got the attention of designers and editors alike, and in October, Givenchy’s creative director Riccardo Tisci introduced de Brauw to the then-editor of French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld.

After another successful runway season in February 2011, Saskia’s introduction to French Vogue paid off with a starring role in their summer preview editorial. ‘Et Vogue L’Ete’ was a multi-page special, outlining all the season’s key ideas. The bi-annual season preview is a centrepiece feature for French Vogue, presenting the most important looks, in a manner that’s typical of the magazine’s ethos: bold, creative and fun.

Saskia’s editorial debut was a blaze of glory, softening her androgynous looks for Oscar de la Renta, and revving them up for Miu Miu. She also appeared alongside Daphne Groeneveld, in the pelmet neon skirts from Jil Sander. De Brauw’s headlining in French Vogue was an announcement to the fashion world that this was a model not about to sit in the background.

Saskia’s status as model-of-the-moment was cemented in March when she was invited to appear on the cover of French Vogue; it was the final cover under Carine Roitfeld’s leadership. Labelled ‘Fantasy’, the blush-coloured cover saw Saskia in a frilled collar and jewels. The dichotomy of Saskia’s bold features against such a romantic background made it a fitting adieu for Roitfeld who had championed model talent throughout her stint as editor.

Roitfeld specialised in finding faces that didn’t necessarily ‘fit’, transforming Lara Stone’s career and making Isabeli Fontana a modelling legend. Her support also boosted the careers of Natasha Poly, Daria Werbowy, Arizona Muse and Joan Smalls. Going against the grain is a French Vogue speciality, and what Roitfeld did for modelling during her time at the magazine cannot be underestimated. She recognised that it was not always trends that move fashion forwards, but faces. Saskia, who was her last discovery whilst at Vogue, promises to be another model that helps to define where fashion goes next, and that’s no small legacy.

In the same month, Saskia did cover duty for Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel. The two covers could not be more different: French Vogue, evoking high glamour and Italian Vogue going for the cerebral vote. Winning hearts and minds is the core business of high-fashion – without that connection, it’s just clothes. Roitfeld understood this very plainly, hence her interest in sourcing the next great face.

Saskia also appeared in editorials for W and Italian Vogue during the month of March. The Italian Vogue shoot, also steered by Meisel, was a symphony of clashing patterns, swirls and stripes. Combined with eccentric accessorising and artisan make-up, ‘Wasted Luxury’ was textbook Italian Vogue.

Appearing for W, de Brauw took on a more expected persona, and performed in a street fashion / punk editorial. Working alongside new faces Eliza Cummings, Jana Knaverova and Bambi Northwood Blyth, Saskia’s features lent themselves perfectly to the hard-core attitude needed to sell punk on a fashion stage.

In June ’11, Saskia made her couture debut in Paris, walking for Chanel and Givenchy. It demonstrated Saskia’s pull in the fashion world: she is 1.5 inches shorter than the average couture model, but her appearance for both couture houses was assured and confident.

Autumn 2011 will see Saskia’s profile reach another level, with two major campaigns. Italian duo DSquared have booked her to appear in their street-cool designs, but the big news is that de Brauw has landed one of the most prolific campaigns in the business: Versace.

Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Saskia plays against type to become the ultra-feminine vixen that Versace demands. Recalling the hey-day of the label, the Versace insignia is clearly seen on buttons and buckles, but the rest of the campaign marks a considerable shift in semantics for the luxury brand.

For a label that usually hires blonde, uber-groomed glamazons, Saskia marks the beginning of a cleaner, sharper vision for the label’s future. Evoking all its best attributes, and its own brand mythology, Versace is using a different face (in every sense of the word) for a subtle re-brand.

Think of the Italian label and you tend to come up with the same adjectives: glamorous, seductive and super-sexy. All those things are still here in this campaign, but with it, there’s an extra layer of insouciance that makes the designs appear effortless. Everyone knows that the main ingredients of any fashion collection are blood, sweat and tears, but no-one wants them to show up in the final designs. It should look like what it is: inspired.

Saskia endows the Versace campaign with an element of androgyny that directly plays against its previous form. It’s a new direction for Versace and one that promises to bring new admirers. If you found Versace a little intimidating in the past, a little too glossy perhaps, this ad goes a long way to redressing the balance.

Still in terms of credits a relatively new face, Saskia has managed to make herself indispensable. Androgyny is experiencing its first real moment in the fashion spotlight since the mid 1990’s. For a period of nearly twenty years, glamour has been the definitive look – whether that was full-on glitz, or mixed with street style and grunge.

Where fashion goes, models suit themselves to fit. Faces that have been in favour have all suited fashion’s glamorous agenda. What has been missing is a selection of models that are proudly and defiantly off-message. With the arrival of Freja Beha, one haircut really did make all the difference. Her choppy cut took her from one of the pack to one of a kind. It marked the advent of a new kind of model: bold, not classically beautiful, but a true breath of fresh air.

Saskia’s comeback in 2010 could not have been better timed: despite her age placing her at the point where most models are considering their next move, de Brauw is working at the very heart of the fashion industry.

What is genuinely exciting about models like Saskia and Freja is that they are pushing back at the boundaries of what type of project a model can and can’t do. Saskia’s signing with Versace is a perfect example of this: from leather pieces to a Black Swan-inspired feather dress, she moves from flirty and feminine to cool sophistication.

The loosening of the old fashion rules: androgynous face = androgynous fashion, pairing chocolate-box beauties with ultra-feminine looks has resulted in a free-for-all that’s hitting the spot in terms of self-expression and individuality. Carine Roitfeld’s passion for launching faces that don’t fit the current look was an instinct ahead of its time: no-one wants to think of themselves as a fashion formula, and fashion has responded by creating trends that give you room to manoeuvre.

This celebration of individuality and self-sufficiency will be the way forward for the fashion industry and Saskia is part of this revolution, moving from soft and dreamy to angular androgyny in a heartbeat. Never the same woman twice, Saskia’s popularity stems from her ability to multi-task at the highest levels. Compare her covers for Italian Vogue and French Vogue and you could almost swear you’re looking at two models, rather than one. Saskia’s transformation is so complete it becomes modelling from the inside out. Her decision to quit modelling in 1997 to study art has resulted in a stronger and more developed model in 2011.

An avid photographer with her own blog ( Saskia’s unique outlook also gives her an advantage when it comes to photo-shoots. Knowing that the further you delve into character, the better the result is invaluable to making the most of your time in front of the lens. Also being aware of which angle creates which effect allows Saskia to utilise her face to maximum effect. Her work on film is testament to how crucial it is to know your face and what it can do.

De Brauw’s CV is part timing and part skill – her comeback at the time when the industry was ready for something new is a phenomenal story, but her amazing run of success is more than luck. Her collective skills and experience, and the way she uses them, take her beyond the ordinary and move her into a league of faces that are truly extraordinary.


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