Sunday, 25 September 2011


Zuzanna Bijoch was born in Poland in 1994 and her connection with the modelling world began at an early age. Aged 13 years old, Zuzanna entered and won a D’vision modelling contest, signing with NEXT Models that same year.

The agency chose to develop their new talent, with Bijoch travelling to Tokyo in 2009 to accrue some modelling experience. In July 2010, Zuzanna made her couture runway debut, walking for Georges Chakra.

She made her ready-to-wear catwalk debut in September 2010, making a splash as an exclusive signing for Miu Miu. Favoured by the Italian label, her other bookings included Jason Wu, L’Wren Scott, Marchesa, Marni, Tory Burch and Prada.

The sign of approval from Prada was made official in early 2011 when it was announced that Zuzanna would be one of their faces for the Spring / Summer campaign. Working alongside Tatiana Cotliar, Arizona Muse, Mariacarla Boscono and Kinga Rajzak, Zuzanna participated in a campaign that was to define the look of S/S 11. Photographed by Steven Meisel, the mix of nautical stripes and baroque swirls in blue, green and yellow was decadence meets discipline. Counting as one of their most visually dynamic collections, it was cerebral fashion anarchy, and S/S 2011 was Prada’s season for the taking.

The effect of Bijoch’s inclusion in the Prada ads was immediate. In February 2011, she opened RTW shows for Rue du Mail, Thakoon and Victoria Beckham, closing shows for J. Mendel and Balenciaga. Zuzanna scored an amazing 58 show appearances, including Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Prada, Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren, Sonia Rykiel, Valentino, Versace and YSL.

Zuzanna had finally arrived on the fashion circuit, thanks to Prada’s patronage. The label’s star-spotting ability was right on the mark, with Bijoch working with a wide range of designers from feminine chic at Alberta Ferretti to sexing it up at Gucci. Appearing in every major show of the season, Zuzanna was a true fashion favourite.

Filling the next few months with editorial work for magazines such as Dazed & Confused, Bijoch travelled to Paris in July for couture season, walking for Dior, Givenchy and Valentino. At 5’ 9”, Bijoch is two inches shorter than most haute couture models, but her runway prowess marked her out as a natural.

The same month saw Zuzanna take centre stage as a cover girl, appearing in both an editorial and on the cover of Mexican Vogue. Her editorial, ‘Gracia Eterea’, is pure sun-swept elegance, showcasing classic fashion, from Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta and Halston.

Zuzanna visibly transforms in this editorial, wearing the classic pieces effortlessly. Hunched high-fashion poses have their place, but knowing how to work your body to create elegant, fluid lines is an art. Few get it right, but those that do, see their earning potential flourish.

Zuzanna’s next editorial, however, could not be more different. Working with photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, ‘Strict’, for Interview magazine was a fetish-themed editorial featuring Candice Swanepoel, Anais Pouliot, Emily Baker and Saskia de Brauw.

The theme of the shoot was a dark substitute for Autumn’s retro fantasies. In this series of provocative images, Zuzanna exudes a sultry softness that keeps the content fashion-forward, not top-shelf. With awkward camera angles and angular poses, the shoot was certainly button-pushing, but never exhibitionist. Bijoch’s strength and versatility in editorials was rewarded when she booked not only one, but three of the biggest campaigns of A/W 11: Chloe, Proenza Schouler and Louis Vuitton.

The Chloe ads, shot by David Sims, are the familiar sun-dappled vintage look that has become the visual shorthand for the label. Since its revival in the late 90’s under Stella McCartney’s directorship, Chloe has emerged as one of the labels most able to deliver what women want from their clothes. It takes the classic components of fashion – jackets, straight-leg trousers, bias-cut dresses – and re-works them into season must-haves. To model Chloe successfully, the fashion edge has to be softened, and in this campaign, Zuzanna joins forces with Sigrid Agren, Arizona Muse and Malgosia Bela to create images of women who are not slaves to fashion, but are freed by it.

Zuzanna’s second campaign is for Proenza Schouler. Bijoch carries the campaign solo, wearing the signature bright colours and geometric pattern blocking that forms the retro feel of the label. Famous for its ‘PS1’ satchels, defining its look on the runway and beyond has been crucial in creating a brand that’s developed, well-rounded and progressing ever forwards. Zuzanna demonstrates her easy affinity with high-fashion, wearing the campaign look as easily as a pair of jeans, making us not only appreciate Proenza Schouler, but covet it. The label needed a strong campaign identity; and with Zuzanna at the helm, it’s job done.

The last advert Zuzanna will appear in this year is one of the blockbuster campaigns of the season. Shot by Steven Meisel, the Louis Vuitton look is flying the flag for military chic.

Always popular during autumn and winter, the strong, body-defining tailoring of military-themed coats and jackets help in taking the sting out of cold winter days. The label is pinning its hopes on our love of perennial A/W classics, rather than fashion nostalgia.

As a collection, it is remarkable for being so different to other labels who are delving into fashion’s back catalogue. Vuitton’s creative director, Marc Jacobs, shows why he is a sure thing for the top job at Dior. Never afraid to be the first at heading in a new direction, after the pastels and sweetness forecast for Spring 2012, we may find ourselves in the mood for something a little tougher this time next year.

This September, Bijoch faces her third RTW season and so far has been seen in several shows. Scoring opening honours at Derek Lam and acting as the closer for Diane Von Furstenberg, to date Zuzanna has also appeared for Alexander Wang, Gucci, Versace, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, D&G and Moschino.

The word from the front row already is a noticeable lean towards fashion’s gentler side. With pictures in from the New York, London and Milan Fashion Weeks, there is a studied softness in the colour palette with muted colours: duck egg blue, sage, primrose yellow and white all featuring heavily in numerous collections. Some of the biggest impressions have been made on our turf, with both Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou already jostling for show of the season.

After years of celebrating tough, urban fashion, the tide seems to be turning with many designers choosing to explore their softer side. Gentler fabrics and brighter colours are becoming the norm across the seasons. Burberry’s creative director Christopher Bailey was one of the chief exponents of the urban look, with head-to-toe black and bags covered in stud-work. But his newest collections are a complete about-turn, with 60’s inspired coats in every shade from cornflower blue to pumpkin.

The idea that a particular colour range can only be suitable for a particular season has been challenged by designers wanting to look at new ways of wearing colour. The usual colours for autumn (red, yellow, orange) have been augmented to include brights more usually associated with summer: pink, green and blue.

This widening of our perception has heralded an end to the reign of urban fashion. As ubiquitous as it was useful, the street uniform of leather leggings, hardware and lashings of black has served us well. It was a look that could be punctuated with texture – shearling was often featured – but the need for texture, for softness, eventually became too hard to resist.

The core of this change is embedded in our economical turmoil. If we dressed for battle during the early part of the recession, as we now do our best to ‘keep calm and carry on’, what we need is comfort.

The abundance of tweed, lace, calfskin and shearling on this year’s catwalks go a long way to explaining our desire to be cosseted. We want to be wrapped up in cosiness, with texture providing us with a fourth fashion dimension. The feel of clothes has been neglected over the past decade, with our attention focused on their visual impact. How clothes feel next to the skin is rapidly becoming one of fashion’s major steering factors.

The theme of softness continues beyond outerwear with chiffon and silk lending themselves brilliantly to the 70’s-style pussy-bow blouses seen at Chloe, and the star-spangled jumpsuits from Dolce & Gabbana. The lightness of the looks coming off the runway is about freedom, not constriction. It’s not only our range of movement that gets a break this winter: the capacious silhouettes of cocoon coats and capes give us room to relax and take stock. If you’re already feeling the pinch, the gentleness of a cocoon shape won’t fence you in. When we’re all feeling the pressure, fashion lightens the load with collections filled with airy, dreamy looks that reassure and comfort us.

It’s this fashion landscape that Zuzanna will inherit in 2012. With an already-proven track record as an interpreter of fashion’s softer side, Bijoch stands to make it big next year. Her ability to fuse strength with softness will prove invaluable as the fashion world moves its tough-guy act out of the spotlight in favour of a look that’s soft on the surface.

But don’t be fooled: fashion’s new affection for softness isn’t about denial; it’s right in the action, with a core of strength that’s there, even if you can’t see it. In times like these, fashion is far from being frivolous: it has something very profound to say about the art of survival. 2012 will be a quiet show of strength, but no matter what, fashion has our back.


Sunday, 18 September 2011


Born on the 19th February 1992, Swiss model Julia Saner entered the Elite Model contest in 2009. Winning first place, Julia signed with Elite’s agency in Paris that same year.

Her catwalk debut took place in September 2010, with Saner debuting at both Milan and Paris Fashion Week. She opened the Valentino show, and appeared in shows for Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Chanel.

Julia’s impact on the runway was immediate. At 5’11”, Saner was ideal catwalk material. Her win at Elite brought her to the attention of designers, but award or not, Saner still had to prove her abilities on the runway just like every other new model. Luckily for Julia, she and the runway appeared to be the perfect match.

In January 2011, she appeared in her first couture season, closing the Valentino show and walking in the Elie Saab, Chanel, Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier shows. Valentino’s infatuation with the new model was rubber-stamped in when it was announced that she would become the face of its newest campaign, along with Caroline Brasch Nielsen and Freja Beha Erichsen.

The revamp of the Italian label meant hiring fresh, new faces – faces that could lend themselves to the uber-feminine designs of the ready-to-wear line as well as the more challenging silhouettes of the couture collection. Julia proved to be particularly useful for Valentino, with strong features handling the camera beautifully, her memorable face making her both avant-garde and reassuringly classic.

Her runway success translated into editorial work, with spreads in Numero and American Vogue in February. Saner showed off her high-fashion skills in ‘Labyrinthe’, a typical Numero shoot with complex angles and challenging poses. It was a very technical shoot – photographing high-fashion this way can lean towards parody if care isn’t taken. The result was an editorial packed with bold ideas, but performed with subtlety. It was just right.

Her second editorial that month was the Spring / Summer preview in American Vogue. The ‘Gangs of New York’ spread featured every model of note, and Julia got the title page, a huge honour for any model, let alone one who had only been working for six months. With her first cover in March (Italian Marie Claire), Julia also scored another career high with an editorial for Italian Vogue, called ‘Wasted Luxury’.

The editorial saw Julia working with models Saskia de Brauw and Milou Van Groesen. Photographed by Steven Meisel, this editorial was a brilliant reminder of why everyone in the fashion industry looks to Italian Vogue.

Heavily ornate, eccentrically styled with kooky accessories and clashing prints, this was hyper-fashion at its best. It was all in the execution: with Meisel behind the lens, the shoot was kept restrained but purposeful. Looking at the images, you can’t help but rest on details: gold-leaf embossed on a pair of trousers, metallic pleated collars.

The focus is on the beauty of the individual pieces, making this editorial far more user-friendly than you might expect. This isn’t eccentricity for its own sake, but exploring ways of presenting beautiful things. Italian Vogue actively strives to find new solutions to this oldest of problems – keeping the desire alive for brave new fashion. The path more travelled can often seem like a lot less hassle. But it’s the job of Italian Vogue to keep us interested in what’s next; asking us to change our perceptions of what is fashionable and beautiful. No easy task, but when it comes to sartorial persuasion, no-one does it better than Italian Vogue.

With appearances in German and Japanese Vogue in May, Julia appeared in June’s Turkish Vogue, in an editorial named ‘Disniz Dan Biri’. Exuding colour and texture, Julia takes to the street markets to shoot a fashion travelogue that evokes the excitement and unfamiliarity of experiencing different cultures.

It is interesting to note just how many fashion shoots take place on location. It’s not just making the clothes look even better against a stunning backdrop: like travel, fashion broadens the mind. Seen from a fresh perspective, editorials push us to see fashion differently too, encouraging us to try a new shape, a new colour. Fashion has a habit of surprising us, but these editorials offer up the idea that sometimes we should take control, and surprise ourselves.

Julia’s career continues to go from strength to strength in the final months of 2011, with three campaign signings. The first, with Mulberry, sees Julia join forces with Taitana Cotliar in a series of typically bohemian and eccentric images. A success already, the bright leather satchels and pleated skirts featured are visibly making an impact on our buying habits for this autumn.

Mulberry remains one of the most influential labels working today. The ‘Alexa’ satchel saw copies spring up across the high street. Its success in re-defining vintage shapes has made Mulberry a highly competitive force in today’s fashion market. Its brand identity has rocketed in recent years, with the campaigns becoming the label’s calling card.

This season, Mulberry celebrates the British countryside with a series of images that are bold, quirky and unmistakable. Julia’s inclusion in this campaign has already raised her profile in the industry, taking her from runway favourite to campaign star.

Her next signing is with one of fashion’s newest – and hottest – names. Prabal Gurung has already been making waves, becoming a red-carpet must for stars who like their fashion served with an edge.

The last, with high-street chain Karen Millen, shows Julia’s ability to cross boundaries and defy definition. It’s an important asset for a model, but crucial for one who plans to become a fixture on the modern campaign circuit. Mulberry, Gurung and Millen represent three very different campaigns, but together they point to the career Julia will develop.

With a body that can handle the highest of high-fashion and a face built for mass appeal, Saner finds herself well-placed to offer the fashion industry the best of both worlds. She possesses a face that can make high-fashion look approachable, steering it to a new generation, but still satisfies the old-school, avant-garde leanings of the most edgy designers.

The idea that you can tailor a modelling approach to an individual brand or label is nothing new, but what is becoming clear is that it’s by no means set and dried as to which brand requires which approach. It’s not guaranteed that a high-street favourite will need a bright and breezy commercial face, no more than a high-fashion brand will require someone with serious fashion credentials.

With the gap closing between high-fashion and high-street, editorial and commercial modelling have come together to form a third approach, to answer a desire for a new level of sophistication that celebrates our growing fashion knowledge. Look at any of the large high-street stores, and their campaign images, dotted around the store and in the front window, are all using this new approach to create and generate sales.

H&M do minimal sophistication, keeping the clothes centre-stage; Topshop use fashion’s brightest new modelling talents to showcase their latest looks and Zara’s campaigns are a master-class in marketing, owing a debt to designers such as Jil Sander who work on the principle of keeping it simple.

What these brands have gained in sophistication they haven’t lost in populist appeal – many of them are more successful than ever. This shift isn’t just restricted to the British high street either: many high-fashion labels have been revising how they reach out to their customers. Mulberry’s campaigns have piqued mainstream interest, making their products as familiar as any high-street hit. Julia as the Mulberry girl is undeniably high-fashion, but there is an approachability in her performance that helps explain the label’s continuing success while its competitors falter.

While some labels thrive on the unfamiliar, and change their approach every season (such as Balenciaga), others have decided to stick to a formula that develops a sense of cohesion. Labels such as Chloe have streamlined their campaigns, making their dreamy, vintage-inspired images a trademark of their brand.

The idea of not taking yourself too seriously is also a winner for many brands, and has recently been adopted by French label Lanvin. With a campaign video available online, models Raquel Zimmermann and Karen Elson demonstrate some seriously camp dance moves, and the coup de theatre is Alber Elbaz himself joining in the fun. If Lanvin could ever be accused of being too serious, this video goes a long way to redressing the balance.

Just five years ago, these about-turns for such established labels would have seemed unthinkable, but in ensuring their survival, each brand is looking again at how it presents itself to the world. High-street and high-fashion are learning from each other, creating surprises and delights along the way.

What remains steadfast though, is the idea that a good campaign does the leg-work in developing a brand. It’s why designers and companies spend so much in creating that perfect first impression. Right now, fashion needs not just multi-taskers, but faces that go beyond trends; avant-garde, commercial and everything in-between. Breaking the rules in staging campaigns has resulted in a playing field where, quite frankly, anything is possible.

With a career still in its infancy, Julia has already demonstrated she can be that new kind of model that fashion so desperately needs. Her ability to cross boundaries is what will continue to define her career as fashion strives to prove it hasn’t lost its way, but is merely treading new ground. The path less travelled has never seemed so much fun.


Sunday, 11 September 2011


Born in Denmark, 17-year-old Caroline Brasch Nielsen began her career in 2010, signing with Elite, one of the largest modelling agencies in the world.

Despite having a career that has yet to hit the two-year mark, Nielsen is a model who has already learned to think big. Debuting in Paris Fashion Week, she opened the Autumn / Winter 2010 show for Valentino, also walking for Balenciaga, Chanel, Givenchy, Miu Miu and YSL. Unsurprisingly, her impressive catwalk CV caught the eye of website that featured her as a Top 10 Newcomer.

Two months later, Caroline was shooting an editorial for Italian Vogue. Working with photographer Steven Meisel, as far as modelling rites of passage go, this is the classic, star-making ritual. With Meisel’s ability to cherry-pick modelling talent, Caroline starting her editorial career with Italian Vogue was to prove a highly significant move.

A magazine also with a reputation for spotting great model potential, Nielsen’s next assignment was with French Vogue. Shooting ‘Country Club’, Nielsen experienced first-hand the magazine’s penchant for launching new models into the deep end of the editorial experience.

Her ability to remain cool under pressure placed her at an advantage when she undertook her first couture season in July. Closing the show for Valentino, Nielsen also appeared for Elie Saab and Chanel.

Caroline’s developing links with Valentino couldn’t have been better timed. After Valentino himself retired in 2008, its re-launch under new creative direction began somewhat shakily, but finally found its feet with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli at the helm.

No-one has done glamour more perfectly than Valentino, and the handing over of the reins meant a rethink of the whole brand. Maria and Pier kept the sophistication, but brought in a girlish softness that has scored highly with young Hollywood. In previous years, Valentino was perceived a red-carpet label strictly for grown-ups. You rarely saw anyone under 30 wearing the gowns. If the label was to progress, it needed to address this oversight.

Valentino’s enthusiasm for Caroline is not accidental. Her delicate, fresh modernity makes her a perfect fit for the brand’s new look. Still catering to the glamour crowd, the label invites younger fashion fans to participate in the Valentino experience. Light-as-air tulle replaces silk-satin, polka dots instead of sequins; the intelligent application of modernity combined with a respect for the legacy Valentino created, has ensured that this label doesn’t become lost to a new generation of fashion-savvy girls.

Caroline’s affinity with luxury labels continued when she was selected to appear in the A/W Balenciaga ad campaign along with Meghan Collison, Mirte Maas, Stella Tennant and Karen Elson. The quietly-directional series of images is made all the more astonishing when you consider that up to this point, Caroline had been modelling for a period of months, not years.

In September, Nielsen got dual editorial honours for Russian Vogue and Dazed & Confused. With an eponymously-titled editorial in the mix, Caroline was hitting every standard required to make it from good model to great. That same month, she experienced her busiest season to date, clocking up appearances in 60 shows.

These were not just ordinary appearances, but Nielsen managed to open shows for Narciso Rodriguez, Thakoon, Alberta Ferretti and Nina Ricci. Closing the show for Herve Leger, Giambattista Valli, The Row and Valentino, Caroline’s runway celebrity has been well and truly established.

Nielsen walked in every show of note, including Marc Jacobs’ technicolour homage to Seventies New York, and Prada’s show of swirls and stripes that came to define the season. Nielsen’s start in the modelling industry wasn’t just about hype – her ability to command attention was rapidly becoming a highly-valued commodity. Caroline wasn’t only adapting at will, transforming into the perfect Prada girl, but she was immersing herself in every runway look and editorial. It is this quality that has taken Caroline so quickly from ingĂ©nue to star. The good model gets there too, but the model with potential for greatness, makes the transition at break-neck pace.

2010 ended with Nielsen emerging as one of the faces to watch. Still only 9 months into her career, Caroline had become one of fashion’s most bookable girls. Entering 2011, it was announced that Nielsen would be fronting campaigns for both Marc Jacobs and Valentino. The Marc Jacobs campaign represented a spectacular coup for Nielsen: it was one of the seminal looks of the Spring / Summer season, and Marc’s ‘Seventies Show’ was awash with tropical colour played out on an urban scale. It was flirty, playful, evocative and hard to miss.

In January, she scored more couture appearances, working in Paris for Elie Saab, Valentino, Dior and Chanel. It is not hard to figure why the couture houses took to Nielsen. Her adeptness at interpreting a look made her a natural at modelling couture. If ready-to-wear is all about the hard sell, what really counts in Paris is how couture makes you feel. Without that act of seduction on the runway, the collection will fail to have an impact on changing our dressing habits, whether it’s a new hem-length or a bold new colour.

Caroline took those lessons from couture and applied them to one of the most demanding shoots in the fashion repertoire: the beauty close-up. Shooting ‘A Vision of Colour’ for the March edition of Japanese Vogue, this was a postmodern exploration of summer brights. Modelling extreme beauty is a tricky business, as you run the risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer level of artistry involved. Caroline excelled in this editorial, bringing a depth to a subject that could very easily tip over into sugary confection. With no diversionary tactics in play, Caroline’s performance tempers the sweetness, making this shoot a multi-colour feast for the eyes.

Nielsen’s ability at handling challenging work was utilised throughout the year with editorials for W, Numero, Russian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Each one was a test of Caroline’s skills, from W’s ‘Against Nature’ shoot to Harper Bazaar’s youthful, punky spin on ladylike pastels.

Her August shoot for Numero, ‘Cap d’Antibes’, saw Caroline take her interpretative skills to the next level. Moody, strong and sultry – the shoot is a potential game-changer for Nielsen, showing future clients that she is ready and willing to handle fashion’s darker hues. Followed by an editorial for i-d magazine, Caroline is capping the year as she started it: with high-profile campaigns.

Signed again for Valentino’s A/W ad, the campaign showcases texture from the snakeskin boots to the blurred camera tricks, giving the resulting images a dreamy, otherworldly quality. Bridging Valentino’s gift for elegance with modern production values, the label sells us exquisite fashion that is both timeless and contemporary.

As Nielsen’s affiliation with Valentino continues, her ability to exist in two camps, classic and editorial, endows her with that elusive quality; being all things to all designers. Whereas some models are blessed with genetics that place them squarely in one sector, Caroline joins the select list of models who work without limits.

Appearing in ads for fashion houses as diverse as Valentino and Balenciaga, Caroline’s talent for booking campaigns, good ones, at this early stage of her career, marks her out as a very modern money girl. The term refers to any model capable of transforming a label’s fortunes simply by association. If you can raise a brand’s profile from also-ran to must-have, you’re definitely a money girl.

Many of the money girls of the past have been some of modelling’s biggest names: Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen count among the industry’s most influential models: financially, artistically and globally.

The campaign faces of today – Arizona Muse, Raquel Zimmermann – may not be household names like Schiffer or Crawford, but the ‘money girl’ isn’t being phased out, just re-assessed for the 21st century. The persuasive selling techniques are just the same, but the sell isn’t about celebrity, but high-fashion prestige.

The campaign draws you in by stealth. The latest ads for Mulberry, for example, don't trade on big names, but the anonymity of the models make it much easier (and inviting) to imagine yourself in the gloriously eccentric world of Mulberry. They may not have fame on their side, but these new money girls definitely have the x-factor. Rather than relying on star draws, the latest campaigns are putting the fashion first. The model is, in the nicest possible sense, a placeholder for us, the consumer.

It makes our connection with high-fashion much more immediate. At a time where every sale counts, breaking down the barriers people feel when it comes to purchasing a big-ticket item is crucial. How the campaign does this is to remind us what makes the luxury brand so special: the design, the craftsmanship, the feeling that you own an original. That feeling of exclusivity is still high-fashion’s ace up its expertly-stitched sleeve. We are powerless to resist.

Driving this desire for uniqueness are models like Caroline, who will go on to join the raft of new money girls transforming the way high-fashion is sold. With these girls in charge, buying high-fashion becomes an inclusive experience, not a daunting one. It will be an investment that will keep you, and the fashion industry, coming back for more.