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.


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