Sunday, 30 October 2011


Anna Selezneva was born on July 29th 1990. At 21 years old, Anna is already one of fashion’s most-established names.

Russian-born Anna signed with Silent Management in 2007, making her runway debut that October, walking for labels such as Dries Van Noten.

Her impact on the industry grew rapidly, with Anna scoring opening and closing honours in her next ready-to-wear season, opening shows for Balmain and closing for YSL. A huge hit in Paris, Selezneva also walked for Hermes, Lanvin and Louis Vuitton.

Anna’s fresh-faced classic beauty got her noticed by the magazine industry too, with V ranking her one of the Top 10 Models of Autumn / Winter 2008. Also signing a fragrance contract representing the new Vera Wang fragrance, ‘Look’, Selezneva began to create a serious stir, with consecutive magazine covers in September for both French and Russian Vogue.

The French Vogue cover, photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, became a contemporary classic. Anna, evoking supermodels of the Eighties, faced the camera head-on to make an unforgettable impression. Three years later, it has become an image closely affiliated with brand Selezneva: cool, modern glamour.

Anna’s stock began to rise even further, walking in the September shows for Calvin Klein as an exclusive. Her popularity among the world’s designers soared as she was chosen to open S/S shows for Alberta Ferretti, Balmain, Ungaro, plus closing shows for Valentino and Rue du Mail. A slew of editorials followed Anna’s success on the runway, with appearances in V, French Vogue and Russian Vogue.

2009 saw Anna take on even bigger challenges, starting with a shoot with Terry Richardson for the French Vogue calendar. She also made the cover of Italian Vogue in January, working alongside Anna Jagodzinska and Viktoriya Sasonkina. In a cover called ‘Revolution 2009’, Italian Vogue celebrated the explosion of Russian modelling talent with all three models featuring in a high-fashion beauty shot. Wearing flesh-coloured skull-caps, the models worked their Slavic beauty to make a highly original and striking cover.

February saw Anna enjoy her busiest runway season to date, with over 40 appearances on the world’s catwalks. Again opening the show for Balmain (a label gaining in popularity through its revival of the Eighties bold shoulder), Anna also closed shows for Herve Leger, Rodarte and Etro.

She undertook cover duty again in March, this time for Japanese Vogue. Her standing within the modelling industry was cemented when she signed up to front YSL’s fragrance ‘Elle Shocking’. Photographed wearing the famous YSL Le Smoking jacket, Anna’s unique mix of classic beauty and je ne sais quoi helped the fragrance become one of YSL’s biggest success stories.

Filling the next few months with editorials for V, i-D and French Vogue, Anna had her first couture season in July with shows for Elie Saab and Valentino Couture. Her connection with Valentino continued into the autumn, with the opening slot for the RTW show going to Selezneva. Also closing the show for Burberry, Anna was continuing to charm designers from season to season.

Anna ended 2009 with a bang, appearing in a now-famous Italian Vogue editorial, photographed by Steven Meisel. ‘Meiselpic’ was a Twitter-inspired spread featuring top models, past and present. Selezneva’s status moved from newcomer to established, as she took her place among models such as Gisele, Jamie Bochert, Lara Stone and Christy Turlington.

Selezneva began 2010 undertaking another editorial with Italian Vogue. Steven Meisel’s ‘Runway’, took the backstage scenes at Fashion Week and turned them into high-fashion montages. Meisel again used the cream of the fashion crop, hiring new faces such as Gwen Loos and Jac Jagaciak who both got their big break on this epic editorial.

Busier than ever, Anna took on campaign duty for Emporio Armani and appeared in back-to-back editorials for French Vogue, Japanese Vogue, Numero and Harper’s Bazaar. With her credits growing month to month, Selezneva returned to Paris in July to appear in the couture shows, adding Dior and Chanel to her CV.

Autumn 2010 saw Anna take on two massive campaigns for two of the biggest labels in fashion: Ralph Lauren and Versace. An obvious choice for Lauren’s classic palette of Americana, Selezneva was a surprise hit in the Versace ad, working with models such as Iselin Steiro and Valerija Kelava. The ad eschewed the hyper-groomed Versace siren look, favouring a youthful, street-style glamour. It was the start of a new era for the Italian label, working hard to win over a new generation of fans, with the brand going full circle in its reinvention with the hiring of Saskia de Brauw in 2011.

Anna renewed both her contracts with Emporio Armani and Ralph Lauren in 2011, beginning the year with more couture shows (Armani Prive, Valentino and Chanel). Selezneva continued the year with cover and editorial credits, working for French, Russian and Japanese Vogue. The editorials ranged from high-fashion shoots with Hedi Slimane for Japanese Vogue to opulent, fine jewellery spreads for Russian Vogue.

With a strong call-sheet for Spring / Summer 2012, Anna is still proving an irresistible force for many of fashion’s biggest names. Walking for labels such as Chanel, Dior, Isabel Marant and Gareth Pugh, Selezneva remains at the top of her game four years into her career.

The reason for Anna’s ongoing success isn’t hard to figure. Even in an industry built around beauty, faces like Anna’s simply don’t come around that often. Beautiful by any standard, Selezneva has become an established figure in modelling because her perfect proportions make her able to sell virtually any product to anyone. Regardless of whether it’s diamonds to the Russian elite or American style for the devotees of Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, Anna’s face is a perfect fit every time.

Anna has not only survived in this industry, but excelled because her beauty can handle fashion’s trickier aspects. The prospect of modelling for left-field labels such as Lanvin and Balmain can often mean classic beauty being a liability rather than an asset. Anna is a favourite with these designers because she understands what their label demands, and delivers every time. Her edgier editorials with magazines like Numero and V should by rights belong to quirky, off-beat beauties, but Selezneva convinces because she can play against the commercial aspect of her beauty.

Not afraid to get ugly is what has made Anna not just another beauty, but a true fashion superstar. Challenging, avant-garde work courtesy of Japanese Vogue works a different set of fashion muscles compared to a campaign with Calvin Klein, but mastering both requires genuine insight. Anna’s intelligent approach to each assignment has made her consistently in-demand across the world. She tailors her beauty to every new editorial, campaign or cover, as some will require it takes centre stage, while other bookings will insist that her features be played down.

Success stories like Anna’s are unusual because classic beauty hasn’t been in vogue for some time. We have seen doll-like, Pre-Raphaelite beauty; streetwise androgynous beauty and quirky faces that are all about that one killer feature. Between Lindsey Wixson’s pout and Arizona Muse’s strong, determined brows, conventional beauty hasn’t had much time in the spotlight. Seen as inflexible or even dated, designers have chosen to side-step classic beauty in favour of edgy faces that offer themselves up as a blank canvas. Anna is no blank canvas, but her adaptability in front of the lens has meant that fashion has had to take a fresh look at what was once termed ‘commercial beauty’. With newer faces such as Joan Smalls and Emily Di Donato scooping major campaigns, the line that was once drawn, clearly marking the territory between commercial and high-fashion has now been blurred. It isn’t a case of taking preference of one type of beauty over another: now there is room for both.

Selezneva has succeeded where others have failed because her modern, custom-made approach has made her perfect for high-fashion. Even with a face most would consider essential for working in the fashion industry, Anna comes equipped with the knowledge and awareness that beauty isn’t always enough. Fashion is consistent in its need for change, and being a one-note performer will ensure a career that expires before its time. Anna’s willingness to embrace an aesthetic that plays against her beauty has made her not only relevant, but a contemporary tour-de-force. Anna’s career is a great example of playing the hand you’re dealt. Beauty is a great place to start, but fashion will always ask for something more.


Sunday, 23 October 2011


Born on July 16th 1991, Dutch model Mirte Maas has in two short years turned a niche look into a career that’s anything but narrow.

Signing with Women Management in 2009, Mirte’s career started quickly with an editorial for Russian Vogue in August. She made her international catwalk debut in September, opening shows for Alexander Wang, Donna Karan and YSL.

It was the type of season that most models work years developing. Mirte walked for every major designer including a blockbuster moment at the Prada show in Milan. Also booked by Prada were Lisanne di Jong and Patricia van der Vliet, both from the Netherlands.

Bringing a cool new aesthetic to the catwalk, the three models created a stir. Everything in the Spring / Summer 2010 collection was either cropped or heavily embellished – silk Hawaiian-print jackets were paired with sandals loaded with crystals. It was a very new type of summertime glamour, and Mirte, Lisanne and Patricia seemed the perfect girls to sell it. After a few shaky seasons, Prada was back on form, producing highly-covetable pieces, destined to be reproduced across the high-street. The prints were the most popular, showering the high-street with retro panoramic views of Italy and France. Offering a serious alternative to florals, Miuccia’s hunch that there was an appetite for print proved to be right on the money. It was Prada’s most influential collection in years.

Mirte’s career was launched on the back of this appearance at the Prada show. She along, with Lisanne and Patricia, became fashion’s latest obsession. In October 2009, featured Mirte as a Top 10 Newcomer.

Her status was confirmed in early 2010 when she was announced as one of the new faces in Balenciaga’s S/S campaign. Also featuring running mates Lisanne and Patricia with established model Iselin Steiro, the ad was shot by Steven Meisel.

The now-famous ‘Photoshop’ ad, packed with colour and energy, made a huge impression. While other campaigns were peddling pastels and neutrals, Balenciaga’s left-field palette of green, orange and yellow packed a punch. Playing with proportions, the startling visuals made the advert bold and contemporary. Whether you loved it or loathed it, there was no ignoring it. Like Prada, Balenciaga is a label that takes the road less travelled, and being associated with such a label did Mirte’s career no harm as her campaign debut set the tone for the rest of the year.

Following a campaign for Calvin Klein, Mirte’s career took another step up when she featured in her first Italian Vogue editorial. She appeared in ‘Runway’, a multi-page editorial and tons of behind-the-scenes footage intercut with runway shots. It was all a construct, with Meisel pulling the strings to create an editorial with an authentic, documentary feel.

Meisel’s choice to explore this subject proved him to be ahead of the curve. Those candid shots you see in magazines of models waiting to take to the catwalk have gained massively in value. The energy, sometimes frenetic, but always exciting, is perfect drama for a photographer’s lens. Meisel saw the potential of this kind of photograph, and now these photos are as commonplace as the runway stills.

Following her first couture season in Paris, Mirte had her first magazine cover in February, landing the front page of Chinese Vogue with model Shu Pei. It was a significant move, with the importance of breaking into new fashion territories becoming ever more crucial. China has a genuine appreciation for luxury goods and high-fashion is right at the top of that list. Playing to this fashion-hungry crowd could signal real mobility for Mirte’s career within the next few years.

Mirte’s runway season in February was another success, opening shows for Sonia Rykiel and Balenciaga. She also walked for designers who represented the best of mainstream and avant-garde: Chanel, Derek Lam, Elie Saab, Marc Jacobs, Marni, Nina Ricci, Preen, Rag & Bone, The Row, Valentino and YSL.

With a smattering of editorial work for W, Japanese Vogue and Numero over the next few months, Mirte booked another slot with American Vogue in May. Photographed by David Sims, ‘American Experience’ was the great American novel in fashion form. It was a truly epic editorial, featuring Edith Wharton-style debutantes in Oscar de la Renta gowns to celebrating the classic white shirt from Calvin Klein. It explored the minutiae of American experience through its fashion, showcasing not only the big names but demonstrating how diverse American fashion has now become.

Compared to the glittering excesses of Paris and the sleek chic of Milan, America has at times struggled to find its voice. But its willingness to embrace new cultures through years of immigration has led to a range of exciting new designers that are offering a view of American fashion that’s anything but apple pie. Thakoon, publicly supported by US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, has a design sensibility that merges street style with razor-sharp directional tailoring. Jason Wu and Derek Lam are the heirs to old-school designers such as Oscar de la Renta, reinventing glamour for a new generation. Some editorials go further than just showcasing new trends – this one demonstrated how far America has come in letting its voice be heard.

Renewing her campaign contract with Balenciaga in the autumn, Mirte once again wowed on the A/W runway with a 44-show season. Modelling for many of the same designers who had booked her as a new face just one year ago, she was proving that the ‘Dutch fad’ was anything but a passing phase.

Ending the year with back-to-back editorials for Chinese and Spanish Vogue, 2011 began with Mirte making a splash in American Vogue. Appearing in ‘New Order’, an introduction of the year’s big-hitters, Maas also appeared in the Spring / Summer preview featured in the magazine’s February edition. ‘Gangs of New York’, shot by Mario Testino, hired every top model available to appear in fashion tribes in a mega editorial. Mirte appeared in the section featuring designs from Donna Karan.

Mirte experienced her best ready-to-wear season in February with 52 shows. Maas appeared in every show of note including Burberry, Chanel, Hakaan, Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung and Versace.

She also built up her couture CV in July, with shows for Armani Prive, Valentino, Chanel, Elie Saab and Giambattista Valli. 2011is turning out to be a golden age for haute couture, with the couture houses proving surprisingly resilient at keeping up with the changes in the fashion market. Creativity has been fashion’s chief response to the recession and it seems to be working, with the best designers continuing to flourish. The desire for fashion hasn’t gone away – we just want more bang for our buck, and that’s exactly what they’re giving us.

With a Valentino campaign lined up for Autumn / Winter 2011, Mirte had a knockout season in September with 41 shows, including appearances in some of the best shows of a particularly strong season. Walking for Christopher Kane, Valentino and Rodarte, Mirte has settled her reputation as a runway and editorial stalwart.

Outliving the initial buzz surrounding her first season, Mirte has emerged two years later with a career that shows real promise of enduring at the very top levels of the industry.

Her impeccable runway credentials point to just how important catwalk remains. Now streamed live on the internet, shows are viewed by millions, rather than a select industry few. In the trifecta of runway-editorial-campaign, runway remains the quickest route to industry approval.

It is often the first glimpse of a new collection, making the hiring of models absolutely crucial. The right dress on the wrong model can spell disaster. Whether the collection is well-received on the catwalk will then have a deciding factor on whether the pieces are used for editorials. A prolific presence in the world’s fashion magazines then gives the campaign serious selling power. Success at this level determines sales on the shop floor, ranging from actual collection items to add-ons such as bags, shoes and fragrance. The push at the start of the season can determine a label’s financial momentum for the rest of the year. Mirte’s ability to command attention on the runway is a skill that puts her at a premium.

The trajectory of Mirte’s career shows that what is beginning to emerge in this decade is not one new interpretation of the term ‘supermodel’, but several. You have campaign regulars – such as Anja Rubik, Karlie Kloss and Jacquelyn Jablonski – and then you have the models who command attention on the world’s runways and in the pages of top magazines.

But one isn’t taking precedence over the other – their level of success and standing within the industry is impossible to separate. It’s a move away from the polarisation that occurred in the Eighties, setting editorial / runway girls against the models who scooped the campaigns and magazine covers. Those who did covers were rarely seen as editorial stock, and vice versa.

With the following decade came a need for compromise. As finances became squeezed, choices had to be made, and suddenly the idea of a small band of supermodels having a monopoly on all the good jobs seemed not only unfair but not particularly good for business. The high prices requested by the Eighties supermodels could not continue, and widening the market meant new models offering more for less. It was a pivotal move, and has resulted in the modelling industry we see today. By rejecting the old rules, the diversity that allows an editorial model to get campaign bookings with mainstream clients such as Calvin Klein, makes modelling a more even playing field - it also makes it more interesting

Mirte’s fortunes have taken her from being a niche model on Prada’s runway to scoring the kind of editorials and campaigns that are spelling out a highly successful future. The age of the Supers may have gone, but Mirte’s achievements make her no less impressive. Her ability to do it all, from mainstream to the cutting edge of fashion, makes Mirte a very modern interpretation of supermodel. While the term is getting redefined for a new age, the strengths required remain the same.


Sunday, 16 October 2011


Born in Russia on February 28th 1982, Natalia Vodianova is one of modelling’s most popular faces.

A campaign regular for Calvin Klein and Stella McCartney, Vodianova was first discovered at the age of 16 working on a market stall. That same year, Natalia moved to Paris and signed with Viva Management. After a flurry of early modelling bookings, Natalia took a year out after giving birth to her first son, Lucas, returning with a bang in 2002.

Natalia signed a fragrance contract with Gucci and in March opened the Autumn / Winter show for YSL in Paris. She also booked a campaign with Louis Vuitton and closed 2002 with the cover of Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel. Natalia’s success continued into 2003 and 2004 with a 49-show runway season and a slew of international Vogue covers.

Signing with Calvin Klein in 2005, Vodianova’s career went into overdrive. A bond that continues to this day, Natalia’s mix of edgy beauty and classic appeal made her an ideal fit for the American super-brand. The signing made Natalia a visible presence on an international level.

Nabbing her second Italian Vogue cover in May, Vodianova renewed her contract with Calvin Klein in 2006, including additional duties representing the label’s newest fragrance, ‘Euphoria’.

Calvin Klein has led the market in making the link between high-fashion and fragrance. A ubiquitous presence in the 80’s and 90’s with ‘Eternity’ and ‘Obsession’, Calvin Klein has succeeded where others have failed because of their ability to identify their customer-base. Every fragrance developed by the brand is individually targeted at a particular group of consumers, from the design of the bottle to the faces hired to carry the campaign. The brand’s clarity in focusing on who they’re selling to has made them one of the most successful perfume-makers in the world.

For Natalia, to not only scoop the initial campaign, but to still be representing the fragrance six years on, puts her in a highly select group of models. Clothing campaigns come and go, but there is something compelling about a good fragrance campaign. When the chemistry is right, the bond between the model and the fragrance can last a lifetime. Natalia’s long-standing affiliation with the scent has turned ‘Euphoria’ into a modern classic.

2007 saw Natalia return to the catwalk in February, opening the A/W show for Calvin Klein. Renewing her contract with the American label, her star-power was in evidence when she appeared on the cover of American Vogue. 2007 was clearly a year for cover-sharing, with Natalia being the only model to have a solo US Vogue cover that year. That charisma translated into serious cash, with Natalia being ranked by Forbes magazine as the 5th highest-paid model in the world, earning an estimated $4.5 million in 2006.

As one of fashion’s biggest names, Natalie got to work on some incredible projects. In January 2008, Natalia was asked to both open and close Valentino’s final couture show in Paris. A true fashion event, the designer behind the Valentino label retired in 2008 with one final, glorious triumph.

The show was a love-letter to glamour, and the ending of the show saw every model take to the catwalk in identical Valentino-red gowns. From a career that started with dressing Jackie Kennedy in the Sixties, to transforming red-carpet dressing, Valentino remains shorthand for sophisticated, Italian glamour. Natalia’s role was pivotal as a long-time favourite of the designer, and she was able to pay tribute to a life’s work that continues to have a huge impact on fashion.

Natalia’s place within the fashion industry was confirmed with an editorial in May 2009’s edition of American Vogue. Titled ‘The Godfather’, US Vogue paid homage to the extraordinary career of Steven Meisel.

The photographer’s star-finding abilities were proudly celebrated, collating every top model that Meisel ever backed. It is fair to say that without Meisel’s unique eye for new talent, the landscape of the modelling world would look very different. Vodianova’s first Italian Vogue cover in 2002 was with Meisel and her ability to command top-dollar comes from those early positive experiences that gave her the confidence to take on those big-money assignments.

Natalia worked with Meisel again, collaborating on the December ’09 issue of Italian Vogue. The cover, ‘Meisel Pic’, and the accompanying editorial, ‘Following’, are a Twitter-esque parody, featuring a ‘friends list’ of some of the world’s best-known models. Gisele, Lara Stone and Christy Turlington all got their pose on, creating faux-profile pictures.

The result was a witty appraisal of the boom in self-portraiture featured on social media websites. Putting the spotlight on these technological developments which are continuing to evolve the way we consume and enjoy fashion, re-affirmed Meisel’s ability to examine the new and the next.

Natalia’s status continued to soar when she got an entire issue of Vogue to herself in May 2010. Featuring throughout Chinese Vogue, Natalia appeared in a range of editorials photographed by Paolo Roversi, Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier. Comparable to Natasha Poly’s solo issue for Russian Vogue, this rare honour is only offered to the truly great models.

Natalia proved her worth again in July 2010, shooting an extensive editorial for American Vogue. Shot by Peter Lindbergh, Natalia was partnered with actor Ewan McGregor. In a spread that combined Hitchcock with domestic drama, it illustrated the type of narrative modelling that Natalia excels at.

In late 2010, Natalia joined Karen Elson and Christy Turlington in shooting one of the top campaigns of the season. Appearing for Louis Vuitton, this was one of the most striking images of the fashion year. Natalia, Christy and Karen showed off their fashion prowess in designs that were unapologetically feminine. From the cutting table to the pages of Vogue, this collection was a winner on every front.

Finishing the year with an opening slot in Roberto Cavalli’s 40th anniversary show in Milan, Natalia began 2011 with more editorial work, including British Vogue’s bridal edition.

Released to coincide with the Royal Wedding, the multi-cover special featured Natalia in couture bridal-wear. With every aspect of bridal fashion covered as only Vogue can, it was a resounding counter to anyone who assumed that the British can’t do romance.

More editorial work followed, with a spread for US Vogue photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. ‘My Generation’ was a retro-styled shoot with references to the novel ‘Brighton Rock’ to give it some bite. It was stylish, coded rebellion, making the editorial look and feel absolutely authentic.

With over ten years in the business, Vodianova continues to book some of fashion’s most-coveted jobs. Scoring a place on the A/W Givenchy campaign with Mariacarla Boscono, Naomi Campbell and Kristen McMenamy, Givenchy went with bold casting choices, choosing experienced models all at the top of their game, proving that as far as high-fashion is concerned; age really is just a number.

Vodianova’s longevity is about more than sheer beauty. Having a face capable of producing looks from chocolate-box prettiness to haute couture complexity, Natalia has utilised her natural gifts to carve out a unique place in fashion history.

Being the prettiest girl in the room isn’t a guarantee of success, and Vodianova has achieved greatness by using that face with purpose. Natalia’s genius is in generating intention behind every shot. Whether it’s conveying dramatic tension or wistful yearning, she is one of the best in the business.

Story-telling is at the heart of great fashion, whether that’s on the runway or in a blockbuster campaign. Drawing the consumer into the story is central to the high-fashion experience. Design and tailoring may make the clothes, but in order to sell them, you need a little magic. Our primitive need to create stories is what makes print work crucial to the success of the fashion industry, even when so much of the fashion experience is now online. If we identify with the story, the label can’t fail to make it big.

The A/W 2010 campaign for Louis Vuitton is a brilliant example of how this strategy works. The genius of this campaign was in persuading us that fashion had become a friendlier place for curves, with most of the pieces needing extra shape to fill them out correctly. The idea that high-fashion was just to be enjoyed in its abstract form was transformed overnight. The gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ got narrower.

The fear that consumer power would stifle creativity hasn’t been realised. The latest A/W collections are eminently wearable but the touches of daring design are still present from Prada’s fur-covered trenches to Marc Jacobs’ bold, magnified touches of luxury. Persuading us to take these sartorial leaps of faith are models like Natalia who make us want to get involved. Fashion should never be a spectator sport; Vodianova’s ability to sell us not only the dream of high-fashion, but the actual day-to-day experience of wearing it, is what has kept her in such demand.

Her latest campaigns with Stella McCartney and Givenchy illustrate how fashion is learning to mould itself to its core customers. McCartney’s slip dress of the Nineties has given way to sophisticated nostalgia. On Natalia, Eighties polka-dots and sheer panels are not a hard sell.

As Natalia heads towards her thirties, she is becoming the poster-girl for a generation that is determined to grow up gracefully. The same group who were caught between grunge and girlie abandon are pushing the fashion industry into a new era where fashion literacy and high-expectations are the norm.

Natalia’s generation have grown up knowing not only the big-name labels, but the smaller, niche brands. Catering to this crowd requires an intelligent approach, making fashion that’s real-life applicable but audaciously creative. These consumers are prepared to give difficult clothes a go, even when other age-groups shy away from them, and that makes them one of the most-valued demographics in fashion today.

Selling to this age group requires a face they can trust. As their peer, Vodianova’s modelling style registers as cool, collected and seductive, but most of all, honest. Natalia’s charm is in her ability to quietly challenge our fashion perspectives, our most firmly-held sartorial beliefs.

Making light of fashion’s hardest task, Natalia’s soft approach to the hard-sell has made us powerless to resist. A gifted and subtle story-teller, Natalia’s way changes us by degrees. A quiet revolutionary, and still continuing to challenge the perceived wisdom, Natalia’s gentle persuasion has made her one of modelling’s truest pioneers.