Sunday, 27 March 2011


It’s a truth universally acknowledged that on entering the modelling industry, there’s only one rule to remember: fashion is a business. It’s creative, yes, and fun, but in the end, fashion boils down to pounds and pence, and the moment comes when you have to ask yourself: what am I worth?
Style: uncovered

Being a successful model is all about marketing. Starting out in a crowded industry is a daunting prospect, but knowing your own value and how to market that is half the battle won. If you take a look at some of today’s high-achievers, what they all have in common is a finely-tuned sense of personal style. Kate Moss is the most obvious example. Her knack of blending vintage and designer has made her a millionaire, but you don’t need to look much further to see that knowing your own style can get you results.

Freja Beha [pictured] may be versatile enough to go from H&M to Chanel, but her tomboy chic is in every editorial and campaign. Not so much so that is interferes with what the client wants (her look in the latest ads for Louis Vuitton renders her almost unrecognisable), but you look at any photo of Freja you get a very clear picture of the person she is. It’s the same with other top models: Raquel Zimmermann = bold, grown-up sensuality, Sasha Pivovarova = quirky, artsy femininity.

If you know who you are, selling yourself becomes that much easier. Think about your likes and dislikes – not just in fashion, but music, art, films, everything. Your tastes often dictate your style. A penchant for ballet pumps can often be traced back to repeated viewings of ‘Roman Holiday’.

When you’ve narrowed down what you do like – as well as the things you definitely don’t – think about how this has shaped you as a person. Our sense of style soaks up virtually every influence around us: you may be surprised at what, and who, has made a lasting impact.

Whether you’re a tomboy and proud of it, or the quintessential girl next door, this will have an effect on everything you do and the way you do it. From how you interact with clients, your strengths, your weaknesses – even the way you approach working the runway. The models that do particularly well at runway have a walk that’s not only distinctive but is as individual as a fingerprint. It works because they’re doing what feels right for them. They may tweak it for certain shows and designers, sassing it up for Dolce & Gabbana, or hitting the slow-burn for Prada, but a good walk is the bedrock of a model’s personal style. You can watch up-to-date runway footage on YouTube for technical pointers – but a catwalk style is ultimately a process of evolution: keep at it and your walk will eventually emerge.

Style: go-sees

For most models, this is where it all goes right – or horribly wrong. The best defence is a good strategy – and this means dressing the part. Most working models adopt a ‘go-see uniform’. As you get more experience, you will figure out what you need to take with you and what’s surplus to requirements, but as a starting point, your basic go-see kit should include these things:

- A spare set of underwear (nude, as this works best all colours) - Pair of heels (plain stilettos / platforms) - Smart phone or current A-Z if you’re feeling more traditional. - Water / snacks (especially if it’s a day of back-to-back go-sees. Passing out is never chic) - Small grooming kit (concealer / hair bands / grips / hairspray or wax)

When it comes to the actual go-see uniform, think clean and streamlined. The key to self-presentation for a go-see is to let the client see you without crazy colours or tons of accessories getting in the way. A white or neutral-coloured vest and a decent pair of jeans should be all you need. If a client wants something different to this, you will be told in advance.

With make-up, approach it from the client’s point of view. They want to see you, not your skill with a foundation brush. A light day moisturiser should be enough – with a touch of concealer here and there if your skin needs a little help. A light-diffusing concealer is ideal as this will photograph better. Clients often take a Polaroid shot as a type of visual note-taking. Prepping your skin the night before is a fantastic idea: a good skin scrub will give your skin a quick overhaul, but reserve any mask treatments for after go-sees: most masks are designed to draw out impurities. Don’t be tempted to try a new product the night before a go-see. When you’re stressed, your skin can behave in unpredictable ways: don’t give it an excuse to flare up and stick to products you know and trust.

Style: events

There are occasions when as a model you might be invited to an industry event. Whether the invite comes via your agency or a client, there’s definite subtext. An event like this isn’t just a party with great cocktails and fancy nibbles. It’s also an opportunity for you to get yourself noticed.

Scan any tabloid after the weekend, and celebs will give you a comprehensive lesson in how not to impress. Think of it not so much as a party but a job interview with heels and appetisers, because that’s potentially what it is.

Dressing for industry events can be a minefield: you want to glam it up; make an impact, but there’s a fine line between glamour and glo-worm. When in doubt, head back to your personal style.

Regardless of whether your fashion tastes run to the bohemian, or you’re more of a classicist, one tip is to ditch the black for one night and go with colour. Parties, especially where the stakes are high, are notorious for quashing people’s fashion instincts and have them scurrying back to black. Wearing colour will not only make you stand out in a crowd but it will project confidence, even if you’re feeling nervous. It’s a good way of faking inner-calm and serene self-confidence when you’re feeling anything but zen. Think of it as sartorial smoke and mirrors!

Style: getting personal

Knowing how to present yourself for go-sees or events is part of the process, but the key to being successful (and happy) while modelling is knowing to present yourself from the inside out. Modelling is all about self-projection. You don’t have to be the most vocal person in the room, but being able to put across your personality, whatever it is, goes an awful long way.

Thinking about your style – the way you walk on a runway, how you talk to clients, will give you an insight into the model you’re destined to be. There’s no point in trying to squeeze yourself into the glamazon mould if you’re more of a girl-next-door type. Think about how you interact with friends and family – what would they say your best qualities are? It sounds a scary prospect, but you could ask them – another person can often provide a fascinating insight – highlighting plus-points you never thought you had. Maybe your listening skills are the best thing about you – perfect for deciphering briefs from photographers and clients. Or perhaps it’s an ability to mix well with others – absolutely essential for the modelling business.

Your personality, more than any physical attribute, will inform the type of modelling career you will have. Going into the industry knowing not only your personal style, but your style of personality, will make the whole process that much easier. If you’re that girl-next-door type and you’re sent on a swimwear go-see more suited to glamazons, being turned down for the job won’t feel like a personal rejection but just a client making decisions about what’s best for their brand. That’s the secret to viewing rejection: it isn’t personal at all.

Modelling can be a very tough business, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t know what to expect. But if you start on firm foundations, you will have a clearer vision of where you want your career to go, and any journey’s quicker when you have the right map.


Monday, 21 March 2011


Born in Latvia on the 30th June 1989, Ginta Lapina started her modelling career in 2005, signing with MC2 Management in New York. She secured her first editorial with Teen Vogue in December ’05, working with legendary photographer Arthur Elgort.

Ginta made her runway debut in 2007, walking for the Spring / Summer 2008 show for designer Benjamin Cho. After only 1 runway appearance, featured Lapina as their model of the week. Usually models have to work much longer to get noticed, but Ginta proved to be exceptional right from the start.

Signing on with Women Management in 2008, Ginta’s runway credits got a major boost in 2009. Her quirky features made her an automatic stand-out, and in February she booked appearances for Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Proenza Schouler, Sportmax and YSL. In September, that number increased to include Alberta Ferretti, Balenciaga, Cacharel, Derek Lam, Donna Karan, Jason Wu, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Rodarte, Valentino and Versace. Lapina’s unusual looks – not quite full glamour, too delicate to be just quirky – made her an ideal choice for these labels. She suited the girlish quality of Alberta Ferretti and Cacharel, handling the Parisian high-fashion chic of Lanvin and the super-glamour of Versace. Her hard-to-define looks gave her an automatic advantage in runway, and this versatility had a snowball effect on the rest of Ginta’s career.

She scored an editorial with Italian Flair in November and a Numero spread with photographer Greg Kadel in December. The accolades kept coming, including a feature in America’s Marie Claire magazine, with Lapina being photographed alongside Donatella Versace. Fashion’s new favourite also started to reel in the big-money campaigns with Lapina becoming the new face for the label of the moment, Derek Lam.

Ginta got her first international Vogue credit in January 2010, with an editorial for Russian Vogue and in February enjoyed a stellar RTW season. In one year, she had almost doubled her bookings – designers were hooked on the Ginta effect, included Balmain, Isabel Marant, Jean Paul Gaultier, Moschino, Prada and Roberto Cavalli.

In March, Ginta was booked for a beauty editorial with Italian Vogue. Photographed by Solve Sundsbo, the brief was ultra modern punk pastels. Lapina slotted into this type of editorial remarkably easily. Some high-fashion shoots can risk looking flat and remote, but Ginta’s complex, layered performance was ideal for Italian Vogue, a magazine that prides itself on taking a uniquely cerebral approach to fashion.

Ginta was soon able to add another campaign to her CV, when it was announced that she would be appearing in the A/W advert for MaxMara diffusion label, Sportmax. In a season where simplicity ruled, this ad was defiantly complex. Ginta’s bleached hair and pale skin almost melt into the background, making the clothes the centre of attention. Styled to the nth degree, this ad stood out for taking a very different approach when measured against what was happening in the fashion world.

Sometimes choosing to go right when everyone else is heading left can leave you feeling a little exposed, but fashion lives for those out-of-step moments, the ones that end up propelling the industry forward in a way it never saw coming. In a season where classics dominated the fashion agenda, Sportmax’s campaign felt bold and fresh. The campaign’s success took Sportmax’s reputation from supporting act to a label in its own right.

Ginta’s campaign trail continued with a signing for the A/W Miu Miu ad. Becoming a Miu Miu girl alongside Lindsey Wixson and Siri Tollerod, was an excellent match for Ginta’s skillset. Ginta made a terrific Miu Miu model, absorbing the label’s 60’s-inspired look but keeping it contemporary, not costume. Miu Miu’s idiosyncratic brand identity has been ultra successful in wooing young Hollywood away from the traditional glitz and glamour, and a solid campaign goes a long way in that seduction. Labels are still willing to spend big on getting the right result from a campaign, and Ginta paired with Lindsey and Siri was an example of perfect casting.

Ginta’s runway career continued to blossom through 2010, with opening honours from Sportmax, Rue du Mail and Versace. Already a favourite with Donatella, Ginta’s role was to set the tone for the entire show and that’s no small ask. Versace is a deceptive label: playing the Versace vixen looks like simplicity itself – you strut, you pout. But keeping Versace on the right side of sexy is notoriously difficult. Get it wrong, and Versace goes from sexy to sleazy in a heart-beat. Ginta’s wealth of campaign experience gave her an automatic advantage in the importance of staying on-message, and nowhere is this more crucial than on the runway. The shots taken from the bottom of the runway last forever: strike a flat note and it’s preserved for years to come.

Applying these hard-won skills to editorial work, Ginta signed up for a multi-page layout with W, photographed by duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Called ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, the shoot was vintage Americana, paying homage to the work of painter Edward Hopper. This was no ordinary editorial, and its success relied on the model’s ability to convey emotion and intent. Ginta delivered and the resulting images were fashion meets art, the moment where the photographs go beyond selling dresses. Normally a feat reserved for French, American or Italian Vogue, the editorial was a triumph for W, and a resounding counter to those who say fashion has nothing of substance or depth to offer.

This year has already started off well for Lapina. Her Sportmax contract has been renewed for another season; her success in taking Sportmax’s value through the roof means she has become a must-have for diffusion labels. Also signed to represent Marc by Marc Jacobs for Spring / Summer 2011, Lapina’s profile is set to go beyond the realms of high fashion, taking her into that select group of models – Beha, Stone, Wixson, Kloss, Kershaw – who are the closest approximation to supermodels the fashion industry has.

The reason for their success is that they are one step removed from being glossy perfection, and those imperfections are what have made them famous. Lara Stone’s bombshell looks are off-set by that gap in her teeth; Lindsey Wixson’s trademark pout almost threatens to overwhelm her face and Karlie Kloss’ girl-next-door persona should rule her out from doing more grown-up shoots, but she is the current face of Oscar de la Renta.

Today’s best models – and Ginta is among them – are girls who, in theory, shouldn’t be gracing the cover of Italian Vogue, or walking in couture shows for Chanel and Valentino, but they are doing all of these things and more because what’s ‘wrong’ is what makes them so 'right' for the industry.

Ginta’s look may seem challenging – almost a throwback to the alien-esque beauties of the mid-Nineties. Her shoot for Italian Vogue was high-fashion heaven; blue-sky, no-holds-barred styling and lashings of attitude. But look closer, and the shoot isn’t just about the power of a good blusher. Ginta humanises the shoot by telling a story with her facial expressions and body language. Beauty modelling can be incredibly tricky to master, because there’s nowhere to hide. But Lapina lets herself be vulnerable, and it takes the shoot to another level – it’s not just another beauty spread.

The days of absolute perfection are long gone. There’s always room for heady glamour and sophistication, but the best work of recent years - the most memorable editorials, campaigns and runway shows - have been where perfection takes a back-seat to creativity. Where fashion has shifted in the past two years is in its willingness to look at the positives. Exclusivity and ‘it’ pieces have fallen by the wayside in favour of inclusion, inspiration and great design. It’s not about what’s missing, but exploring what works, what feels right. Ginta’s appeal lies in that game-changing face. The face that shouldn’t work has become the avant-garde look that has no limits, accounting for a CV that includes bookings from Derek Lam to Topshop.

Ginta’s curious mix of soft femininity, streetwise cool and high-fashion haughtiness works perfectly in an industry where the top players are meeting expectations by defying them. Her bleached-out, stylised beauty has inspired across the board from Italian Vogue to copycat makeovers on ‘America’s Next Top Model’, but as she joins the next generation shaping the fashion industry, Lapina succeeds where others follow because she is a true original.


Sunday, 13 March 2011


Born in Italy to an Egyptian family, Elisa Sednaoui has become this season’s hot ticket. A muse to Karl Lagerfeld, god-daughter to Christian Louboutin – Elisa’s career is anything but tokenism.

With her parents’ divorce in 1994, Sednaoui moved to France and began modelling in 2006 at the age of 19. In April that year, she made the move to New York to actively pursue a full-time career in modelling.
The move proved worthwhile with a campaign for H&M in 2007, a campaign for Victoria’s Secret and a part in film ‘Neither Before Nor After’, working with director Sharunas Bartas.

In 2008, Elisa signed a fragrance contract with Diesel to become the face of their prolific ‘Fuel for Life’ campaign, photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth. In August she got the cover of French ‘L’Officiel’, and walked in shows in September for designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Tuleh, Betsey Johnson and Costume National.

2009 saw Elisa’s career step up a gear with a signing for John Frieda haircare, and an early runway season walking for Catherine Malandrino, Tuleh and Diane Von Furstenberg.

In April and May, she scored back-to-back editorials with Italian Marie Claire, Italian Flair and German Vogue. Elisa became the face of the Diesel label in 2010, also modelling for the S/S Hogan campaign.

Her first big break, however, came in March when she appeared in an editorial for Numero, photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. Named ‘Dangerous Couture’, the spread was a fetish-themed shoot, with Elisa’s trademark locks swept into a 20’s-style bob.

Any association with Chanel tends to act as stardust on a new model’s career, and Karl’s nod of approval took Sednaoui’s profile to the next level. In April, her personal style was the subject of a profile in French Elle, and in the same month, Italian Vogue featured her as a rising star.
The following month, Italian Vogue put its statement into effect by booking Elisa for her first editorial with the major publication, photographed by her cousin, Stephane Sednaoui.

Elisa’s link with Chanel went one stage further in May when she appeared in a short film directed by Lagerfeld, advertising the Chanel Cruise collection for Autumn 2010. Also featuring Karolina Kurkova, Heidi Mount, Abbey Lee and Jake Davies, the short played to every one of Elisa’s strengths. In head-to-toe Chanel, Sednaoui looked every inch the cool, arty girl that Lagerfeld ultimately designs for. Every one of Lagerfeld’s muses has been a woman of substance: ice princesses need not apply.

In July, she got her first editorial with American fashion magazine W, photographed by Terry Richardson. Featuring among many new faces, ‘Lunch Break’ was a mix of bawdiness and couture sensibility – in other words, trademark Richardson. Elisa’s blend of high-fashion awareness and mainstream sex-appeal made her a perfect model for Richardson’s shoot.
The end of 2010 saw Elisa become one of the faces of the Diane Von Furstenberg label, and a second editorial for Italian Vogue. Photographed by Miles Aldridge, ‘Like a Movie’ was perfect subject matter for film-fan Elisa. Aldridge’s work verges on the cinematic, and this spread was no exception.

Exploiting make-up and wardrobe to their fullest potential, the series of images were constructed to look like film stills, both referencing old Hollywood (including Bette Davis in ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’) and the work of art-photographer Cindy Sherman.
Working since the 70’s, Sherman made her name with haunting black and white ‘stills’ using herself as the model. The photographs do not directly reference any one film, but steer you towards films you think you may have seen, but can’t quite pin down. It is this uneasiness that makes the work so potent even 30 years on. Sherman’s now-famous series of film stills are both familiar and uncomfortable viewing – exactly the tone Aldridge and Sednaoui aimed for, and got.
Sednaoui rounded out the year with editorials in Dazed & Confused and L’Officiel and a spread in Russian Vogue, photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth.

This year, the buzz on Elisa has reached fever pitch. Already profiled in the broadsheets as the name to watch, she has scooped an editorial with Chinese Vogue, the cover of Italian Elle and now the Giorgio Armani S/S 2011 campaign. It is a major booking for any model, but Elisa’s status as a fashion IT girl was cemented by this signing in one fell swoop. Not only that, any doubts that her growth in the industry was due to her connections were now dispelled: there’s no room in campaigns of this calibre for models that are second-rate, even if they are a ‘name’. Armani demands, and expects, perfection.

Elisa’s success is made all the more remarkable simply because of the current fashion climate. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the bombshell had exited fashion’s vocabulary altogether. Traditional sex-appeal has been off the books for some time, with off-beat beauties such as Freja Beha, Lindsey Wixson and Jamie Bochert scooping all the campaigns and glory. Even with top models such as Lara Stone, the body may be textbook bombshell, but the gap in her front teeth places her squarely at the heart of high-fashion.

Where fashion has done bombshell recently, it’s been by nuance. Hungarian model Eniko Mihalik has cornered the market in chic sensuality. Her series of editorials may be in danger of searing the page, but the heat’s always tempered by that fashion edge.

Why Elisa has made such an impact in such a short space of time is not hard to figure out. She is tipped to be the face of 2011 because she provides that nostalgic hit of sexuality once part of the high-fashion experience of the Eighties and Nineties. Elisa does particularly well in editorial and campaign work. Her spread with Miles Aldridge for Italian Vogue is perhaps the most perfect summary of her talent so far: bold, complex and filmic. It’s no accident that Sednaoui has branched out into films: her movie-star face almost craves a bigger canvas.

Elisa’s leanings towards cinema are not the far-reach you might imagine. Many models have made that leap – some more successfully than others – but the reason they still feel compelled to do so is simple: modelling at its high-fashion core is all about story-telling. Any campaign, no matter how well styled or shot, needs a performance from the model to make it work. Most of the big labels have their own shorthand: Gucci = smouldering, conspicuous consumption. Marc Jacobs = razor-sharp intelligence applied to fashion’s back-catalogue. Recognising a brand’s identity is the easy part, but translating that label’s vision for the season? It requires a set of skills that are not dissimilar to the actor: for that moment you have to believe you are the carefree teenager in nothing but H&M, or the Cavalli glamour-puss with money to burn.

Without that commitment, the campaign loses its sparkle: even the most outrageous, creatively avant-garde ad needs an emotional charge to make the connection between campaign and consumer. Wanting to look like the model in the ad isn’t really the point: imagining yourself clutching that Versace bag is the all-important step towards buying. A model has to put herself in the label’s shoes but we have to put ourselves in her Manolos in order to complete the purchase chain. Fashion’s all about want: the most primal - and sometimes irresistible – urge there is. Factor sex into the equation and you’ve got yourself a monster hit of a campaign.

Elisa’s multi-page ad for the S/S 11 Giorgio Armani campaign is the perfect illustration of how fashion sells sex. Sophisticated but definitely smouldering, the images take the label to a relatively unexplored part of its identity. The well-documented friendly rivalry between label-founder Gianni Versace and Giorgio Armani saw the former label take on high-fashion’s ultimate challenge: how to make clothes sexy but still make them trend-relevant. Dressing sexy before Versace meant cheap fabrics and a sense of the obvious. What Gianni, and now Donatella, have done is made ‘sexy’ fashionable. The formula is simple: good-quality fabrics, unexpected colour choices and a revealing of the body that’s tasteful, not tacky.

The divide was drawn between Armani and Versace when Armani took a decidedly different route to glamour and sex appeal. Armani has consistently produced achingly-glamorous silhouettes and given us some killer red-carpet moments thanks to his couture line, but where Versace chooses to reveal, Armani plays the modesty card. Between them, Armani and Versace have sent Italian fashion values through the roof and made Milan an international fashion capital, but there’s never been any danger of confusing the two labels.

What this latest campaign does is introduce us to the more overtly-sexy side of Armani. It’s still in the best possible taste, but by choosing Elisa as the girl to represent the season; it’s a darker, steamier side of Armani: refreshing as it is surprising. That’s what a good model can do – their own personal currency can seep into a campaign, giving the images an added layer of depth: in Elisa’s case, the quintessential Italian model for the quintessential Italian brand.

Already courting press attention with her appearance in the 2011 Pirelli calendar, Elisa has also experienced a breakthrough season on the A/W 2011 runways this year. Doing both calendars and catwalks is no longer unusual, but to be able to play up to your looks and still get taken seriously by the fashion crowd takes considerable skill. It used to be a feat reserved for the supermodels of the 80’s and 90’s: household names that still opened and closed major catwalk shows without having to compromise their ‘look’.

What Elisa does that’s different is to go to fashion’s extremes: the places where styling and make-up physically transform you, but can only take you so far: you do the rest. Her fetish-themed editorial for Numero and the role-swapping shoot for December’s Russian Vogue required models to go beyond their own image, even their own gender, to get an editorial that’s both thought-provoking and convincing. Again like acting, it doesn’t matter if all the technical elements are in place: without emotion, without heart, it just won’t work.

Elisa’s career choices haven’t always been what you would expect, and that’s exactly why the fashion world finds Elisa so intriguing. Never the same woman twice, Elisa Sednaoui is the ultimate 21st century bombshell.