Sunday, 31 July 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 24 July 2011


Born on March 7th 1995, Hailey Clauson signed with Ford Models in 2009. The same year, fourteen-year-old Hailey made the pages of Japanese Vogue as their ‘model of the month’ for the October issue. Hailey then cut her teeth on catalogue work, appearing for cult American store, Forever 21.

In September 2010, Clauson made her debut at Fashion Week, walking for Calvin Klein, Gucci, Versace, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Miu Miu, Elie Saab and Lanvin. Hailey’s popularity with designers was immediate: her affiliation with the ‘money labels’ already marked her out as a possible campaign signing.

Hailey’s progress continued in October with an editorial for Italian Vogue. Now a rite of passage for every top model in training, appearing in the magazine is the surest sign that your career is only going to get bigger.

‘Short: The New Ease’, photographed by Craig McDean, sees Hailey featuring with Hanne Gaby Odiele, Hannah Holman and Patricia van der Vliet. Appearing in a set of fashion portraits, the models’ slouchy, contemporary poses are off-set by the retro styling. Deceptively simple, the editorial shows everything and everyone working together in absolute harmony. The editorial is somewhat unusual for Italian Vogue; quieter in tone, but it provided a storming debut for Hailey.

Hailey finished off 2010 with an editorial for Dazed and Confused. Clauson appears in a set of black and white portraits, but unlike the gentleness of the Italian Vogue shoot, this editorial is deliberately dark and deliberately edgy. Clauson carries it off with aplomb. Her hiring for this piece was undoubtedly influenced by her earlier work for Italian Vogue. The tone of the shoots differs a great deal, but the stillness and concentration required for both is something Hailey has clearly mastered. One of the more difficult areas of editorial modelling is generating a ‘still’ image that has life behind the eyes; intent, a story. It’s all too easy to turn ‘contemplative’ into ‘flat-lining’.

Clauson’s career, in timescale still in its infancy, is fast developing and making her a contender, especially when it comes to competing against more established faces. To prove the point, 2011 started with the news that Hailey would be joining Karmen Pedaru and Joan Smalls to become the face of Gucci.

In the Gucci campaign, Hailey gets to channel and play up her sexpot features, in a campaign that celebrates sun-soaked sensuality. There are few occasions in high-fashion where you get to play the siren, but working for Gucci is definitely one of them.

Hailey also appeared in campaigns for Jill Stuart and Italian design duo, Dsquared. In February, she had her best show season to date appearing in a total of 31 shows. Walking for Gucci, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Prada, Reed Krakoff, Versus, and YSL among others, Hailey got to feature in some of the best shows of the season.

Her runway credits got a major boost when she also flew to Paris to appear in couture shows for Elie Saab, Azzedine Alaia and Giambattista Valli. Both Alaia and Valli are two new houses recently credited with couture status, vying for a slice of the lucrative luxury market.

The new customer bases in China, Russia and Japan are giving haute couture a new lease of life. Haute couture’s future in 2008 was far from certain, but in 2011, couture is now reclaiming its position as taste-maker, informing the shapes, colours and fabrics that will go into making the clothes we buy and wear. Even with Dior currently in flux, the couture industry is going from strength to strength.

In March, Clauson went back to editorial work, appearing in shoots for W and Vogue China. Her shoot for Chinese Vogue, ‘A Child in Time’, is a bold aesthetic, once again utilising Hailey’s ability to take a great ‘still’ shot. Being still – and confident – in front of the camera is a game of nerve. Hailey’s gaze is unflinching, but she is visibly at ease.

Hailey also got to flex her muscles for W, appearing in a narrative editorial for Frida Gustavsson and Caroline Brasch Nielsen. ‘Against Nature’, photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, is a dark, atmospheric shoot. Featuring neons against a flat landscape, the results are compelling, and even a little disturbing.

Hailey went on to appear for Numero in May, shooting ‘Memory Motel’ with Greg Kadel. It sees Clauson take on a solo editorial. Fully in control, Hailey delivers a performance that is assured and cool-headed. ‘Memory Motel’ references Seventies glam-rock but the narrative of the shoot owes more to the Coen Brothers than David Bowie. A difficult balance of traditional Americana with Seventies style, Clauson delivers a message that is anything but mixed.

June saw Hailey take on another solo editorial, again for Numero. ‘Tribal’, photographed by Sebastian Kim, is a sepia-toned epic. Woman meets Nature in couture-like detail. Modelling through ultra-high fashion styling with an ethnic twist, the demands of this shoot would be asking a lot of a more experienced model, but Hailey played it note-perfect, making the resulting editorial a triumph.

Clauson is choosing to end the year as she began – with highly prolific campaigns. For Autumn / Winter, she will be appearing in the Topshop campaign with British model Nyasha Matanhodze.

The store is leading the way in creating campaigns that rival labels with a much higher price-tag. Self-billed as one of the UK’s favourite fashion destinations for the under-25’s, Topshop understands that to sell fashion successfully, it must be sold as an aspirational object, no matter what the cost.

You can attribute it to the couture effect: the confidence borne from continuing success in Paris is trickling down and creating a sophistication that is spreading across every level of the fashion industry. Topshop has learnt this lesson particularly well, because nothing in this campaign feels (or looks) cheap.

Hailey forms part of a new wave of American models that are showing the industry that they can compete on the fringes of high-fashion. Highly regarded for their editorial and runway work, the American girls (including Charlotte Free, Ruby Aldridge, Ashley Smith and Arizona Muse) are going head-to head with the Russian / Eastern European stable of talent that has dominated fashion in its dark, minor key.

Perhaps more so than any other recent model from the U.S, Hailey bridges edgy contemporary style with retro glamour. She is a model who could very easily go for the big beauty campaigns and runway slots for Victoria’s Secret and get them. Her runway CV shows she can ably represent the biggest labels in the world without missing a beat. But the exciting thing about Hailey is her tendency to go for the road less travelled.

She has appeared in Italian Vogue, but has also worked for Dazed & Confused, Numero and W. Vogue has the world on a string, but these magazines offer alternative viewpoints that make the fashion feast that much richer. When it comes to getting a handle on fashion, seeing it from every possible angle is fundamental in getting the whole picture.

Hailey’s work with Numero in particular, deftly illustrates the type of model she is likely to become. Off-kilter shoots, loaded with references to film, photography, even anthropology, give Hailey an opportunity to build a library of skills.

Interpretation takes insight, and Hailey’s clear-headed approach to potentially difficult bookings, shows a model totally on-game, but also with a highly evolved sense of what it takes to create great fashion moments. Working against the grain often produces the best work. It takes some models years to get that, but Hailey already has the advantage.

What this generation are bringing to the industry is a type of fearlessness, exhibited by models such as Freja Beha, Jamie Bochert and Saskia de Brauw. Every model owes a debt to the previous generation, but what is happening now is that the back catalogue of talent is so impressive, it gives newbies the confidence to make choices that are smart and unexpected, building a new layer of history, with faces that are free to reject the mould, and that sense of freedom can’t be anything but good.

The fashion world excels at learning from its own past, the key editorials, those memorable runway shows, to filter through and learn what failed, what worked and most importantly, why. Fashion isn’t about rehashing old ideas, but finding different ways to express the concepts that fashion is built around: self-expression, confidence, elegance and beauty. Even when they’re being inverted (usually by Prada), these are the ideas that keep the fashion world turning.

Economic crisis has shown the fashion world that no matter what, a good idea will always sell. The means of survival are very clear: bigger, better and brighter ways of selling those ideas. With models like Hailey leading the way, the road less travelled has never looked so good.


Sunday, 10 July 2011


Born on the 4th of September 1987, Belarus-native Maryna Linchuk is one of fashion’s best kept secrets.

Signing up with DNA Models in 2006, Maryna got her first editorial that September with Harper’s Bazaar. A quick starter, Maryna also made her runway breakthrough, walking for designers such as Catherine Malandrino, D&G, Elie Saab, Givenchy, Marchesa and Versace.

Shooting her first Vogue cover in November, Linchuk’s unstoppable progress continued with runway bookings for couture shows in January 2007, walking for both Givenchy and Valentino. Maryna experienced another career high the same month with an Italian Vogue editorial, photographed by Steven Meisel.

In September, Maryna got to open and close the ready-to-wear show for Helmut Lang, appearing in 43 shows overall. Finishing the year with another appearance in Italian Vogue, Maryna’s groundwork resulted in a seriously impressive pay-day. In early 2008, she was signed to front five campaigns, including Belstaff and Mulberry.

In April 2008, Maryna got the backing of French Vogue when they featured her as a top model. French Vogue is particularly good at supporting modelling talent, with Isabeli Fontana and Lara Stone among their favourites. Every Vogue has its own in-house style: Italian Vogue highlights the boldest and newest design influences; American Vogue channels classic elegance and sporty silhouettes, and Russian Vogue favours old-Hollywood style glitz and glamour. Where French Vogue has laid down its colours is in making daring, atmospheric editorials that reference their proud cinematic history. Skim through its pages and you’ll see every French master represented, from Jean-Luc Godard to Francois Truffaut.

This type of work requires a very special kind of model to bring the ideas to life. Striking the right tone is everything, and this takes serious skill. French Vogue needs models who can take a performance down to the finest detail, and Maryna’s instincts, already tested by some of the toughest in the business, were already proving to be world-class.

Following a summer of editorial work for American Vogue, Maryna was again profiled as a top model, this time by Russian Vogue. At this point in her career, Linchuk was still a relatively unknown name, but the support she was getting from fashion’s most prolific magazines was showing the industry at large that she was a talent not to be underestimated.

In September 2008, Maryna filled her runway CV with names such as Alexander Wang, Gucci, Derek Lam, Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta, Rag & Bone, Stella McCartney and YSL. Her continued success on the runway got the attention of casting agents looking for a new face to front a campaign ad. Linchuk was signed to represent Christian Dior’s fragrance ‘Miss Dior Cherie’. Launched in 2005, the perfume was intended to be an accompaniment to Dior’s iconic ‘Miss Dior’ perfume, introduced in 1947.

Maryna’s signing saw a new approach to the marketing of Dior Cherie. Hiring director Sofia Coppola fresh from her historical biopic ‘Marie Antoinette’, the film presenting Dior Cherie was a heady confection of girlish sophistication and sorbet shades with Brigitte Bardot on soundtrack. With Maryna modelling a ruffled, cerise gown from the couture vaults, the advert is a master-class in bridging old-world sophistication with modern joie de vivre, and it made the perfume an immediate hit.

Maryna’s year just kept getting better, being approached to appear in the annual Victoria’s Secret show. Victoria’s Secret offers the ultimate challenge to models used to the world’s biggest runways. Getting that ready mix of fun and sex appeal is the very reason why the brand has become such a huge name in the States. Maryna’s ability to be at ease in such a new environment made her an instant favourite, being re-booked for both 2009 and 2010.

Adding Armani Prive to her couture CV in July 2009, Maryna made it onto the pages of American Vogue in November, appearing in ‘After Hours: Fashion’s Big Night Out’. Shot by Patrick Demarchelier, it was an extraordinary roll-call of fashion’s brightest modelling talent. From Alek Wek to Raquel Zimmermann, every model of note was featured, and that included Maryna.

Beginning 2010, Linchuk signed up to take part in another couture show for Dior. This time, the theme was equestrian chic. With riding crops and lace veils, the show made headlines, not only for its dressage theme but the way it put couture firmly back in the saddle. One year on, despite all the gloomy predictions for its future, haute couture still thrives, thanks to a new customer base, with serious money to spend.

Maryna also got the chance to work in untried territory, when picked to model for Derek Lam’s A/W campaign. Only a year into producing campaigns, Lam didn’t have the luxury of a huge back-catalogue of images to fall back on. For example, we all get the Prada ‘message’: eclectic, quirky and cerebral. Making a new set of images, creating that message from scratch, is a huge responsibility, not least for the model. Get the tone wrong, and the campaign will struggle to make a connection with the public. Maryna’s success in making Dior Cherie such a huge hit has made her significantly viable in terms of fronting campaigns.

Finishing off the year with a cover for Turkish Vogue, Maryna returned in January 2011 with another cover for German Vogue. Maryna, head-to-toe in pink, feathered couture is hard to miss. The choice of colour is unlikely to be a coincidence as her long association with Dior Cherie has made her a high-fashion purveyor of pink, a shade that’s been reclaimed by the industry after years in the fashion wilderness. Its revival, at Burberry and Chanel Couture for A/W 2011, allows it to take centre stage in a season that will be awash with colour. Pink – in its vibrant, punchy guise – has been given a second chance to wow the fashion crowd, and its charm offensive looks to be paying off. Some might argue whether pink has ever really gone away, but this type of pink is an entirely different animal. Brave and bold – it’s pink with attitude.

Linchuk has begun 2011 returning as a face for Dolce and Gabbana. Taking her lessons from French Vogue, Maryna manages the Italian cinematic style effortlessly. Filling the early part of the year with work from Russian and German Vogue, Maryna returns this autumn to reprise her role for Dolce & Gabbana. Working this year’s big theme of texture – in every possible variation – she features alongside Isabeli Fontana, Liu Wen, Constance Jablonski and Jac.

Already tipped to be one of the big hitters of the A/W season, Maryna’s link with Dolce & Gabbana is already poised to be an association that will reap major rewards as the year continues. Her success boils down to the fact that she is the type of model the industry loves: high-street, sportswear, lingerie, RTW, couture – there’s no aspect of the fashion industry Linchuk’s career hasn’t covered.

The recognition of Maryna’s hard work – the covers, the high-status campaigns – are just fashion’s way of acknowledging what designers have known all along. Maryna has outrun the trend for Russian / Eastern-European models to become fashion’s ‘everywoman’. Her appeal has transcended passing fads to create a career that is truly global. From Dior and Dolce in Europe, to winning over the Americans on the Victoria’s Secret runway; Maryna has become expert in making herself a must-hire all across the world.

As we move into a new decade, not only has the pace of growth changed, but where that cash is being spent. In 2005, Russia’s contribution to the fashion industry was in supplying new faces: Natasha Poly, Sasha Pivovarova, Natalia Vodianova to name just three. But the balance has shifted to find Russia supplying fashion with some of its most loyal and high-spending consumers, and Russian Vogue joins Italy, France, America and Britain to become one of the most important publications in fashion today.

Those who are spending are choosing to spend big. The exuberance of colour and detail on this season’s runways is more than a collective sigh of relief: a label being thankful they have survived the worst of the storm. The details tell a bigger picture of an industry heading into new territory: geographically, financially and creatively. By becoming more inclusive, the fashion industry is opening itself up to new influences, creating a message that’s truly exciting.

Where Maryna slots into this is her wealth of experience in working in fashion’s new territories such as Russia, China and Japan. Her skills honed at editorial level makes her not only a valuable asset right now, but her profile will grow and develop, making her a name to watch. To be a good translator, you need to speak the language and Maryna’s familiarity with all things fashion has made her effortlessly fluent. Maryna’s triumph in being able to translate into every market makes her a truly modern model.