Sunday, 15 January 2012


Born in Russia on the 25th of September 1990, Daria Strokous signed with IMG in 2007. She made her catwalk debut the same year, appearing in shows for Prada and Marni.

Joining names such as Natasha Poly and Natalia Vodianova, Daria became the latest in a group of Eastern-European models who were taking the fashion industry by storm. Dubbed by as one of the ‘IMG Power Generation’, this modelling cartel emerged at the same time as new pockets of wealth began to appear across the globe. Including Daria’s native Russia, while others talked of recession, the new leagues of super-rich were consuming high-fashion in seriously high numbers.

This new group of fashion consumers would not only prove important in years to come, but downright crucial in maintaining high-fashion’s survival. Daria, by association, saw her star begin to rise.

Appearing for Prada Sport in 2008, Strokous began what would become a long-standing relationship with the label Jil Sander when she closed their Autumn / Winter show in February.

In March 2008, she landed on the cover of Russian Harper’s Bazaar. Appearing with other Russian models, the cover celebrated what was already an established phenomenon. Its effect is felt even now, with groups of models still making it big: France, Holland, America and Australia have all seen their home-grown talent succeed on the international stage.

Daria began carving a multi-platform career, with her first couture show in July. Walking for Givenchy, it was a perfect first move into the world of haute couture, and within a year, she was able to add Elie Saab, Armani Prive and Valentino to her CV.

Leaving IMG in 2009 and signing with Women Management, Strokous moved into the next phase of her career with a huge ready-to-wear season that September. Closing the Spring / Summer Marni show, she also walked for Bottega Veneta, Louise Goldin, Nina Ricci and Versus. Appearing in shows for several new designers, Strokous made important – and lasting – connections.

Her runway success translated into campaign bookings, and in early 2010, Strokous was announced as one of the faces of D&G. Daria also appeared in her first editorial for Italian Vogue, appearing in the now-famous Steven Meisel shoot, ‘Runway’. Featuring every model of note, Strokous worked alongside established faces, echoing Meisel’s philosophy of giving new talents extraordinary opportunities to excel.

The Italian Vogue effect showed in Daria’s next RTW season, which added Gareth Pugh, Fendi, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs and Prabal Gurung to Strokous’ list of credits. Mixing the classic labels with the avant-garde, Strokous had clearly staked her claim to be noticed.

May 2010 saw Daria take to the cover of Italian Vogue. Sharing the honours with Kirsi Pyrhonen, the cover, ‘Top Glam’, was a show-stopper. Choosing to frame the models off-centre and in profile, photographer Steven Meisel broke the cardinal rules of magazine covers, but the result was visually arresting. Quite literally a sideways glance at how high-fashion interprets glamour, this cover put Daria in a different league.

Sure enough, in Autumn 2010, Daria became one of the faces of the latest Prada campaign. If ever there was a good time to become a Prada girl, this was it. The headline-grabbing collection was designed for (and required) a whole new kind of woman. The retro look, with curve-enhancing dresses and cats-eye glasses, got everyone’s attention. For a label that does sensuality in a minor key, this look threw the fashion world a serious curveball. If you thought you knew Prada, this collection challenged you on every point.

Following the campaigns with a slew of editorial work, 2011 began on a high for Daria as she became the face for Jil Sander. The Spring / Summer campaign was quintessential Jil Sander: bright, modern and clean. Strokous proved perfect for this campaign, as this fashion requires a studied calm which Daria visibly masters. The skill in mastering this fashion genre is in recognising that even simple designs have large intent. High fashion trades on big ideas and in minimalist fashion, what’s left out is just as important as what remains. For the model that has to take this look and pique our interest, the crucial factor is in realising that on the page, lack of action does not mean lack of energy.

Opening the A/W show for Jil Sander in February, Daria had one of her busiest seasons to date with over 50 shows. Her status as one of fashion’s brightest was confirmed in August when she took the cover of Russian Vogue. Daria modelled the feathered Prada coat from the latest collection, showing Russia’s undiluted taste for glamour was as buoyant as ever, even in the face of economic freefall.

In September, Daria undertook her biggest season to date with a mammoth 62 shows. Opening and closing the show for Jil Sander and appearing for many of the world’s most recognisable labels, Daria had now evolved into the modern definition of a top model.

The following month, Strokous appeared in the magazine ‘Interview’. Paying homage to the high-voltage A/W collection from Dolce & Gabbana, the featured pieces paid reverence to glamour, even referring to D&G’s roots in the process. Interview’s editorial, however, asked you to look closer. Even the famous emerald shift dress, packed with sequins, has an element of restraint (the long sleeves, the high neck) that hints at a new perspective on glamour. Everything is designed with a softness and subtlety: the colour offsets the sequins (in previous seasons almost exclusively shown in black), and texture balances luxurious finishes – feathers replacing fur. Dolce & Gabbana wasn’t alone in their pursuit of a softer elegance: Prada’s densely-feathered coat worn by Daria on the cover of Russian Vogue shouldn’t have read as luxe fashion – but it did. Even at Marc Jacobs, the skirts covered in huge pailettes are about celebrating design, not wealth. When Dolce & Gabbana rewrite their rules on glamour, larger forces are at work.

Daria moved into 2012 on a strong footing, with her second cover of Italian Vogue. Working again with Steven Meisel, the cover used shopping channel QVC as its inspiration. Playing off the slow-burn craftsmanship of couture against the rapid, eager consumption of fashion trends, the cover (and accompanying editorial) is a supremely witty take on fashion’s nose-to-tail attitude. This type of bold, satirical work could be well be the future for 2012 with Meisel displaying an impressive talent for pastiche.

Daria’s career in 2012 continues to see her at the forefront of high-fashion, with not one but three major campaigns for Spring. Appearing for Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander and Alberta Ferretti, Strokous moves deftly from the curiously noir-ish feel of the Jil Sander campaign to the gorgeous, pastel-infused confection of Louis Vuitton. An integral part of S/S 12 and within touching distance of the Top 10 in list of Top 50 Women, Daria is finally having her moment. A workhorse on the runway, she has steadily built an armoury of credits that make her not only well-respected, but unique.

Daria’s strength is her very modern versatility. Her latest run of campaigns allude to just how completely Strokous is able to transform. The Jil Sander and Louis Vuitton adverts couldn’t be more different, but she stars in both. A blue-eyed blonde that doesn’t fit the mould is always interesting; Daria is neither athletic amazon nor downright glamourpuss – but she has worked for Prada Sport and Russian Vogue. Her work with Juicy Couture shows that she isn’t strictly editorial either. With a substantial pedigree in couture, Strokous manages to be a fashion all-rounder, but still firmly individual.

Daria’s fluidity makes her a true asset in today’s industry where no-one quite knows what to expect next. The transition from urban warrior to sugar and space at Louis Vuitton has been fast enough to make your head spin. As times have got tougher, fashion has got sweeter: an outcome no-one was expecting.

Daria in theory should have joined the likes of Natasha Poly and Natalia Vodianova: Slavic icons that ooze glamour and sophistication. In every group of models that has come to dominate the industry, there has always been one that doesn’t quite fit. Alice Burdeu’s Pre-Raphaelite beauty looks out of place when compared to her sunkissed Australian peers; Charlotte Free is the odd-one-out in the group of young, clean-cut American models taking over the catwalk.

It’s Daria’s outsider quality that has finally brought her to the attention of fashion’s inner circle. There were some – like Jil Sander – who always knew it, but finally Strokous has clicked.

Models like Daria are becoming more visible, because they are able to work without being defined. Geography is always important but it does not have the last word. Minus the neat packaging, fashion has to rely on what a model has to offer beyond their place of birth: Daria is a prime example of what happens when a model is taken not on her proximity to greatness, but on the merits she achieves herself. The fashion industry is finally coming round to the idea of talents that may not be media heavyweights, but can pack a punch on the runway.

As ostentation in fashion gives way to something more meaningful, the transition from fevered accumulation to considered appreciation goes right across the board: leaving fashion with models that are not examples of exotica, but genuine rare finds.


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