Born in Holland on the 14th January 1992, Nimue Smit is one of fashion’s best-kept secrets. A familiar face in campaigns from Chloe and Prada to Marc Jacobs and Topshop, Nimue joins a new wave of models who are changing the way we look at fashion.
Nimue signed with Women Management in 2008, debuting in Fashion Week that September. She made waves when Miu Miu signed her to walk in their show as an exclusive, and her only other bookings were with Marni and Miu Miu’s mother label, Prada. It may have been a very select season, but the quality of Nimue’s first bookings were strong indicators of where her career would lead.
Smit’s small but perfectly formed debut got the attention of the fashion press when that October she was profiled by www.models.com as a Top 10 Newcomer. Nimue went from small start to huge impact in early 2009 when it was announced that she would become one of the faces of the newest Prada campaign. A play on the theme of evolution, the images featured tons of snakeskin and those notoriously difficult 6” heels that challenged even the most practised runway model; it was one of Prada’s best collections. Nimue featured alongside Sigrid Agren, Viktoriya Sasonkina and Toni Garrn to make light work of Prada’s densely cerebral concept.
Also booking the Spring / Summer campaign for Topshop, Nimue had another big moment in January when she appeared in her first editorial for Italian Vogue. ‘Form Function’ takes Prada’s collection as a springboard to examine the concept of layering – in a way that only Italian Vogue can do. Nimue joined fellow newbies Karlie Kloss and Sessilee Lopez in tackling the magazine’s unique viewpoint. All three models excelled – and it is no surprise that both Lopez and Kloss have gone on to become major names within the industry.
Nimue’s editorial debut sent her career into overdrive, with three more editorial appearances in February. Modelling for Numero, Dazed & Confused and British Vogue, the snowball effect continued, with Nimue having her first major RTW season in February. Walking in 39 shows, the following month www.style.com labelled Smit a rising star.
In March, Nimue took to the pages of Italian Vogue again with an editorial photographed by Paolo Roversi. ‘The Power of White’ was an all-couture shoot, featuring nothing but white designs. The hazy, dream-like images are at the very highest level of high-fashion, and Nimue’s performance in this editorial is nothing short of extraordinary.
Smit’s clear ability to model haute couture led to her first couture season in July, walking for Valentino. Starts in couture don’t get much better, and Nimue’s delicate features proved the perfect foil for Valentino’s ultra-feminine designs.
Landing two high-profile Autumn / Winter campaigns (Alberta Ferretti and See by Chloe), Nimue’s star was rising fast. Her appearance in Italian Vogue’s September issue saw her develop even further. ‘Dream of a Dress’, with Paolo Roversi as photographer, was a special, one-of-a-kind couture shoot featuring Toni Garrn, Heidi Mount, Jourdan Dunn and Rose Cordero.
Using newly-revamped labels such as Givenchy Couture, this shoot is the type that Italian Vogue excels at; putting couture at the centre of the fashion experience - not portrayed as something merely exclusive. Showing grand clothes in creative, exciting ways, Italian Vogue goes a long way in terms of taking the fear out of couture, encouraging us to appreciate it without feeling automatically excluded.
Ending 2009 with another successful RTW show, Nimue’s standing within the fashion industry took a giant step up in early 2010 when she became the face of Giorgio Armani. Wearing a blue satin dress and black, bobbed hair, Nimue ushers in the new era of Armani. The label, previously seen as the cornerstone of conservative elegance, has undergone a revitalisation thanks to Giorgio’s launch of couture line, Armani Prive. Initially a scheme that was to be Armani’s pet project, Prive has become a tour de force in the world of haute couture, with that element of unbridled creativity that so neatly defines couture actively creeping into the Armani RTW lines. The label’s once predictable nature has given way to a freshness and vitality that makes us feel like we are seeing Armani for the very first time. Nimue’s edgy, high-fashion face would have once seemed out of step with Armani, but now her hiring seems like the obvious choice.
Nimue’s hard-to-ignore booking with Armani got her noticed all over again, and in September 2010 she appeared in over 50 shows, appearing for designers such as Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Calvin Klein, Jason Wu and Rodarte.
2011 saw Nimue switch from Parisian greats to London icons when she was signed by British label Mulberry to appear in their latest campaign. Working with Lindsey Wixson, the ‘indoor garden’ campaign was one of Mulberry’s strongest. Achingly pretty with chrysanthemums in shades of pastel, Mulberry’s theme of using oversized props started here – and is still regularly used, up to and including this current season.
Returning to Paris in January for couture season, Nimue made her editorial debut for American Vogue the following month. ‘Gangs of New York’ was a mammoth preview of Spring / Summer trends with Nimue appearing in modern neutrals by Donna Karan.
With two years’ experience behind her, Nimue continued to be a strong runway hire with a 45-show season in February. Filling the body of the year with editorial work for Spanish Vogue, Numero and Harper’s Bazaar, in late 2011 Nimue decided to switch agencies and move to NEXT Models. Already housing top names such as Anja Rubik, Caroline Brasch Nielsen and Kendra Spears, Nimue’s move to NEXT was the precursor to another great runway season in September, with Smit walking in 50 shows. Appearing in some of the most important shows of the season – Marc Jacobs, Rodarte, Jonathan Saunders – Nimue is securing her position as one of fashion’s go-to girls when it comes to interpreting the avant-garde. Although fashion may be exploring its softer side this season, there is still plenty of room for left-field thinking. Mary Katrantzou continued to impress with a collection based on ancient porcelain patterns and Rodarte brought a new poignancy and depth to prairie chic.
Contemporary fashion isn’t stuck for ideas and to present these new concepts as clearly as possible, designers need models who can translate. Nimue, as a regular fixture on the world’s runways, has become one of the industry’s most relied-upon models when it comes to fashion on the front line.
Even during the recession, where commercial faces flourished, Nimue has actively progressed from newcomer to rising star. Armed with a face that sits her squarely in the edgy category, Nimue has modelled for some of the largest brands in the business, transforming the way we think about them. Just as her game-changing appearance for Armani showed the Italian label’s willingness to explore its darker side, her softly winsome role for Mulberry injected the campaign with warmth and verve that has since become its signature.
The idea of matching a model’s look to a particular aspect of fashion is slowly giving way to a more democratic selection process. In short, if you have the skills, you get the job. It is this that may have inspired Armani to hire Smit in the first place – and the knock-on effect has seen the label branch out in terms of who it hires for campaigns. Their latest signing, Milou van Groesen, is another surprising choice. She doesn’t automatically suggest Italian relaxed elegance, but the sharp tailoring and blunted lines of the campaign turn a classic fashion concept on its head, bringing Armani bang up to date.
As we move into 2012, Nimue’s progress will be fascinating to watch. A front-runner at the S/S shows in September, it’s clear that designers consider her not only relevant, but downright exciting. Nimue’s status as a model that can help transform the way we look at long-established brands will make her well-placed to take advantage of fashion’s rapidly shifting landscape. As Armani comes into sleek, edgy focus and Mulberry trades on its sense of fun, the face of fashion increasingly alters as new designers join the party. Nimue’s ability to help us see old labels in a new light, makes Smit not only contemporary, but a completely new type of model altogether.HELEN TOPE