Her industry breakthrough came in October 2010, when she walked in the Spring / Summer show for Balenciaga. Also booking two editorials with Wonderland magazine, Aymeline’s early connections with fashion were strictly left-field.
In January 2011, Aymeline scored her first magazine cover, with an appearance for Turkish Vogue. Featured in a gold mini-dress, mirroring Turkey’s taste for opulent fashion, Valade was making an impact on an international stage.
Also modelling for the Pre-Fall shows (Alexander Wang and Balenciaga), she became the fact of the S/S Alexander Wang campaign in early 2011. A new-world, spirited take on street fashion, the dynamic shapes that Aymeline effortlessly pulls in front of the camera neatly matches the free-flow of Alexander's designs. It was one of those big win-or-lose moments: defying her level of experience, Aymeline’s performance in the campaign was that of a much more seasoned model.
Valade’s confident showing for the Alexander Wang advert led to a massive RTW season in February with appearances in over 30 shows. Not only that, Aymeline made a big splash with several opening and closing spots including Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens, Loewe and Chloe. Also walking for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs and Versace, this was a well-rounded season with Aymeline there for all the big moments of the February 2011 catwalk, including Gucci’s 70’s glam-fest and Marc Jacobs’ new obsession: polka-dots. This was a good season to become fashion's latest IT girl.
Aymeline followed this success with editorials for W, Numero and German Vogue. Her appearance in the May issue of German Vogue was for the beauty editorial ‘Uber Sinnlich’. An avant-garde beauty shoot featuring Anais Pouliot and Julia Saner, Aymeline channelled Bardot, dishevelled glamour.
Valade’s editorial career went even further overseas with late-summer appearances for Chinese and American Vogue. The editorial for Chinese Vogue saw Aymeline wear classic, big-name labels such as Chanel, YSL and Celine – all with bags of Parisian heritage, and worn by a Parisian model. It made for a very easy sell to the Chinese fashion market.
All of this feverish activity led up to a September that saw Aymeline hit everyone’s radar. Firstly, she appeared on the cover of RUSSH, followed by a massive spread in US Harper’s Bazaar. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, the Downton Abbey / Brideshead Revisited theme of the editorial was sharply narrative – exactly the type of photography Lagerfeld excels at. He tells stories with his collections, and his photography is no different. It certainly explains Karl’s eagerness to embrace the concept of campaign videos. A making-of video accompanying Chanel’s latest print campaign with Saskia de Brauw and Joan Smalls has already reached 80,000 hits on YouTube.
Following this editorial, Aymeline also made her debut in September’s Italian Vogue, featuring in a spread photographed by Steven Klein. ‘A Point of View’ (featuring Crystal Renn, Catherine McNeil and Jamie Bochert) was shot from a deliberately low angle, inverting every principle of fashion photography. Awkward angles and obscured views make for a challenging take on how we view high-fashion. Even from this angle, the clothes still look good.
Aymeline then took to the catwalk, with an amazing 57-show season. Opening shows for Diane Von Furstenberg, Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera and Lanvin, this was Aymeline’s rain-maker season.
The good fortune continued with Valade securing 3 major campaigns: Kenzo, Just Cavalli and Etro. Kenzo had a particularly strong season, with the campaign featuring Aymeline styled in homage to the artist Frida Kahlo. With tons of ornate print and Spanish detailing, Aymeline was clearly adept at translating her look to other fashion cultures.
October saw Aymeline take to the pages of Japanese Vogue, and a month later, she was appearing in a major couture editorial for V. Named ‘Couture 2011’, the spread was a full review of the A/W haute couture season including Givenchy, Armani Prive and Valentino. Aymeline took on her couture dues, modelling alongside Zuzanna Bijoch and Emily Baker.
Finishing the year with another editorial for Italian Vogue (‘Clean and Graphic’), this was a strongly androgynous shoot with Paolo Roversi behind the lens. Aymeline joined forces with Saskia de Brauw who has made a career on her ability to transform. Aymeline performs on a par with de Brauw in a sleek, stylish editorial.
Aymeline opened 2012 with another editorial, this time for American Vogue. ‘A Man for All Seasons’ was a tribute to the ongoing work of Marc Jacobs, and this big start to the year carried on for Valade as she took to her first couture runway in January. Opening the show for Armani Prive, and closing the Dior show, this was a particularly successful season, not least for Dior. Creative director Bill Gattyen went back through Dior’s back catalogue and pulled a confident, polished collection out of the bag. It was a modern interpretation of Dior’s ‘New Look’ and Aymeline could not have had a better introduction into the world of couture.
No longer operating on fashion’s sidelines, Aymeline is taking her time in the spotlight with another 3 campaigns this season, including a double-shoot for Lanvin. Working with models Aaron Vernon and Angus Low, Valade poses with real snakes, emphasising the sleek drapery of the Lanvin gowns. Adding another layer of fun in the campaign video with music from Maxine Ashley, Aymeline’s appearance for Lanvin is a career-changer with Valade poised to become another one of France’s style icons.
Every country has its icons, but where France excels is in the sheer diversity of the faces that have come to represent it: from Brigitte Bardot to Carla Bruni, to more recent faces such as Clemence Posey – French style has no one particular look – bombshell to beatnik all get a look in. Carla Bruni’s sophistication will inspire future First Ladies for many years to come, just as Brigitte Bardot’s heady combination of back-combed hair and eyeliner is still used today to communicate a rich, pouty sensuality. France is very good at creating images that have longevity.
The image of the groomed but worldly Parisian is just as timeless: Lanvin taps into that iconography in its latest campaign, knowing that we can join the dots ourselves. But what has been missing in recent years, however, is France’s stake on the modelling world. It’s clear that France understands and appreciates new faces – French Vogue famously championed Lara Stone and Isabeli Fontana, helping to propel both to fame. But after a brief peak in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with Audrey Marnay being on every designer’s wish-list, and Laetitia Casta taking her film-friendly looks to Hollywood, France’s contribution on the modelling front became noticeable by its absence.
However, it appears that a new generation of models are flying the Tricolour, ensuring that France is not just the epicentre of great design, but is now producing great faces to represent this key fashion heartland.
Aymeline joins faces such as Constance Jablonski, Charlotte di Calypso and newcomer Julia Frauche to build a new group of models that are proud to be different. Constance Jablonski, a regular with Estee Lauder, brings a fresh-faced, eager quality to the sometimes jaded world of high-fashion. Charlotte has been the face of Chanel’s Chance fragrance, and has translated her beauty on an international level, moving across the Atlantic to represent American super-label Ralph Lauren.
Aymeline, however, is France’s directional girl. Her first campaign was with Alexander Wang, and her latest work with Lanvin marries up her edgy qualities with the label’s distinct take on Parisian chic. Utterly at home on the runway, Valade brings with her an other-worldly quality, something that is always in high demand within the fashion industry. For a country that is so at home with producing ground-breaking, avant-garde design, France has found it difficult to come up with a model who, in quite literal terms, walks the walk. With Aymeline Valade, they have finally found their running mate – a model who makes light work of this country’s heritage.
A model could be forgiven for being daunted by France’s heavyweight standing in the fashion world – but Aymeline’s fearless, gutsy approach to not only runway, but campaigns, covers and editorials makes her the perfect icon for the country that has given us the tools to value and appreciate fashion, even at its most difficult. It may have taken a while for France to find its feet in the modelling world – but if Aymeline is any indication of what’s to come – it’s been worth the wait.HELEN TOPE