Sunday, 25 March 2012


Born in Denmark on April 14th 1993, Josephine Skriver was discovered in 2008 and at the age of 15 began to model. In October 2008, Skriver was featured by as a newcomer, signing with Marilyn agency in 2010.

Skriver made her ready-to-wear debut in February 2011, making an early impact as she was picked to close the Prada show. Also walking for Chanel, Chloe, DKNY, Gucci, Haider Ackerman, Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Valentino and YSL, even without the Prada closer, this would be safely classed as a debut of significance.

Locating the source of Skriver’s appeal isn't difficult: even in fashion, faces like Josephine’s don't come along that often. Like Sasha Pivovarova, Anais Pouliot and Anja Rubik, Skriver finds herself part of a small group of models who would be readily termed as ‘real-life pretty’ but still ‘high-fashion friendly’. It is, in terms of selling clothes, a tough combination to resist.

Skriver channelled that beauty in May 2011 with an editorial for German Vogue. Photographed by Greg Kadel, ‘Uber Sinnlich’ was a series of black and white beauty portraits. It was a challenge Skriver was tailor-made for.

In July, Josephine made her first appearance in Italian Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel. ‘Pret a Porter’, featuring Emily Baker, Fei Fei Sun, Anais Pouliot and Juliane Gruner, covered some of the upcoming Autumn / Winter trends in a series of quirky, characterful portraits. Meisel, always a champion of new talent, makes light work of these portraits: getting the best out of each model, it is hard to believe that some of these models are only months into their career.

Also in July, Skriver appeared for the first time on the couture runways of Paris. Walking for Azzedine Alaia, Dior, Giambattista Valli, Valentino and Zuhair Murad, these were classic and newer labels specialising in glamour. Valli and Murad are fast catching up to the more established names (Dior, Valentino) in providing high-profile clients with memorable one-of-a-kind looks: Murad already counts Jennifer Lopez as a red-carpet regular.

The face of couture is changing: out-and-out creativity still rules, but the big statements of a decade ago are being steadily replaced by an interest in great craftsmanship and boundary pushing detail. There have been concerns that couture’s love-in with Hollywood’s A list could mean an end to bold, creative thinking, but this simply hasn’t happened. The series of space-age gowns from Armani Prive (Spring 2010), deemed only suitable for the catwalk, proved immensely wearable for Hollywood’s elite on Oscar night. Indeed, as Hollywood is becoming bolder in its sartorial choices, couture is proving uniquely able to meet the challenges in making one-of-a-kind, career-defining gowns.

The expectation that couture would die a quick death during the economic depression has been proved wrong. Haute couture is in better shape than it was ten years ago; the designs haven’t got softer – the designers have got tougher in pushing couture detail not as blue-sky dressing, but real alternatives to the classic shapes we all know and love. Designers are more aware than ever of whom they are designing for, and it is this tightening of focus that has saved couture. Applying the lessons learnt from selling RTW in a tough economy has meant couture is still creative, but it is creativity smartly applied.

Josephine’s popularity for catwalk hiring grew in September 2011 with a massive 68-show season. Opening shows for Jaegar and House of Holland, she also appeared for Balenciaga, Christopher Kane, Fendi, Jason Wu, Peter Som, Prabal Gurung, Rodarte and Versace.

Ending the year with editorials with German Vogue and Dazed & Confused, Josephine made her inaugural appearance in American Vogue in January 2012 in the seminal feature ‘A Man for All Seasons’.

Also in January, Josephine again proved a hit with couturiers, appearing for Armani Prive, Basil Soda, Elie Saab and Atelier Versace. Josephine’s universal type of beauty correlates particularly strongly with couture. Its experiments in creativity give the clothes a timeless quality beyond immediate trends. Couture has that space to think big and its resulting ideas can be predictors of trends to come, or just beautiful clothes that exist like satellites. Josephine’s face may be a rarity, but it is textbook for couture: not an extreme, not a distraction, but a perfect complement.

Skriver’s stronghold on runway bookings continued in February with another blockbuster RTW season, featuring Gucci, Erdem, Tom Ford, Peter Pilotto, Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung and Michael Kors. A noticeable favourite with American super-brands (Kors, Jacobs, Ford), Josephine also impressed newer designers including Peter Pilotto and Prabal Gurung. Prabal in particular is a savvy booking for Josephine at this point in her career, as Gurung moves into the big-time. His gold cut-away gown worn by Jennifer Lawrence at the premiere for ‘Hunger Games’ has sealed his reputation on red-carpet wear that’s absolutely on the fashion pulse. Gurung’s profile is soaring as he is set to join the ranks of Jacobs and Ford as a must-book designer.

Also hitting the cover of the S/S H&M magazine in February, March proved to be an epic editorial month with Josephine appearing in Dansk, Chinese Vogue and Mixte. Skriver’s campaign roster continued to build with campaign videos for Gucci Cruise and MaxMara Weekend plus an appearance in the multi-model campaign for Bulgari’s Omnia Coral fragrance.

Featuring alongside Taryn Davidson and Carola Remer, this is the perfect summer fragrance campaign, with Bulgari gems and exotic flowers providing the accents. With some of the best fragrance campaigns, the personality of the perfume is so clearly delineated that you can almost smell the scent: this advert tells you very clearly what to expect.

This month, Josephine hits the headlines featuring in an editorial for American Vogue. ‘Checking Out’, photographed by Tim Walker, is a multi-page showcase for veteran model Kate Moss. Posing in a Ritz Paris hotel suite, Moss proves she has lost none of her magic. Josephine joins Mirte Maas, Sigrid Agren and Patricia van der Vliet in Valentino Couture, posing as ‘ladies-in-waiting’.

The question of who will take over from Moss as modelling’s next big star is still very much up for grabs. Some (Lara Stone, Gisele) have come close to replicating that star power, but Moss remains at the top of her profession two decades after her discovery. No-one wants to be the following act that always pales in comparison, but it is looking more and more likely that Kate is an isolated case of all the right factors coming together. From her early work with Corrine Day; the career-changing contract with Calvin Klein to her unrivalled domination of covers, campaigns and editorials, Kate has had an almost unblemished career.

Her success is routinely traced back to her greatest asset: that face. At age 38, she photographs as well as she did for Corinne back in the early Nineties. Ever since Kate’s discovery, the search has been on for the next great face: versatile, universal and immensely photogenic.

This, in tangent with her style, is Moss’ greatest gift to the modelling industry. Instead of turning up one face of note, the search has resulted in a renewed appreciation of great faces. Body types come and go, but there is a quality about beauty that enables it to both transcend and embody a trend. The type of beauty that everyone understands is still an unusual find even in the modelling industry, and for some time, its power has been greatly underestimated.

The allure of a classic face is not simple, it is primal: we are programmed to respond to it, and in turn, it ticks every box. This is well illustrated in Josephine’s career to date, which spans credits from Bulgari to H&M. Her extraordinary popularity on the catwalk bears testament to just how adaptable this beauty can be.

For all fashion likes to talk up bold, edgy talent, it’s hard to ignore the robust quality of Josephine’s career. Fashion’s love for universal beauty is laid bare in cases like Josephine where credits stack up one after another. As this season fashion celebrates the feminine in all its forms, Skriver looks set to enjoy an even rosier phase of her career. Pretty may be back – but did it really ever go away?


Sunday, 18 March 2012


Born on the 31st July 1994, British model Nyasha Matonhodze is a home-grown talent making an impact on an international stage.

Raised in Northampton, Nyasha entered the Elite Model Look contest in 2009, ending up as a finalist in the World Final after winning the British heat. The Elite Model contest has an excellent track record: its alumni include Gisele, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen.

Readily compared to Naomi Campbell, Nyasha had big expectations placed on her at the age of 15. She signed up with Elite Models the same year, making her catwalk debut in September 2010.

She had her first major ready-to-wear season in February 2011, with a mass of bookings including Erdem, Lela Rose, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Mary Katrantzou, Rachel Roy, Sass & Bide. Following this a month later with editorials in Harper’s Bazaar and Teen Vogue, Nyasha was already building a career most models would envy.

Her appearance for Teen Vogue was a particularly good signing, as they featured Nyasha as a name to watch just a month later. The magazine has a history of spotting future stars including Karlie Kloss and Lindsey Wixson. Teen Vogue acts as a perfect launch pad for new models by giving editorial opportunities to up-and-comers. A crucial building block in a model's career, Teen Vogue represents an important step in getting those editorial bookings. The magazine, though targeted at teenagers, has become increasingly influential in the mainstream press as it schools a new generation in the how, where and why of high-fashion. Appear in Teen Vogue, and other bookings will follow.

Nyasha’s star soared with her first magazine cover. Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for the Spring issue of Love, Nyasha channelled fashion gothic in a self-titled ‘Supernatural’ issue. Her confidence in front of the camera prepared her for her biggest break so far. In Autumn 2011, Nyasha was hired to appear in the latest campaign for Louis Vuitton.

Photographed by Steven Meisel, Louis Vuitton became a lone star in an Autumn / Winter season chiefly concerned with soft textures and cocoon shapes. A collection based on military chic stood out, and this played to Nyasha’s advantage as the images went global, both in print and online. Modelling with names such as Anais Pouliot, Nyasha’s performance was remarkable for its cool confidence. In these images, she looks every inch the supermodel-in-waiting, not allowing herself to be intimated by the enormity of the situation. A Vuitton campaign, photographed by one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world, would be enough to throw even an experienced model. Nyasha looks calm, assured and utterly at home. It was a debut not only promising a great deal, but delivering it too.

In her second campaign booking of the season, Nyasha got the chance to represent Britain in a campaign series for Topshop. In high-street terms, this is as good as it gets. Featuring Nyasha with Kate King and Hailey Clauson, Topshop has mastered the art of making high-street as covetable as high-fashion. Topshop, a uniquely British success story, excels because it refuses to pander to its audience. It sets high standards in terms of following and translating trends fit for retail, creating pieces as keenly valued as the high-fashion original. Topshop even starts micro-trends, from dalmatian print to skater dresses. It is a store with a strong sense of its own identity – and power. Topshop’s campaigns are notable for using the latest faces and Nyasha joins Kate and Hailey in a campaign that’s sleek as it is sophisticated.

Nyasha became even more in demand, with a 47—show season in September. Working the closing spot in the Balenciaga show, Nyasha’s other highlights included Givenchy, Elie Saab, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, Prabal Gurung, Tory Burch and YSL. This was the season of a model not just on the rise, but with very real potential to become a big star.

With consecutive editorials in W, American Vogue and Numero, Nyasha rounded out her clutch of editorial bookings with a spot for Japanese Vogue in November. The feature, named ‘Movement and Shape’, was a dynamic solo shoot for Matonhodze, seeing Nyasha work epic fashion from the likes of Alexander McQueen.

Ending 2011 with an elegant mini-shoot for American Vogue, Nyasha began 2012 with another spread for the iconic magazine. ‘A Man for All Seasons’ was a tribute to the work of Marc Jacobs. With models standing on a scaffold wearing his most prolific designs, the editorial ably demonstrated how large an impact Jacobs has had on the fashion industry. If there’s been any trend that’s sparked your imagination, chances are Jacobs started it first. Polka dots, midi-hems and grunge-luxe have all had an image reload on Jacobs’ watch.Even the classic items in your wardrobe got a high-fashion nod two years ago in a famously game-changing collection.

Jacobs, along with Miuccia Prada and Karl Lagerfeld, is one of fashion’s great sartorial rebels. His collections rarely bear any resemblance to what else is going on that season. His designs always tend to be one step ahead, but his best collections always feature individual pieces that are perfect for now. American Vogue’s tribute to Jacobs could not be more aptly named: whatever else is going on in fashion, you can rely on Marc to be a man for all seasons. It’s rare to find a designer equally strong in both S/S and A/W collections – they often have a preference, whether that’s personal choice or the label's tendency to lean towards one season over the other. Matthew Williamson’s gift at mixing bright colours makes him an automatic stand-out for S/S where YSL’s austerely Parisian take on tailoring finds its natural home in the A/W collections.

But Jacobs never feels like a designer we can pin down: his intoxicating, 70’s-inspired collection last year was just as talked-about as his bold, jazz-style riff on 40’s silhouettes. If Jacobs does have a preference, he keeps it well hidden.

Nyasha returned to Love magazine again this Spring with another show-stopping performance. ‘A Chorus Line’ photographed by Solve Sundsbo, Love explores fashion’s current love affair with all things vintage. Featuring Ajak Deng, Kati Nescher and Josephine Skriver, this is a tribute to the choreography seen in 1940’s Hollywood musicals. The military precision of the models pays homage to the steely eye of choreographer Busby Berkeley. Responsible for some of the most breathtaking dance sequences ever laid down on film, Sundsbo expertly mimics the razor-sharp lines of Berkeley’s famous chorus line. It is at once totally modern and wonderfully old-fashioned.

Nyasha returned to the runway in February, adding Zac Posen, Burberry, Rodarte and Richard Chai to her list of credits. Adding another major campaign to her CV this Spring, Nyasha took part in the resort campaign video for Balenciaga with Miranda Kerr, Milou van Groesen and Jamie Bochert.

The campaign video has gone from fashion curiosity to an established means of promoting a label in a very short space of time. It acts as a companion piece to the 2D campaign we’re more used to seeing, but more importantly, it provides a third dimension to the high-fashion experience. A 2D campaign can tell us how a collection looks, but the genius of the video is that it can give you a very good idea of how fashion fits, moves and feels. The latest must-see video from Prada’s S/S 12 collection is a masterclass in how to show off fashion to its best advantage. The swishing of the pleated skirts and the twinkle of the brocaded duster coats – they are all compelling arguments for the campaign video. Available to watch on YouTube well beyond the season they hail from, the video extends the life of a campaign, building a library of images that come together to form a richer, more detailed picture of a label’s history. It’s not just about fashion nostalgia but providing a label with the means of making a solid and formidable presence online. A glossy ad in the latest copy of Vogue is good, but no longer enough – success is now also measured by the number of hits your video gets. Success on the internet is a ripple effect: if one person shares your video with five friends, and they share it with five of theirs – the word about your label spreads remarkably quickly.

The internet has transformed the way we buy fashion, but now it is changing how we engage with fashion on an intellectual level. A label has not only got to win our hearts, but our minds as well. The video that makes a connection with both pays for itself several times over. If we like the video, we remember the label, and in a crowded marketplace, brand memory can be fickle. A stunning campaign video can hardwire itself into your memory and that’s exactly where every label wants to be. The campaign video is no longer a novelty, but a marketing tool of devastating effectiveness.

In reviewing Nyasha’s rise to the top, the question of whether fashion has learned to love diversity is one that can, for the moment, be put to rest. The Top 50 list on features models from Japan, Holland, Australia, Brazil and Croatia, and these are all models working at the very highest levels of their industry. Just like the growth in new technology, diversity is also no longer a novelty, but a given. Nyasha has the good fortune to be entering the fashion world at a point where it is actively embracing every kind of beauty. Even just ten years ago, the face of modelling looked very different. Models from different backgrounds were present and working, but in numbers nowhere near comparable to today.

Unlikely as it seems, the source of this transformation can be located in fashion’s biggest challenge: the global recession. The pockets of fashion consumers didn’t, as predicted, dwindle into extinction – they just moved. The new high-rollers, keeping RTW and couture afloat, came from further afield, and the transfer of wealth spurred an appetite for not only new faces, but faces able to translate and sell fashion to a truly global audience.

This all places Nyasha in a strong position for the next five years of her career. Matonhodze is already working at an international level, and being an international model has never been more vital than it is right now. One of the first models to work in a climate where technology, diversity and globalisation are radically altering the way we buy, view and think about fashion, the girl from Northampton is becoming the standard for a new modelling age: smart, confident and boldly eclectic.


Sunday, 11 March 2012


Born in the Netherlands on April 8th 1988, Milou van Groesen signed with Women Management in 2008.

Making an immediate impact, Milou was named ‘model of the week’ by in April 2008. Switching to Supreme Management in mid-2008, she made her ready-to-wear debut that September, walking for designers such as Vera Wang.

2009 began with editorial work for Japanese Numero and Dazed & Confused, and Milou made her third agency move, signing up with NEXT Models. In the same year, Milou made her big campaign debut, appearing in the Autumn / Winter H&M campaign, appearing with her friend (and emerging new talent), Tao Okamoto. H&M has been one of the first (and best) at embracing fashion’s new international age. Featuring models of numerous nationalities are H&M’s calling card, making each campaign series feel vibrant and current. High-fashion’s drive to woo their newest, affluent customers from around the globe follows on from what retail chains like H&M and Benetton have known for years: diversity sells.

In early 2010, Milou made what would become a career-changing decision. Bleaching her hair and chopping it into a mullet, van Groesen completely transformed. Stepping away from the comfort zone of her long, blonde hair was a brave move for a model that could still be ranked as a newcomer. The change was significant: google any pre-2010 shots of Milou and she is hard to recognise.

The idea of personal transformation as a route to success is still potent within the modelling industry. Fifty years after Twiggy’s gamine crop made her a legend, the idea that a simple change of style can have a seismic effect on your career remains beguiling, and every now and then, another model is added to that very select list. Milou joins the likes of Agyness Deyn who form a small band of models that transformed their prospects virtually overnight. Van Groesen re-emerged in October 2010 to Paris Fashion Week acclaim, opening the S/S Balenciaga show. A new image and agency DNA propelled van Groesen onto the fast track.

In February 2011, Milou was photographed for French Vogue, appearing on the cover of i-D as well. She made her debut for Italian Vogue in March, photographed by Steven Meisel. The editorial, ‘Wasted Luxury’ proved to be a career-defining moment not only for van Groesen but newcomer Saskia de Brauw. Eccentrically styled, this was a shoot designed to make waves. The beautiful detailing of the clothes paired with the element of whimsy in the accessories was quintessential Italian Vogue: daring, unconventional but beautiful. Van Groesen, also appearing in the March issue’s beauty supplement with Julia Nobis, was now one of fashion’s hottest names.

Van Groesen nailed her first Vogue cover a month later, appearing for Japanese Vogue. Modelling with Bambi Northwood Blyth and Fei Fei Sun, this cover was a celebration of fashion’s newest and greatest talents.

The heady pace of Milou’s ascent continued through 2011 with an appearance in i-D and Chinese Vogue. The credits grew even weightier in Autumn, with the announcement that Milou would join Carla Gebhart, Liya Kebede and Juliane Gruner to become the face of Balenciaga’s latest campaign.

Finishing the year with editorials for W and Interview, Milou again reprised her star turn for H&M’s series of winter campaigns. The last editorial of 2011 for Milou was also one of the most meaningful. Photographed by V magazine, van Groesen posed with models also signed by DNA Models. Appearing alongside Anna de Riyk, Dree Hemingway, Emily Baker, Raquel Zimmermann and Siri Tollerod, it was quite clear why van Groesen had found a home with this agency. An agency that houses an eclectic mix of faces from the ultra-feminine Zimmermann to the super-edgy de Brauw, it is clear that DNA has no limits when it comes to beauty: DNA’s refusal to define itself as an ‘editorial’ or ‘classic beauty’ agency has been wholly to Milou’s advantage.

The backing of her agency, and their ability to see van Groesen not just as an edgy, editorial face, is one of the factors contributing to Milou’s biggest signing to date. This Spring, Milou becomes the face of Giorgio Armani. Already having made waves with its previous campaign face, Nimue Smit, the Italian label decided to defy convention again and go with someone entirely unexpected. In this campaign, Milou oozes a cool intelligence, becoming the essence of modern beauty. It is a great campaign that rewrites the rules on androgyny not being flexible enough to incorporate mainstream ideas of beauty. Milou, in this campaign, is very much her own woman but still exudes a sophistication that is pure Armani. Milou is by turns, seductive, enigmatic and feminine. She may have been a left-field choice, but this campaign has proved itself a definitive moment for both label and model.

Milou’s second big moment in this season’s rota of campaigns sees her appearing in Balenciaga’s Resort video. Directed by Steven Meisel, the video also features Jamie Bochert, Miranda Kerr, Zuzanna Bijoch and Louis Vuitton favourite, Nyasha Matonhodze. The repetitive theme of the video borrows from art-house cinema as readily as the pulsating music reminds us of Hitchcock’s nightmarish vision of modern America. A bold, off-centre choice in a season packed with girlish detail, this campaign confirms Balenciaga’s reputation as the thinking girl’s label.

Always dubbed as one of fashion’s androgynous girls, Milou’s career does not hang on a pivotal ‘what if?’ moment. If van Groesen had never gone for that bold haircut, she would still have made it to the highest levels of fashion. Watching her in the Balenciaga video and her confident performance for the Armani campaign, it is self-evident that van Groesen never lacked talent, and would have always become a success.

Her career speaks of a fashion industry that has learned to use beauty in a whole new way: androgyny is no longer permanent and fixed, but something that can break away and move into other areas of fashion. Milou’s work for Armani is a compelling argument of how androgyny can be not only flexible, but influential. The latest campaign invites us to rewire our opinions on a much-loved label. It remains a byword for tailored elegance, but the decision to hire Milou means that Armani now competes on an ideological level with the big hitters of fashion’s avant-garde.

The idea of transformation – the almost fairytale like way in which a model can change overnight from unknown to ingĂ©nue – is still one that captivates us. But Milou’s dazzling career is attributable not to a haircut, but to her growing sense of self-belief. Her haircut made have left her with nowhere to hide (it’s hard to imagine anything more visible than a peroxide crop), but this gave van Groesen the freedom to become the kind of model she always wanted to be. The act of transformation which should have pigeon-holed Milou into a career with purely edgy, editorial credits – has widened her horizons with campaigns and editorials that are defiantly, gloriously at odds with her image.

Milou’s transformation did not take place in the salon chair, but at a much earlier point. Her refusal to let her image dictate her career has made her a star: a career rich with credits from every corner of the industry was clearly always Milou’s intention. With bookings from H&M to Armani, van Groesen is well on her way to becoming fashion’s renaissance woman.