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 www.models.com 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.HELEN TOPE