Discovered whilst attending a horse show in 2007, Swedish-born Sara Blomqvist has been one of fashion’s stealth stars.
Born April 8th 1989, Sara signed with agency Viva in Paris the same year. Debuting on the international runway circuit that September, Sara appeared for Aquascutum, Christopher Kane, Dries van Noten, Jonathan Saunders and Vanessa Bruno. A hit in both Paris and London, Sara made an even bigger impact in Milan, agreeing to walk in the Prada show as an exclusive.
The Prada connection was enough to get Sara started: booking a Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti campaign for early 2008 got her noticed by the fashion press, with www.hintmag.com featuring her as a rising star.
In February 2008, Sara took to the runway again, this time opening shows for both Christopher Kane and Armand Basi. Website www.models.com featured Sara as a Top 10 Newcomer. A regular fixture of fashion weeks, making the list is as much a rite of passage as a cover of Vogue.
The internet has seen an explosion of interest in models, as runway clips and campaign shoots routinely get commented on and dissected. The freedom of expression brings fashion to a whole new audience, who can without censorship, discuss the hottest new face or that controversial cover choice. The influence of the internet is such that names can be made virtually overnight, with even the briefest of nods from the right website. Now an institution, www.models.com definitely falls into that category.
Sandwiching in some editorial work for Numero and Amica, Sara had her first booking with Interview magazine in September 2008. Working with Freja Beha Erichsen, and photographed by Mikael Jansson, it was a smart choice for Blomqvist.
Magazines like Interview, V and Numero have worked hard to separate themselves from the bigger names of Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue. Just as fashion needs diversity to grow and thrive, the publications it appears in need to be equally wide-ranging. The fact that there is such an appetite for alternative views on fashion puts magazines – and the models they choose to showcase – at a very strong advantage.
Blomqvist’s hold on fashion’s directional design houses was rapidly becoming a given, but Sara was still capable of surprising everyone. In 2009, she was announced as the new face of Armani Jeans. Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Armani was already starting to think outside the box when it came to hiring models. Their experiment in using an edgy face to sell a blockbuster brand was a bold, game-changing strategy. Currently represented by Milou van Groesen, Armani has proved itself way ahead of its competitors, hiring Sara a whole two years before Versace booked face-of-the-moment, Saskia de Brauw.
September 2009 saw Blomqvist step up in terms of her runway hits, including several opening and closing spots with Jonathan Saunders, Missoni, Christopher Kane, Sportmax and Miu Miu. Her other credits included Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Jaegar, Lanvin, Mark Fast, Mulberry, Paul Smith, Prada, Richard Nicoll, Rue du Mail, Valentino and YSL. It was a curious mix of heritage labels plus early collections from Kane, Fast and Nicoll – the new names on the circuit that would become major industry players.
The high esteem in which Sara was held translated into further editorial bookings, including Russian Vogue in April, Japanese Numero and French Vogue in May and her first Italian Vogue shoot in June. Photographed by Steven Meisel, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ was a heady, stylised vision of Euro nightlife featuring Meghan Collison, Anna de Rijk and Nimue Smit. Sara was rapidly becoming an international commodity.
In February 2010, Sara had her biggest ready-to-wear season to date with over 64 appearances. The A/W collections were an important marker in fashion’s recent history, with Marc Jacobs producing his ‘back to neutral’ show; Burberry piloting aviator jackets and Prada and Louis Vuitton exploring the best of the 1950’s. It was a season that sold us on new winter textures and the beauty of retro shapes. Blomqvist appeared in some of the big shows of that season including Burberry, Prada and Louis Vuitton. If Blomqvist ever needed reassurance that she had made it, this was the season that proved her worth.
The mammoth RTW season in February saw Sara switch to Paris in July for her very first couture season. Walking for Valentino and Chanel, you simply could not wish for a better initiation in the world of haute couture.
Blomqvist expanded on her couture experience in January 2011 with further appearances for Chanel and Valentino, plus Elie Saab. Sara’s career also came full circle in Spring 2011 with an appearance in the Prada Fantasy lookbook. Sara found herself working with Prada alumni Mariacarla Boscono, plus Jessica Stam, Lindsey Wixson, Ginta Lapina and Jourdan Dunn.
This was the ‘swirls and stripes’ collection – in theory, a ‘hard-sell’ collection, Prada smartly traded on its quirkiness. In its decision not to shy away from the collection’s complexity, Prada made difficult fashion feel fresh, modern and totally of the moment. It became the defining image of Spring / Summer 2011: playful, exuberant and full of natural energy. Enthusiasm can never be faked with any degree of success – the lookbook joins the accompanying campaign and video in being genuinely excited about new ways of wearing print. The stripes and swirls worn side by side were Prada’s nod to our growing confidence in trying new ways of wearing old favourites. Stripes are as perennial a Spring / Summer favourite as it’s possible to get, but paired with baroque swirls, they look anything but old hat.
Sara continued to be a great draw for both cutting-edge and more mainstream labels in September with a 57-show season, and then in Autumn, she made her campaign debut for Valentino.
Working with Ruby Aldridge, Kim Dall Arni and Caroline Brasch Nielsen, this collection sees Valentino return to its vintage roots, with high collars and long sleeves. Valentino’s career was kick-started when his early designs were picked up by a recently-widowed Jacqueline Kennedy, and it’s not hard to trace the lineage of this Italian luxury label to its recent collections: glamour with a sophisticated leading edge.
In December, Sara booked a special campaign with H&M, celebrating the release of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The recent influence film has had on fashion has ranged from more casual attire (Bella, ‘Twilight’) to extreme body jewellery getting a mainstream boost. Rooney Mara in her role as Lisbeth Salander seems an unlikely style icon, but her uncompromising role has sparked a huge surge of interest in fashion’s darker persona. Body jewellery that was usually reserved for specialist shops can now be bought in the most prolific high-street stores. It seems that when it comes to our fashion choices, we’re not only getting braver, we’re getting a little darker too.
Sara finished the year with yet more runway work, this time appearing in the Pre-Fall show for Chanel. The resort / pre-fall collections are gaining in importance: as fashion moves ever faster, two main collections per year just aren’t enough to satisfy our appetite for newer, bolder designs. As well as being a pre-cursor, nudging us towards the upcoming trends, these smaller collections allow designers the space to explore their ideas on a different scale.
Jason Wu’s 2012 pre-fall collection, for example, was a wonderful extension of his previous ideas: his love for florals became an altogether different species when hung against the backdrop of sharp, gothic lines. Highly successful in its own right, Wu’s bold new vision was already claiming red-carpet space months before his A/W line was unveiled.
Sara began 2012 itself with another strong RTW season, perhaps her most eclectic season to date, with bohemian labels like Kenzo and Dries van Noten rubbing shoulders with the high-glamour vision of Dolce & Gabbana.
Also featuring in prolific editorials for Love and American Vogue, Blomqvist stretched herself even further with a beauty spread for ‘Another’ magazine. ‘Pastels and Metallics’ takes a look at the pastel super-trend, but in coming at it from the beauty perspective, tricky shades of lilac and peach become wearable, with delicate washes of colour on the eye, muted lips and brighter statements on the nails. Editorials like this show how a fashion trend can be put within everyone’s reach.
The most recent editorial appearance made by Sara proves to be the most enlightening. Another niche publication, ‘The Last Magazine’, features Blomqvist in an article featuring behind-the-scenes photographs from New York Fashion Week. The twist is that Sara is the photographer, taking snaps of her fellow models including Kate King and Othila Simon. Sara, a keen photographer in her down-time, takes photos from rehearsals and backstage, adding comments, which neatly tell the story of the real experience of being a model at Fashion Week. It is a scenario that Blomqvist herself is extremely familiar with: lots of waiting around and crowded, frantic preparations.
Her interest in photography isn’t surprising: a good model needs to be a sharp-eyed observer; taking in detail and nuance for runway shows and complicated editorials. The fact that many models have gone behind the lens (famously including Helena Christensen and Tyra Banks) draws parallels between being observed and also the need to observe. Five years into what has been an incredible career, Blomqvist must also be thinking of her next move, and photography seems like the logical step for someone who has made her name on being both deeply intuitive and fiercely intelligent. Modern in both style and approach, Sara represents fashion’s next chapter: bravery, diversity and innovation.HELEN TOPE