Born in France in 1985, Marie Piovesan signed with Marilyn Agency in 2011, at the age of 26. She debuted at Fashion Week in October the same year, appearing for YSL and Miu Miu, also opening the Celine show.
In December, she finished her inaugural year with an editorial for Interview magazine. ‘Reed Krakoff’ was a profile piece, exploring the new American must-have label. A recent addition to the international fashion scene, it has been typified as an alternative to Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren’s vision of high-end luxury. Reed Krakoff explores luxurious textures but in a postmodern way, defying the expectation that ‘luxury’ fashion can’t be edgy or daring.
Marie made her couture debut in January 2012, walking in the Spring / Summer Valentino show. Within the space of a few months, Piovesan would prove that couture, either by label or by attitude, would be her true comfort zone. Having a face that lends itself readily to directional fashion, Marie comes equipped with the skills necessary to embody and translate that most difficult of sartorial genres.
In February, Marie conquered RTW, with a massive season of 40 shows. All the biggest labels booked Marie including Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Valentino. Piovesan was also a ready favourite with newer labels such as Haider Ackermann. Autumn 2012 looks set to be a season celebrating the dark arts, with artisan touches from Marc Jacobs and Valentino in particular, with Jacobs’ models trawling the catwalk in huge Dr.Seuss-style hats courtesy of milliner Stephen Jones. The palette for A/W 2012: black, grey with splashes of dark green and maroon may be perfect for a money-spinner season, but its heart is rooted in something bigger. The best collections combined wearability with broad strokes of creativity, again, disproving the theory that the two have to be mutually exclusive.
Marie’s association with high fashion’s quirky side continued with an editorial for ‘Love’ magazine. Shot in video format, ‘Fan Club’ (directed by Ruth Hogben), pays homage to the chorus lines of 1940’s Hollywood musicals. Featuring Ajak Deng, Kati Nescher, Hye Park and Aymeline Valade, the video profiles the Louis Vuitton blockbuster collection. Love it or hate it, its range of influence this summer is everywhere.
Deceptively coy, but full of charm, the collection is rapidly coming to define Spring / Summer 2012.
Marie’s skills in ‘real time’ modelling continued into February with an editorial for www.models.com. The short film, ‘Committed’, acts as a showcase for new talent including Codie Young, Isabelle Melo and Kelly Mittendorf. Showing that you can model in ‘real time’ is becoming as important as how you perform in still photographs. As fashion employs new media to promote itself, moving well on camera is now a key skill for any new model.
In March, Piovesan made her Italian Vogue debut, not only getting a leading editorial but the cover of its famous couture supplement. The intersection where art and fashion meet, this is justifiably what Italian Vogue is known for. Its international reputation for translating couture and showing it at its best is well-established.
The editorial, ‘The Lady in Spring’, is Vogue Italia’s interpretation of the ladylike trend. Featuring epic, pleated gowns from Dior; Valentino’s obsession with lace and Armani Prive’s smart play on textures, this is an editorial designed to stimulate thought as much as desire.
While some editorials let themselves wash over you, others pointedly make you stop and demand you look closer. The complexity of the styling insists that we take a moment to ‘read’ the clothes the way we would read a book; taking in every detail and nuance. Italian Vogue not only respects haute couture, it knows that in order to appreciate it, you must understand it. Sometimes criticised for being inscrutable, haute couture is only too willing to offer up its secrets if you give it a chance. Couture may be complex, but it can also be immensely rewarding; it isn’t about indulgence, but exploration. The recent innovations reaching the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival – diaphanous skirts attached to beaded bodices; daring cutaways and beautifully evocative prints – every one of those concepts started life as a couture design. What once seemed outlandish now seems both covetable and beautiful.
Marie’s performance in the Italian Vogue editorial is extraordinary, but not obtrusive; it adds another layer of meaning to the image rather than distract us from the clothes. Sometimes couture demands drama from its model, at other times, it needs a more subtle finish. Marie provides the latter with a sophistication that only really comes from ‘getting’ what the designer is trying to say. Knowing photographers and editors is all part of a model’s job, but if you don’t engage with what you’re being asked to wear, the resulting performance might be good, but it won’t be great.
Squeezing in a conceptual beauty editorial for the March edition of Interview, Marie then got her moment in the spotlight when she was hired to represent Celine in their Spring / Summer campaign.
Photographed by Juergen Teller, the campaign plays against the label’s previous incarnation under Michael Kors, whose creative directorship steered the brand into becoming a byword for super-luxurious glamour. When Phoebe Philo took over the reins in 2008, after her highly successful stint at Chloe, the label became a very different animal. Since Phoebe’s signing, Celine has evolved into an exercise in studied luxury. It was a radical switch from the Kors-esque glamour to a more loosely-drawn, modern interpretation of what luxury means.
Marie in this campaign wears the white shirt-dress that is the kingpin of the entire collection. The simple shape, the impeccable tailoring are by definition luxurious (the shirt-dress doesn’t come cheap), but it is a very new way of wearing high-end fashion. Celine is still about luxury; as much as it ever was, but now, the genius is not on show, but behind-the-scenes.
Piovesan’s affiliation with ground-breaking fashion continues with an incredible multi-page shoot for the April issue of Interview. Photographed by Fabien Baron, ‘Goya’, is an unapologetically epic shoot featuring the very best of this season’s RTW and couture. Styled to the nth degree with grand silhouettes and supersized jewellery, the editorial is named after the Spanish artist who made his name exploring the grotesque and disturbing. Goya’s unsettling but intimate portraits, including ‘The Mourning of the Duchess of Alba’ (1797), are clearly the inspiration for the editorial. With the Duchess wearing metres of black Spanish lace, she is poised, self-assured with plenty of attitude – an early example of what’s required when modelling couture.
Tracing its roots back through 18th and 19th century art, couture has been the status symbol of choice for art’s wealthy patrons. With ready-to-wear clothing not available until the 1920’s, society portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough and later John Singer Sargent, made the clothes the main event. Gainsborough made his fortune by conveying the delicate nature of lace and silk – committing these fabrics to canvas provided the ultimate challenge for the ambitious painter. John Singer Sargent, who painted portraits of New York’s emerging elite, also made light work of the new fashions being worn. The velvet sensuality of his ‘Portrait of Madame X’ (1884) compared to the cotton pinafores of ‘The Daughters of Edward Darley Bolt’ (1882), are prime examples of how fashion has always been in the spotlight. The sitters may draw you in, but the real work is in the fabric: getting brushstrokes to resemble silk can only be done by a master. Nearly 90 years after Sargent’s death, the brush has been replaced by a camera and the likes of Meisel, Testino and Demarchelier are continuing to carry the torch.
What is evident from looking at the Goya editorial is that Marie Piovesan understands that she is the sitter, and the dress the star. She injects a sense of history into her work that gives her modelling, whether it is on the runway or in front of a camera, a greater depth and substance. Blessed with a face that is traditional as it is modern, Piovesan’s gift to the fashion industry is in reminding it of where it came from. Once a pleasure for the privileged few; dressing fashionably is now accessible for billions of people. In the space of 200 years, we’ve viewed fashion from a painter’s perspective to the global lens of YouTube: however it is interpreted, fashion continues to thrive because it continues to learn from its past. The never-ending narrative of fashion may be told differently, but the message is always the same: a good model and photographer work the stage for our applause, but ultimately it’s fashion that takes the encore.