Dutch model Laura Kampman was born in 1994, signing with New York Models in 2011 aged 17.
Kampman made an impact early on in her career, debuting at the S/S 2012 shows, walking for Calvin Klein and Balenciaga as an exclusive. Her noteworthy appearances made her the focus of press attention, with www.models.com featuring her as one of their season’s Top Ten newcomers.
At just over 5’ 11”, Kampman’s affinity for the catwalk developed in early 2012 when she was chosen to appear in couture shows for Giambattista Valli and Valentino. Also appearing in that month’s British Vogue, she hit a career highlight in February when she landed the cover of Italian Vogue. Models often have to wait years for such an honour – Laura managed it within months of arriving on the scene. The cover, titled ‘Surreal or Real’, aimed at creating a sophisticated glamour. Drawing on the film icons of the 1930’s and 1940’s, Laura embodies those screen sirens brilliantly, conveying confidence and glamour. In Italian Vogue terms, this cover is almost minimal in its styling – it all rests on Laura’s performance. Laura’s cover is a triumph: with nothing to hide behind, all we see is Laura’s skill at being that bold, beautiful enigma. Whether surreal or real, it just works.
Following her stint at Italian Vogue, Laura had a strong ready-to-wear season in February and March, walking for Balenciaga again, she also walked for Alexander Wang, Christopher Kane, Giles, Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, Missoni, Rag & Bone, Rodarte, Sonia Rykiel and Versus. Already a theme was emerging in Laura’s bookings: these designers are not only at the top of their game, but they are all designers who specialise in directional fashion - Laura’s edgy look was a perfect match for their aesthetic.
Her early connection with Balenciaga went to the next level when she was booked for their Spring campaign. Photographed by Steven Meisel, Laura worked with Rosie Tapner, Juliane Gruner and Kirstin Lijegren. A Balenciaga campaign represents the ultimate challenge for any model: working a Balenciaga concept is remarkably tough as it relies on nuance. A label known for playing around with ideas, Balenciaga is unusual in that it never makes the same ad twice. Every season Balenciaga hits the refresh button coming up with an image that is completely different to the one that came before; no common factors, no familiar iconography. Every season, it’s like starting from scratch. Tough work for any model, but guided by Meisel, Laura takes charge of the campaign with an authority that is both astonishing and exhilarating.
The knock-on effect of the Balenciaga advert on Kampman’s career was immediate: from June to August, Laura found herself fully booked. In June she shot editorials for W and Japanese Vogue and in July, Laura travelled to Kiev for Dazed and Confused to shoot an editorial with photographer Yelena Yemchuk. ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ (taking its name from the song by David Bowie) saw Yelena return to her hometown of Kiev to construct an editorial that celebrates the oddity and perversity of high-fashion. Inspired by Bowie’s Seventies androgynous glamour, Laura poses as the fish out of water in retro tailoring from Prada and Miu Miu. At odds with her environment, the editorial becomes a moving exploration of the bravery it takes to express identity through image: dressed in these bold prints, Laura is at once both armoured and exposed.
Laura also appeared in the July edition of V magazine, this time for a spread titled #Instaglam. Drawing on the huge popularity of Instagram, the editorial features models including Franzi Mueller and Marte Mei van Haaster wearing the A/W collections.
August was an especially busy month for Kampman, with Laura appearing in five magazines. Shooting an editorial for British Vogue, Kampman appeared in ‘Best in Show’. Photographed by Daniel Jackson, this humorous editorial trades on the adage of dogs resembling their owners. Featuring military tailoring and rich, plum tones, the models have to work hard in order to avoid being upstaged by their four-footed co-stars.
Laura’s second editorial of the month was for Chinese Vogue. ‘Outer Limits’ explored the outsize trend that has returned after years of the waist reigning supreme. Also featuring Codie Young, Tian Yi, Ondria Hardin and Andie Arthur, the best trend pieces were featured, including the Jil Sander blush coat and Marc Jacobs’ ragamuffin hats.
One of August’s most interesting editorials was Laura’s work for i-D. ‘Hold Hands Be Free Find the Real You’, shot by Amy Troost, was a super-edgy exploration of colours and texture: all about freedom of expression, it tests every rule we think we know about fashion, and by inverting them, we look again at the individual pieces in terms of their worth and appreciate how they can be put together in new ways. It is this envelope-pushing that has informed Kampman’s career to date: more than just a face that fits, Kampman has a connection to this type of fashion, making it not only interesting, but finding the beauty within. It takes a certain kind of model to connect on this level, and Kampman (not even a year into her career) already has it figured out.
Kampman’s reputation for great editorial work was cemented this autumn, with Laura landing a spot in the A/W Topshop campaign. Photographed by Alasdair McLellan, the campaign also features rising stars Ava Smith, Moa Aberg and Melissa Stasiuk. Coupled with the great production values we have come to expect of Topshop’s campaigns, the images lend high-street a high-fashion gloss.
Laura returned to the catwalk this September with a RTW season including appearances for Loewe, Maison Martin Margiela, Rick Owens, Anteprima, Giorgio Armani, Rodarte, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, Peter Som and MaxMara. With the notable addition of Armani, Kampman’s appeal for the edgier design talents continues. With Maison Martin Margiela presenting a collection for H&M this autumn, Kampman’s links with high-fashion and high-street are as strong as ever.
Kampman’s latest credit is an editorial for Pop magazine. ‘A Chanel Moment’ sees Laura transform to become a glamour girl with poker-straight hair, dressed head-to-toe in the latest Chanel collection. Compare this to her work for Balenciaga, and it’s hard to recognise this as the same model. Laura’s capacity to transform so dramatically is a definite asset, and in light of her body of work with fashion’s directional core, is a surprise that will challenge the industry to see her as someone with cross-over potential.
In previous years, versatility was flagged as a model’s ability to switch from commercial to editorial. Editorial was seen as the ultimate challenge; a true test of a model’s abilities. Now it is seen as a given: virtually every element of the fashion industry strives towards an editorial sensibility. Topshop – the kingpin of the British high street – is highly successful, but its campaigns denote a chain that sees itself as firmly leaning towards editorial. Our love of editorial presents itself in what we now choose to wear: high-fashion details such as the peplum waist and studded slipper shoe, far from being ‘challenging’, are widely available and highly coveted.
With high-fashion being embraced as something attainable, editorial faces are becoming the norm and being able to flip to a more commercial look is being seen as the unique selling point. Laura has entered an industry that has changed significantly over the past five years; copying trends verbatim has been replaced by individual expression: simply put, it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. A principle clearly demonstrated in i-D’s editorial, layering and mixing textures has become the next step in wearing clothes in a way that expresses individuality. With clothes so freely available both in store and online, buying that one-off piece (without going fully retro) is virtually impossible. The solution? Mix it up.
As fashion trends spark a global following, creating a personal style and stepping away from head-to-toe looks is rapidly being seen as the more modern way to wear clothes. Individuality is the new buzzword for fashion, and as a result, the faces that represent high-fashion have to be just as unique. Laura’s features are perfect for carrying off the cerebral chic of Balenciaga, as well as translating those trends in editorial.
Kampman’s success is all down to playing to her strengths: it’s more than the sum of her features. Her ability to understand and interpret directional looks is invaluable in today’s fashion industry. As fashion travels ever closer to the edge, pushing us to be ever bolder in what we wear day to day; talents like Kampman will be the best means of passing on the message. Be brave, be individual – and do it now.