Born in South Carolina in 1994, Madison Headrick was scouted by Vision agency at the age of 16. Squeezing assignments in and around school commitments, as Madison neared graduation she had a choice to make.
Asked by her dad if she wanted to take modelling more seriously (but only after graduating from school), Madison was given the option of graduating a semester early, finishing high school in January 2012. Travelling to New York to sign up with modelling agency Marilyn, the plan was for Madison to ground herself in the basics such as casting, runway, and familiarising herself with the fashion landscape including photographers, editors and important designers.
However, modelling boot camp was put on hold. Interest in Madison was immediate, and she was asked to attend a casting session for the Prada runway show. Meeting Ashley Brokaw in Milan – a casting director who also works for Balenciaga, Miu Miu and Proenza Schouler – the South Carolina girl flat-out impressed. She was not only booked for the show, but booked as an exclusive. Headrick’s booking made headlines in the fashion industry. With her all-American looks, and Prada usually going for European, directional faces, Madison was a left-field choice for the label.
Prada’s long-held reputation for spotting new talent remains unchallenged in the industry: previous models that have started their careers as Prada exclusives include Lara Mullen, Patricia van der Vliet, Nimue Smit and Iselin Steiro. Left-field or not, this phenomenal start put Madison on the editorial fast-track, with bookings from Interview, Dazed & Confused, Numero and British Vogue. Working with Caroline Brasch Nielsen in Numero, ‘The Trainer’ was a daring S&M-themed shoot with both Caroline and Madison working tailored glamour. Given the edgy Numero treatment, this type of editorial can push established models: but here Madison is sleek, darkly glamorous and in control.
In August, she appeared in British Vogue’s editorial ‘Best in Show’. Playing on the British love of animals, this shoot featured models posing with a pedigree pooch. With the editorial tone firmly tongue-in-cheek, Madison gets it absolutely spot on, exuding charm and refusing to be upstaged by her co-star. Mastering these types of editorial is essential: despite rumours to the contrary, fashion definitely has a sense of humour. Character editorials, like ‘Best in Show’ are particularly popular with high-fashion magazines as they give the creative team (including the model) room to explore and develop ideas within an existing framework of reference. We all get the reference of a dog show; British Vogue just took it to its high-fashion conclusion to create a fun and memorable editorial.
Madison then channelled the Eighties in an August shoot for Oyster magazine. ‘Working Girl’ (taking its name from the famous 1988 film) saw Madison transform into a high-fashion interpretation of leading lady Melanie Griffith: coiffed, preened and styled to Eighties perfection. Book-ending the summer with appearances in resort look-books for Donna Karan and Altuzarra, Madison returned to the runway in the autumn, walking for Jill Stuart, Rag & Bone and Edun.
In September, Madison made her debut for V magazine. ‘The New Girls’, photographed by Terry Tsiolis, was a clutch of simple black and white portraits. Modelling with Julia Frauche, Lena Hardt, Moa Aberg and Susannah Liguori, it is a beautiful editorial, with every model earning her place at the ‘new girl’ table. But in looking at Headrick’s photos, what becomes apparent is her gift for translating glamour into something fresh and modern.
But Madison’s star-making moment came when it was announced that she would appear in the new Prada Autumn / Winter campaign. Photographed by Steven Meisel, Madison joined a raft of established talent including Iselin Steiro and Magdalena Frackowiak, plus Vanessa Axente and Versace campaign favourite, Elza Luijendijk. With their 1950’s inspired campaign in Spring being a huge hit on YouTube with nearly 500,000 hits, Prada had a lot to live up to. The collection itself was not only hugely popular but it made a star of out of models like Katryn Kruger. With Miuccia Prada putting black back at the core of the colour palette, the campaign focused on the retro mosaic print trouser-suits, studded with jewel accents. Worn cropped at the ankle with Mary-Jane shoes, this collection was quintessential Prada, transforming what we normally think of as ‘awkward’ and ‘ugly’ into a thing of beauty.
The campaign deliberately avoided the heady qualities of the Spring campaign, opting for a quieter feel. Subtly choreographed, the campaign gives us the opportunity to look at the clothes in detail – it’s clear that for this season, the clothes (quite literally) take centre stage.
Appearing in a Prada campaign always performs its magic on a model’s career, and Madison, post-Prada, has been no exception. Following the campaign’s release, she was booked for Italian Vogue’s September issue, appearing with Constance Jablonski and Nicola Wincenc.
Rounding out the rest of this season with appearances for Vision China and Bon, Headrick is rapidly becoming an editorial force to be reckoned with. The shoot for Bon sees Madison wearing many of the clothes from the Prada collection, making it clear the bond between model and label. What started out as a chance trip to Milan has become a lasting and meaningful association.
Looking at these latest photos of Madison, it becomes clear what Prada saw in her last year: her talent for making glamour feel fresh and youthful is no simple task. Of all fashion’s greatest ideas, glamour is the one most heavily laden with ghosts of faces and images from the past. We all have an idea of what constitutes glamour and it takes someone unique to make room in that crowded concept for something new.
Prada, as always, may have been ahead of the pack in hiring Headrick. After years of us getting comfortable with detail being the story, glamour is finally making a comeback: big, bold and out there. This autumn, the wealth of brocade and velvet alone tells us that this season is playing a very different game. The subtle sparkle; embedded on a cardigan sleeve or on a heel of a boot, has made way for a much more obvious look. Glamour isn’t hiding anymore, but on display for all to see. What’s new about this re-interpretation of glamour is that the glitz element is restrained: the excess is not in sequins, but in the textures being used: this is glamour you can feel.
This is why Prada’s selection of Madison was an act of genius: still at the beginning of her career in real terms, she has an opportunity to become the face of this glamour movement just as it’s taking off. This modern take on glamour needs a new face to represent it: an entirely fresh approach is required if glamour is to convince us to ditch our love of casual, and get dressed up again. We’ve had hits of glamour in recent years, but the crucial difference here is that this season isn’t locked into a previous era or decade. You can’t boil it down to a Great Gatsby influence or the Mad Men power-chic. This is glamour not leaning on its laurels, but attempting to persuade us of its own value, for its own sake. Embracing the personal and the individual, glamour is set to make a whole new impression. For a concept so heavily weighed down with other people’s ideas, this is a chance to refresh our notions of what glamour can mean; to make it relevant, make it new.
Now about to celebrate her first year in the modelling industry, Headrick is not just the latest American face to dazzle the fashion world. She has a chance to become that rarity: a fashion icon. Prada very rarely gets it wrong, and to place such a model in their show is a statement not only of what’s to come for that season, but a prediction that aims much further ahead. The face of fashion’s future, Madison is glamour made modern.