Born in 1993, Latvian model Karlina Caune shot to fame in 2010 when she won the Ford Models Supermodel of the World competition.
A global search for fashion’s next superstars, the standards for this competition are fiercely high. To even be selected to take part is a very strong indicator of real modelling talent. While winning is not an automatic pass into the fashion industry, it is enough to propel a model's career in the right direction. The winners are selected by a panel of fashion insiders. They select the next generation of faces they believe will have an impact and Caune’s classic features, with a hint of editorial, were deemed to be exactly what the industry was looking for.
In February 2010, Karlina debuted at Fashion Week, and proved a hit with a wide range of designers including Marchesa, Behnaz Serafpour and Tory Burch.
Karlina broke into editorial work the following month, with a spread in Nylon. This was a key publication for Caune’s editorial debut: Nylon’s reputation for presenting high-fashion in a refreshingly non-deferential way is well-founded, and a major coup for any new model.
In June, Karlina modelled in the resort show for Stella McCartney in New York, following that with an editorial for British Marie Claire. Photographed by Yu Tsai, ‘Super Vixen’ fused classic beauty with the moody, evocative image of the silver-screen siren. Using dark-haired Karlina, it was a deft response to the Hitchcock blonde.
Leaving Ford Models and signing with New York Models in early 2011, Karlina returned to the runway in February walking in ready-to-wear shows for Erdem, Louise Gray and Meadham Kirchhoff. Landing the cover of Russia’s L’Officiel in March, and appearing in the spring issue of Revue de Modes, Caune’s list of runway bookings began to grow. Walking in the Spring / Summer 2012 shows that September, she added Carven, Celine, Dries van Noten, Isabel Marant, Julien MacDonald, Marios Schwab and YSL to her list of credits. With the season’s emphasis on femininity, it was no surprise that Karlina did so well. On the catwalk, every interpretation of femininity was represented, from Julien MacDonald’s homage to old-school glamour to Meadham Kirchhoff’s subversive exploration of sugar and spice.
Caune made her first appearance in German Vogue in February, working with Kati Nescher, Erjona Ala and Julia Frauche. In a series of soft-focus, modern portraits; this editorial (‘WeiB wie Schwarz’) was all about striking a balance between being a strong editorial presence and allowing the simplicity of the clothes to speak for themselves. This type of modelling requires intelligence and subtlety: Karlina delivered on both.
February saw Karlina’s runway CV expand with a massive 45 shows, walking for Dolce & Gabbana, Hakaan, Jason Wu, Marni, Oscar de la Renta, Rag & Bone, Sonia Rykiel and Viktor & Rolf. This was Karlina’s most comprehensive season to date.
In March, Karlina appeared in the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar. ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, photographed by Mark Segal, saw Karlina model the bold new motifs for 2012. Her ability to work fashion’s most challenging ideas was also demonstrated when Caune was booked for Dazed & Confused’s season preview. Modelling monochromatic tailoring, Karlina modelled one of fashion's most enduring and iconic looks without being overwhelmed.
That same month, Karlina appeared in i-D. ‘Don’t Be a Drag, Just be a Queen’ (photographed by Amy Troost), saw Caune channel punk attitude with a Valentino dress layered with a McQ pleated leather skirt. This ‘in-your-face’ fashion doesn’t always mix well with classic faces, but Karlina handled i-D’s brief with relish, working her angles to create that vital, editorial edge.
Returning to the pages of German Vogue in May, Karlina got to work with photographer Greg Kadel. ‘Klassenbeste’ (meaning ‘Best in Class’) saw Karlina modelling an American Varsity jacket and an exquisitely-beaded haute couture corset. If you ever needed proof of Karlina’s versatility, this shoot was Exhibit A.
Karlina’s exhaustive round of editorial work culminated in May with an appearance in Italian Vogue. Working for their supplement, ‘Suggestions’, the shoot and accompanying video was a virtual moodboard for the perfect summer: warm, sunny and light-hearted, this impeccably-styled supplement saw Italian Vogue in relaxed mode. The retro, laid-back feel saw Karlina and fellow model Monica Sawicka recline in colourful pieces by Moschino, Giambattista Valli and Prada.
August saw a flurry of print work for Karlina, including Numero’s ‘Lunaire’ (an editorial dedicated to exploring texture) and Turkish Vogue’s ‘Isiga Dogru’. The latter, photographed by Jem Mitchell, explored dazzling, ornate bursts of colour with clashing textures and finishes. A beautifully-shot editorial that made the most of Karlina’s classic beauty, this was excess undertaken with perfect restraint.
This September, Karlina re-appeared on the RTW catwalks, walking for Giambattista Valli, DSquared, Tom Ford, Christopher Kane, Thakoon and Helmut Lang. With her authority on the runway now clearly established, Caune’s career went to the next level: campaigns.
This winter, you can see Karlina in four different campaigns: Akris (modern, sleek sensuality); Jil Sander Eyewear; Hobbs with Emily Baker and Kinga Rajzak and Sportmax (undergoing an image overhaul courtesy of photographer Craig McDean).
Looking at Karlina’s varied body of work; it is obvious why she won the Ford Models competition. Able to run the gamut of modern sophistication to rough-and-ready punk, Caune is the epitome of the fashion multi-tasker. Despite fashion’s current taste for models with a pre-defined look, there is always a place (and economic necessity) for the versatile model. There is an advantage in having a look that doesn’t lean too heavily in any direction – depending on the styling; Karlina can be ultra-feminine or downright androgynous. It also makes for a more interesting career: so far Karlina has worked for publications as diverse as Nylon, Harper’s Bazaar and Italian Vogue.
There is also longevity in being the versatile girl: the model with the strong, headline-making look may be winning the top jobs one month, but fashion never stays in one place for very long. Furthermore, any modelling agency will tell you that a healthy bottom-line is dependent on models just like Karlina.
In winning a big competition like Ford Models, there is always the risk of that victory, that weight of expectation, marring a model’s progress. Enter the fashion industry equipped with the title ‘Supermodel of the World’ and the pressure is on to perform – and to do so to the highest of standards.
Karlina has been brave in not chasing the obvious, big-money jobs. In debuting with a small-but-strong RTW season, she developed a solid foundation, growing steadily each year, winning over more and more clients in the process. Caune’s long game strategy has proved to be the smart choice and could well be copied by future winners of this highly influential competition. In not bowing to pressure to become that ‘iconic’ supermodel, Karlina has engineered a career that’s not only exciting, but buzzing with potential. The best is most definitely yet to come.