Sunday, 26 February 2012


Born in Canada on the 2nd February 1988, Meghan Collison won the Mode Model Search competition in 2006. Signing first with Supreme and then moving to Women Management in 2007, Meghan began making waves before she had even walked the runway. Touted by as a ‘girl to watch’ in June 2007, the next few days proved to be pivotal in launching Collison onto the global modelling circuit.

Photographed by both Thierry Le Goues and Steven Klein, on the 21st of June, she was photographed for Italian Vogue; on the 24th, she was snapped for Japanese Vogue and on the 26th she was photographed for British Vogue by Mario Testino.

In just under seven days, Collison had the fashion world wanting more of her bold, new look. The fevered pace of her discovery led to a major career first in October ’07 with Meghan appearing on the cover of Italian Vogue.

Shot by Steven Meisel, the title of the cover was ‘Independent’. It could not have been more aptly named. It would become the calling card for not only Meghan’s type of beauty and also the career she would go on to have: uncompromising and fearless.

Just a month later, Collison appeared on her second Italian Vogue cover, this time modelling with Coco Rocha. Italian Vogue’s infatuation with Collison’s look became infectious with Meghan booking editorials with British, Russian and Japanese Vogue. Her look, unique and genuinely interesting, had just become the look of the moment.

In January 2008, Meghan began the year with a cover try for Russian Vogue, followed by a fashion spread for W magazine. In May, Collison appeared in a Chinese Vogue editorial, photographed by the late Corrine Day. Like Meisel, Day was a gifted photographer who helped launch new faces. Her early 90’s shot of Kate Moss helped change the course of fashion history, taking us from commercial faces with across-the-board sex appeal, to heavily directional faces and bodies built to show fashion at its most challenging.

In February 2009, Meghan took on her busiest runway season to date with appearances for Marc Jacobs, Prada, Givenchy, Anna Sui and Valentino. Impressive as these credits are, it was already becoming clear that Collison’s strength would be in editorial and campaign work. Following an editorial for German Vogue in April, Collison landed on the cover of Italian Vogue for a third time. The Pre-Fall edition, Meghan was styled somewhere between New Romantic and Goth. It looked – and felt – a perfect match for the confident model.

Following consecutive editorials for Russian Vogue and Dazed & Confused in September, Collison got to show off her skills in another spread for Italian Vogue. Named ‘Performance’ and photographed by Steven Meisel, it was an energetically grotesque take on glam rock excess featuring Jamie Bochert, Coco Rocha and Sessilee Lopez. Subtlety is more often in demand, but being fully committed in fashion’s ‘bigger’ moments takes bravery – and skill. ‘Performance’ has a strong element of humour running through it, but the poses, the way the clothes are showcased, is firmly rooted in high fashion.

Just to throw us a curveball, Meghan booked an A/W campaign with Thierry Mugler – she is almost unrecognisable in comparison to her work in ‘Performance’. Working classic elegance, the unusual planes and angles of her face become visibly softer. It was a transformation that put Meghan’s career on another level.

Moving to NEXT Models in late 2009, in 2010 Meghan became one of the faces of Balenciaga. It was an obvious signing for Collison. Loyal to its avant-garde roots, Nicolas Ghesquiere has revived the French brand to make it one of the most talked-about (and coveted) labels in the world. Combining an intellectual aesthetic with a French flair for elegance, Balenciaga joins Givenchy, Chanel and Dior as one of France’s most enduring success stories.

Collison’s journey continued in September 2010 with a spread for Turkish Vogue. Photographed by Arthur Elgort, Meghan is classically beautiful in designs by McQueen and Dries van Noten. Lots of photographers have their area of expertise: Terry Richardson pushes our buttons; Paolo Roversi makes fashion the focus against lavish backdrops, but Elgort joins Patrick Demarchelier in having a regal elegance which quickly identifies their work as theirs.

In March 2011, Meghan added another cover to her list of credits courtesy of Italian Marie Claire. A magazine that bridges the gap between high-fashion and more commercial interests, their choice to hire Meghan defies the conventional wisdom that strongly-editorial faces can’t be cover faces. Here, Meghan is edgy and high-fashion – but still very much a cover girl.

Meghan continued to rise through the ranks with self-titled editorials with magazines such as Grey and Jalouse. She was also picked as one of the select few to appear in the Pre-Fall lookbook for Jason Wu. Darkly dramatic with hints of exoticism, the Pre-Fall looks strongly prefigured Wu’s popular collection presented this February.

In January 2012, Collison landed again in the pages of Russian Vogue. Photographed by Ben Toms, Meghan is picture-perfect in a series of 1950’s-style portraits. Meghan looks strikingly comfortable here, almost a precursor to one of the biggest bookings of her career to date.

Never a big runway star, but still a high-class draw, Meghan has been doing the Fashion Week circuit through February, with appearances for Oscar de la Renta, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Jonathan Saunders and Prada.

This leads us to Meghan’s most influential booking of her career so far. Hired to appear in both the print campaign and video for Prada’s S/S 12 collection, she joins Natasha Poly, Elise Crombez, Guinevere van Seenus and newcomer Katryn Kruger.

A star-making effort, photographed and filmed by Steven Meisel, it is a beautifully crafted campaign packed with retro detail that has massive commercial appeal. The video, already a huge hit on YouTube, may have Katryn Kruger as its main focus (another of Prada’s star finds), but Meghan claims her time in the spotlight with style, wearing a plum-coloured ¾ length coat. The collection is a win-win for Prada: quirky, feminine and cool. Inspiring copies across the high-street, this rave collection appeals to every corner of Prada’s fanbase.

Again, Meghan’s strong features act as a perfect counterbalance to the vintage cuts and colours. On Meghan, a 50’s duster-coat looks fresh and modern, making her the ideal muse for Prada.

As fashion moves out of its palette-cleanser phase, and into a new era filled with exuberant colours and print, directional models are once again becoming the centre of attention. With Saskia de Brauw fronting ad campaigns for mainstream labels such as Chanel and Versace, the avant-garde has never felt more right.

The last time such faces were in vogue, they were called upon to model tricky minimalist fashion. Now, their faces seem the perfect foil for this brave new age of fashion. It’s not only models who are benefitting: everyone’s getting braver in their sartorial choices. Designer Mary Katrantzou’s complex designs have become cult buys – her beautifully balanced prints proving a hit with A-listers and the public alike. Her collection specially made for Topshop was a sell-out. These designs would have been thought unwearable just ten years ago. Now we’re clamouring for a piece to call our own. The concept of what is deemed ‘wearable’ and desirable has been turned on its head in recent years. The assumption that bold new cuts and clashing colours only belong on the runway is being shunted aside; if fashion wanted a more adventurous clientele, they finally got their wish.

Normally, tough economic times make people more cautious, more likely to go with the tried-and-trusted option. But our knowledge that things are tough makes us want to be not safe but daring: the desire for detail overrides the big picture. We want those details – the small print – because that’s what adds joy to life. A fashion basic may always be on your to-get list, but a rare beauty, something by Katrantzou or Jonathan Saunders – that’s what gets the pulse racing. You may not be able to control larger forces around you, but the decision to go with a fuchsia dress, rather than a black one, is easily done. Small acts of sartorial bravery are transforming the fashion industry on a massive scale.

The source of our new-found courage isn’t hard to track down. With the influx of runway footage and campaign videos online, a lot of the fear has been taken out of high-fashion. As it moves ever closer to us (access to the biggest labels is literally only a click away), fashion becomes no longer an abstract, but a reality. Not only are the big guns out to get our attention, but freelance stylists and talented amateurs are putting together their own lookbooks; with guides on how to wear the latest must-haves flooding the internet. It’s the positive side of peer pressure, and the knock-on effect has been meteoric.

Meghan looks set to make large gains from this, as her face reads perfectly against strong shapes and punchy colours. Fashion’s new lust for life goes beyond mere detail, being smartly articulated by models such as Collison. It taps into something much deeper, a courage in the face of genuine adversity. Fashion does this the only way it knows how: by reminding us of what we love and why we love it. Fashion has rediscovered its sense of fun, but this time the thrill is real.


Sunday, 19 February 2012


Born on the 3rd December 1993, Canadian model Kate King signed with Elite Models in 2010.

She debuted at Fashion Week a year later in February 2011. Appearing in a 36-show season, she walked for Prada, Marc Jacobs, YSL, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin and Miu Miu. Later that year, Kate booked her first campaigns: Dolce & Gabbana and Topshop. Also making her couture debut with Valentino and Elie Saab, King was rapidly climbing the fashion ranks.

September 2011 saw Kate appear in a massive 70 RTW shows, with opening and closing honours from Chloe, Nicole Miller and Cynthia Rowley. Also walking for designers such as Burberry, Chanel, Jason Wu, Oscar de la Renta, Richard Nicoll and Thakoon, Kate’s booking sheet was a collective of new and older labels: the perfect mix for a model still new to runway.

Kate then built up her editorial experience with appearances in Love, i-D and Interview magazine. The latter saw Kate take part in a piece profiling ‘The Row’ – a high-fashion label developed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

A range now firmly established, The Row defies the expectation that celebrity-led fashion can’t appeal to the highest levels of the industry. The Row has been a universal success story, trading on the simple concept of providing high-fashion basics.

Instead of transplanting their own personal styles into a collection designed for quick profit, the Olsens used their entrepreneurial experience to see what was missing and how they could provide solutions. Intended as a supplement to other labels, The Row fills a gap that had existed in fashion for years.

Making not just classic pieces, but pieces that work in tandem with other collections, Mary-Kate and Ashley have turned the concept of the fashion basic on its head. Taking their own years of buying and wearing high-fashion into account, they applied what they knew about good design to basic shapes making the everyday extraordinary.

These pieces are so well-crafted, they stand on their own merit, but their real application becomes obvious when slotted into a pre-existing wardrobe. The plain maxi-dress, the white shirt, the ¾ length trousers all get a makeover – making them as covetable as the latest piece from Prada. For years, fashion retailers assumed basics needed to be cheap because consumers just weren’t willing to pay more. The Row has transformed the way the industry sees the basic for good. Kate’s appearance in ‘Interview’ is aligned perfectly with the ethos of the brand: cool, calm, effortless.

Kate continued her association with high-fashion in November 2011 with an editorial for Teen Vogue. ‘Home Run’ was an All-American take on sportswear, with King actively muscling in on American Sweetheart territory.

The same month, Kate appeared in V magazine who profiled her 2nd agency, Ford Models. Alongside Alana Zimmer, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Karmen Pedaru and Ming Xi, what becomes immediately obvious is how Kate slots right into Ford’s vision of creating a stable of models with a strong, high-fashion pedigree.

In 2012, Kate’s charm offensive on the fashion industry continues in earnest. In January she appeared in the Chloe Pre-Fall collection. Pre-Fall is rapidly becoming a touchstone for the industry, giving buyers and editors a heads-up on what’s coming next.

In the same month, Kate took to the couture runways again, appearing for Dior, Atelier Versace and Giambattista Valli. With Dior having a storming run with their 50’s inspired collection, Atelier Versace returned to the runways in similarly spectacular fashion.

Featuring classic glamazon shapes, Donatella played not only to the crowds, but to the Versace template with glamour-packed column dresses and goddess gowns fit for the red-carpet. But this collection demonstrated a more measured approach: less flash, more substance. The use of angular cutting acted as a subtle counter to the flesh on show. This collection was still recognisably Versace, but with an intelligence that made the sex appeal that bit hotter.

Kate’s turn at couture season served her well, with a seriously high-fashion editorial courtesy of Russian Vogue. More usually known for its love of grand, ornate design – this spread was a radical departure with Patrick Demarchelier behind the lens. ‘Second Site’ was a series of avant-garde portraits featuring Kate along with Ming Xi and Anais Pouliot.. The white and silver palette of the cutting-edge fashion was accessorised perfectly with blue, painted lips.

Making an appearance in the March issue of Japanese Vogue, Kate appears in ‘Road to Tijuana’. Working winged eyeliner and cowboy boots, Kate models a very different look to her previous editorials. Registering here as more commercially sexy, Kate looks virtually unrecognisable when compared to the high-fashion siren in Russian Vogue. When you factor in that Kate has only been active since 2010 – this level of versatility at this stage of her career is a very good sign.

Kate’s body of work paid off when it was announced only days ago that she would be one of the new faces in the S/S Chloe campaign. Photographed by Glen Luchford, King appears with campaign regular, Karmen Pedaru.

This signing represents Kate’s move into big-league campaigns. Chloe has taken a gamble on hiring a newer face, and it is a mark of their confidence in Kate’s abilities that she was only one of two models used for their Pre-Fall collection.

The campaign, featuring striped ‘balloon’ gowns echoes the Pre-Fall collection’s obsession with slouchy, relaxed shapes. Striking a more retro note than previous collections, this campaign marks a new stage in Chloe’s creative development.

The decision to hire Kate over more established names points to her growing reputation for dependable performances, even when under pressure. Though still a fairly new name within the industry, Kate is evolving into a new breed of directional model: capable of steaming it up for Dolce & Gabbana, but also able to master the focus needed to model minimal fashion like The Row.

A modern-all rounder, equally adept at couture, RTW, editorials and campaigns, she is on the verge of joining better-known faces like Karlie, Lindsey, Freja and Anja. The reason behind her success is clear when looking at her print work. Her face is a perfect storm: somewhere between full-on glamour and cool androgyny, Kate’s fortune lies not in squeezing into an already-overpopulated niche, but in her ability to take on any concept.

The timing of Kate’s growing fame is no accident either. Fashion is now beginning to remember why these all-rounders were so popular just five years ago. Pre-recession, clients wanted a multi-skilled model that could reliably produce a winning performance every time, under any condition.

In the economic downturn, something very surprising happened. Clients still wanted versatility, but they wanted a face that was either classic or memorable. Even the more eccentric looks (such as Wixson and Kloss) grew in demand because their eccentricity made them memorable; a visual point of reference. Lindsey’s larger-than-life pout and Karlie’s famous runway stare – these were all anchors that a client could use to good effect. It’s no accident that Karlie has remained with both Oscar de la Renta and Dior as their loyal campaign face during some very tough times.

What fashion needs now, however, is versatility. From Louis Vuitton’s super-girlie show to Kenzo’s tribute to Frida Kahlo, no one trend dominates, and a model that can do it all suddenly becomes very useful.

Fashion’s new diversity isn’t a cause for concern: a symptom of an industry at odds with itself. Rather, it speaks of an inner confidence that fashion houses are confident enough to go their own way. It means more excitement on the runway and more choice for us. Instead of one trend colour, or one type of hemline, fashion is branching out – and everyone benefits.

As it returns to a confidence and diversity, fashion needs models just like Kate: versatile in the purest sense, Kate has the potential to become fashion’s next great icon. Just wait and see.


Sunday, 12 February 2012


Born in France in 1985, Aymeline Valade signed with Women Management in February 2009, aged 24.

Her industry breakthrough came in October 2010, when she walked in the Spring / Summer show for Balenciaga. Also booking two editorials with Wonderland magazine, Aymeline’s early connections with fashion were strictly left-field.

In January 2011, Aymeline scored her first magazine cover, with an appearance for Turkish Vogue. Featured in a gold mini-dress, mirroring Turkey’s taste for opulent fashion, Valade was making an impact on an international stage.

Also modelling for the Pre-Fall shows (Alexander Wang and Balenciaga), she became the fact of the S/S Alexander Wang campaign in early 2011. A new-world, spirited take on street fashion, the dynamic shapes that Aymeline effortlessly pulls in front of the camera neatly matches the free-flow of Alexander's designs. It was one of those big win-or-lose moments: defying her level of experience, Aymeline’s performance in the campaign was that of a much more seasoned model.

Valade’s confident showing for the Alexander Wang advert led to a massive RTW season in February with appearances in over 30 shows. Not only that, Aymeline made a big splash with several opening and closing spots including Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens, Loewe and Chloe. Also walking for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Lanvin, Marc Jacobs and Versace, this was a well-rounded season with Aymeline there for all the big moments of the February 2011 catwalk, including Gucci’s 70’s glam-fest and Marc Jacobs’ new obsession: polka-dots. This was a good season to become fashion's latest IT girl.

Aymeline followed this success with editorials for W, Numero and German Vogue. Her appearance in the May issue of German Vogue was for the beauty editorial ‘Uber Sinnlich’. An avant-garde beauty shoot featuring Anais Pouliot and Julia Saner, Aymeline channelled Bardot, dishevelled glamour.

Valade’s editorial career went even further overseas with late-summer appearances for Chinese and American Vogue. The editorial for Chinese Vogue saw Aymeline wear classic, big-name labels such as Chanel, YSL and Celine – all with bags of Parisian heritage, and worn by a Parisian model. It made for a very easy sell to the Chinese fashion market.

All of this feverish activity led up to a September that saw Aymeline hit everyone’s radar. Firstly, she appeared on the cover of RUSSH, followed by a massive spread in US Harper’s Bazaar. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld, the Downton Abbey / Brideshead Revisited theme of the editorial was sharply narrative – exactly the type of photography Lagerfeld excels at. He tells stories with his collections, and his photography is no different. It certainly explains Karl’s eagerness to embrace the concept of campaign videos. A making-of video accompanying Chanel’s latest print campaign with Saskia de Brauw and Joan Smalls has already reached 80,000 hits on YouTube.

Following this editorial, Aymeline also made her debut in September’s Italian Vogue, featuring in a spread photographed by Steven Klein. ‘A Point of View’ (featuring Crystal Renn, Catherine McNeil and Jamie Bochert) was shot from a deliberately low angle, inverting every principle of fashion photography. Awkward angles and obscured views make for a challenging take on how we view high-fashion. Even from this angle, the clothes still look good.

Aymeline then took to the catwalk, with an amazing 57-show season. Opening shows for Diane Von Furstenberg, Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera and Lanvin, this was Aymeline’s rain-maker season.

The good fortune continued with Valade securing 3 major campaigns: Kenzo, Just Cavalli and Etro. Kenzo had a particularly strong season, with the campaign featuring Aymeline styled in homage to the artist Frida Kahlo. With tons of ornate print and Spanish detailing, Aymeline was clearly adept at translating her look to other fashion cultures.

October saw Aymeline take to the pages of Japanese Vogue, and a month later, she was appearing in a major couture editorial for V. Named ‘Couture 2011’, the spread was a full review of the A/W haute couture season including Givenchy, Armani Prive and Valentino. Aymeline took on her couture dues, modelling alongside Zuzanna Bijoch and Emily Baker.

Finishing the year with another editorial for Italian Vogue (‘Clean and Graphic’), this was a strongly androgynous shoot with Paolo Roversi behind the lens. Aymeline joined forces with Saskia de Brauw who has made a career on her ability to transform. Aymeline performs on a par with de Brauw in a sleek, stylish editorial.

Aymeline opened 2012 with another editorial, this time for American Vogue. ‘A Man for All Seasons’ was a tribute to the ongoing work of Marc Jacobs, and this big start to the year carried on for Valade as she took to her first couture runway in January. Opening the show for Armani Prive, and closing the Dior show, this was a particularly successful season, not least for Dior. Creative director Bill Gattyen went back through Dior’s back catalogue and pulled a confident, polished collection out of the bag. It was a modern interpretation of Dior’s ‘New Look’ and Aymeline could not have had a better introduction into the world of couture.

No longer operating on fashion’s sidelines, Aymeline is taking her time in the spotlight with another 3 campaigns this season, including a double-shoot for Lanvin. Working with models Aaron Vernon and Angus Low, Valade poses with real snakes, emphasising the sleek drapery of the Lanvin gowns. Adding another layer of fun in the campaign video with music from Maxine Ashley, Aymeline’s appearance for Lanvin is a career-changer with Valade poised to become another one of France’s style icons.

Every country has its icons, but where France excels is in the sheer diversity of the faces that have come to represent it: from Brigitte Bardot to Carla Bruni, to more recent faces such as Clemence Posey – French style has no one particular look – bombshell to beatnik all get a look in. Carla Bruni’s sophistication will inspire future First Ladies for many years to come, just as Brigitte Bardot’s heady combination of back-combed hair and eyeliner is still used today to communicate a rich, pouty sensuality. France is very good at creating images that have longevity.

The image of the groomed but worldly Parisian is just as timeless: Lanvin taps into that iconography in its latest campaign, knowing that we can join the dots ourselves. But what has been missing in recent years, however, is France’s stake on the modelling world. It’s clear that France understands and appreciates new faces – French Vogue famously championed Lara Stone and Isabeli Fontana, helping to propel both to fame. But after a brief peak in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with Audrey Marnay being on every designer’s wish-list, and Laetitia Casta taking her film-friendly looks to Hollywood, France’s contribution on the modelling front became noticeable by its absence.

However, it appears that a new generation of models are flying the Tricolour, ensuring that France is not just the epicentre of great design, but is now producing great faces to represent this key fashion heartland.

Aymeline joins faces such as Constance Jablonski, Charlotte di Calypso and newcomer Julia Frauche to build a new group of models that are proud to be different. Constance Jablonski, a regular with Estee Lauder, brings a fresh-faced, eager quality to the sometimes jaded world of high-fashion. Charlotte has been the face of Chanel’s Chance fragrance, and has translated her beauty on an international level, moving across the Atlantic to represent American super-label Ralph Lauren.

Aymeline, however, is France’s directional girl. Her first campaign was with Alexander Wang, and her latest work with Lanvin marries up her edgy qualities with the label’s distinct take on Parisian chic. Utterly at home on the runway, Valade brings with her an other-worldly quality, something that is always in high demand within the fashion industry. For a country that is so at home with producing ground-breaking, avant-garde design, France has found it difficult to come up with a model who, in quite literal terms, walks the walk. With Aymeline Valade, they have finally found their running mate – a model who makes light work of this country’s heritage.

A model could be forgiven for being daunted by France’s heavyweight standing in the fashion world – but Aymeline’s fearless, gutsy approach to not only runway, but campaigns, covers and editorials makes her the perfect icon for the country that has given us the tools to value and appreciate fashion, even at its most difficult. It may have taken a while for France to find its feet in the modelling world – but if Aymeline is any indication of what’s to come – it’s been worth the wait.