Born on February 21 1994, Maria Bradley signed with Chicago-based agency Factor Models in 2011. Aged 17, Bradley undertook her first major runway season that September, with a select group of designers including Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler, Tommy Hilfiger and Versace.
An individual booking with any of these designers would represent a highly significant achievement for a new model. Collectively, this debut of less than 10 shows may be small, but it’s perfectly formed. Maria walked in the Balenciaga and Versace shows as exclusives – an affirmative nod from two of the biggest, most influential names in fashion.
Leaning more towards the edgier side of fashion’s spectrum, Maria’s success with Balenciaga is understandable, but her booking with Versace is perhaps more of a surprise. Traditionally aligned with high glamour, Versace has recently undergone an image revolution, with its campaign this time last year fronted by super-edgy model Saskia de Brauw. Taking the ultimate glamour-girl label in a whole new direction, coupled with Christopher Kane’s effortlessly cool work at Versus, this Italian powerhouse has toughened up. Compare its campaigns of ten years ago to its latest signing, Elza Luijendijk and it shows how a major label progresses and evolves.
In late 2011, Maria also signed with DNA Models, based in New York. In January 2012, she made her debut for British magazine, ‘Dazed & Confused’. Following that with an appearance in British Vogue, Bradley’s editorial looks were already translating well.
In February 2012, Bradley experienced her first runway season as a ‘must-have’ girl. Clocking up an amazing 50 shows, she worked with heritage brands to blockbuster labels including Chanel, Donna Karan, Gareth Pugh, Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Rag & Bone, Sportmax, Valentino, Victoria Beckham and YSL.
This roster of bookings has all the hallmarks of belonging to a long-established model. Virtually every design ‘niche’ is represented here, and it’s partly down to Maria’s androgynous looks. Once considered a niche in itself, androgynous models now have the advantage of working in a much more fluid fashion industry. Her features make her ideal for all kinds of work – with a bit of styling she is ready for the high-living glamour of a Michael Kors show; stripped back, she is spot-on for the minimal aesthetic of Helmut Lang.
In March, Maria returned to the editorial circuit again, this time appearing in cult magazine, i-D. Photographed by Amy Troost, the spread was named ‘Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen’. Taken directly from the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s single ‘Born This Way’, Maria modelled warrior-woman, tough-as-nails fashion.
In May, Maria took to the runway, this time for resort season. Appearing in resort (or cruise) shows for Jonathan Saunders, Reed Krakoff, Narciso Rodriguez and Alexander Wang, the highlight of the Resort 2013 season was undoubtedly Chanel’s show held at Versailles. Maria modelled in this show, in which Karl Lagerfeld indulged his taste for high-drama. With the models styled in pastels and hi-top trainers, Lagerfeld worked with the classic Chanel dichotomy of masculine and feminine. Scoring serious column inches for its lavish production values, Chanel Cruise is as much an event as the main ready-to-wear shows.
The following month, Bradley made her inaugural appearance for W. Modelling for ‘City Slickers’, an editorial photographed by Craig McDean, Maria modelled the summer trend, sports-luxe. Maria exuded confidence in this shoot, no doubt explained by the fact that her hobbies include football, ski-ing, cross-country running and basketball. In this shoot, Bradley does not need to fake it: her enthusiasm for sport makes her a natural.
Repeated bookings with clients are one way of telling whether you’re on the right track, and Bradley’s career is studded with examples of clients coming back for more. Bradley returned again to the pages of W in July, and in the same month, she returned to ‘Dazed & Confused’, modelling with Prada’s latest it-girl, Katryn Kruger.
In August, Maria shot her third editorial for W magazine, this time in a portrait series called ‘Natural Selection’. Focusing on fashion’s new-season obsession with texture, Bradley worked with models Ophelie Rupp, Ondria Hardin, Jeneil Williams and Laura Kampman.
September’s RTW season saw Maria return to the runway, this time walking for Peter Som, Tommy Hilfiger, Thakoon, Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Belstaff, Vera Wang, Diesel, Michael Kors, Reed Krakoff, Proenza Schouler and Christopher Kane. Look closely, and you’ll see just how many of these names Bradley has already worked for.
Maria’s editorial career took a step up this month, with an appearance scheduled for the October issue of Russian Vogue. ‘Dark Side’, photographed by Ben Toms, sees Maria transform for a beauty shoot that showcases the minimal make-up that’s bang on trend for this autumn. Re-writing the rules on the berry tones usually favoured for this season, this neutral take on autumn beauty is a breath of fresh air. A perfect complement to this season’s decadence; this make-up is low on effort, but delivers full-on impact. Bradley is an ideal choice for this type of shoot, with a very modern type of beauty just right for modelling a very modern type of make-up.
With Bradley now celebrating a year in the modelling world, a sign of just how far she has come in 12 months arrives in the form of bona-fide industry approval. Bradley can now claim to be one of a very elite group of new models, labelled as stars of the future by www.models.com. She joins successful newcomers including current Prada campaign girl Madison Headrick, British beauties Lara Mullen and Rosie Tapner and Givenchy campaign favourite, Dutch model Stef van der Laan.
What is noticeable about the popular website’s list is just how many of these new faces are unashamedly editorial. Having cross-over potential used to be modelling’s Holy Grail; girls who could book Victoria’s Secret as well as Chanel Couture. But, as ever, fashion loves to change its mind. The new season campaign for Givenchy is a textbook case in point in that it is 100% directional in tone. The bold, uncompromising image looks more like a spread for Italian Vogue than a traditional campaign. This isn’t about maintaining a consumer-friendly brand, rather more creating a strong, core identity. In short, Givenchy is marking its territory. A strong, memorable campaign means a boost in sales and good sales mean survival for another year. The face that has to front this, of course, cannot be anything but extraordinary. Brands are clamouring for these newer faces, the faces that aren’t the safe choice by any definition. This new season is seeing a tide change in how labels are representing themselves: out with familiarity, in with beauty that’s as challenging as it is beguiling.
Maria Bradley joins models such as Madison Headrick and Stef van der Laan to become a ‘statement face’. Bradley can adapt, and brilliantly, but at heart, she is a model squarely focused on the androgynous end of the fashion market. It is here where the greatest revolutions are taking place: androgyny is no longer limited to a fashion sidebar, but it has become the modern industry’s greatest asset. In other words, true versatility.
Bradley’s great run of editorial and runway work is just the precursor to a longer, even more successful career. Bradley is the ideal candidate for future campaigns that will take their lead from Givenchy. Faces that will not only sell, but persuade at a deeper level – it’s only a matter of time before Maria becomes the rising star every label must have.