Born on 26th March 1988, Finnish model Suvi Koponen began her career in 2005, when she won a televised contest to discover new modelling talent. Based on the concept of ‘America’s Next Top Model’, Suvi won the competition, giving the ANTM franchise one of its biggest success stories.
Moving into the real world of modelling, Suvi found herself in demand. In September 2006, she was chosen to both open and close the Prada Spring / Summer 2007 show, also walking in the Miu Miu show a month later as an exclusive.
Being picked to appear in a Prada show is big news, but getting both the opening and closing spots is phenomenal. Suvi’s ready-to-wear debut for Prada has since entered ANTM folklore, with Tyra Banks regularly referring to Suvi’s stunning debut. Suvi’s entrance into the fashion world defied the expectation that ANTM winners, and their international counterparts, can look forward to a frosty reception on entering the modelling world. Along with Australian competition winner Alice Burdeu, Suvi proves that a new face discovered by a television contest can be just as current and sought-after as a model discovered by scouting. Suvi’s early acceptance by the fashion industry at large was no fluke either: she was featured as one of www.style.com’s Top Ten Models of the S/S 2007 season.
Spending the early part of 2007 on editorial work, including spreads for French Vogue, Suvi had her first blockbuster season that February. Opening shows for Jil Stuart, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Marni, she took part in a massive 63 shows. These included Anna Sui, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Jil Sander, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Sportmax, Versace and Zac Posen. These were not token bookings either, but bookings of the highest standard. Any lingering doubt over Suvi’s ability to, quite literally, walk to the walk, was swiftly dispelled.
2007 saw Suvi land several major campaigns as well; appearing in ads for Blumarine with Bette Franke; Mulberry photographed by Steven Meisel and Balenciaga with Anabela Belikova. Again, this was an incredible start to a new model’s career, and Koponen’s CV was fast filling up with top-drawer credits.
In September, she was back on the runway, matching the record she had set back in February. This time, she was selected to open eight shows: Jill Stuart, DKNY, Reem Acra, Carolina Herrera, Alberta Ferretti, Anna Molinari, Fendi and Just Cavalli. To be invited to open one show is an honour. To be requested for eight is a major achievement.
Suvi’s exposure on the runway circuit meant that she became a must-have for print work, and between September and December 2007, she booked editorials for W, British and American Vogue.
January 2008 saw Suvi take on her very first haute couture season in Paris, walking in S/S shows for Chanel, Dior, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy. Her runway skills were requested for ready-to-wear the following month, with an even bigger season. Walking in 65 shows overall, Koponen opened shows for Herve Leger and DKNY, also closing shows for Alexander Wang, Carolina Herrera, Paul Smith and Marni.
All these hours spent on the catwalk made Suvi the focus of the fashion press. Not only did she land the cover of Numero, but in April 2008 she appeared in French Vogue, rated as a top model. The magazine also listed several other models including Catherine McNeil, Lara Stone, Kasia Struss, Raquel Zimmermann, Coco Rocha and Natasha Poly. Some were emerging talents (Struss, McNeil, Stone) alongside those who were already starting to make their presence felt (Rocha, Poly, Zimmermann). It is also a reminder of just how quickly career progression in the modelling world can move: in 2008, Lara Stone was a virtual newcomer, promoted by French Vogue in particular. Nearly five years on, she is one of fashion’s most recognisable faces.
Suvi rounded out 2008 with editorial work for key publications such as French Vogue and Interview. Regularly working around the world, Suvi was now fully established as an international model.
After skipping Fashion Week in early 2009, Suvi returned to the industry having changed agencies. Leaving Supreme Management, Koponen chose to sign on with Next Models, an agency with a significant reputation for signing some of fashion’s most directional faces. Models on their books at the moment include Abbey Lee Kershaw, Caroline Trentini, Hailey Clauson, Meghan Collison and Zuzanna Bijoch.
In September 2010, Suvi had another good RTW season, closing the Versace show and walking for Proenza Schouler, Chloe, Louis Vuitton and YSL. It is after this point that Koponen’s career experienced a quieter phase. As every model moves through their career, the odds of booking a job fluctuate from time to time. This can be down to any number of factors, but the most obvious reason is that fashions change. If your look is a good fit with current trends, you will be extremely busy. If it doesn’t, you play the waiting game.
In 2012, Suvi came back with a bang, returning to the runway in February. Making show appearances for Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Celine, Gucci, Hermes, Reed Krakoff, Rick Owens and Valentino, Koponen was still more than capable of securing those big-name bookings.
In July, Suvi re-appeared in French Vogue. ‘Paris Mon Amour’, photographed by Mario Sorrenti and styled by editor Emmanuelle Alt, showcased the many faces of Parisian style. Koponen was joined by a stellar cast of models including Doutzen Kroes, Isabeli Fontana, Anais Mali, Arizona Muse and Kati Nescher.
But Suvi was soon back on the campaign trail once more, this time with three major bookings. The first was for Alexander McQueen. Shot by David Sims, in a massive multi-image campaign, Suvi works the McQueen love of extreme shapes and bold textures with a lightness and playfulness that totally suit the direction that has been taken by Sarah Burton. Blending a sense of fun with serious craftsmanship, McQueen is in many ways a good fit for Suvi: high-fashion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Next, Suvi worked on the Autumn / Winter campaign for Chloe. Working with Anja Rubik, both models show off Chloe’s mastery of chic, feminine tailoring.
But Suvi’s biggest signing of 2012 was a solo spot in the Chloe fragrance campaign. Photographed by Fabien Baron, this is the campaign that will have the most immediate impact in terms of Suvi’s profile. A campaign that makes stars of models, this is the fragrance ad every model wants to get. The fragrance has inspired a campaign that has in turn created in its own iconography. The softly lit, retro-feminine look is quintessential Chloe. An instantly recognisable formula, it is proof that even in fashion, a great idea is sometimes worth repeating.
Eight years into her career, what is exciting is that Suvi’s 2012 comeback has seen her popularity soar – there is no indication that her career trajectory will start to slow down in 2013 – it looks to be doing just the opposite.
Suvi really is the unexpected star of the ANTM franchise. She is the all-rounder that Tyra Banks envisaged when she created the show. Wanting to find a girl who could be equally strong in all areas of modelling: catwalk, editorial and campaigns, Banks’ idea has gone global and has produced some notable talent. Alice Burdeu (Australia’s Next Top Model winner) also wowed the fashion world, even booking a campaign with D&G. But for longevity, Koponen is very much the blueprint for any future contestants.
She may be an inspirational example held up to aspiring contestants, but the reality is Suvi didn’t become a winner until after leaving the show. Her first booking with Prada could be attributed to good luck, but Suvi’s continuing success, her work in front of the camera, and on the catwalk, tells the story of a model that has excelled by taking nothing for granted. If you’re starting out on your own modelling career, and looking to be inspired, there’s no better place to start.