Tuesday, September 26, 2006

100 NYFW models (2006)

A survey of 100 Fashion Week models, mostly at the casting for Cynthia Rowley’s show last week (with additional models from VPL, Malandrino, and Phillip Lim and at Elite Model Management).

How old are you?
14–15 . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
16–17 . . . . . . . . . . . 26

18–19 . . . . . . . . . . . 41
20–21 . . . . . . . . . . .24
Over 22 . . . . . . . . . . 4

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
“Coffee and doughnuts.” “Starbucks.” “Toaster strudel.” “A cheese sandwich.” “A protein shake.” “Turkey sandwich and barbecue chips.” “Paracetamol tablets.” “Oreo cereal.” “Bacon, egg, and cheese.” “Red Bull.” “Sushi.”

How were you “discovered”?
“Wal-Mart flyer.” “Walking on the beach at the U.S. Surf Open.” “The Miss Hamburg competition.” “At the dentist.” “At Ikea.” “By a random guy on the street. Then I lost 30 pounds.”

Biggest hassles of being a model:
Dirty old men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Too much travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
When the “look” changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Sore feet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Sore eyelashes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Kate Moss:
Comeback queen . . . 68
Cautionary tale . . . 23

How much do you expect to make during Fashion Week?
“Nothing in New York, thousands in Europe.” “Approximately nothing.” “Three thousand dollars.” “Enough to cover the hotel.” “Tons of clothes.” “Twenty thousand dollars.” “Enough to buy a house.”

Who makes the best boyfriend?
Rock star . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Investment banker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Pro athlete . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Actor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
“Whoever loves you” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Male model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Donald Trump. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 “Ewww.”

What’s your favorite book?
The Da Vinci Code (4); Harry Potter (3); the Bible (2); “anything by Dostoevsky” (2); The Bell Jar; Flowers in the Attic; Invisible Man; The Devil Wears Prada; The Odyssey; No One Here Gets Out Alive: The Biography of Jim Morrison; The Picture of Dorian Gray; On the Road; “my diary.”

After modeling, you plan to:
Go back to school . . . 33
Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Get married . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Design my own fashion line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
“Produce films.” “Be in a band.” “Write.” “Study medicine.” “Paint.” “Go to law school.” “Be happy.” “Open a bakery.” “Be an accountant.”

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Natalia Vodianova (2005)

Four years ago Natalia Vodianova was a poor fruit seller on the streets of Moscow. Now she's one of the world's most in-demand models and married to a very rich, very handsome aristocrat. Luckily, it's hard to hate her.

Natalia Vodianova, the 23-year-old model of choice among fashion heavies like Calvin Klein and Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, is not a head-turner. As she enters Manhattan's Odeon restaurant, a loud, popular lunch spot where she is a regular, one is almost more inclined to admire the tall, striking hostess who seats Vodianova and her husband, Justin Portman, at their table. Vodianova's fair hair is tousled, her clothing casual, a smockish men's shirt from Marc Jacobs hanging loosely on her frame. Thin and medium-height, she simply doesn't take up that much space. Her hair is not bleached blonde enough to scream celebrity; her colouring is muted.
Natalia Vodianova
Vodianova's is a classic rags to riches tale

'We had a fun, trashy weekend,' she says, apologising for her fresh-from-bed, sleepy look. None of this, however, is to say Vodianova isn't beautiful: hers is a connoisseur's beauty, the kind that invites a longer look once it's captured the viewer's gaze. Her face is subtle and distinctive, with deep-set sapphire-blue eyes, tawny skin, a pouty mouth and a sweetly snub nose. And she definitely turned the heads of the connoisseurs who count: Vodianova had modelled for Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs before Calvin Klein signed her to an exclusive deal three years ago (she is also the international spokeswoman for L'Oréal, one of the more coveted modelling gigs). The American Vogue arbiter of chic Grace Coddington has predicted that Vodianova will 'stand out in model history'.

In this September's massive American Vogue, an issue so seam-splitting the pages fall out as you thumb through it, Vodianova was everywhere: eight pages of Calvin Klein advertisements and 18 pages of fashion shot by Steven Meisel with overtones of Chekhov and Strindberg - riding crops, boots, high-necked, long-sleeved, buttoned-up tops in black.

Also prominent in the shoot was Vodianova's husband, Portman, a tall, boyish 36-year-old whose marriage to Vodianova is a significant part of her legend. Until she was singled out at a model-scouting session, Vodianova was a struggling fruit-vendor in the Russian city Nizhni Novgorod; Portman, by contrast, is, in fact, the Honourable Justin Portman, educated at Harrow and raised on his family's 3,000-acre estate in Herefordshire (the family properties once included Oxford Street and Marylebone, and now extend to Antigua and Australia). Vodianova met Portman, a former serial 'modeliser', at a party in Paris. Married a year later, the couple spend equal amounts of time in London, Paris and New York, where they have a 7,000sq ft home in TriBeCa (there are well-endowed museums in New York that would kill for that kind of space).

Her story is a time-tested classic: industrious beauty swept off her feet by near-royalty. His is entirely modern: blue-blooded playboy marries model. It seems only appropriate that in the Vogue spread, Vodianova is cloaked in ensembles so old-fashioned they look almost like costumes, while Portman gambols about in flip-flops and thermal T-shirts. Most New York women Vodianova's age are scouting for internships or working at Gap by day, while doing the best Carrie Bradshaw imitation they can afford by night. Vodianova, however, is a wife, working mother of three-year-old Lucas (her second child is due in March) and philanthropist. She recently started the Naked Heart Foundation, an organisation that raises money for indoor playgrounds in Russia.

'My family was very, very, very poor, and Russian kids have no nannies - they're just up to things by themselves on the street. It sometimes leads them the wrong way,' Vodianova says, her voice deep, her accent present but surprisingly faint for someone who didn't start learning English until her late teens. 'We're trying to put in a lot of playgrounds and take children from the street and entertain them in some sort of educational way, giving them some kind of hope.'

Vodianova says she's seen the results of destitution on the friends left behind. 'One's a heroin addict, one's dead,' she says. 'All are single mothers who hate their children's fathers. It's very hard.'

Vodianova's life changed not just dramatically, but also quickly: within weeks of leaving Russia she was already working the top shows. Within months of meeting Portman, at the age of 19, she was pregnant with his child and, soon after, married in a civil ceremony (a massive St Petersburg celebration came after Lucas's birth). 'If not for Lucas,' she says, 'we never would have married. But in order for Lucas to inherit the name and the rest, we had to marry.'

The two had been together a matter of months when Portman suggested they take better care to stop her getting pregnant. 'And I said, 'Well, I don't know. I love you, and if, then that's great,' Vodianova says while Portman is away from the table taking a cigarette break. 'And he said, "But what about your career?' And I told him that everything happens for a reason; if this is meant to happen, then this is meant to happen, and my happiness would only increase.'

Two days later she was pregnant. Rather than hurting her career, the pregnancy, Vodianova says, did wonders for it. Three weeks after she gave birth she looked as if she'd never carried a child, a freak of genetic good fortune that was the talk of the autumn shows, where Vodianova modelled for Yves Saint Laurent. Soon after that, she won a contract with Gucci and, eventually, her coveted Calvin contract. Billboard images of Vodianova nibbling the near-naked bottom of a male model caught people's attention; if she's not a household name yet like Brooke Shields, blame the polysyllabic surname.

'Journalists loved the story of the working mother, and right about that time they saw this boom of young successful mothers not caring about their career, thinking family was more important. Everybody had a child at that time - I did, Sarah Jessica Parker did, Kate Moss…'

There's an irony in being rewarded professionally for making a statement about putting family first, and it doesn't seem entirely lost on this savvy young woman. 'My career just went whoosh, and it's definitely something to do with that image of being a hard-working mother with a two-month-old child. People take you more seriously when you're a mother; you're not just this young kid.'

Although Vodianova clearly enjoys her life, there's nothing giddy about her adjustment to her new princess-like status.

She has a distinctly Russian philosophy about the amazing set of circumstances that altered her existence - both hard-nosed and idealistic at the same time. 'If I'd stayed in Russia, it would be good, too, because I would not know this life,' she says, drinking a glass of wine along with her artichoke-heart salad. 'I would have nothing to compare it to, and it would be fine. I was never miserable - I was always very happy. I loved my life… are you kidding? I even miss it sometimes.'

What she misses, she says, was the edge: the constant trick of surviving, haggling with the mafia guys, hustling the Chechnyan vendors who sold her the fruit wholesale. Vodianova, who has a disabled younger sister, ended up supporting her family when it became obvious that she had better business instincts than her mother. She was 14 at the time, regularly making an hour-long drive with a friend to get the cheapest fruit. Her life sounds more Mills & Boon than Tolstoy, but Vodianova, who makes it clear she was educated despite her poverty, has a weakness for Russian novels.

'They do love their tragedy, their pain and suffering,' Portman says midway through his omelette. Vodianova looks up, fork in mid-air. 'Who doesn't, darling? Don't you love it?'

'No, I don't like pain and suffering at all,' Portman replies.

'I love it. I love Anna Karenina and Tolstoy, it's all about…' She clutches her arms to her chest and makes a dramatic gasp. 'We love it, even in our own lives. We sometimes choose difficult parts in order to experience this feeling, because after something really tragic comes the feeling of great love or relief, and that feeling is what we need - it's what we love.'

'Bloody women,' Portman responds.

Despite Vodianova's itinerant existence the two of them are rarely separated, which means that Portman follows his wife from one far-flung locale to another. A trained painter, Portman says he's 'not working on much at the moment'.

'It's amazing, his work,' Vodianova says. 'I hate him that he doesn't paint.'

'Well, he's busy with his wife,' Portman replies with a small smile. Not that she's high-maintenance, he adds; it's just that the family prefers to stay together. 'She's the opposite of high-maintenance,' Portman says. 'She does with what she's got.'

Nevertheless, Vodianova admits she enjoys being in the limelight. 'I love a lot of attention, believe me,' she says, now on her second glass of wine.

I think everyone loves attention, but you don't seek it out,' Portman responds gently, a bit of editing going on, as often seems to happen with the two of them.

'When I go somewhere I really make an effort to be different,' she says. 'I want to be noticed for who I am. Sometimes people need a little push, especially in this business, where you tend to go with whoever is striking. There are a few people who inspire me, and I'd like to inspire other people.'

Who inspires Vodianova? 'Steven Meisel, Grace Coddington, Anna Wintour, Mario Testino - strong, wonderful people. Or geniuses, my friends, Nicole…' Nicole? 'Kidman. Although I feel she's getting a little tired of her own self,' Vodianova continues. 'She's trying so hard to stay up there she doesn't realise that the down part is healthy and good for you, because afterwards you can be up there again and say, "I'm back!" There's nothing better than that.' The last time she saw Kidman, Vodianova says, 'she looked like she couldn't even see what was in front of her, and that's too bad, because she's missing out on her own life.'

So much of what Vodianova has to say seems reflected in the images she portrays for the camera: both knowing and naive, insouciant, young and intense. She sounds so serious and passionate one almost believes her when she says she could have been just as happy if she'd never left Nizhni Novgorod.

'Something would have been different, but I know it would have been good as well,' she says, as her husband looks on adoringly. 'You never know - maybe it would have been better.'

Christian Lacroix (2003)

Christian Lacroix recounts to Michel Gaubert his journey from Arles, through Paris's revolutionary moment, to the return of Cocteau in the neo-Baroque '80s glory of the priviledge club.

MICHEL: Growing up in Arles, did you get to London or Paris much?
CHRISTIAN: When I went to London in the early '60s I bought pseudo-erotic black-and-white images by Aubrey Beardsley. I read Oscar Wilde. In 1967, I met a super-sexy girl in Arles, who wore silver sandals and enormous gypsy blouses. She knew all about Gustave Moreau and Beardsley. She was the daughter of a radical hairdresser named Bobby, who was also the director of a movie club, where we saw films like Polly Maggoo and Mr. Freedom. One night she invited us to a very bourgeois house. The inside was straight out of the film fin de siecle, with gas lamps. Everyone wore period outfits and women walked around holding English parasols like during the Belle Epoque. There was a woman wearing a red peignoir named Marie Colette. I recognized her from seeing her at the band, the Credit Agricole. [laughs]
MICHEL: Sounds a bit like Bette Davis as Baby Jane.
CHRISTIAN: Sort of. But Marie Colette was only twenty-five. She received you from her bed, lace galore, holding her lamp. I arrived with a notebook in hand. I drew. I wasn't allowed to speak. I loved to listen. The ninety-year old grandmother who lived their was always drunk. She'd been a tart in Monte Carlo at the turn of the century. She kept a scimitar and a dagger for all the troublemakers. Marie Colette's mother now has all my drawings from '66 and '67, sketches of people in the house, people straight out of Cocteau — musicians, mediums, bullfighters. No one thought such personalities could exist in Arles. In ten years they'd be gone.
MICHEL: Were people trying to recreate the past in Paris when you first lived there?
CHRISTIAN: I arrived in Paris at a moment when the bourgeoisie had become revolutionaries, giving the past it's honor due. We created a gallery of ancients. In fact, just before the revolution of 1789, fashion was also inspired by history. That was around the time when Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered. But the look of that time generated modernism, beginning with neo-gothicism of the nineteenth century- Princess Eugenie dressed like Madame de Pompadour. Much later, designers like Dior and Saint Laurent recreated styles form the '30s and '40s. It was a strange but exciting time, one that you were too young to have known.
MICHEL: I remember art deco circa 1970. David Bowie, glitter rock...
CHRISTIAN: A remake of the '30s, as if they'd never existed. That was the idea behind glam clubs like Seven and The New Eve. You could eat and dance to live music. To enter you had to descend a grand staircase.
MICHEL: Glamour's not exactly the word.
CHRISTIAN: Maybe you don't remember the grand Eugene, a drag queen who brought back the elegance of the old caberets, of Edith Piaf and Mistinguett. There were photographs — tres, tres louche — of her weeping deliriously over a drag queen who had been suspiciously murdered right after his singing debut on Champs Elysees. That was in 1971. It was the return of high fashion, of couture... white satin, perfect blonde wigs. The blonde bombshell was back with total elegance. Eugene's still with Dior.
MICHEL: It's true, Paris of the '30s and '40s was recreated everywhere in France during the '70s. I remember the director of Chanel did everyone up like Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo...
CHRISTIAN: Peter O'Toole's wife Sian Phillips dressed up like Marlene Dietrich. She looked like Marlene, wore a huge coat like her. Supposedly around the time of Marlene's last concert, Phillips also sang like heart the Espace Cardin. That's how "Marlene" influenced Cardin. That's when we started looking back to dandyism and fin-de-siécle naiveté. Going out in Paris was like going out in the '30s dressed like the Andrews Sisters. It was everything I'd seen in books at my grandparents' house, only it was our generation. I'd experienced the '40s and '50s by looking at my grandparents' old clothes, books, and magazines. They created a kind of collage. But it seemed like the more we advanced, the more the future looked impossible, making us return to the more radical times in the past. For me, fashion had emerged from the flea market in Clignancourt, which was inspired by the explosion of British pop. Then Karl Lagerfeld showed us everything.
MICHEL: Everything?
CHRISTIAN: Yes. In 1974, Karl put out such a sublime men's collection I was stunned. I suddenly felt less unique, realizing I wasn't the only one with such taste, because there it was, incarnated by Lagerfeld.
MICHEL: Do you miss those times?
CHRISTIAN: The notion of time bothers me. You look at thirty-year-old photographs and realize how the time has passed. We all look for lost time. I think the '90s were about a return to a period just before it.
MICHEL: Weren't the '80s a mix of art deco and the '40s?
CHRISTIAN: They were the final opulence before a period of crisis. Basquiat and Schnabel, whose paintings we could have seen as caricatures, were normal icons of our times. It was like a return to the age of Cocteau, a neo-baroque born in the avant-garde...in the cubic architecture of Robert Mallet-Stevens's Villa Noailles in Hyeres, in the intellectuals who were a bit baroque and a bit bohemian. It was like the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and a bit of surrealism, all a bit puffed up.
MICHEL: But that self-confidence was so ostentatious, so assuming. It was why people were called "power dressers" in the '80s, with their padded shoulders and self-assured attitude.
CHRISTIAN: There's always some kind of hidden logic. During this summer's Paris fashion shows, everywhere I looked, I saw neo-Renaissance cloaks a la Port Royal.
MICHEL: A basic structure seemed to dominate?
CHRISTIAN: The sleeves were like those you would see in paintings by Cranach — a bit rigid, a bit aggressive. But you don't know where it's going.
MICHEL: When I was a kid, films often influenced fashion. Now there is more than one tendency in every field. It's no longer said that this winter the color is red. That's finished. In Italy, for example, styles seem to be dictated by industry — unlike in Paris. The market sets the rules for wearing this or that.
CHRISTIAN: Italy is a divided country without a center. In France, Paris is the center. In Italy, the Milanese are well organized but follow bourgeois taste. They adhere to certain codes of elegance, but not to individualism. They're a bit like Austrians, with the taste of the north. They say that the best furniture and clothing design from the '50s and '60s is Scandinavian or Milanese. But the Milanese have made bad choices, bad fashion, and bad jewelry.
MICHEL: The first time I visited Milan I thought it would a really well designed city, but it's not at all. I thought Moscow would be the same. Instead, it was sad.
CHRISTIAN: I like the Mussolini perspectives in Italian architecture, and the furniture from the time of King Victor Emmanuel. The worst is the melancholy one finds in Italian suburbs with their spinach-colored houses in disrepair.
MICHEL: Yeah, little by little you understand that Milan is quite a mess.
CHRISTIAN: That could be said for London, Brussels, or Antwerp. The things that bother me about Italy are the dancehalls, certain hotels, and sometimes people's homes. There's something that makes me ill aesthetically. It's not because the places are poor or ugly — even the most opulent places have their disturbing side. But in Italy, there are often things found only in nightmare, particularly in their bathrooms.
MICHEL: You mean the bathroom fixtures.
CHRISTIAN: Exactly. There's no nuance. The same could be said about their crockery, their colors, their living rooms, their kitchens...the bizarre proportions of Italian cafes.
MICHEL: The way they mix odd pinks and greens?
CHRISTIAN: And those strange designs from the '70s and '80s in blond wood. The English aren't really like that. My first time in England, in the '60s, the interiors were somehow familiar to me, probably because of the books I'd read and the images I'd seen.
MICHEL: I had the same impression. I think it's because I listened to the Stones and Bowie since I was a kid. I know those songs by heart. It was like seeing what those songs were about.
CHRISTIAN: I translated Beatles songs for my English class. Even my parents were fascinated. They were born in '27 and '28, and were kids during the liberation of France. My father was just a worker, but he was fascinated.
MICHEL: There's something futuristic about the Anglo-Saxon consumption of music. In England a record can hit number one in a day. Even their hair...All it takes is two or three singers or one top model to wear a certain hairstyle, and bang! The next day the girls are lining up to get their hair cut that way. In France, even now, we hear something and don't know if it's good or not.
CHRISTIAN: For fifteen years I've had Swiss clients who tell me that it's a mystery how the French react to their own artists, especially the painters. One of them said, "In the '50s, artists like Soulages and Dubuffet were well known, but the French ignored them." He'd bought Dubuffet paintings in the '50s. The French wait for the Beauborg-Pompidou stamp of approval before they buy. The French are like that.
MICHEL: A bit lukewarm.
CHRISTIAN: That's why modernism isn't so strong in France. It's still exotic. Even if we like it, it's not something that we take to viscerally. The French are tempted by things, but we tend to keep a distance. It's what makes French taste more about fascination than passion. The Paris store Colette is successful because it's a filter for things that are made elsewhere. It's the kind of store France needs. MICHEL: It's also a French thing to say that modernity is ridiculous. People said that about email, "It's too modern. It'll never work." But it always does.
CHRISTIAN: If I were a teenager, I'd make computer drawings. I need people to do that for me because I don't have the time.
MICHEL: Some people are afraid of technology. Whether it's a machine or a credit card, they think it's a form of witchcraft.
CHRISTIAN: I've been reading a book on Belgian architecture lately and have been amazed. Brussels in the '50s already looked toward the aesthetic of Blade Runner, and the science fiction that would become the repertoire of the late twentieth century. Bourgeois France is nothing like that, except for a few Mackintosh-like buildings in the north. French design hardly exists, except as artificial modernism.
MICHEL: French design is a bit neo- '20s, with horrible colors and grape vines festooning everything.
CHRISTIAN: The typography here in France is equally catastrophic. Maybe we'll like it in twenty years but I doubt it. In Anglo-Saxon countries, it's more natural. In conservative London the signs above those mahogany and copper pubs never look fake. There isn't as much design as we think. It's the weakness of our times. Radicality works. Remember Rochas building?
MICHEL: Loved it.
CHRISTIAN: For what seemed like forever people thought it was scandalous, because it was more dynamic than just about anything else.
MICHEL: I went there long ago. The cafeteria was fantastic. You entered a room full of wooden furniture and copper lamps, then you opened a door and the hall was painted a varnished purple. There was a disco and a little bar. It's a pity when places like that are destroyed, because they recall the most passionate moments of an era.
CHRISTIAN: No doubt. But it takes an almost arrogant confidence to do something that interesting. There are days when I'm completely depressed and able to do only one drawing. I'm by no means a complainer, but when you feel good you feel confident, and it's easier for me to make something of quality. But in that earlier time there was confidence in the air. We felt it.
MICHEL: I remember when the Privilege club opened in 1980, designed by Gerard Garouste. That was gutsy, especially for a painter to do!
CHRISTIAN: When it first opened, people flipped out.
MICHEL: I was the DJ for the opening. There were cast-iron chairs and couches that were thrown out six months later. People hated them because they were too uncomfortable. The slipcovers had even been torn up. It didn't work at all for the first year.
CHRISTIAN: What was great was the feeling of modernity, in the paintings, the walls, the furniture. It was like the set of a movie from the '70s.
MICHEL: There were other places that I like but that seemed cursed, like Karl Lagerfield's shop, which was a kind of architectural hallucination. The interior was amazing, with it's terrazzo floor and Bohemian colored-glass ceiling. And the exterior!
CHRISTIAN: That's completely gone.
MICHEL: There were also stores that seem almost mythic now.
CHRISTIAN: Le Drugstore was like that.
MICHEL: Yes, at the top of the Champs Elysees. It was a very fashionable store, almost like Colette today.
CHRISTIAN: It's as impossible to bring back the '60s as it is the Belle Epoque of my grandparents. But I hang on to the memory of clothes that no longer exist.