The European It formula doesn’t deviate much from its U.S. counterpart: Photogenic plus well-connected, pedigreed family plus no pressing need to earn a living plus a trademark look. A boyfriend in the music industry also helps, as do DJ skills.
The Euro Its often have a boho or creative bent and have perfected the hybrid career of model/DJ/TV presenter/reality star/artist/author/brand ambassador/front-row fixture/perpetual party guest. As with American Its, their “jobs” are a piecemeal operation. Each individually is a figment of a trade, but in aggregate forms something that appears substantial.
This story first appeared in the May 25, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Having cleverly curated a lifestyle and amassed a strong social media following, most have attracted brands — as well as fans — and are already strategizing for success post It-dom.
But it wasn’t always this way. In the past — at least in England — It Girls were mostly aristos or very rich girls with a naughty streak and a proclivity to late-night partying and bad-boy romances. The Mitford sisters were Its with big brains — and a scandalous bent — while Lady Diana Cooper was a legendary partier and latterly a great memoirist.
Their postwar heirs of the Sixties and Seventies had a similar DNA plus more free-flowing cash — and even fewer restrictions. Think of the original rock-‘n’-roll consorts Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall, models Jean Shrimpton and Marie Helvin, and Bond girls Honor Blackman and Maryam d’Abo.
The subsequent decades spawned Its-with-nine-lives, including Tamara Mellon (It-turned-serial entrepreneur); Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (professional partygoer, TV celebrity and businesswoman who’s selling her luxury onesies online), and Tamara Beckwith (TV personality, charity fund-raiser and charming party guest).
While the Euro Its of days past may have drifted happily on a river of wealth, fame or fortuitous circumstances — with nary a thought to where they were headed — today they’re strategic about their public persona and image and view the whole affair as brand-building.
“They’re very savvy, and they want to seize the opportunities to build businesses,” says Donna Rooney, owner of Donna Management, an entertainment management company whose clients include Elle Macpherson, Daisy Lowe and Francesca Versace. The brands of today, Rooney argues, are attracted not only to the number of social media followers these young women have, but also to the way they interact and engage with their fans.
Prime examples of today’s successful Its include Poppy Delevingne, an It heiress of sorts (her mother Pandora was a party girl with a serious drug habit who’s now writing a book about her troubled youth, while her grandmother was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret).
Delevingne’s modeled for brands including Anya Hindmarch, Alberta Ferretti, Burberry and Julien Macdonald and has been the face of Jo Malone London and Louis Vuitton. She’s also a muse and friend of Matthew Williamson’s.
Tallulah Harlech is yet another upper-class It, with her English aristo parents — Francis Ormsby Gore and Lady Amanda Harlech (a Karl Lagerfeld muse). The younger Harlech grew up in a household where close family friends included Bruce Weber and Isabella Blow, so It-dom was predestined. The aspiring actress is a London party regular and front row fixture. Another fashion It is Bip Ling, the model/blogger/artist/DJ. She’s the daughter of fashion illustrator Tanya Ling, and London gallery owner William Ling.
Blame Duran Duran for generating a host of Its, including model Amber Le Bon, a daughter of the band’s lead singer Simon and model Yasmin, and Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, the daughter of Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and the photographer Amanda de Cadenet. Atlanta is cliqued up with sister Its Harley Viera Newton and Alexa Chung.
In France, Les Its include models Caroline de Maigret and Jeanne Damas. De Maigret did not take the traditional path to modeling. She took a break during her late 20s to focus on Bonus Track Records, the music production firm she runs with her partner, musician Yarol Poupaud.
Having been lured back into modeling by Chanel, she juggles both, in addition to designing a makeup kit for Lancôme, and the small matter of becoming a best-selling author. She and her co-authors are working on the follow-up to “How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are,” which has been translated into 27 languages.
Damas got her modeling start alongside her mother in a Comptoir des Cotonniers campaign in 2011, and since then has appeared in campaigns and short films for brands including Roger Vivier. “Jeanne represents an attitude that’s undeniably what young women of her generation like about her,” says Inès de la Fressange (one of the original French Its), Vivier’s brand ambassador since 2003.
With her trademark red lip and effortless style, Damas walks in the footsteps of past French style mavens like Françoise Hardy and Isabelle Adjani. Following a capsule collection for Reformation, she has channeled that look into her own clothing line, Rouje, which launched earlier this year.
Though she no longer has her own blog, Damas boasts 187,000 followers on Instagram and is hoping to branch out into acting. Her big-screen debut could come as early as next year — she is rumored to have a part in Guillaume Canet’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Six-thousand miles east in Tokyo, the It formula remains tried and true — famous parents, good connections, DJ skills are the essential components — with a lineup of girls including Elli-Rose, Leaf Greener and Jennifer Tse.
The daughter of a Japanese photographer and a London-born stylist, Elli-Rose started her modeling career early, often appearing in magazines aimed at pre-teens and teens. She went on to regularly appear in popular women’s title “Vivi,” leading to campaigns for major Japanese lingerie brands and the chance to walk the runway at events like Tokyo Girls Collection.
A fixture on Tokyo’s party scene, she began DJing in 2007. Now nearly 30, she released an eponymous “photo art style book” earlier this year and shares her life with 189,000 Instagram followers.
Greener, meanwhile, has a dual role as street-style star, and a bridge between China and the West. The bilingual, Beijing-born Greener came to prominence as the senior fashion editor of Elle China, and since leaving the post, has gone on to wear a number of fashion hats.
She’s also the founder of Leaf — a digital magazine available on China’s WeChat platform with around 20,000 followers. She boasts more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, a social media network blocked in her home country.
Actress and model Tse is the daughter of Patrick Tse and Deborah Lee, a movie-star couple from Cantonese cinema’s heyday, who grew up in Vancouver. While her film credits may be thin, the Asian Canadian has been busy filling her schedule as a celebrity model, which recently includes being the face of Greek accessories brand Folli Follie and traipsing through Italy for Calzedonia, documenting it to her social media following.