Belle Curves
“Tits were obviously in the air!” In the words of Katie Grand, such was the simple reasoning behind one of the fall season’s more unusual runway trends: the prevalence of big-busted, big-name models more likely to appear plastered all over a teenage boy’s bedroom walls than a high-fashion runway. Grand, editor in chief of Love magazine, should know: She styled the Louis Vuitton, Giles and Loewe shows, all of which were stocked with stacked models—Alessandra Ambrosio, Izabel Goulart, Bar Refaeli, Laetitia Casta, Karolina Kurkova and Elle Macpherson among them.

The voluptuous model moment originated at Prada, where seven women best known for their work with Victoria’s Secret, including a few of the elite Angels, such as Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr and Doutzen Kroes, were cast to fill out the clothes. Before the show, Miuccia Prada said it was a “womanly collection with sexier models,” which was interesting, since much of collection, regardless of the recurrent focus on the bust, was made up of conservative, even matronly, silhouettes not typically suited to swimsuit-edition models. The perversity of it all wasn’t lost on Ambrosio, who was vacationing in her native Brazil at the height of Carnivale when she got the call for Prada. “It was kind of surreal,” she says. “What would they want to do with me? They’re usually not interested in sexy models.”

But if Prada sought to cover up the girls’ assets, Marc Jacobs wanted to show them off at Vuitton. “He wanted cleavage,” said Ambrosio, who wore a fit-and-flare skirt and floral bustier engineered for maximum push-up effect. Indeed, Jacobs’ collection was a Bardot-inspired celebration of womanly beauty, titled “And God Created Woman.” Which was to say the collection was geared toward and inspired by certifiable adults, a point he hammered home with his lineup. “We’re opening with Laetitia Casta and closing with Elle Macpherson,” he said a few days before his show, noting that, at Vuitton, “everything is bigger.” And older. Jacobs’ show opener and closer were 31 and 47, respectively, with the rest of his models in their mid-20s.

It made for a major statement, though Jacobs has since insisted it was not intended as a political input into fashion’s ongoing conversation about healthy body image—or age, for that matter. “Katie Grand and I already decided way before the collection began that we were going to use [these models],” Jacobs told the audience at a recent lecture. “The criteria was that they had to be available the day of the show and they had to be gorgeous.”

Giles Deacon was similarly apolitical. He simply wanted to show his clothes on figures more relatable to his clients. “I like to cast women who have lived a little bit of life, not 15-year-old virgins,” said Deacon, adding that Linda Evangelista and Eva Herzigova have walked his runway in recent seasons. “I think they show up much better.”

For her part, Grand boiled it down to even simpler aesthetics. “With Giles, it was clear we wanted an all-sexy cast, and we used a lot of blondes,” she said. “Stuart [Vevers] at Loewe wanted women who looked handsome and with dark hair. And at Vuitton, Marc said very early on, ‘I’ve been thinking about tits.’ And the necklines were cut very low, accordingly.”

As for the models’ reactions, most were surprised to be considered. Even if they have a designer runway history, it’s been a while since they were regulars. Macpherson couldn’t even remember the last time she walked a catwalk. “Perhaps Valentino, 20 years ago!” she said. “Marc called and asked me to do the show and, trusting his vision, I immediately said yes. Since I’m producing a TV show at the moment, I couldn’t believe I actually had that particular day free.” Meanwhile, Kurkova and Adriana Lima, who also walked in Vuitton, each had their first baby last fall, and as Refaeli put it: “I don’t walk fashion weeks. It is usually the really skinny girls and very, very tall girls who are doing them. I kind of feel like an alien among all those girls.” Still, the prospect of being cast as a novelty didn’t deter any of these women from making an exception for the shows.

Now, the question is whether this curvier fashion moment will stick.

“I don’t think it is just for one season,” observed Grand, who was struck by Goulart and Ambrosio’s “overt sexiness” when she worked with them in October on Fashion Rocks in Rio de Janeiro. “I don’t know why, but I definitely feel more inspired to work with these kinds of women.” She’s already booked Ambrosio for several other fashion projects, including a short film called The Love Thing.

“Usually I’m on the beach, super tan, modeling bathing suits and lingerie,” said Ambrosio. “[Since the shows], I’ve actually been doing a lot of editorials—definitely with more clothes on.” —Jessica Iredale

Girl, Uninterrupted
Sigrid Agren burned up fall runways, strutting in a staggering 70 shows. By comparison, walking 50 to 60 shows in a single season makes for a jam-packed schedule. Not only did Agren top that, but she opened six shows and closed seven, walking for the likes of Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Gucci and Prada.

This Martinique native’s look blends golden features and dark eyes with a coolly intense gaze that projects a poise beyond her years— all 17 of them. After a strong fall 2009 season, Agren skipped spring 2010 to study for her high school graduation exams. Returning to the runway caused Agren some anxiety about how she’d be received. “I missed doing shows in September—you don’t know how it’ll go after not doing one season. That’s why I’m really glad it went so well this season.”

Indeed, while all four fashion capitals treated her well, Agren admits she has a special fondness for Paris, not only for walking the runways of fabled houses, but because she got some old-fashioned TLC backstage there from Mom and Dad. “They were helping me,” she says, “like bringing food for me at the shows. They really like seeing me on the runway.” —Cinnamon St. John

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