Models no longer live by the catwalk alone. Fashion’s current crop of beauties are caught up in all kinds of extracurricular projects—from filmmaking to dancing to music, styling and jewelry design.
One of the best examples of this new breed is songstress-turned-runway rambler Irina Lazareanu. She has an album coming out in August and, to dabble in another facet of fashion, tried her hand at styling for the first time—and photography—for an upcoming issue of V.For the project, she gathered some cohorts, including Daria Werbowy, Gemma Ward and Lily Cole, so that nine girls could pose together for a spread in the magazine. “Maybe I’ll do a project with different generations of models,” muses Lazareanu, who adds that Nicolas Ghesquière and Karl Lagerfeld were particularly supportive of her styling initiation.
So how did Lazareanu feel about being on the other side of a fashion shoot? She loved it, especially the styling, but adds: “It was very freaky. I had to make sure the girls got ready, got dressed. And I’m just a friend. It really was a challenge. It took 10 years off of my life.” A glutton for punishment, maybe, but Lazareanu is so keen on styling that she also just tried her hand at another shoot—this time for an edition of Vogue.
When it comes to music, Lazareanu says she will be wrapping up in June Some Place Along the Way, the album she’s recording with Sean Lennon (who is also its producer). The two play guitars and sing songs such as “Thirty Years Ago,” “Strange Place” and “To the One I’ve Never Met,” penned either by Lazareanu herself or Lazareanu with Lennon. Exceptionally, Lennon and Pete Doherty (frontman for Babyshambles, the band for which Lazareanu has written songs) might perform Bob Dylan’s “Girl From North Country.” “I love that song,” she says, adding her music mentors beside Dylan include Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday and Joan Baez.
Some Place Along the Way should be released in October or November. Lazareanu says she and Lennon—who are still hashing out their band’s name—might perform in the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, also in June.Not to say that with all this practice, getting up onstage with her acoustic guitar ever gets any easier for Lazareanu. “I have very bad stage fright, so I am the worst,” she says. “I don’t get it when I’m modeling; that’s not as personal. You’re not out there as much. Then, I am showing someone else’s work.” She says singing her own songs “is terrifying. It’s almost like reading your diary out loud.”
Backstage during this past season’s ready-to-wear shows, Sasha Pivovarova wasn’t just getting her face painted and her hair done; she also had a pencil in hand, preparing for a big art happening. The model was working on numerous projects, including portraits based on her and her best buddies, Vlada Roslyakova, Snejana Onopka, Julie Stegner and Jessica Stam.
“They are big paintings on recycled paper,” she explains. “I started with pencils, then used a glass of wine, coffee—everything I could find.” Pivovarova says that by using particular colors, she tried to convey how she sees each individual person. The stunner is no newcomer to art, saying she’s been doing it “for as long as I can remember.” Pivovarova says she hopes to show her creations in a gallery soon.
One fan is designer Giambattista Valli, who has some of Pivovarova’s artwork—made out of makeup—on his wall at home, surrounded by art by Andy Warhol, Jean Cocteau, Leonor Fini and Giacinto Cerrone. “I see her as an artist before being a model or anything else,” Valli says. “She’s a muse to designers, but in the way she thinks, dresses and lives, she is very much an artist.”
It’s no surprise that the lure of Hollywood is strong for models, who are already accustomed to playing different roles on the runway. Ward, for one, recently completed a sabbatical during which she played a supporting role in the upcoming movie, The Black Balloon, alongside Toni Collette. Directed by Elissa Down, the film—produced by an all-Australian crew—tackles an adolescent boy’s difficulty in coming to terms with his autistic brother. Ward, who plays the adolescent’s girlfriend, Jackie, says she enjoyed the research into the characters and time periods. She also likes the camaraderie. “Everyone became so close, since we spent so much time together on the set,” Ward says. The film is due to be screened in festivals by the end of this year and will be released next year.Flame-haired Cole, meanwhile, donned a uniform to play an unruly schoolgirl in the film remake of the British classic boarding-school comedy St. Trinian’s, due to be released next spring. Rupert Everett has the role of the school’s unorthodox headmistress. Aside from modeling and acting, Cole is working on promoting a range of jewelry produced by the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert.
Werbowy is getting into movies and philanthropy. She is the executive producer of a coming-of-age movie set in Whistler and Vancouver, British Columbia. “It’s about the fascination of becoming a post-snowboarder—it shows the good and the evil side,” Werbowy says of the yet-to-be-titled work in progress. “We’re hoping to get it into film festivals by September.” She says she also is making paintings and jewelry.
Occasionally, a model’s hidden talent and fashion converge. A case in point: Coco Rocha, an expert at Highland dancing, got to kick up her heels to show off Jean Paul Gaultier’s Scottish-themed fall finery. But it wasn’t just a show-off display. “I’m setting up a charity to help underprivileged kids get to dance,” Rocha says. “Dancingis such a buzz, I’d love for others to be able to share that,” she notes, adding that the still-unnamed charity will be based in Canada and possibly the United States.
“I loved dancing at the Jean Paul Gaultier show. It was something out of the ordinary. I was so nervous....Usually, I would dance in front of people who don’t know who I am, but this time, if I messed up, everyone knew who I was. But it all went amazing.”
Rocha was bitten by the dancing bug long before the runway beckoned. “I started Irish dancing at a very young age,” she says, “as I was taking acting and singing lessons, but I didn’t like the teacher. She scared me! My mom then told me, ‘Well, we’re not going to waste the money that I’ve spent on this class,’ so she told me to pick another class from the school. At the time, Riverdance was a big show, so I picked the Irish dance class, and 11 years later, I’m still dancing.“I would practice in a class three times a week and another hour a day on my own. Our troop, Eire Born, did many shows, from dancing for the Queen of England when she visited Vancouver, to dancing in Switzerland for Expo in 2002. So you could say we were professionals—I like to say I did it just for fun. I love all types of dance, especially the ones that we don’t see so often,” she adds. “From ballroom dancing, to belly dancing, to even ice skating, if you would call that dancing—I do.”
More seasoned models, rarely seen on the catwalks today, but still appearing in fashion shoots and advertising, have also upped their extracurricular ante.
Audrey Marnay, a model, mother and actress, added jewelry designer to her list of activities earlier this year. Her nascent line, called Etername, mimics fashion’s cycles, with ready-to-wear,couture and made-to-measure collections. Priced at $4,000 to $13,000, the debut collection featured semiprecious stones, such as topaz and amethyst, faceted to resemble natural crystals and looped with lines of diamonds to resemble the letter E.
On the olfactive front, Kate Moss will boast her own signature scent, starting in September, in Europe, the Middle East and Australia, and North and Latin America one year later. She inked a fragrance deal with Coty Inc. earlier this year and also introduced her first clothing line for Topshop, where her appearance in the window in London was greeted by a crush of fans.
The prior generation of models already boasts quite a number of entrepreneurs. Take Christy Turlington Burns, who introduced a yoga-inspired activewear line, Nuala, and launched an ayurvedic skin care line, Sundari (that’s since been sold). Helena Christensen took on a partner—Leif Sigersen—to launch a clothing line, Christensen & Sigersen, and is a photographer. She also teamed with Erin O’Connor to develop a hair care line, Model.me, with Boots the Chemists. Naomi Campbell has a fragrance. And the list goes on.
Some models, including those of yesteryear, have even signed with agencies to help them develop into multifaceted brands. Last year, for example, Cindy Crawford, who has a Cindy Crawford Home furnishings collection and Meaningful Beauty skin care, signed with IMG to represent her in all areas of fashion and marketing. Claudia Schiffer inked a partnership with British entertainment impresario Simon Fuller for the worldwide management and representation of Schiffer’s name, image and brand rights in beauty, fashion, lifestyle and TV.Why is there so much action on the model front? First, more than ever, the longevity of a model’s career is never a sure thing. Second, models have reached a new iconic level in the public eye. “They have come [on the brand scene] really from nowhere; five to 10 years ago, they were glamour clotheshorses and now are A-list celebrities, so, as a consequence, they have a lot of value behind promoting a product,” says George Wallace, chief executive officer of Management Horizons Europe, a London-based specialist retail practice. “It’s not just focused on the high end of the market, either.”
He says there’s also a new type of interaction between model and consumer. “The customer has gotten more sophisticated; it is not enough just to have a celebrity endorsement. Now, they are buying into a piece of Kate Moss,” he says.
Wallace believes models today share the limelight with actresses and musicians, but before long, they could “be at the top of the pile. Their visual appeal is so strong, by definition. They’re unbeatable.”
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