In july, 1996, in a steaming hot Milano. Dutch photographer Marc de Groot was booked to do a shooting for Sportswear International mag. I was creative director at that mag, and had explaned Marc that my model strategy for Sportswear was to use models that had a street look. Models that could be your girl/boy next door
For one of our streetwear shootings we needed a boy and a girl. The modelagencies that we worked with, were aware of our `strange` model taste. After all, the important models in those years were still the Naomi`s and the Claudia`s, Models with a classic beauty look.
July was in Milan the month of commercial catalogues shootings. And that had defined the model choice in town. The model agencies must have found it hard to send us our requested streetlook models. The girls and boys that were proposed to us, were perfectly slim shaped-, worked out, and perfect for lingery or swimwear catalogues.
But they were not the kind of girls we were looking for.
We decided to do a small casting at our office in Via Forcella (in front of the Superstudios). I don`t know what went wrong in the communication, but, at 11 o`clock Am, there was a line of about 200 commercial looking models waiting to show up to poor Marc the Groot.
The editor in chief of the mag. got worried because of the invasion in the office, and I decided to help Marc a little.
After having seen about 130 models, a girl with short red hair walked in. “How important must you guys be!?” she said, while she walked towards our table. “There are about 300 models waiting to show up to you, and it took me three hours to get my turn”! The girl didn`t look at all like any of the other models we had seen so far. She walked like a guy, and told us that she had only three pics in her portfolio. “You just started?” Marc asked her. “I just got to Milan after a couple of wasted months in Paris, and the agency here took out all of my pics” she replied. “Good you showed up in person”, I said.
“My god, there is people figthing out there”, she said with a kind of cokney accent. “Funny girl”, I thougth, and I stopped worrying about finding the right girl and left Marc `alone` with the models.
Round one o`clock Marc showed up. Bags under his eyes. “Casting is finished…..”, he said.
“Found any intresting model?”, I asked him with a smile. “The guy was easy, James showed up”. “James is cool, we worked already with him”, I replied. “And the girl”?
“Honestly I`ve only seen one interesting girl, she had just one photocopy composit” Marc said, while he handed me the sheet a bit worried. “The red haired girl !”, I said enthusiastic. “ Yes, I was afraid you would not like her”, Marc said. “Are you nuts, she was great!” I said.
We booked her in the same Sportswear issue for another shooting with photographer Angelo Chricchi.
Three monts later we had a shooting in the penthouse of a Milan models resident. At the reception I ran into Karen. “Hi Karen what`s up?”,.“Fine! things are finely going well, thanks to you guys”. “and i just did a shooting for the Italian Vogue with a photographer called `Meisters` or something like that” she said.
A month later I saw Italian Vogue`s newest issue in our office. Karen Elson stared at me from the cover. Same short red hair, eyebrows shaved, and photographed by Steven Meisel.
A star was born, and a new model look became common. ; )