The Power of the Cult Model


For the casting of the SS15 show, and the 125th anniversary of the House of Lanvin, Alber Elbaz looked back through the model archive. The designer explained: “I did not want it to feel like a coming-back-type-of-thing, but almost like a parade of women of different ages; it’s not just about cool and trendy but about timelessness”. During this celebratory season, the Lanvin women on the catwalk were strong and powerful models from the Eighties and Nineties, embodied by iconic names such as Amber Valletta, Kirsten Owen, Violetta Sanchez and Natasa Vojnovic. Tim Blanks, Editor-at-Large, noted that ‘apparently the best maquillage’ was indeed experience. Midway through the show, the forty-three-year-old Canadian model Kirsten Owen made an almost ghostlike appearance, wearing a long white flowing Empire-line dress. In the Nineties, she was a crucial component of Helmut Lang’s shows, in which Lang had always sought to evoke a sense of diversity and reality. He had experimented by bringing men and women of different age groups and ethnicities together, and by asking not only professional models but also his close friends to model his creations. Owen’s natural yet unconventional beauty challenged the dominant images in contemporary commercial fashion and magazines, and today at Lanvin her appearance, again, was able to add to the intensely personal mood of the show. Contrary to what comments in the press might suggest, Elbaz’s cast of women of various ages was neither new nor experimental. Nonetheless, Elbaz’s preference to work with “retired” models showed he was well aware that these faces, with their maturity and individual character, were no blank canvases upon which he needed to impose a new vision. In fact, quite the opposite was true: the Lanvin story was no longer only about the garments but, by simply being there, these cult models reminded the audience of the brand’s long and established history, and contributed to the cultural capital of the House.