Monday, November 28, 2011

Catherine The Great

In 2007, a then seventeen year old Catherine McNeil flew to Paris to meet with famed photographer Mario Testino. McNeil made quite an impression. Testino immediately booked the Brisbane beauty to appear in the Fall/Winter 2007 Hugo Boss and D&G campaigns, and signed her to a six month exclusive editorial contract. Marked by the New York Times as a "model to watch", McNeil went on to eclipse the runways of Milan and Paris logging a blinding 35 show tally in her debut season with appearances at Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Chanel.

Early Days
Photographer - Unknown
Source - thefashionspot.com

McNeil's runway blitz translated into editorial gold with appearances on the covers of V Magazine, Paris Vogue, French Numero, Russh Magazine and Australian Vogue. Most importantly though, McNeil received the ultimate endorsement from US Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph McNeil's former agent Stephen Lee at Next, reveals that after having come from a meeting with the most powerful woman in fashion, "Anna said that she wants Catherine to be an absolute, total Vogue girl. No Harper's or anything - just Vogue. Anna says Catherine epitomises everything that Vogue wants to stand for now."

US Vogue - August 2008
Photographer - Steven Klein
Source - bellazon.com

US Vogue - September 2008
Photographer - Patrick Demarchelier
Source - bellazon.com

US Vogue - December 2008
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - bellazon.com

US Vogue - February 2008
Photographer - Raymond Meier
Source - bellazon.com

US Vogue - March 2009
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - thefashionspot.com

US Vogue - September 2008
Photographer - Steven Klein
Source - models.com

US Vogue - December 2008
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - models.com

The buzz surrounding McNeil was palpable with designers, photographers and casting directors lauding praise over the newcomer. Angus Munro of AM Casting was gushing in his assessment of McNeil in an interview with V Magazine, "There aren't enough superlatives to describe the arrival of this young Australian on the scene. Models with true star quality are extremely rare but Catherine has is all - the grace, the stature, the perfect blend of strength and beauty, and, perhaps most importantly, the brains and the sense of humour. These qualities combined are going to make her a household name." Influential casting agent James Scully echoed these sentiments speaking with New York Look, "Her cat eyes, her hair - they don't make many girls like this!"

Numéro - September 2008
Photographer - Horst Diekgerdes
Source - bellazon.com

i-D Magazine - October 2008
Photographer - Amy Troost
Source - bellazon.com

German Vogue - June 2008
Photographer - Horst Diekgerdes
Source - bellazon.com

Numéro - February 2008
Photographer - Greg Kadel
Source - bellazon.com

Paris Vogue - June/July 2007
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - bellazon.com

V Magazine - Issue 47
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - models.com

Australian Vogue - January 2010
Photographer - Richard Bailey
Source - bellazon.com

McNeil delivered on such high expectations with back to back campaigns for Hugo Boss as well as campaigns for Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, Donna Karan, the GAP, Uniqlo, Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. Editorial appearances in i-D, V Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Numero, W Magazine, Russh, and virtually every international edition of Vogue, confirmed McNeil as a bonafide star amongst the current generation of models.

Hugo Boss - F/W 2007
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - bellazon.com

Louis Vuitton - Resort 2009
Photographer - Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
Source - nymag.com

Dolce & Gabbana - Resort 2009
Photographer - Steven Klein
Source - nymag.com

Donna Karan - F/W 2007
Photographer - Mario Testino
Source - nymag.com

Givenchy - F/W 2010
Photographer - Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
Source - models.com

For the past year McNeil has been on a somewhat self-imposed hiatus from modelling. Rumours abound with personal issues, burn out and health concerns, all cited for McNeil's absence from the modelling circuit. McNeil, who had recently jumped ship from Next Model Management to Ford Models, reemerged at the Spring/Summer 2012 collections in September with a renewed vigour and a new look. McNeil's return to the catwalk signals perhaps a shift in the the marketing of McNeil thanks to her management team at Ford. Instead of her sultry trademark cascading auburn locks, McNeil turned more than a few heads with a more subdued, sophisticated navel grazing bob.

Polaroid shot
Courtesy of Next Model Management

In an interview with Frockwriter, Ford Models agent Doll Wright sheds some light on McNeil's journey, "Life is a rollercoaster and these girls go through so much, they're worked to the bone. Some burn out or fade out and are never heard of again. Or they do have some fire in their belly and they come back bigger and better than ever before. And in the case of Catherine McNeil, that's what it's going to be." McNeil's runway appearances at Hermés, Jean Paul Gaulthier, Viktor & Rolf, Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Pringle of Scotland and Matthew Williamson during the Spring/Summer 2012 collections, suggest that the fashion industry is ready to embrace McNeil back into its fold.

Comeback Trail
Matthew Williamson - S/S 2012
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos

Gareth Pugh - S/S 2012
Photographer - Marcus Tondo

Hermés - S/S 2012
Photographer - Alessandro Viero

Jean Paul Gaultier - S/S 2012
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
All runway images courtesy of style.com

Catherine's Creed
Photographer - Andrew Weir
Source - andrewsdiary.com

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