Sunday, February 24, 2013

Exclusive Interview - Stef Van der Laan

Dutch model Stef Van der Laan is no shrinking violet. With her platinum blonde hair, an imposing runway presence and a distinct Kristen MacMenamy vibe, it's no wonder Van der Laan has established a reputation as a most intriguing proposition amongst casting directors, designers and fashion editors. Modelling since 2005, Van der  Laan's rise through modelling's ranks has been gradual with the 177 cm finally hitting pay dirt with her breakthrough Givenchy exclusive appearance at the Fall/Winter 2012 collections. In the ensuing 12 months, Van der Laan has logged runway mileage for the likes of Versace, Chanel, Tom Ford, Lanvin, Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta, whilst parlaying that blistering momentum into a strong editorial presence in publications including American Harper's Bazaar, French Numéro, CR Fashion Book, V, Pop and the Russian editions of Vogue and Interview. On the eve of the final leg of the Fall/Winter 2013 collections, Van der Laan took a breather to chat exclusively to Inoubliable Model Army about the tears of joy and exhaustion behind her Givenchy Fall/Winter 2012 exclusive, her views on the CFDA's ban on models under 16 on fashion's runways, and the tattoo which she lives by.

Stef Van der Laan
Photographer - Unknown
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Inoubliable Model Army: Hi Stef, thank you for taking a moment to chat with Inoubliable Model Army. You had an impressive Spring/Summer 2013 season appearing in 21 shows including Jason Wu, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford, Versace, Chanel, and Givenchy. How did you unwind from the month of fashion chaos and are you looking forward to the Fall/Winter 2013 season?
SVDL: I have definitely had a chance to catch my breath yes, my boyfriend and I went back to Holland for the holidays, as we are both from there. I was happy getting back to work after that, I'm really excited about the upcoming season. You never really know what will happen I guess and there are some designers that I haven't worked with yet and would love to do so this season.

Inoubliable Model Army: Your recent success must be particularly gratifying given that you have been modelling since 2005. What was the turning point in your modelling career and was there ever a stage where you thought that modelling may not be the right career path for you?
SVDL: The fact that I started working so young and never had a "big hit" made me into how I am right now. I think I wouldn't have appreciated the work I'm getting now when I would have been a sixteen year old just getting out of school and never really had to struggle for anything. People always think modelling makes you very independent, I guess it does a little, but the fact that you go everywhere alone doesn't really mean independence, as everywhere you go everything is arranged for you and you don't really have to think about a lot. I'm happy I had the time to explore myself a bit more and to understand how my head works, because now I'm so busy I don't really find the time to do so.

Inoubliable Model Army: Fill us in on some of the gaps. Where are you from in the Netherlands, how old were you when you began modelling, and how were you initially discovered?
SVDL: I was born and raised in a town east of Holland called Wageningen, quite a small town but nice to grow up in. When I was 14, my sister wanted me to become a model because I was tall and skinny, so she sent my pictures to a modelling agency in Holland. She didn't tell me because she was afraid I would possibly be rejected and didn't want me to get hurt. But after a few weeks, the agency responded and invited me to do a test shoot.

Preen - Fall/Winter 2013
Photographer - Marcus Tondo
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Max Mara - Fall/Winter 2013
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos

Versace - Fall/Winter 2013
Photographer - Filippo Fior
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Kaufman Franco - Fall/Winter 2013
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
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Carolina Herrera - Fall/Winter 2013
Photographer - Yannis Vlamos
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Inoubliable Model Army: After years of grunt modelling, you were thrust into the international spotlight via your Fall/Winter 2012 Givenchy exclusive. What went on behind the scenes for the casting of the show? Did you meet Riccardo Tisci and when did you find out that you had been confirmed?
SVDL: I went to the Givenchy casting pretty exhausted from the culmination of fashion week, as Paris is the last stop, and I didn't really have high expectations of it but I went anyways. I had already met the casting director a couple of weeks before so I thought I might stand a little chance. After I was called back to walk for Riccardo, I still had no idea if he liked me or not, but apparently he did because before I was even outside of the building my booker called to let me know I was booked exclusively for the show! I was seriously crying not only because I was so happy they booked me but also because the exclusive thing meant that I didn't have to go to anymore castings for the rest of the week, as I said I was exhausted!

Inoubliable Model Army: Exclusives have the ability to make or break a new model's career. What are your views on the power of "exclusives" and the effect that they may have on  model's career trajectory?
SVDL: I was never really that well informed about the exclusivity, so I didn't really know it could break a model's career. I think it's a great way to get the attention from the fashion world, for them to see you're out there. Especially when influential people like Riccardo and Carine are behind you and see something in you. They are influential for a reason, for their passion and talent in their jobs. So I guess I was very lucky as well.

Inoubliable Model Army: You have been steadily building up an impressive body of editorial work with multiple appearances in CR Fashion Book, V, Interview Russia, American Harper's Bazaar, and the Dutch and Russian versions of Vogue. What do you enjoy most about print work and is there a particular photographer whose aesthetic and vision you truly admire?
SVDL: I love editorial work mostly because you can be a lot more free in it then when you do a commercial job. It's more like making art and working together with a whole team to make something beautiful. For me it's trying to convey a feeling that the magazine/photographer/art director wants to project. It asks a bit more thinking on my side, not just trying to show the clothes in their best angle. I love working with Sebastian Faena because he always has great energy and a great artistic vision. He always gets me excited about the story we're doing which results in me wanting to do my best and give everything I have so we can capture that vision on camera.

CR Fashion Book - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Sebastian Faena
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Russian Vogue - February 2013
Photographer - Sebastian Kim
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Stef Van der Laan & Jesse Shannon
Interview Russia
Photographer - Mark Segal
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Inoubliable Model Army: The modelling industry can be incredibly fickle with so many beautiful girls looking to crack the impenetrable seal of elite modelling. What do you think are the most important factors which contribute to success in this industry?
SVDL: I think it's mostly being in the right spot, at the right time for a jump start into the industry. Also, I think having a great team behind you like I do at the moment really helps. Plus you need to want it and to have a positive mentality. If your life is not making you happy, it will definitely show and who would want to work with a Debbie Downer :-).

Inoubliable Model Army: Do you have any regrets about commencing your modelling career at such a young age and what are your personal views on the CFDA's ban on models under the age of 16 on fashion's runways?
SVDL: I don't really regret it because it has made me into the person I am right now. I do think if I was able to do it all over again with the knowledge I have now, I would start at a later age. I think the CFDA ban was a very good choice because I see a lot of girls who are evidently not ready to be out on their own, a half world away from their homes and are just really unhappy. I know I was especially insecure in the years before and only since maybe hitting my 20s have I become more comfortable within myself and that definitely helps. When I'm not happy with the way I'm treated I now have a voice to say something about it. It's hard for girls at such young age to raise their voice or to say no to someone you consider as an adult.

Inoubliable Model Army: What are the most valuable insights that you have gained through your modelling experiences, and what do you feel are the greatest challenges that you face personally as a model?
SVDL: The greatest challenge is to feel comfortable with who you are and to not take things personally. If clients don't like to way you look, that's their issue. It's not a personal matter, you might not fit into the vision they want to project. And if it is personal, who cares? You can't be liked by everybody. Like, I have a tattoo on my side which says "I exist as I am, and that is enough." I think everybody should live by that motto.

Inoubliable Model Army: You appeared in the Fall/Winter 2012 Givenchy campaign lensed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott. What was the inspiration behind the shoot and what insights did you gain from working with such a high calibre team of creatives?
SVDL: I believe their inspiration was a rave theme, that's why the quick movements were captured in a really dreamy way. It was great to work with such an amazing team with everything so well directed and they really knew what they wanted to do. It's nice to see that there are people with such creativity and the knowledge to actually obtain that creativity and capture it on film.

Givenchy - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
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Pop - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Kacper Kasprzyk
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Ymre Steikema, Rodrigo Braga, Stef Van der Laan,
Marte Mei Van Haaster & Grace Bol
CR Fashion Book - Fall/Winter 2012
Photographer - Jean Baptiste Mondino
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Inoubliable Model Army: Your look is impossible to pigeonhole, part edgy, undeniably beautiful. How do you maintain a clear sense of self in an industry where your image is constantly being manipulated and where you are often subject to judgement based on your physicality?
SVDL: When I'm at work they mostly already transform me into someone I'm not, which makes it a lot easier to maintain that clear sense of self. I know when I'm in front of the camera I'm not "myself", I'm a different version of me. When I'm home and have cleared myself of layers of makeup and hair extensions, that's when I am really me, or the me I want to be. Also talking a lot about it with my boyfriend and friends, keeps me grounded. Having a life besides modelling I think is quite important to staying true to yourself.

Inoubliable Model Army: Do you feel that the supermodel phenomenon from the early 90s can be rekindled and what do you think it would take to bring supermodels back?
SVDL: I don't think that it's really possible, with the internet everything now becomes very replaceable and what's trending yesterday is already "so 2012" tomorrow. That doesn't mean girls can't have a long career, it's just not as glamorous or pop star like anymore. Even with music these days, I have the feeling bands don't really have long running careers because there is just so much out there.

Inoubliable Model Army: What do you love about modelling, and if there was one thing you could change about the nature of your profession, what would that be?
SVDL: It's a bit predictable but especially the travel experiences you get through modelling are one of the perks. I've seen so many places already and have met so many inspiring and great people in my short life. It's something most people from my hometown will never experience because everybody has different opportunities in life which I thought I had to grab. I have a very curious personality so I mostly set my fears and insecurities aside to just be able to have the experiences that not everybody has access to.

Inoubliable Model Army: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
SVDL: Again it probably sounds cheesy but I think being comfortable with yourself and that will show in your behaviour, especially towards other people. Treat other people the same way as you want to be treated by them, as my mother used to say ;-).

French Numéro - Issue 140
Photographer - Gregory Harris
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US Harper's Bazaar - March 2013
Photographer - Kacper Kasprzyk
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Stef Van der Laan, Daniela Braga & Kati Nescher
V Magazine -  Issue 78
Photographer - Sebastian Faena
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Special thanks to Lisa DiRuocco at IMG Models in New York. For more information on IMG Model Management, please log onto

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