In our ongoing series, From Nada to Prada, we explore the transformative power of a hair switcheroo, as seen in the competitive world of Model Land, where an agency-mandated bang cut or a bleach job can make the difference between booking a Prada campaign or slaving away in the gray ether of e-commerce for the rest of your livelong days.
In modeling, there are some girls who just start out getting it. Even in the most horribly lit, over-styled, makeup-caked test shoot taken in the bowels of some photo studio in the middle of anti-fashion hell, they manage to shine through against all odds, communicate their, I don’t know, model aura or something. I’ve seen these girls operate in real-time, and, say what you will about the talent required to model, it’s something to behold. These girls are the unicorns, the girls who, at ages as young as 14 years old, when most acne-riddled twerps are just freaking out about whether or not the shoes they wore to school were Popular Kid Approved, possess a transparency that took myself, as a model, over eight years to get, which, given the brevity of most modeling careers, is about seven years, eleven months, and thirteen days too long. But the unicorns… they’re the lucky ones. They’re like Harvard-bound dorks born understanding calculus. Only, you know, these are fashion babes destined for Vogue.
One such unicorn is Canadian model Gracie Van Gastel. I’m going to go ahead and preface this “Nada to Prada” episode with the obvious: Gracie Van Gastel has never had a nada moment. Aside from one easily forgivable Polaroid taken of a very young Gracie in 2009 – in all its bra strap-showing, flip-flopping wearing glory – there is no dirt to uncover, no bad before-and-after expose. That’s because Gracie Van Gastel is unequivocally gorgeous, the type of girl you could dress up in a paper bag and send down the runway without raising eyebrows. And, yes, Gracie Van Gastel would sell the shit out of that paper bag.
From 2011 through 2012, Gracie did decently well working for smaller clients while channeling some major Snejana Onopka vibes – only, you know, less Russian. With translucent skin devoid of pores, eyes the color of melting glaciers, and hair long and yet ravaged by the hirsute hellscape that is fashion week, Gracie looked like a character from a Jane Eyre novel, one who lived in a dark, damp manor somewhere off the coast of England who would be played in the movie version by Saoirse Ronan. The look was precious, ethereal, 100% British countryside.
But in early 2013 came the haircut, incorporating an aggressive, thick bang a la Bella Heathcote. And, wouldn’t you know it, then came the big show bookings: Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane, Carven, Hermes, Chanel. This is Fashion with a capital “F.” Towards the end of 2013, Gracie began finding her campaign and editorial bearings; Vogue has taken note and, most recently, so has Rag & Bone, who used her for their latest Pre Fall 2014 lookbook.
Perhaps most significantly, Gracie’s fucked-up, pre-op lobotomy little doll look, has earned her a fan in Mr. Hedi Slimane, a man who tends to gravitates towards the raw expression of youth. With her new chop and a look that will certainly inspire legions of chic chainsmokers, Gracie perfectly fits the bill for the latest iteration of Saint Laurent. The grunge, the baby doll dresses, the heroin stares, the hula hooping. Oh, did we mention the hooping thing? Gracie is a talented hula hoop dancer, something she put on display in a Saint Laurent video. Yes, that’s right. Hula hooping for Saint Laurent.
Goddamn, I love this girl.
Verdict: Haven’t you been listening? P-R-A-D-A.