Exclusive Interview - Elena Bartels
Hamburg native Elena Bartels is experiencing a stellar New York Fashion Week debut during the Fall/Winter 2013 collections, with enthralling appearances so far at BCBG Max Azria, Altuzarra, Prabal Gurung, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Tommy Hilfiger and Richard Chai Love. Bartels who has only been modelling for 15 months, has already achieved staggering success on the European and London runway circuit, walking for Burberry Prorsum, Prada, Miu Miu, Givenchy, Balenciaga and Jil Sander amongst others. Lucrative campaign bookings for Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander and Missoni followed, making this 18 year old newcomer a marked woman among New York casting directors and designers leading into the Fall/Winter 2013 collections. Bartel's imposing 177 cm frame, her swan-like repose and emotive green-eyes make for an alluring combination which has landed her on the pages of Vogue Italia, Dazed & Confused, Pop, Interview, British Vogue and Japanese Elle. Bartels' appeal, aside from the obvious physical traits, lies in her refreshingly candid nature and her relaxed demeanour. Bartels gives the impression that she is unfazed by the rigours of modelling and is savouring each experience as it materialises. On the eve of the Fall/Winter 2013 season, Bartels chatted one-on-one with Inoubliable Model Army about her hopes for the future, the aftershock of opening for Louis Vuitton, and hoarding multiple copies of Vogue Italia for family members.
Inoubliable Model Army: Hallo Elena, thank you for taking the time to chat with Inoubliable Model Army. You're relatively new to modelling. Tell us a bit about yourself, whereabouts do you hail from in Germany and how did you fall into modelling?
EB: I'm from the north of Germany, Hamburg. I was discovered when the booker of my sister (who also models) suggested that I model when I was younger but I was never sure about it. Later I went into my sister's agency and a booker there took some polaroids and sent them to London just before Fashion Week and it all took off from there.
Inoubliable Model Army: You debuted at the Fall/Winter 2012 collections in London and went on to appear in 22 blue chip shows, opening for Versus and Louis Vuitton. Was it daunting to find yourself in such a position at such an early stage in your career?
EB: Not really, to be honest I didn't really know what I was doing. The first time I got nervous was at the Burberry show. When the Louis Vuitton show came around, I was too tired to realise what was happening. We would run through a rehearsal and were given numbers afterwards and they gave me the number 1, but it didn't dawn on me initially that I was going to be the first to walk on the runway. The music came on and I just remember really liking it and then I went down the stairs in heels for the first time and didn't think about anything until we all came back for the final line-up and it was then that I realised that I had just opened the Louis Vuitton show!
Inoubliable Model Army: Last season you came back even stronger with a 40 show tally including appearances at Prada, Jil Sander, Chanel and again at Louis Vuitton. Will you be embarking on your first full show season at the Fall/Winter 2013 collections and if so, how will you prepare for the onslaught of the month long fashion frenzy?
EB: At the moment, I am at home with my parents, relaxing and hanging out with my friends, waiting for my passport to come back from the US Embassy. I'm hoping there will be a visa inside so I can go to New York to do the shows there as well.
Inoubliable Model Army: In the past 12 months, you have appeared in campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander and Missoni, landed a Vogue Italia cover, and featured in editorials for British Vogue, Dazed & Confused, Pop and Interview. What was it like working with Steven Meisel and what was your reaction when your Vogue Italia cover hit the newsstands?
EB: I was really nervous before I shot with Steven Meisel. For the Louis Vuitton campaign, I think there were about 15 girls present and we were all nervous but he knew all of our names and talked to all of us, and the way he directed us was very reassuring. He knew exactly what he wanted and so he got the job done without any problems. Then, when the Vogue Italia story came out, I was at home in Germany so i went out and bought 10 copies and gave them to all of my family.
Inoubliable Model Army: There are so many new faces looking to breakthrough each show season. What do you feel are the distinguishing factors for making a favourable and lasting impression at castings?
EB: When I initially came into modelling, I wasn't taking it too seriously. I never thought I would do so well so I was just having fun. I think people responded to this side of my character in a good way, and that helps to keep me calm during the casting process.
Inoubliable Model Army: How do your family feel about your modelling career and how do you balance home life with schooling and your modelling obligations?
EB: My family are extremely supportive of me. As for school, I guess the hotel room or motel apartment will become my classroom with many hours spent studying online!
Inoubliable Model Army: What are the biggest misconceptions about models and the modelling industry?
EB: It's not always glorious and glamourous. Not at the beginning anyway. It is fun though and you get to meet some really great people!
Inoubliable Model Army: The turnover of new faces each season is staggering. Do you view modelling as a long-term career option and what do you hope to achieve while you are in this industry?
EB: For this, I am only at the mercy of others so I can only wish that I continue and have a good career in modelling. I do know that if I do well then I will have a very good future and all sorts of opportunities will open up for me later in life. I'm still very young and at this stage I'm just wanting to enjoy all the opportunities that come my way.
Inoubliable Model Army: What makes you "Inoubliable" (Unforgettable)?
EB: That's difficult to answer myself. I'm told I carry a lot in my eyes, but what I would like is to stand out in front of the viewer. I want whoever sees me to understand who I am and feel what I do when I perform. I want to stay in people's memory.