The V magazine supermodel series continues! For our November issue, Terry Richardson and Carine Roitfeld shot their eight favorite new fashion faces, and I interviewed them. Today is part two in the series, wherein we meet the Dutch beauty Saskia de Brauw. (Yesterday was the super sexy South African stunner Candice Swanepoel. To read our chat, click here.) Saskia provides a calming presence on the fashion scene, which isn’t to say she’s at all boring. She had no problem getting on her hands and knees and give break dancing a try when Terry asked her to. And she was surprisingly good too. But what is truly enviable about Saskia’s career has been her pace. She admits she was lucky to experience a real childhood, dabble in modeling while she went to art school, and wait until she was a grown woman before she bankrolled through the top tier ranks of high fashion, closing Chanel haute couture fashion shows and fronting Versace campaigns. In our chat she talks about growing up in Amsterdam, booking her first Givenchy show on exclusive, and being mature in an industry that is often guilty of obsessing over youth. See below for our full conversation and for more from our November issue, which was our fashion extravaganza, go to Vmagazine.com
DB: Let’s start at the very beginning. I know you grew up in the Netherlands. What was that like?
SdB: I grew up in a small village near Amsterdam with my parents and my brother. The village is beautiful and it provided the perfect playground for me as a child. I can remember I was always playing outside. In summertime I played a game we called “endless taxi” with my best friend on our bicycles: I would leave my friend somewhere in the village and pick her up and then bring her somewhere else and then she would do the same thing.
DB: What were you like as a little girl?
SdB: I always changed the hour on my watch with 15 minutes slow so in the summer I could play a little longer outside. In wintertime, we would make our one homemaderadio programs. We thought we were being very funny imitating all sort of voices and mixing it with strange music. I think if ever I found these tapes you would probably hear us giggling most of the time. Actually, that is one of my strongest childhood memories: always laughing. I would have bellyaches from the laughter. I hated sports but loved horses and did a lot of horseback riding. I jumped with horses and I had a room covered with pictures of horses. As a young girl I was shy but determined. I was a very headstrong child. My mother told me she often had to get my brother to hold me into the car seat if she had to pick me up from a friend’s house because I was never ready to leave.
DB: Growing up, did you ever think about working in fashion? Did you ever dream of being a model?
SdB: No, it never even passed through my mind to work in fashion. And it was definitely not the ambition of young girls when I grew up.
DB: Let’s talk a little bit about your career. How were you discovered?
SdB: When I first started modeling, I was discovered on the tram. During that period of my life I would often have people ask me if I wanted to be model, and I worked as a model in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. I did a lot of commercial jobs and met many of the friends I still have now around this time. I always combined my modeling with something else, like my studies, art courses or an extra job. It never occurred to me that there was a larger
fashion world out there, and I was definitely not ready to explore it anyway!
DB: You put your modeling on hold to go back to school, right? What convinced you to do that?
SdB: I modeled through high school, and continued to do it for about 6 years, although I never did it full time. I really didn’t work internationally, except for Germany and Belgium. At one point, I stopped modeling completely. It wasn’t a particular difficult choice since the kind of modeling I was doing was quite different from the sort I do now. It was more local, and I was doing the same jobs for a long time. I decided it was enough and it was time to focus on other things, like my own artistic development.
DB: What did you study?
SdB: Fine art.
DB: Was it a difficult choice to come back to modeling? And did you ever regret taking the break?
SdB: Everything that happened to me came at the right moment in time. I think life is more about timing than about regrets. For too long I had been thinking, “I am already this age and have done only this or that.” Those thoughts are so judgmental and they don’t take you any further in your life, so once I let go of those negative feelings things became more fluid and more clear.
DB: Is there any advice you’d give to another girl who is just starting out in this industry?
SdB: I would repeat the advice that I heard Stella Tennant once give to a group of young models; keep developing your own interests. Develop as a person and then you will only become a more interesting model.
DB: I can remember you in that first Givenchy menswear show, which I heard was a big moment for you. What was that show like?
SdB: Lots of boys, dark ambiance, pink and red roses, loud music, a long runway, very energetic
DB: Was that the first time that you met Carine?
SdB: Everyone says the first time I met Carine was backstage at that show, but I have no idea where that came from. The truth is that I was booked straight through my agency for French Vogue, and that is where I met Carine for the first time.
DB: Did you have fun working on our cover shoot? What was your impression of Terry?
SdB: I had a lot of fun! I flew back and forth between Paris and New York three times that week, so I was extremely jet-lagged. But Terry brought a fun, funny energy on the set that kept all our energy up.
DB: Everyone on the shoot was very impressed with your dance moves on the shoot! Was that break dancing?
SdB: No, I wouldn’t know how to break dance! I just had to think of break dance moves and they resembled some yoga poses that I had done in the past. But I do love to dance and move, although I have my own personal style on the dance floor. Ha!
DB: Have you had any photo shoots or jobs that you really loved?
SdB: Recently there have been some great ones. I did a shoot with Paolo Roversi and Nicoletta Santoro, and the photographs are going to be combined with illustrations. I like projects like these, which combine fashion and art, a lot.
DB: Any good stories of you on set?
SdB: Oh yes, some very embarrassing ones, but they’re mine to keep!
DB: Any people that you loved working with?
SdB: To be very honest, I have a good time most of the time. I have met a lot of very talented, dedicated, and friendly people during my recent jobs.
DB: Do you like doing catwalk shows?
SdB: Some shows are quite exciting and beautiful. I always feel the Givenchy shows have a powerful energy, which I like a lot. But also opening and closing the Chanel Haute Couture was another great experience that I won’t ever forget.
DB: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever thought about on the catwalk, or when you were having your picture taken?
SdB: When I work I try to concentrate. It can happen I get distracted but when my mind is focused I do not think of strange things.
DB: When did you first come to New York, and what were your first impressions?
SdB: My first time in New York was as a child with my parents. I must have been little because I can remember seeing everything on street level. I remember the dirt on the street and the homeless people in a way I had not seen them before. That left a very lasting impression on me. Now I come to New York quite a lot. I think it is an incredible city with such a strong vibrant energy. If you are up in a high-rise building you feel all these layers of life vibrating under your feet. I am always happy to go to New York, but also always happy to go back to Paris, where life is a little more quiet and little more romantic, and maybe a bit old-fashioned.
DB: All of the girls on the shoot were from all over the place: Tunisia, Puerto Rico, South Africa. Do you like to travel?
SdB: I love to travel. But most of my travel has been going to the major fashion. I haven’t been able to do a lot of what I would consider real travel yet. Like, I just came back from a trip with my boyfriend Vincent to Morocco. He is a traveler in his heart and soul, and he’s been traveling since he was a child, and since he works as a documentary photographer he’s seen so many places. He has been teaching me a lot on how to travel, how to be in the present in the moment and let all your senses guide you. We came back with some beautiful travel treasures in the form of objects and as memories.
DB: Fashion is such an international industry now.
SdB: Yes, in fashion your market is the world.
DB: Do you have a favorite place to go?
SdB: Now it is home, which is in Paris, because it has been so recent that I moved there. From our sixth floor apartment we have an amazing postcard picture-worth sunset every night. It is a lovely place. Together with my boyfriend we are starting to make it into our own little museum.
DB: My favorite thing about the fashion industry is that we get to travel so much. Do you still like it, or would you prefer to spend some more time outside of an airport?
SdB: I do not like airplanes that much. I feel safer with my feet on the ground rather than in the air. But on the other hand it is always a special feeling to go somewhere with your little suitcase.
DB: Did you have any role models in fashion?
SdB: Stella Tennant for her down to earth friendliness and timeless beauty. And Kristen McMennamy for being more of a performance artist than a model.
DB: Has any designer or model given you a good piece of advice? And if so, what was it?
SdB: My booker in the Netherlands always told me to just be myself, and to never change who I am. That has been a valuable piece of advice. Riccardo Tisci once told me that I should believe more in my power as a sensual woman, and not be shy about it.
DB: What’s been your favorite discovery? It could be a person, a place or a thing…
SdB: The writer George Perec for always giving me inspiration. Morocco for not dissapointing me in any way. The country is incredibly beautiful and the people are very generous. I hope to go back soon again. And an old Berber cape with a beautiful woven pattern that I brought back from Morocco. I fell in love with this object. It has been made for daily use but made with so much love and precision. The anonimous artisan who made the cape did not want any recognition. It was just part of life.
DB: Let’s talk about your beauty routine: How do you take care of yourself?
SdB: I try to eat healthy and do regular yoga. I think the best diet tip is to eat what you feel like without being excessive. In daily life I do not use any make up. I clean my face and use moisterisers from the chemist as I have a very sensitive skin.
DB: If you had to define your personal style, how would you call it?
SdB: I would define it as sober, simple and elegant. Shapes and harmonious colors are very important to me and I love to combine unusual vintage pieces with contemporary designs.
DB: Do you have a trademark?
SdB: I have a boyish face with a very feminine body
DB: If you weren’t modeling, what do you think you would be doing?
SdB: I was working on art projects last year before I started modeling again, so I would still be working more intensively on those right now.
DB: And finally, a really tough one: Where do you want to be in 10 years?
SdB: In 10 years, I will be 40, probably retired from modeling, and I will have more time to dedicate to my own art projects. Hopefully I will be travelling to many countries I have never been to and explore their cultures.
DB: And then in 20 years?
SdB: In 20 years I will be 50, so I still hope to be still travelling and working on my art work and will have a little house on the seaside with a few cats, a vegetable garden and an atelier to work
Vogue Italia December 2011
"Clean and Graphic"
Models: Saskia de Brauw, Valerija Kelava & Aymeline Valade
Photographer: Paolo Roversi
Stylist: Jacob K.
Hair: Luke Hersheson
Makeup: Lucia Pica
Manicure: Elsa Durrens