Fashion is a fickle business, we all know that. Another way of describing it is simply ‘trends.’ And trends, like fashions, come and go – sometimes without even being noticed. There’s probably no area of the industry where this dynamic is more noticeable than in modelling. There was a time when the only thing the cameras clicked for on the catwalks were Barbie dolls with giant Krystal Carrington shoulder pads. Then there was the descent into the Grunge inspired ‘Heroin Chic’ phase that, perhaps, wasn’t fashion’s finest hour. Today it would be hard to describe the era we’re in when it comes to modelling. Now there are all types of models on all types of catwalks which, in a lot of ways, makes it harder for there to be break-out stars that might go on to define this new era.
Names like Iman, Christy Turlington and THE FALL collaborator Helena Christensen might comfortably describe one era, while Karen Elson, Kirsten McMenamy and Jaime King might describe another – with icons like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss straddling all eras with ease. Today, there is no ubiquitous ‘look’ fashionistas are clamouring for so there are no real opportunities for one or two models to be picked out of the crowd to represent that look to the world (and suck up all the available media oxygen). There’s also no longer a heavily centralised media infrastructure to elevate the few chosen ones above all others.
New technology means all models now have the ability to be their own publicists, shape their own images and cultivate their own world-wide fan bases. In one way this levelling of the playing field creates a much broader base of opportunities for many more colours, shapes and types of models to not only earn money from modelling, but also earn an actual living from it as well. But it does beg the question, what will it take for a new model to stand out now in this new woke world?
If determination is one of the factors that helps to answer that question then apparently Agostina Martinez is already on her way. Her journey started about as far away from the catwalks of Paris as you’re likely to get. Martinez was born in Santo Tome in Argentina, a small town of about 60,000 people near to Brazil’s southern border. While it may be no surprise to find out her extended family is very large, it is slightly surprising to discover she’s an only child. However, as most only children will relate to – particularly those from humble backgrounds – her imagination naturally became her best friend.
Determination plus imagination – coupled with an extraordinary androgynous look that’s heavy on the exotic eyebrows (mixed with a hint of Penélope Cruz in her accent) – has just led her to having the most successful show season of her short career so far; after being sought out to walk for shows like Junya Watanabe, Vetement and the mighty Balmain. Martinez is now on the cusp of a breakout year in fashion and we wanted to get her in her own words about her career and ambitions before she becomes way too busy to fit us in:
Hi Agostina. Congratulations on your recent show season! Tell us a little about your background before modelling.
Well, I had a pretty normal life – big family and super close with my cousins. I’ve wanted to be a model since I was about 13-years-old but my hometown is really small and nothing was happening there. So, when I finished school I moved to Buenos Aries to see what I could make happen.
Did your family not worry about you moving to the big city by yourself at such a young age?
Not really. They’ve always supported me. My parents don’t work in fashion or anything like that – they have ‘normal’ jobs – but they always liked to be creative. They told me: “if you like it, do it.” And in Argentina everything happens in Buenos Aries. They did tell me if I go there for the modelling I’d have to study something as well in the meantime. Just in case. So, I studied nutrition. But [laughs] I stopped after one year.
You’ve decided that your career for the long-term is definitely going to be in fashion as a model, then?
For now, yes. I know that I’d like to do something more in the future but I’ve decided to enjoy what I’m doing now and see where it takes me.
What were the circumstances that took you from Buenos Aries to Europe?
I was working in Buenos Aries for two-and-half years doing things like fashion weeks, but smaller. Argentina is super commercial though, so it was hard. I then had the opportunity to go to Milan for fashion week and while I was there I managed to find an agency in Paris and did fashion week there too.
“You can’t stop. This is my dream. I love it.”
And how were the shows for you?
It was good but I wanted it to be better. I had changed my hair [Agostina had recently cut off most of her hair for her stark new look] and people were maybe not so used to the new style yet. But I prefer my hair shorter because I like change. I had it long for three years but I was bored.
When you arrived in Europe what was the job that made you think ‘I really can do this?’
In my first show season I walked for Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. I was really, really happy. I kept screaming, “Oh my God!” My parents also loved the Balmain show. Me too! It was such a good experience.
Do your family worry about you being in Europe, and in the fashion industry, by yourself?
No. I’ve always travelled alone. I moved to Buenos Aires when I was much younger and I moved there alone – like now. When I want something I go for it but, fortunately, my parents always support me and are always super happy for me.
What sort of challenges have you had to overcome on your career journey so far?
Well, it’s hard work. It’s one of those things where you either like it or don’t like it. It’s as simple as that. I’ve heard “no” a lot in my life but I always knew that someday I’d get there. Fashion weeks are the most difficult because there are so many castings and so many “no’s”. So, you have to be strong and say, “OK. It’s not my fault. You can’t take it personally.”
Do you think the natural independent streak in you has helped you to withstand some of the difficulties you’ve experienced with modelling?
Yes. It’s really difficult to come from Argentina to Europe because it’s super far away and so expensive to get here. This was the first thing to overcome. After that I just remained focused on what I want. You can’t stop. This is my dream. I love it.
“I’ve heard “no” a lot in my life but I always knew that someday I’d get there.”
Where do you see yourself three to five years from now?
It’s hard to think too far ahead into the future because I like to live in the moment. But I’d like to continue to work with the biggest and best brands. I’d also like to travel more.
Who or what has been an inspiration to you in your career so far?
When I was in Argentina, before I came to Europe, I admired Coco Rocha so much. She’s so amazing. I’ve followed her a lot. Every time I see her I say, “I want to do that,” or “I want to be like her.” Then when I came to Europe the brands I said would love to work with most are Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld, of course, because I love their style so much.
Outside of modelling and fashion, what do you enjoy doing when you have some free time on your hands?
I never stay home. I like to explore the city with my friends. But if I’m alone, Mate is my friend. I love Mate. Mate [mah-teh] is a drink from Argentina similar to tea. You need to buy all the herbs and ingredients for it as it isn’t sold here so that can be fun. And it reminds me of home. I also paint – but only for me!
There you have it. It wasn’t that long ago that the camera first clicked on Martinez’s first ever shoot. Now, four years and a whole hemisphere later, she’s on the verge of taking the fashion world by storm and, perhaps, help to define a new era. And so it begins….
Agostina @ Wild Management
Andre Howard Gayle
With thanks to the Rankin Studio
“I’ve wanted to be a model since I was about 13-years-old.”
All clothes by KARL LAGERFELD
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