In a digital age of instantaneous (or accessible) celebrity and manufactured marketing, the universal appeal of 'started from the bottom, now we're here' could not be more prevalent. Photographers, editors, bookers, and designers gamble on a star on the rise, and lay claim to their discovery in Wikipedia 'Early Life' blurbs as some kind of industry credibility investment. Meanwhile, industry frontrunners like IMG and Marc Jacobs are feverishly scouting fresh talent via Instagram in the hope of a handle on The Next Big Thing, plucked from blissful obscurity off a cattle ranch, supermarket, or school bus, catapulted to lucrative stardom and the bright lights of New York, London, Milan and Paris.
Astrid Holler doesn't need a backstory. With a name like Astrid Holler (even given the option of any wacky stage name, she'd still go with Holler) and six feet of long limbs, this mysterious beauty doesn't need any odds stacked in her favour. Every casting director can see the canvas appeal of her dark androgyny and indifferent stride - indeed, there must surely be some kind of prize for aesthetic versatility to walk both a smokey-eyed and sultry Elie Saab show and a futuristic man-layered Acne Studios affair in the space of half a day.
Backstage, her modelling peers on the show circuit describe her as "strong and silent". "She's going to kill it whether she likes it or not!" quips another bright-eyed new face of the season. Front of house, an Italian editor leans over and whispers urgently, "Who is she? She is walking every show. Is she Brazilian? She looks Brazilian. We need to shoot with her." Nearby Australians are quick to correct him - 'She's one of us.'
Just before the Holler storm hit, Astrid braved the New York snow and subway to the Soho Grand to roll around my room in Valentino and Carolina Herrera gowns uncharacteristic to the boyish slouch she is so used to being styled up in. She had two hours tops, she said - and then her first Fashion Week casting. Was she nervous? A little. But everybody at the New York agency (IMG) had been super nice, and if she weren't modelling, she'd probably be taking a gap year with her friends anyway, so at least the travel element was already satisfied.The next time I saw her, she was opening Alexander Wang.
Fast forward a month to the Australian Fashion Chamber launch reception with the Ambassador in Paris, and Astrid has just finished her last show (Chanel, no less), and will be staying in Paris and New York for a little while for some editorial and campaign options. She couldn't decide which city had been her favourite, but New York had been too cold. Nobody had prepared her for how difficult Fashion Month could be, she said.
And how could they? The Australian Fashion Week schedule stands at a fraction of the scale of New York, London, Milan and Paris productions, and, more relevantly, bears stricter industry norms and regulations on how long a model can be kept at a fitting - in Paris, there really was no limit. But the biggest problem of all? Her size 11 feet, now strapped up in Band-Aids after a long month of squeezing them into sample size 8 or 9 heels. Admittedly, she said, aside from walking in time to the music, the majority of a long power walk down a Balenciaga, Burberry or Fendi runway was spent "thinking about how small my shoes were".
Meanwhile, back home, Astrid is in damn high demand - the day after her Wang debut, my Instagram feed was flooded with her image, captioned with Australian industry congratulations - yes, laying claim to her 'first test shoot' or 'first ever campaign'. No doubt, every casting director for Australian Fashion Week has her in their sights to open their shows. See you back home, Holler!