Jolie laide is a delightful French expression that, like most nicknames (affectionate though they may be), comes with a barb in its tail. Loosely translating to 'beautiful ugly,' the phrase describes a woman who despite of (or in light of) what many may consider unattractive features, possesses an undeniable beauty. And for the S/S '16 runway season, designers were completely beguiled by the offbeat.
Take a cursory glance at Saint Laurent, Vetements and New York buzz-brand, Eckhaus Latta (dubbed the 'coolest' by Vogue and the NY Times) for a sample group of the new guard of models for the S/S '16 season. Though unconventionally sharp-featured and almost brutal in look, these women possess an appearance that is entirely beautiful and engaging, often left make-up free to fully showcase their unique features.
One standout model in particular, Ruth Bell, (knighted "the coolest British model on the block" by the telegraph.co.uk) was, until recently, your everyday, run-of-the-mill blonde beauty. But within 30 minutes of arriving on the set of the Alexander McQueen A/W '15 campaign, her hair was shorn into the blonde buzz-cut that, when coupled with her razor-sharp cheekbones and signature scowl, ensured her a place on a plethora of S/S '16 catwalks. Another of Hedi's handpicks, NZ model Lili Sumner, sports a charming gap-toothed smile on an impossibly big mouth and piercing, cerulean blue eyes - the model could be the millennial love child of Patti Smith and David Bowie.
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Kathy Ward, a director at Chic Model Management, explains that there is a rise in models with "...features that are outside of the realm of what a model usually typifies." She suggests, "with so much interconnectivity these days, through the internet and accessible travel, the whole world is opening up to diversity." Though she acknowledges that for catwalk, certain standard aspects such as height and silhouette are non-negotiable, she finds that the girls that are the most engaging off the catwalk are the ones who are most often cast onto it. "I think it's the way the model presents herself. Her personal style, the way she carries herself. Nowadays, a girl has to stand for something."
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At Balmain, one of the most revered fashion houses in the world, young creative director Olivier Rousteing, who is known for unexpected wins (he was one of the first to cast the Kardashians in his campaigns), offers his point of view: "Sometimes the fashion crowd think they are really modern and avant-garde but I think the system can also be quite old-fashioned." He adds: "I'm proud today to speak about a world where you walk down the street and see so much diversity... It's what I want to express in my catwalk, in my casting. I think that's why I choose muses that are actually really different and modern - I chose them because they are contemporary, they are part of this new world."