At Haru while having lunch with the nicest model manager you could imagine, the following happened. As usual, the talk had turned to agency gossip. Not malicious, or particularly competitive but just...idle. " Yeah and Gemma Ward's been looking particularly happy these days". he said in a fairly loud voice, "Cause as we all know she's not always the happiest camper" I sat facing the door, so I could see, literally as he spoke the approaching figure of...Gemma Ward, in these little denim hot pants and a totally non-descript tank top with that model staple, an army coat thrown over it. She looked great, tall and slimmer than the last time we glimpsed her with long tousled blonde hair, looking very much like a beautiful teenaged tourist. She was with her IMG agent. I completely blanched and my lunch companion followed my eyeline to its conclusion. At that point we burst out laughing.If this were a scene in a movie, the audience would go..."Yeah Right!" Poor Gemma probably felt over scrutinized at this point and whether under the weight of our gaze or by pure chance, Maja and Gemma soon elected to take an outside table. I waved hello as they went by and left it at that.
It was a strange experience, made stranger by the girl in question. Its happened so fast for Gemma. September 2003: Prada's casting master Russell Marsh receives an IMG video of the beautiful if quirky Australian 15 year old . He has her flown in for Miuccia Prada's perusal. Gemma makes the cut and walks the show exclusively . She is one of the models booked for the Spring 2004 campaign. Fast forward to February 2004 she's on the cover of W, opening almost every show she's booked for and circulating in the pages of US Vogue. By Fall 2004 she's nabbed a Calvin Klein Obsession (Night) fragrance campaign. At 17 Gemma is a millionaire and even starts to spawn lookalikes in the form of the next great Prada obsession, Sasha Pivovara. Just when she's in jeopardy of becoming another of the anonymous new model mob comes a surprise Vanity Fair cover with George Clooney. Yeah, yeah, haters all highlighted the fact that her back was to the camera but those inside pages were exposure an earlier generation of 'supermodels" would have killed for.
But this is the difference between modeling now and modeling then. Careers, images, reputations, bookings, the rise and then the fall: it all happens at fast forward speed now . More models. Shorter career lives. Faster stardom. Its why I think of all the models that came and went, it is Gemma who inadvertently will end up being the face of the decade. Before her there were not faces like this.After Gemma, it became a standard of our times and that standard was highly centralized at IMG (Lily Cole and Lily D, the aforementioned Sasha and the last girl of that wave, Diana Moldovan). IMG is so big it oftetimes hard to locate their identity but I would contend that this "look" was truly an IMG scouting thing. I loved the Japanese categorization of the look : "Dolly Girl". Very 60's London beauty meets CGI alien doll. Or "alien gamine" as a clever moniker on fashist-online.com used to go.
The last news update on Gemma was that she was ready to go Hollywood with two flicks already in the can. One was an indie "The Black Balloon" with Toni Colette, the other mainstream : "The Strangers" with Liv Tyler. The previews I've seen has Gemma in a mask. I like Gemma Ward. I like that she's looking for a life past modeling but after all these years she's still inscrutable, which means she has kept her mystery. She's not a "cool dresser" like Kate and she's not an aspiring Upper East Side socialite. She just sort of floats off into her own very abstract, very private place. Normal by day and then the total illusion of fashion on camera. Young girls love her. There's something in her expression that always seems to be saying "Why?". Cross-currents of scandalous gossip have washed up on my mobile with Gemma's name attached except the scan/dale is of the tepid form such as "Gemma''s not doing runway anymore cuz she's now a size 6" . Really? Wow. Wonder how she made that $3mil according to Forbes. Or "You should have seen Gemma and Lily and Caroline Winberg at Cafe Ruc last night. Gemma was dancing on the table." Cut to Gemma turning to look at you with an expression that says "Why?"
This leads me to segue to the information blackout I'm labouring under. At my day job I literally cannot discuss a single girl on the Milan market until the Prada is done having their way with them. Or not. Every agent in town is burning candles and chanting incantations in the hopes that Prada will make them a new Gemma. The new Gemma is traditionally an IMG title, but the Women/Supreme team is gunning into Milan high on their big NY moment. Its going to be war and that's entertaining. I've bought my popcorn and a ringside ticket to the showdown. The Gucci exclusives, of which I know of 2, grow dimmer in prestige against the solar flare of this Prada obsession. And in the face of that Miuccia Prada will do exactly as she likes. You could almost start to feel sorry for Jil Sander and Dolce and Burberry and Versace, except even Burberry is doing exclusives now.Its a veritable Balkanization of the modeling industry and these are the days of the 1 client model. Which is not always a bad thing. Certainly not for the aforementioned Sasha. Or for the instant star Toni Garrn, who will NOT be seen in Milan or in Paris. Make of that what you will. Or just read what vmagazine.com had to say about the scenario. That way I can truly say, you didn't hear it from me. I might as well tell you though that the sleek and very beautiful Magdalena bolted today from Next, the agency that made her for the power-managing team at DNA. Racquel Zimmerman opening a Prada show almost 5 years back certainly changed her fate, so I'd keep an eye on that camp too in the Prada sweepstakes.
No, my life is not deep, but that's why I love the art kids who provide me with an undertow of depth .So much more open and with better figures too. Here's a duel to consider with a much bigger sense of scale to it. Who do you think will end up the bigger Art Baron: LVMH's Bernard Arnault or PPR's Francois Pinault? Arnault's commissoned Frank Gehry to build a home base for his LVMH Foundation, to be constructed in Paris's Jardin d'Acclimatation by early 2010. Pinault on the other hand, is keeping it old school, now that he's found that his collection of 2000 art objects no longer fits in the 18th century Palazzao Grassi in Venice. So he outfoxxed the Guggenheim Foundation and bought the Punta della Dogana (a 17th century customs house with 38,000 sqaure feet at his disposal) to house his collection. Don't you wish you had something you could sell to these guys! How much do you think a polaroid of The Face Of The Zeroes might go for?