The Blank Canvas
Photo Credit: Retna UK
It had often been said that the body is a canvas. Skin is a piece of paper that we need to draw on, to express ourselves through words and pictures in colour and in black and white. Our ‘canvas’ doesn’t always have to be full, and it is always subjective to the beholder. This is why fashion has is disinclined towards tattoos and body art. The model on the other had is a blank canvas. She’s a mannequin waiting to be dressed in colour popping prints or dark velvets; in chic three piece suits or leather and mini-skirts. Her face is without blemish and perfectly preened, ready for the war paint to be applied. It’s true, that fashion had a distinct and negative attitude towards tattoos; that is, until now.
The business of designer-expression is merging into the business of self-expression. It’s not a drastic change, in fact it’s only a miniscule one, but it’s noticeable enough to begin to question the ways in which designers are choosing their models for catwalk and editorial. Instead of opting for the girls who look alike for consistency in the collection, designers like Karl Lagerfeld are looking for models who show a bit more expression an individuality; edgier girls seem to represent and relate to the modern generation a lot more than they used to, or a lot more than designers thought that they would.
Freja Beha Erichsen, fast becoming the Kate Moss of the noughties, is covered in body art so subtle and fine yet shockingly stimulating that you would never have thought that Vogue Magazine would have allowed her onto its pages. At a last count she had over fifteen; ‘Serendipity is Life’ scrawled along her upper arm, ‘The World Tonight is Mine’ around her right wrist, a stark outline of a revolver on her upper left arm to name a few (she likes guns, she thinks ‘the design is pretty’). Yet has it affected her career? No. You could even say that the tattoos and the pixie haircut she sported when she was first finding her feet in the industry got her where she is today. Freja Beha isn’t a mannequin, she’s an individual. To not notice her on the catwalk is to be completely oblivious.
Catherine McNeil has almost as many, and talking of Kate Moss, the veteran has four including an anchor on her wrist; perfectly visible for the photographer. The refreshing change is becoming more and more prominent, especially with Alice Dellal as the new poster girl for Chanel. Model’s are no longer a blank canvas; they may just be beginning to become just as self-expressive as the designers themselves.