“Model“ is not necessarily what springs to mind when you meet Julia Saner for the first time. Although, at 6 feet, she towers over the average European female by at least a head, you actually only notice how perfect every angle and feature of her face is when you stand next to her svelte body and look up. Lips that no lipstick manufacturer could hope to improve on, eyes that glow without being made up, and a radiance that no sunshades could block. She arrives for the interview on her bicycle, wearing plain white sandals, a bright pair of slacks from Zara and a very wide, very white blouse. She pulls out a piece of paper from her tan backpack with her slender, well-groomed hands. Just some notes she jotted down for the interview during a cozy evening with her family.
The secret behind Julia's fascination with dressing up and acting – two indispensible skills in any successful modeling career – probably lies at the bottom of an old wooden trunk in her parents’ house which was always filled to the brim with pieces of fabric and costumes. Julia and her younger brother Rafael loved dressing up and acting out different roles. And, as Julia Saner remembers, the absolute highlight was the children's parade where their mother took Rafael and the Princess or Pippi Longstocking every year.
I prefer photo shootings to modeling on the catwalk because they require more personality, imagination and acting. I like working on my expression until it is just right.
Beauty, glamour, the jet set – models convey a certain lifestyle. After all, part of a model's job is creating the illusion that helps sell the clothes they present. A successful model must have a personality that portrays certain values; otherwise even a beautiful body will never be more than a shell onto which fashions and dreams are projected. And: the values embodied must transcend the beauty that every model has to offer.
It's impossible to successfully hold up an image that doesn't reflect your own personality. In the long run that would be way too exhausting.
People that are developed into an independent brand and who present themselves as such (e.g. Lady Gaga). Personality, behavior, appearance, and communication consistently reflect the brand identity.
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Despite her huge success, Julia Saner does not consider herself to be a brand yet, although she is aware of the qualities she embodies: Down-to-earthness, unspoiled naturalness and radiance. Yet the expectations she has of herself are high.
I’m only 19 years old and still unsure about who I really am and what I want to stand for.
She gives her cappuccino a little smile – as if something funny were peeking out at her from under the froth. On the whole, success as a model is important to the ambitious19-year-old, even if she says she could well imagine achieving her potential in a number of creative professions. Painting, photography, acting – the important thing for her is to be able to make a difference through her work.
If you are able to take the leap from being a model to becoming a well-known person, you have the possibility to use your name to endorse things that really matter.
Julia Saner's freshness in itself is a viable contender for her unique selling point, it being neither put on nor part of a strategic concept. Her natural manner is an inherent part of her character and the reason why big names like Armani book her for their campaigns. Her unaffected demeanor bestows a certain aura on the brand she represents. With ease and authenticity she presents the current fall collection and is lauded from all sides. Which, of course, has a downside, too. “It's hard to keep both feet on the ground when everybody treats you like you're something special. It's not quite as easy as it might seem."
I'm fortunate to have a down-to-earth character. That helps me keep things in perspective.
However, she does not deny the advantages of living a model's life. Representing famous brands like Chanel fills her with pride. And, at film festivals and opening nights, she meets interesting people who most of us normally only encounter two-dimensionally.
When suddenly it’s Jane Fonda or Jude Law sitting at the table next to you, you think: Whoa!
But here too, Julia Saner’s sense of realism wins the day, and she comments dryly: “Just a pity the actors are all so small. None of the men are taller than 5' 8".” And, in any case, she says, she's not really looking just yet (“no time, no rush”), so she is able to enjoy these occasions with cool composure.
Modeling at fashions shows entails far more work than just walking up and down the catwalk. Exhausting castings, lack of sleep during the shows and all the traveling take their toll. However, nobody really wants to hear that modeling is not just about being beautiful and happy all the time, and often people act surprised that a young model is not floating on cloud nine all day long. “I like being independent, but as a model I am dependent on the agency that coordinates my assignments. I always only know a few days in advance where I have to be by the end of the week. It's hard to keep up friendships that way.” And, as she does not always want to have to explain about all the work that goes on behind the scenes, Julia only confides in the people who are really important to her. “My parents and my best friends have no connection with the fashion world. It always takes a bit of time to explain to them what exactly I'm doing. But, as long as they know I’m okay, it's fine and they're happy for me.” And so Julia's mother collects all the newspaper snippets she can find about her daughter and lovingly sticks them into an album. For her part, Julia stopped looking for pictures of herself long ago. Regularly catching a glimpse of her face smiling from a magazine cover or a billboard has become a part of her life. “It's a bit like when I started using make up,” she says. “When I was younger, going to the mall with my friends and getting made up was incredibly exciting. Now, that's about the last thing I'd want to do.”
Obviously, I do care about what gets written about me and how I look in the pictures. Not out of vanity, but because I want to do my job well.
But that seems to come easily to her. “Isn't it crazy?” she asks wonderingly. “I've been doing this only for a year and have already been photographed by Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino and Steven Meisel. To top these assignments won't be easy - except maybe by appearing on the cover of VOGUE," she says with a laugh.
I'm an ambitious person and like having to make an effort to reach my goals. Without a challenge, I get very lazy.
All of this is probably only just the beginning, although which of her dreams she will pursue next is not at all certain. Possibly, she'll go on to study art in Berlin. Possibly, she'll decide to attend acting school in New York or Paris. Or, she will continue to model and no doubt soon smile at us from the cover of VOGUE. Whatever she chooses, we have absolutely no doubt she will succeed in realizing her dreams.
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The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group