Milan is notoriously regarded as a difficult city for new models. But it’s not hard to see why big-name labels like Versace and Gucci prefer to cast established catwalkers like Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, and Karmen Pedaru: Veterans simply know how to carry sexy clothes. That said, many of the rookies we’ve had our eyes on since the beginning of the season have proven that they can strut toe-to-toe with the big girls. Chiharu Okunugi, Sam Rollinson, Sasha Luss, and Katya Riabinkina, in particular, seem to be at the top of most casting directors’ lists this season. We’re also going to add Manuela Frey, a Spring ’13 Saint Laurent exclusive who opened Calvin Klein in New York and did turns at Dolce & Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, and Emilio Pucci in Italy. She’s kept up the momentum so far in Paris, with appearances at Dries Van Noten, Rochas, and Damir Doma.
Perhaps the best way to evaluate Milan’s crop of newcomers is to compare two of the week’s most hyped shows: Prada, which is cast by Ashley Brokaw, and Jil Sander, which is cast by Maida & Rami. Both are characteristically chock-full of unknowns, but there was more of an overlap than usual this season. Girls who walked both include past Balenciaga exclusives Juliane Gruner and Kirstin Kragh Liljegren (who actually opened Balenciaga last season). At Prada, they were sandwiched in between well-known faces such as Mariacarla Boscono, Liisa Winkler, Adriana Lima, Kirsten Owen, Jessica Stam, Iselin Steiro, and Esther de Jong (easily one of our favorite casts thus far), as well as a few more novices like Maartje Verhoef (above, left), Elise Smidt, and Jessa Brown, who also did Sander. As we move into the Paris shows, we’ll have our eyes peeled for these girls and a few others, including Amanda Murphy (above, right), who bookended Prada after opening Proenza Schouler, and then followed that up with appearances at Dries Van Noten and H&M today.
Speaking of, H&M turned out a cast of heavy hitters (you can chalk that up to a mega-budget and George Cortina’s styling), including Arizona Muse, Cara Delevingne, Daphne Groeneveld, Delfine Bafort, Edita Vilkeviciute, Isabeli Fontana, Joan Smalls, and closer Malgosia Bela.