Prada Makes Models: Meet Yasmin Wijnaldum

Prada makes models. Yes, the famed Italian design house technically makes clothing and accessories, but it is also known for making models. In terms of casting, Prada (and its little sister brand, Miu Miu) may not be a pioneer in the way that say, Raf Simons is, as the Belgian-born designer quite famously started street casting his models from local Antwerp hang outs in the mid-1990's.

The Milan-based house, which is under the direction of Miuccia Prada, is also not a Givenchy, whose creative director, Riccardo Tisci, and his casting team, are known for embracing a diverse notion of beauty (think: men (as opposed to boys) for S/S 2015, an array of ethnically diverse girls for S/S 2014 and beyond, and transgender model, Lea T, for a handful of its shows and its F/W 2010 campaign). Prada is also not a casting pioneer in the same way as legendary Yohji Yamamoto. Prada is, however, the design house that comes to mind when thinking of new faces.

We told you a few seasons ago just how influential Prada is in terms of casting. (You can read all about that here). One the heels of the Fall/Winter 2016 season, are are showing you. Consider Yasmin Wijnaldum. The 17-year old Dutch model walked as a Milan exclusive for Prada for Spring/Summer 2016 – along with roughly 14 other exclusive girls. Prior to the September 2015 show, Wijnaldum walked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino during the July 2015 couture shows, but as you will see, she did not get her big break until Prada put her on the industry’s radar.

While Mayka Merino, the Spanish newbie, who opened Prada Spring/Summer 2016 show, arguably received the most buzz that season, Wijnaldum took the cake when she landed Prada’s corresponding ad campaign, alongside bona fide supermodels, Natalia Vodianova and Sasha Pivovarova. (Note: Merino’s Prada show-opening slot and exclusive booking for the house certainly helped her land an exclusive booking for Proenza Schouler the following season and a J.W. Anderson ad campaign, as well).

But back to Yasmin. Since her Prada booking, she has gone on to walk in nearly every single major show. During the S/S 2016 season, she landed Lanvin, Loewe, and Kenzo, just to name three. She caught Karl Lagerfeld’s eye and walked in Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2016 show in Rome, and both Prada’s and Miu Miu’s shows, as well. To round off the pre-season, she landed Carven’s lookbook. 

She opened Versace’s couture show in January, and to kick off the Fall/Winter 2016 shows in New York, she opened Jason Wu’s show and Narciso Rodriguez’s, and walked in three of the biggest shows of the week: Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Marc Jacobs. In London, she closed J.W. Anderson. In Milan, she walked in Prada (not surprisingly), and opened SportMax and Ferragamo. And her Paris season was quite spectacular, as well. She walked for Anthony Vaccarello, Dior, Lanvin, Loewe, Givenchy, Céline, Valentino, Miu Miu, and a handful of others.

We had a chance to catch up with Yasmin in the heels of the Fall/Winter 2016 show season. Here’s what she had to say about stereotypes, diversity in fashion, and how her life has changed …

How has your life changed since landing the Prada show/campaign (other than the fact that you’re on billboards)?

It has changed a lot. I loved my job already, but Prada opened so many more doors for me! It's pretty unbelievable that people are starting to actually notice and recognize me. Even on the streets back in Amsterdam, random strangers have sometimes come up to me just to take a photo together. It's crazy, but fun!

I know that you initially didn’t think you were “model material,” which is clearly not the case since you’ve already accomplished so much. Why did you think that?

I don't know, I guess when I thought of a "model" before, one who comes to mind is an amazing, gorgeous woman like Gisele, and I just never really positioned myself as that type of person. But now, I'm working with so many supermodels myself ... I just never saw this coming.

Speaking of supermodels, what was it like to work with Natalia Vodianova and Sasha Pivovarova?

Well to shoot the Prada campaign in general is such a big deal, so having it be my first campaign ever couldn't possibly be better already, but to do it alongside two supermodels who were really nice was even more fulfilling! We were able to talk briefly, and I made sure to study them on set as well. Just the fact that the whole Prada team believed that I could be a good model for their campaign with two such established women is just unbelievable, and I'm really thankful for that.

Has that been surprising for you, how welcoming and nice most people have been?

Yes. What surprised me most about the industry is how nice most of the models are, despite any stereotypes! I've already met so many inspiring people in this industry, and I also got to know many people who support one another. It's just a great community to be a part of.

What has been the most difficult part of modeling/your career thus far?

For me, the most difficult part now is that I'm always away from home, and that I no longer see my friends and family very often. But I remember that's simply a part of this job, and this job still comes with plenty of other great things.

What do you think about the focus on increasing diversity of the fashion industry?

I think it's amazing how the industry appreciates models from all over the world! It's much more fun to make friends from different cultures and backgrounds as we are working together, because it brings a sense of global unity within fashion itself. Also, it's wonderful to hear everyone's unique stories while we're backstage or on set together.

You’ve already walked for Prada and landed a campaign – which most models can only dream of. How can your career get any better than this?

My dream is to keep on modeling at a high level, and work with amazing creatives for as long as possible, of course. To move on from here, I can only think of starring in more campaigns and editorials - hopefully magazine covers. Months later I am still trying to take everything in, so I haven't thought too much past that yet!