Teen Model Walked Tall in New York, Now Tries Mila
Like many beautiful teenagers before her, Valerija Sestic traveled to New York City hoping to launch a modeling career. Unlike many, she succeeded.
The breakthrough neophyte of New York Fashion Week walked in runway shows of more than a dozen designers including Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Tory Burch and Rodarte.
Now Valerija, a multilingual, Swiss blond of Croatian descent, is in Milan for Spring 2012 presentations of Italian designers, which began Wednesday. She has been cast in the Thursday show for Dolce & Gabbana"s D & G line, according to her mother, Mirela, and her agent, Tanja Markovic. (A Dolce & Gabbana representative didn"t respond to requests for confirmation.)
Valerija"s quick ascent began in April, when she got the attention of an agent in Croatia, where she was on a family vacation. Soon, she had signed with the Italian arm of international agency Women Management, and by the end of June, Ms. Markovic says, Valerija and her mother were in Milan working on "model development."
Valerija speaks German, Croatian, French, Italian and English.
Valerija"s team was worried she would have trouble getting cast in the Milan shows as an unknown. "We worried that maybe she is too "Barbie" for Milan," Ms. Markovic says. They decided to introduce her at New York Fashion Week, where she appeared in shows for many big labels.
She caught the eye of magazine editors, too. "The eyes, the pouty lip, even the way she walks is almost feline," says Jeremy Spears, an editor who books models for Marie Claire. "She has a confidence that belies her age."
Ms. Markovic says Valerija is 15 and her birthday is Oct. 21.
Yet Frances Pennington, spokeswoman for Tory Burch, says Women Management told the design house that Valerija is 16. "We are conscious not to use models under 16," Ms. Pennington says.
Underage modeling is a sensitive issue in the fashion industry. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has called on the industry to "support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of 16 for runway shows."
Even so, earlier this year, a 15-year-old model walked the runway at CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg"s fashion show, and the designer apologized.
The CFDA recommends that designers ask for models" proof of age. "We got pledges from top agencies not to send girls under 16 out for casting," says Steven Kolb, CFDA chief executive.
"It is true. She is 15," says Dejan Markovic, president of Women Management. "This is never going to happen again from our company. I take full responsibility."