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Cana Klebanoff

An interview with the designer Cana Klebanoff.

by Steve Phipps
5 May 2012


above, left-to-right: Model Oliver Escardo in one of the designer's looks on the runway at SNOW 2012, A White Fashion Event presented by SFBA Fashion Network; seat #97, in the audience for Black V; the designer at a private fitting. Photographs by the author.

Phipps: So I meant to start the interview somewhere else, but you just started to talk about something else I'm interested in, your taste in models. So let's start right there. You were saying, my taste in models is ...

Klebanoff: I like ones where they're edgy. They really stand out. And there's one, my favorite one which I think is always interesting to watch. Her name is Freja, Freja Beha Erichsen.

Phipps: Why Freja?

Klebanoff: The reason why I zoned in on her, I kept looking at these different magazines, and it was like, who is the model with the tattoo on her neck? And then doing research on her, I realized, she is huge! And I was finally sold on Chanel when I was watching the Chanel lines, I think 2011-2012. They used The Cure music, which I thought was really cool, and then at the same time, she opened the show. And she was allowed to have the tattoo shown, which often they are not.

Phipps: Let's take a quick little detour and talk just a minute about the eighties and nineties. Models and the eighties-nineties. You mentioned The Cure, we've been talking a little bit about runway. So. I heard this hypothesis about the evolution of runway, that we got where we are, in part, because designers rebelled against the "Supermodel". It wasn't a model walking the runway in a Chanel dress, it was "Christy Turlington" or "Naomi Campbell", and oh by the way, she was wearing a dress that happened to have a Chanel label. Designers were marginalized on their own runway, at least somewhat. What do you think of that hypothesis, that we've gotten to this place where models are more interchangeable now, there aren't super-stars on the runway like we used to have, and that's why. It's been a conscious choice by designers.

Klebanoff: They say that clothes should speak for themselves. And that the show is all about the designer. But I think it does have a lot to do with the models. It is a huge role. Regardless of what kind of diva they might be like. But they really do bring out the expression of the designer. And speaking from my experience, a really good friend of mine, I call him my muse model. He's currently working out of New York. I would have people come up to me, and they would say, "Wow, your model is really hot! He's really handsome! By the way we liked your design."

Phipps: Oh, yes, so this is just what I'm talking about.

Klebanoff: Yes, it does make a huge difference. Certain models you use, certain "name" models especially. For me, I'm willing to work with anyone. It's on their personality. Personality is a huge thing for me regardless of their name, or how many shows they have done. It's really who they are as a person. And I try to make sure to keep them in my outfit as long as I can.

Phipps: But let's say you have a brand that's established, a label like Chanel. Do you see a motivation to maybe use models who are less of a name?

Klebanoff: Absolutely. For me, I would want to. I know some people are really business driven, they want the x-amount of extra percentage to hike up their sales, so they want to hire well-known, "name" models. For my choice, I would rather work with people I know. My friends, regardless of their height, their waist size. But in the industry, there are certain standards. And at the same time, models are well-trained. They're not nervous on the runway, for the camera. That's the other huge thing. At a casting, I would rather ask models questions than having them walk. But, it's always that toss-up. At the same time, you have to make sure you're using the right model. They really can ruin your look if they don't know how to walk. If they get nervous out there. Thousands of people, photographers flashing away.

Phipps: This is something else I wanted to talk to you about. If you said to me, "As a photographer, from a photographer's perspective, what are two things that make for a successful show?", I would say, one, you have to have good lighting on the runway. Number two, the other thing is, have a good model. That really is the biggest difference. Have a good model.

Klebanoff: Yes. I was talking to my model, I was saying, I've seen you walk, I know you can walk better, what's going on? Make sure your face is on, your game-face is correct.

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