Like most so-called overnight successes, Lara Stone is a fashion darling many years in the making. And as is typical of the stories behind suddenly white-hot commodities, Stone’s narrative contains a moment when she almost chucked it all. She was living in Paris, the city where at 15, during a family vacation from her small Dutch hometown, she was discovered in the metro by a model agent’s wife. “Three and a half years ago, I was really ready to quit,” says Stone, now 25 and curled up in a loose black T-shirt and leggings on a leather bench at New York’s Park Avenue Armory, where she is about to slip into decidedly sexier garb and channel a naughty schoolmistress alongside a gaggle of male models for a shoot with photographer Steven Klein. Her voice is low and soft, and she speaks carefully, as if she might disturb someone lurking nearby. Throughout her late teens, Stone recalls, she worked regularly, doing mostly regional print in places like Tokyo and Barcelona. But those jobs tapered off—hence the moment of despair. In a last-ditch effort at career resuscitation and at the urging of an old boyfriend, she switched agents; the new team, at IMG, aggressively sent her out as a “fresh face”—even though, Stone says, “everybody in Paris knew me, because I’d been there for so long and I’d been doing castings all the time.”
The strategy worked. This new yet precisely the same as before Stone—whose feline features, languid gap-toothed smile and voluptuous frame had previously scored her plenty of European catalog work but no major runway work or editorials—caught the eye of Riccardo Tisci, who was casting his fall 2006 Givenchy couture show. “When I [first] saw Lara, I was coming out of my studio to go into another room, and I crossed Lara in the corridor, and I took her straightaway,” says Tisci. “She was supershy. I asked her a few questions, I took a Polaroid and I looked at the agent and said, ‘I want Lara exclusively.’ I fell in love.”
The fashion pendulum had swung in Stone’s favor, and soon she was all over the place: kohl-eyed and poured into a slightly sheer, button-down cardie at the spring 2008 Prada show; lying supine on a bed, her bare chest obscured by a furry handbag for a Juergen Teller photo shoot. At Isabel Marant, for whom Stone has walked in the last three shows and who calls Stone “a kind of alien—she’s a mix of a warrior and Brigitte Bardot,” she appeared fresh-scrubbed and dressed in a snappy henley shirtdress, proving a chameleon-like adeptness at morphing into whatever particular image a designer wants to project during a given season.
There is nothing girlish about Stone. Nor is there anything boyish; Klein calls her “the girl with the X-rated lips.” She’s neither coquette nor vamp; her seduction lies in her womanliness—the breasts, the hips—and perhaps also in the palpable ambivalence Stone feels toward the industry that she finds herself at the top of at the moment. She lives in London now and avoids fashion parties, though she visibly shudders when asked what she might want to do after the klieg lights shut down. “When I think about my job now, it’s so easy. Because you get so much free time, you get to travel everywhere,” she says. “The people are nice and fun and easy and relaxed. You get to smoke at work. You make lots of money.” Stone pauses. “Where are you ever going to find another job where you don’t have a boss or responsibilities, really, except to get on an airplane and just show up? It’s a bit worrying.”