In September of 2003, the Dutch model Rianne ten Haken, then 16, arrived in New York from “middle of nowhere” Holland completely alone. She went on a series of castings, and hit it off with a designer whom she’d assumed to be as much of a newcomer as herself.
“I had no idea who Marc Jacobs was at this point,” ten Haken recalled with a laugh of her debut, when she opened his Fall 2004 show.
Two weeks later, ten Haken was on a flight to L.A. to shoot with Steven Meisel, then off to Italy where she next hit it off with Donatella Versace, who quickly made ten Haken the face of the Italian house—after bleaching her hair Donatella blonde. When Ten Haken’s father, a farmer, urged her to try modeling, she didn’t even know was a job, but 16 years later,it’s safe to say she’s now turned it into a career—even though her career is about as old as many of the models she knows.
“You know, I’m 30, so I’m considered old in this industry,” said ten Haken, whose recent runway appearances include Jean-Paul Gaultier, another longtime pal. “But I’m still here doing it, getting my hair and makeup done,” she added with a laugh.
She wasn’t alone. Standing right behind her was a towering woman wearing a pastel pink birthday cake, created by the artist Carly Mark, along with a giant straw sculpture by Haegue Yang—just some of the contributions from 40 artists and industrial designers in the current group exhibition “MIDTOWN,” a collaboration between the New York galleries Maccarone, Salon 94, and Salon 94 Design at the Lever House, marking the deubt of Salon 94’s new design venture. And it was only the first stop of ten Haken’s Frieze week before she headed to the fair a few days later—not just to take in the art, but to sell vegan food packed in mason jars out of her boyfriend’s booth.
Haken’s long career has had its share of curveballs. At one point, she managed to squeeze in a degree in economics back in Holland, around the same time she began a decade-long passion for yoga that turned into its own vocation two years ago when ten Haken headed to Costa Rica for a month and trained to be an instructor. Now it’s just as much a part of her life as modeling—thanks in part to the fact that many of her clients are fellow models and “fresh faces.”
“I’ve met so many young girls, especially Dutch young girls, who are 19 or 20 in this industry, and I remember the struggle,” ten Haken said. “A lot of them suffer with body image and confidence issues, so I wanted to create a platform for them to just be able to be vulnerable and be like, ‘Shit, they’re telling me to lose two pounds, how am I going to do this?’ It’s all about creating a space for them to be honest.”
“The whole weight thing is such an issue because I think a lot of agents use it as an excuse to basically hide the fact that they’re not really doing their job properly, by putting it on the girls instead,” ten Haken continued. “But at the end of the day, two pounds are not going to make or break your career.”
Ten Haken is quick to insist that she’s not “some kind of guru.” Though she mostly takes private clients, she also leads classes and will soon have her own permanent studio, thanks to class sizes that often swell to model-heavy groups of 20.
“But sometimes, I’m ‘Let’s do this!’” ten Haken added. She laughed. “And then I look up and there are two people in the room.”
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