At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, a group of models, including Lex Herl, Mayka Merino, Amanda Googe, Maartje Verhoef, and Zuzu Tadeushuk, departed Los Angeles and headed for the hills—the Calabasas hills, to be precise. An hour later, they arrived at their destination, a series of tents pitched in the middle of the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a dusty desert region populated primarily by rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and the odd tarantula—and, for today, at least, by supermodels, stylists, makeup artists, and one Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of Christian Dior.
That evening, the models would step onto the runway to show Dior’s Cruise 2018 collection, whose inspirations ranged from Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams to cave paintings discovered in Lascaux, France, dating as far back as 20,000 years ago. For now, though, Tadeushuk and her peers contented themselves with lounging in lawn chairs in the shade of the tents and venturing out into the sand dunes to explore and to shoot the season’s lookbook.
Each look came topped with a wide-brimmed hat, shielding the models from the Calabasas sun. It was hot, with forecasts in the high-seventies. Men stood sentry with clubs, protecting the models against rattlesnakes; while Tadeushuk didn’t seen any herself, a handful of her fellow models reported hearing rattles in the weeds. She chatted in Spanish with Merino—“I like to practice when I have a victim to practice on,” she said—and explored with Googe.
“It felt like we were having a barbecue,” Tadeushuk said of the afternoon’s relaxed west-coast vibe when we spoke the next morning. It was 5 a.m. in Los Angeles and she was about to board a flight to the next job, a shoot for Everlane in San Francisco.
Thursday’s show was her third for Dior—she was fresh off last month’s Tokyo couture show—and her first resort runway for the brand. “Everyone was excited,” she added. “It’s great to do a show outside of fashion week because you don’t have the stress and the sleeplessness of a month behind you.”
Tadeushuk, 19, is also an avid journaler, artist, and writer. A devotee of both Virginia Woolf and Frida Kahlo, she can often be spotted passing the time backstage documenting her surroundings in a notebook through words and illustrations. (At Dior Cruise, she also finished a term paper for a college literature class she was taking back home in upstate New York.)
Her blog, Mind the Gap, is her “official journal,” a document of her gap year—now turned gap-two-years—between high school and whatever comes next. She has been sketching and painting since “longer ago than I can remember,” she said, and while she plans eventually to become a writer, modeling has provided the opportunity to travel the world and earn money while she documents every step of the way.
“I don’t draw to create beautiful, glorified things. I draw to memorialize cups of coffee and sunshine in windows,” she said. “It’s kind of another form of journaling to be like, ‘This is where I am.’”
Her Instagram, too, is filled with these small moments: Cafés where she’s perched at her laptop, finishing her homework and sipping espresso, late nights at hotels, books she’s reading (she just finished The Handmaid’s Tale), and the occasional backstage or runway shot.
The painterly setting of the Dior Cruise show proved especially striking for Tadeushuk’s artist’s eye, and after the show, she shared a few images she had documented en route to Los Angeles and backstage at the show, a blend of line drawings accented with vivid watercolor.
“I took a ton of pictures of the gorgeous hills with the blended grasses of yellow and green,” she recalled. “There was a stunning blue sky, which I want to do a watercolor of on my flight.”
The show began just as the sun was setting on Thursday evening. Set against a backdrop of hot air balloons, the stark desert hills, and an illuminated “Dior Sauvage” sign that recalled the landmark “Hollywood” sign just outside Los Angeles, the runway was a simple circle, models looping around a tent where Rihanna, Charlize Theron, Kate Bosworth, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Laura Dern took it all in.
After the looks—84 in all, including Tadeushuk in a red, yellow, and black crocheted dress—had circled the runway and designer Chiuri took her bow, the campsite evolved into a party. Food trucks doled out everything from salads and tacos to ice cream; Solange played a live set. (Tadeushuk, previously unfamiliar with her music, got quite the introduction, taking a photo with the singer after her performance.)
The next morning, I asked her what stood out the most from the previous day’s adventure. “Just, everything,” she told me. “The fitting of the clothes with the scene was just so perfect and beautiful.”
“The hats made it all come together.”