Mode Elle's Liisa Winkler
Fashion Magazine (December 2011)
photo: Seiji Fujimori
by Dan Grant
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it: Today's Canadian Model owes a debt to Liisa Winkler.
Please proceed to The Interview
Before her, of course, there was Linda Evangelista, Shalom Harlow and Yasmeen Ghauri; legends, every one of 'em. Kirsten Owen established herself as the Great White North's Ambassador of fashion's Grunge movement.
But after Heroin Chic, when clients were done with divas, over the unreliable and bored with bitchiness - when the internet suddenly meant clients could find models anywhere, and didn't have to put up with childishness and unprofessionalism - it was Liisa Winkler that embodied a new brand the fashion world suddenly needed.
The Canadian Model as we know it today started with Liisa Winkler. A ballet dancer from Belleville, Ontario, she was a big, big deal when Canadians weren't. She may not have pioneered Canadian Model qualities (principled, humble, polite, hard working, cultured), but she did hang firm to those traits without being boring, which is what the rest of the world expected of Canadians at the time.
It was her face appearing in all the right places without all the hype surrounding the Brazilians (Gisele Bündchen, Michelle Alves, Letícia Birkheuer e outro) that led Models.com to call her the most underrated model in the business. There were no public meltdowns, no celebrity romances and no attempts at a music career; just season after season of high profile bookings, the sort of which don't get a girl a write-up on Page Six.
It was Liisa Winkler that gave the Canadian Model a glowing reputation when the internet made it possible for everyone to know what a Canadian Model could be. It was her career that allowed everyone after her to understand a Canadian Model can be successful without forgetting where they came from. Daria Werbowy, Jessica Stam, Heather Marks and Lisa Cant continued that trend, but it was Liisa Winkler that first showed a newly interconnected world that a Canadian Model is not merely a pale version of her American cousin.
Year after year Liisa stayed true to her roots, helping out at the Canadian Model & Talent Convention, which is organized by her mother agent (Mode Elle's Audra Anderson).
Today, living in Toronto with her husband and two children, she's still tapped for jobs like Balenciaga's FW/11 campaign and - as cited in the current issue of Fashion Magazine - she walked for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Altuzarra, Marchesa and Zac Posen at the SS/12 shows in New York.
As you'll read in the interview that follows, Liisa's also involved in campaigns of the non-fashion variety, committed to causes like the World Society for the Protection of Animal's Choose Cage Free and Collars Not Cruelty campaigns.
I've watched her career right from the start, and she's never been anything but a source of pride for the Canadian industry, which is why I say with conviction: Today's Canadian Model owes a debt to Liisa Winkler.