I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk a runway—never mind doing it in a lingerie-inspired look. Now for an added twist, imagine doing it in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. That’s the scenario that faced
Silvia Catalina Lianes when she opened the “Colombia Knows Best” runway show yesterday with her country’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, in attendance. My seatmate—a former top modelling agent—turned to me as Lianes walked by. “It’s not right to see such a skinny Colombian girl!” he said. “Where are the curves?” But it’s her lack of va-va-voom dimensions that may have led to her being signed with IMG—the first Colombian girl the agency has represented. “We’re so proud of her,” says Carlos Rios, the director of her mother agency,
Informa Models. “Not many Colombian girls have a chance to work abroad because they don’t look like the models who walk the international runways, but we have big hopes for her.”
Lianes is also hoping that her tall, lean looks will land her coveted contracts and runway shows this season. “People are surprised when they find out I’m Colombian,” she tells me backstage at Colombia Moda—the country’s largest fashion show, which is held in Medellín each year. “They think I’m Indian or Chinese. But I’m Latin, and I’m so proud of that.” The 19-year-old model recently moved to New York after working the circuit in Singapore and Indonesia. Since then she’s worked for Carven, Akris, Topshop and H&M, but walking the Chanel runway is her real dream. “Oh, I can only imagine what that would be like. One day, I hope,” she says. But meanwhile, she’s looking forward to her catwalk debut at New York Fashion Week in September. “I don’t know which shows yet, but I’ve been going to castings and it looks good. I have dreamed of this since I was 14 and went to my first casting for a fashion show.” Is she nervous? “No! Not at all! I’m so happy.” I guess that outlook explains her fearless debut in front of President Santos.
Karol Jaramillo is another Informa model who is carving out an international career in Paris. In her case, her Colombian assets aren’t always appreciated.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter