July 01, 2009

The Beauty Hunter

Anton Alfer has a problem.  Sunken into a red leather couch in a shopping mall in Kazan, 500 miles east of Moscow, he adjusts his eyes to the catwalk before him. He squints appraisingly at dozens of late-adolescent girls in bikinis, each of them tall, thin, beautiful… ripe. He watches as they promenade toward him one by one, watches as they stare longingly at him, timidly smile at him, twirl on his finger-twitch command and display what they have for him. And this is a problem, for from all of these, Alfer must choose.

Alfer is a model scout in the land of models, the exclusive representative for Elite Models in the former Soviet Union. This is rather like fishing for shortstops in the Caribbean cowl, or sounding the Siberian turf for the oil and gas that everyone acknowledges is there, just waiting to be found. Yet such gross abundance makes work all the more difficult for Alfer, for he must extract the physically perfected girl from the blur of those thousands who possess the sad disadvantage of simply being stunning.

Alfer is the one who calculates the bodily proportions, who perceives the faces, who gauges the level of ambition, combing Russia’s wingspan territory and imperial genetic collisions, proffering the glass slipper. He discovers the girls who will sprawl across the polished handbills of Cavalli and Versace, who will walk the plank for Dior and Valentino, who will join the militia of Russian and pan-Slavic models that has overtaken international fashion in the last decade, having shunted the unfortunate Brazilian ladies to a tumbledown and distant secondary position. “We have the faces,” Alfer says. “We have the look.”

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