'This collaboration has been the most beautiful whirlwind of my life'

A model with a condition known as 'cat eye syndrome' has spoken of why she is proud to defy mainstream beauty in a stunning shoot with high-fashion photographer Nick Knight.

Born with a rare chromosomal disorder, Seattle-based Caitin Stickels was discovered by Knight via her Instagram account, where she has over 9,000 followers. 

Stickels has facial disfigurements due to her Schmid-Fraccaro, or Cat Eye Syndrome, which causes holes in the structure of the eyes and makes them look cat-like. 

Knight, who has captured the likes of Kate Moss, Kanye West and Lady Gaga, was drawn to Stickels' looks that define mainstream beauty.

Marking a triumphant step in the right direction for diversity in the fashion industry, the shoot serves to challenge the industry’s singular tradition when it comes to models that don’t meet a certain 'type'.

Instead, the shoot celebrates individuality and promotes having an open conversation about diversity. 

Taking inspiration from the work of artist, Gustav Klimt, the shoot features Stickels posing in a series of captivating looks from Lanvin, Balenciaga and McQueen, styled by Jacob K.

Thrilled to have collaborated with both Knight and V Magazine, Caitin wrote about her experience for the publication.

“Working with Nick Knight at SHOWstudio for V Magazine was something I couldn't have even dreamed of," she wrote.

“It never was superficial to me and that's why I’ve always admired Nick Knight and looked fondly upon magazines such as V because they aren't afraid to elevate their work and take it to the next level.

"I was content being small in my small world doing the art that I do—and they took me to Cloud 9 instead.”

Alongside the shoot, Caitin also did a livestream where viewers were able to watch as she modeled each look and described how this added to the honesty and vulnerability of the final images.

“Being on livestream was simultaneously nerve-racking and comforting,” she added.

“It was fundamental to me when Nick asked if I was okay with it, because it goes along with why I model in the first place. There's absolutely nothing to hide—not even if you're afraid.”

But, despite her love of fashion, Caitin admits that she never thought she’d become part of the industry.

“I always admired from afar and meanwhile tried to recreate my own expressions through fashion, photography, and art.

“This collaboration has been the most beautiful whirlwind of my life.”

She added on Instagram: "I can't even tell you what this sensation means when dreams break the seams of what you thought was reality."

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