photo: Randi Muster
It's Friday afternoon, just three days before Toronto Fashion Week, and I'm chatting with an exhausted 17-year-old. Cate Chant has just returned from New York where she rushed through 24 go-sees in four days, only to return for the shows here. Long, busy days are nothing new for the Chantale Nadeau model. Modelling however, is.
Six months ago Chant had never even walked in heels. More comfortable in boots is the Torontonian, who has spent the last ten years riding horses. Her love of all things equine was so consuming in fact, that she opted for a high school that tailors its teaching for students with special circumstances so she could travel the show jumping circuit.
This is a profile of an overachiever; a girl that last year spent six days a week riding, while maintaining straight-A's in school. She added two classes on top of her regular course load, then spent summer completing two more over the internet to free up additional time for her sporting pursuits.
Today though, both equestrian and essays take a back seat to modelling. The Grade 12 student will still graduate in June and continue to dote on her horses (or as she calls them in a somewhat menacing tone, her "little minions"), but following a last minute summons to Milan in September the fashion industry has been asking for more of Cate; demanding a closer look at a carefully crafted enigma.
After signing her in the summer, New York Models worked relentlessly to sell their vision of Chant. Manhattan options were lined up and the new face was supposed to travel to the Big Apple (where she conveniently has a sister) for the first time following Toronto Fashion Week.
Then everything changed one late September weekend. Chant was at a horse show, and had left her cell phone in the car when she entered the ring. Upon her return she checked her messages, and "there were like ten of them from Chantale, telling me Prada wanted me, and that I had to fly out that evening."
"My booker from New York had called and said I was flying to Milan, and my jaw dropped," says Chant. "I thought 'What? We didn't talk about that kind of arrangement.' I figured I could handle New York and the hour-and-a-half flight, and people that speak the same language. I was shocked when I found out it was Milan."
Back in the U.S. meanwhile, New York Models was removing any reference to Chant from its website, and calling Toronto to make sure no details of the direct-booking were revealed. A new, more exclusive Cate Chant was being devised.