Models. The most important visual ingredients of fashion. So important that some of them dare to say, "I won't get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day". The famous phrase quoted from one of the most famous model of all time, Linda Evangelista. No, not model. Supermodels. Household names that dominate the fashion industry in the '80s/'90s, they were celebrity, popular mainstream icons. Everyone know their names. Even if you don't really give a damn about fashion, somehow you'll know the names of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss and all those girls. But it's the 21st century today, and the Supermodel era has passed. The modeling industry has changed. Fashion got tired of the supermodels era and went from this to skinny, anonymous disposable girls.
The supermodel era died because of the beat down they used to give to clients. They took it there and now it has been taken back. That clique of very bad and very brilliant girls gave fashion some of its most stunning imagery but they were also spoilt young girls who behaved as all spoilt girls were want to do. When there were top models, you needed them for your shows; they called the shots and they did what they wanted. So if they did your shows you were valid. They are all emeritus now. Almost like ancestral aristocrats of model privilege. But in this modern day of an over-flowing model market with its ceaseless scouting, the exceeds supply, what about the new girls?
In many ways the designers have succeeded in a steady policy of returning fashion modeling to its pre-supermodel time. Back then there were runway girls and they were a distinct, separate breed from the editorial and campaign super stars. It's the super-smart managers like Gerald Marie and John Casablancas who converged on Linda, Christy, Naomi and Claudia to make an event of editorial stars stomping the runway, it seemed that momentum would last into eternity. But that strategy has been erased season after season by very smart designers who are certain in their stance that all they need that very long and sleek girl to do is walk to the end of the catwalk, turn and exit. Nothing more. No Name. No Fame.
Just tons of prepubescent, underage girls, nameless, and, jokingly, all "exclusive". Most of the girls became a one hit wonder, being relevant for two-three seasons with some blue chip bookings. They lasts about as long as a strobe or a flash in the studios of Meisel or Steven Klein or Inez and Vinoodh, or any of that select group of photographers who eat the majority of the advertising and editorial work every season. They'll shoot her once. Or twice. For a multi-girl Prada ad, for Italian Vogue or Vogue Paris. But she will bore and then she will never be rebooked. She might have a lifetime of lesser bookings but they will be solidly sub-blue chip. Catalogue work, picking up a Numero here or an Elle there to still seem slightly relevant. But maximum relevancy? Long gone.
The opening slots and exclusives...so coveted and precious, a first exit meant a star was born. That is until the designers themselves stop this pedestrian star-is-born drama and swung as randomly and mercurially as it wished. A girl opened and closed the X designer show for 4th times in a row, featured in the ads for 2 seasons and suddenly she's never rebooked again. New girls, new exclusives, every season. Every designer is doing as he or she will with these roaming bands of awkward new girls every season and every show became an increasingly a self-enclosed statement of a single designer's current whim. With the advent of websites like Style.com, Models.com or Nowfashion everyone could see which models did what and every bookers just went bonkers trying to get these girls first. Then everyone got bored of that model after one season, and then they were gone, and you started that cycle all over again. It was no longer about building a girl’s career. It was about looking online and just trying to get what's hot this season. There's very little relationship or continuity.Opening slots and after that closing slots now mean nothing whatsoever in the scheme of things. Exclusives are hardly a commitment to a career. They are frankly, a well played game of oneupmanship with the model's career being the last thing on the list of concerns. Girl X just closed Calvin Klein, yeah so?
You are lucky in a hundred years or so if you have the chance that #Prada# gave to Sasha Pivovarova--6 consecutive campaign in a row which has never been repeated ever since. Or the shock that Lara Stone get when the Calvin Klein people decided her to be the first model to become the face of all the fashion house ads. Or the loyalty that Ralph Lauren gave to Valentina Zelyaeva which has been walking and modeling the ads for the fashion house ever since she starts her career till today.
Just when relevancy and longevity not stressing enough, there's so many things that should be a concern for these new, underage, skinny, anonymous girls. Many of the girls didn't get the fair compensation. As a young aspiring model you sure would be thrilled just for being a fitting model for let's say big designer like Marc Jacobs, that stood for hours of fitting and sometimes the paid is just a Louis Vuitton handbag, no cash money. And it didn't happen for fitting models only, it happens with girls who walk in the show. Many designers use the girls and paid them with handbags, clothes, even socks. Everyone expect these girls to do their jobs for trades and sometimes, nothing.
People forget the big picture sometimes. Labels and figures are here to sell clothes but don't forget that these images from all the glossy pages of magazines and shows on TV distributed and broadcasted worldwide and there's always an ordinary girl, sitting and smiling--aspiring to be one of those girls walking down the runway, featured on those magazine pages. Or a boy lives in nowhere collecting every pages of the ads and editorials shot by Meisel aspiring someday he'll have the chance to be on the other side of the lens. Fashion is also made to sell dreams. Selling clothes might be purely industrial from A to Z, but selling dreams requires creativity more than mechanisms. This is true for the designer, the stylist, the makeup artist, the photographer, everyone in the creative process. But this also has to be true for the model who is, after all, the central character of the story and dream the industry wants to tell.