Model Manoeuvres – Ageless models are never out of style…
It’s time for models who are timeless – Fashion Model’s Life
* Visual banner : Debra SHAW / GUO PEI SS18 – PFW – Cirque d’Hiver Paris
Models are those people who wear the clothes and show them, it might be on a runway, or in a salon, in the pages of a glossy magazine, or as guests at an event.
They have a role within the fashion industry, which seems either glamorous and wonderful, or empty and foolish, depending on to whom you speak. In fact, the women who wear the clothes are an essential part of the fashion business and with the odd exception (those adored for making headlines which confirm all the myths about models’ habits and excesses) they are brilliant, hardworking and charming people.
Good models, and obviously great models, bring something amazing to the job of wearing and presenting clothes. Through their theatrical flair and shear personality, combined with an innate understanding of their role and gift to enhance, present and ultimately sell fashion, the model/ muse is an extraordinary, unique jewel in the fashion business. Watch a great model showing-off the clothes, flaunting them before the camera, or simply entering a room and it is magical.
However, like ballerinas; whom many resemble in grace, poise and discipline, the career of a model can be short. The fickle attention span of fashion moves on at a mighty fast rate. There are times the model’s role becomes less important. When a blasé in attitude of simply “a number of people who wear clothes” envelops the industry as has happened in the early 2000’s, then every girl simply resembles each other in their qualities as: very slender, very young, very blonde, unsmiling, in a robotic blandness.
Right now, though, a quiet revolution is taking place. Models are returning or simply extending their careers far longer than once was ever even imaginable.
Since the 1850’s when Charles Frederick Worth, the founding father of Paris’ Haute Couture, placed an exquisite paisley shawl around the shoulders of his wife while designing at the House of Gagelin, we have realized that clothes look better on a real person.
Yet, as was historically the case on the stage, when becoming an actress or dancer- the role of the model was slightly frowned upon and seen as not quite respectable. Lucile, the great couturier Lady Duff Gordon, realised that just using a girl and popping her into what was then called a “maillot”, a black satin, floor-length, high necked, long sleeved dress over which garments were shown, was absolutely no help in sales. She recruited girls and transformed them, by teaching them how to move, and how to sell with their beauty and grace.
These girls who she re-christened with names like Dolores. Indeed, she was so successful at it, that Florenz Ziegfeld stole her models and presented them as the first Follies showgirls. But that is another story…
From then on, models played a much more important role. Paul Poiret took his troupe on tour. Jean Patou chose his girls from America who suited better his sportier style. Christian Dior chose a range of types from rive gauche gamine to ultra-sophisticate. Over the years many models have also served as muses.
Like the amazing Bettina Graziani who worked for both Givenchy and Azzedine Alaia, she became an inspiration to the designers through her personality and understanding of fashion. Make no mistake, great models are artists who learn about fashion, and instinctively know what is aesthetically right and wrong. Some muses even acquire technical knowledge through fittings and rehearsals, and in many cases are able to edit the collection making the looks even better!
Since the 1960’s names like Jean Shrimpton, AKA Twiggy and Verushka have become very famous for their modelling careers. Right through to today, models like Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell can be guaranteed to bring a frisson of excitement to any occasion. They may be modelling or not, but the revelation is, this excitement is there, despite the undeniable fact that Kate Moss is 44 and Naomi Campbell is 48.
Over the past few seasons others such as Kirsten McMenamy 53, Amber Valletta 44, Eva Herzagovia 45, have joined the list of models elongating their careers. Whether doing special shows or working on advertising campaigns they carry on doing the job they do so expertly. Debra Shaw 41, whose portfolio includes Galliano’s debut at Christian Dior and Thierry Mugler couture, walked many shows this season. Marie Sophie Wilson-Carr who is 54 was at Schiaparelli Haute Couture and is in the pages of Renaissance magazine. Why is this happening?
Well if Cher is 72, and even Selena Gomez now 26, observers want someone to watch who isn’t a teenager. As we do in a TV sitcom, it’s the character, which draws us in; the plot line is irrelevant, it’s the character we come back again and again to see.
TV shows aren’t made by models but our personal connection to them, especially if we have watched them over many seasons, is not to be underestimated. We feel we “know them” and see them through their highs and lows in the tabloids. We know their names and they are more than just hangers for clothes, they are people, at least to those of us in fashion.
Between each decade life changes and it is not simply a question of “identifying“ with a model. No one looked at Suzy Parker or Jerry Hall and thought, “if I buy this, I’ll look like them.” But there is something about being in the same decade that enhances the believability of the model. Being a top professional with miles of experience, which their age allows does not hurt either.
So just as young women grow up with Selena Gomez from teen years, so a different generation has grown older with Cher. In the past, many models’ careers were often over and finished by 25. But today Megan Williams 24, and Winnie Harlow 23, are in their prime. Just as Beyoncé at 36 is not the least frightened of competition simply because it may be younger. A certain security comes with time and experience.
So Cher can laugh at herself on a chat show, or Helena Christensen who is 49 can just model, especially when it is one of her favourite brands like Dolce e Gabanna. Maye Musk may be 70, but she is still so sought after that when I spoke to her a few weeks ago, this incredible demand amuses her. In 2016 Lancôme rehired Isabella Rossellini then aged 63 having fired her in 1996 at 43. How times have changed!
Today models are manoeuvring their careers to last longer. And the business is waking up to the fact that this is marketable, hence the re-employment of Isabella Rossellini. Kim Kardashian is 38, and in the past her career would be on the wane; not today as instead her followers are growing older with her, not leaving her behind.
Jan de Villeneuve who is 70+, and who as Jan Ward was shot by Norman Parkinson when she graced the pages of many a Vogue. She is still busily working and walked for Aganovich at
Paris couture earlier this year. The one big change here has been that in the past models like Jan were either print or runway and today they are both. Linda Evangelista 53, Christy Turlington 49, and all the so called “Supermodels” were very much active in all spheres.
This included of course music videos such as Freedom for George Michael in 1990, and advertising non-clothing products. It must be noted that modelling has often led to a career, of varying degrees of success, in cinema, witness Lucille Ball, Lauren Bacall or Ali McGraw and Angelica Huston, amongst many.
Shalom Harlow, another of the Supermodels who has returned to modelling for Versace, has appeared in several movies including “In & Out” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” she is 44 as is Amber Valletta also back for Prada, Dries van Noten and even H & M and Mango.
Maison Rabih Kayrouz has used some amazing models over recent seasons; Georgina Grenville, 42 who was a Tom Ford regular in his Gucci days, Chrystele Saint Louis Augustin 43, whose career embraced Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, and Jean-Paul Gaultier, among others. Dolce e Gabanna had on their runway Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigova 45, Carla Bruni 50, and Marpessa Henninck 54.
It is very clear that the “older” model in a show, or advertising campaign, is now no longer a reason for comment. It’s not a trend or a one-season wonder; this has now been going on for some time. It is one specific part of the continued diversification and acceptance of so many non-conforming players in the fashion business. A falling away of the ageism in a business known for championing youth is cause for celebration.
Let us close with the best example of all. Carmen dell ‘Orifice, who is 87 years young, the model with longest career of all time. Vogue gave her their cover starting in 1946; and just last year she made the catwalk entrance for Guo Pei for Paris Haute Couture. In between, she has modelled coats, ball gowns and lingerie.
She has been the face of Rolex; photographed by Beaton, Derujinsky, Blumenfeld, Avedon and Parkinson. And best of all, she is still very actively working, and in Australia, Mexico or Thailand. With her unique presence illuminating and sparkling wherever she enters, Carmen is a star model for every season. It looks as if at last she may have become the role model for the business, in every sense of the expression.
PARIS FASHION WEEK 2018 Featuring DEBRA SHAW / GUO PEI COLLECTION – Cirque d’Hiver Paris
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