Category Archives: Models: The Business

The 90’s supermodels edge out teenage model-clones in 2013, proving that superstar models sell

Browse the latest fall magazines and designer campaigns and you will see many familiar faces: Christy Turlington for Calvin Klein Underwear, Linda Evangelista on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, Karen Elson for Louise Vuitton, Naomi Campbell for Atelier Versace, and Kate Moss for Stuart Weitzman, amongst others.

Magazines and fashion brands don’t deny the appeal of these supermodels of decades past. These women are instantly recognizable and have much the same selling power as they did years ago.  They are celebrities every bit as much as the actors and singers who have taken campaigns and covers away from the models for over ten years.

The fashion industry continues to go through a phase of using interchangeable teenage clones, claiming their personalities don’t compete with the image of the fashion brand.  Frankly, how could they?  No one stands out.  An homogenous “look” parading the runway and being     mimicked in fashion advertising has led to campaigns that are hardly memorable.  In           comparison, how many past campaigns can be recalled with the star models of the 90’s?     Claudia Schiffer became a household name modeling for Guess? and led to her becoming one of the highest paid supermodels. Kate Moss for Calvin Klein – who could forget?  Consumers remember these iconic images to this day.

Followers of fashion and style find it hard to find a favorite face amongst the models of the moment, a face they look for in editorials and on covers and in campaigns.  Just when you     begin to recognize a particular model, she disappears off the radar.  One or two seasons is considered to be a long modeling career these days.  There isn’t time for a model to build a fan-base or for her to establish her own brand image.

Fashion magazines and labels are seeing undeniable returns that the supermodels bring to their products.  As consumers, we want to catch up with our favorite models and to see their new work.  Designers and editors like to think they created these stars but in actuality these women were always unique, focused, and actively cultivating their own image.  Each entity benefited from the other.

Two models in the past year have established real and quantifiable brands for themselves. Cara Delevigne and Kate Upton, so completely opposite of each other, have separated from the pack, and each has created her own image on her own terms, precisely because neither fit the criteria of the typical “clone” model.  I for one, can’t wait to see where they will appear next. I am “buying” into their brand – and I am not the only one.

Models as Social Media Mavens: the new business model of models of today

Supermodel or social-media maven:  are they becoming one and the same?  Is the public more engaged with models now because the windows into their lives are flung open through their “twitter”, “instagram” or “vine” feeds?

In the 90’s we counted the covers and campaigns of the supermodels, knowing each of them by name.  Today, models have to compete with celebrities for these same opportunities and lucrative contracts, and many are using their online presence to to win fans and followers, to inject their own personality into their public image, and as a result, building their own valuable “brand”.

Some agencies are encouraging their models to be social media savvy, posting selfies, tweeting from behind-the-scenes of photo shoots and runways shows, and sharing sneak peaks into their off-duty lives.  Even clients are now being influenced by the social media reach of the models they choose to hire.  A model with a huge following and fan base, that tweets about her day on set for a particular brand, essentially advertises and gives instant street cred to that brand.  The profile of both the model and the brand increases.

Case in point:  top Victoria’s Secret models all have a huge online presence each in her own way, and this helps to build the fan base of the Victoria’s Secret brand, in turn.

Cara Delavigne is one of the most prolific models on social media, now being known as much for her burger-a-day habit and funny facial expressions, as she is for her current editorials and campaigns.  She denies she is an “it” girl, but she clearly is setting the standard for all the other models on social media, and already influencing designers and editors.

Models with ambition can’t ignore the effects of social media on their careers, and fittingly, most models love the attention their online presence brings them, especially when they get the chance to have creative control over their own image.  Models are multi-dimensional now with voices, un-edited and un-retouched, and only a tweet away from their fans and followers.

Underage models alone abroad and on the runways: when is “young” too young?

The headlines have been buzzing for years about the controversies surrounding the hiring of underage models for the fashion weeks around the world, and for magazine editorials and advertisements.  I began modeling in Paris at the age of twenty, which was old considering today’s age standards.  I lived in model apartments in both Paris and Milan, and in both cases I was rooming with girls fifteen and sixteen during what should have been their school year.   No attempt was being made to continue their education at all.  Simply caring for their own basic, everyday needs was beyond them.  They were vulnerable to the worldly sorts that filled the clubs, followed the models on their castings, and gave them invitations to parties, and I watched some of them fall prey before they even had a chance to get work as a model.

Not every teenage girl goes into the modeling world so unprepared, and many today are continuing their education online, skyping regularly with their family back home, and taking breaks to put teenage life back into perspective for graduation, prom, and other special milestones.  Their parents and agents are actively involved with them on a daily basis, sometimes accompanying them, and doing what it takes to keep her safe and secure, and watching out for her best interests.  Some modeling markets are considerably safer than others, and the youngest and least-experienced models can have a positive experience if they aren’t sent straight off to a major market right away to compete with seasoned models.

But what about those girls who come from impoverished backgrounds where the family has put all their expectations on the one tall, lovely daughter, to work and support the family back home?  The modeling world is not regulated with unions and worker’s rights and these girls are often treated as disposable – there will be a new crop of them each season.

Parents need to remember that it is not just dressing up, or playing at being a “supermodel.”  They are not just indulging their daughter’s fantasy of stardom.  Very few models in the grand scheme of things ever reach a level of financial security.  The hours are long and hard, and the rejection fierce.  It can be isolating and confusing.  There are few, if any, protections for models throughout the industry.  It is a business, first and foremost, and it requires a strong mind, maturity, focus, and support. For every one girl that has a brief period of success (sometimes only one season), there are thousands who are struggling to simply stay in the business at all.  Being mentally and emotionally prepared is just as important as being physically ready for the modeling world.

Coca Rocha and Sara Ziff are just two models pushing forward initiatives to protect teenage models and we will be exploring those in upcoming posts.