The new supermodels


The new supermodels

They have the big brand, big personality and even bigger social media following

By Rebecca Lowthorpe  December 23rd, 2015

When we were putting together the model trend report after the F/W 2015-16 collections, we noticed that the young catwalk stars reminded us of the original ’90s supermodels. Anna Ewers is a dead ringer for Claudia Schiffer; Binx Walton is the cheeky rebel, à la Kate Moss; Kendall Jenner has the sexy girl-next-door looks of Cindy Crawford. But what started out as a bit of a fun game (Supermodel Snap?) actually holds real cultural significance. “It’s not only the way they look, it’s what they represent,” explains Rosie, who books all the models that appear on the fashion pages of ELLE UK. “Twenty years on, we’ve circled back to the era of superstar models. But where the original supermodels were the frst to be acknowledged by the mainstream media, today’s models are in charge of their own power and status.”

So, what ingredients make a supermodel today? A beautiful face? A killer body? A social media following of over one million? It goes without saying that a model’s physical attributes are still a priority, but it comes as no surprise that her stature in the industry — and her earning power — can also be measured by her social media footprint. “You need to be known by everyone from the couture houses of Paris to the good old Daily Mail,” says Sarah Doukas, industry veteran and founder of Storm Models. “These days, the Super is also the girl who gets the brand on to the front pages when she opens a couture show in Paris. It’s about star power and bringing that to a brand or project.”

Where the Original Supers (OS) relied on TV and print advertising, the Young Supers (YS) are able to harness the power of the digital age. “This allows a model to become a brand in her own right, and connect directly with her audience,” adds Doukas. “What we are seeing today is as significant as the original supermodel era, but now we know all about their lifestyles, opinions and tastes, which gives a whole new dimension.” In other words, social media has allowed models to become more than mannequins; it has given them the power to project their personalities and become the architects of their own careers. “As media businesses in their own right, they can charge accordingly, earning 10-50% more thanks to their social media following,” she adds.

It’s easy to see why Kendall (with nearly 45 million followers on Instagram), 19, and Gigi Hadid (more than eight  million), 20, are being booked to open and close the fashion world’s most important shows, such as Chanel and Marc Jacobs. Their celebrity status, via Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, respectively, was confirmed before either stepped foot on a catwalk. They are the ultimate media-stars-turned-models.

But note every model has a TV show dedicated to their every move — and despite this, they’re still striding down 50-60 catwalks a season. “Because the reverse can also be true,” says Elite London’s head booker Joe Catt.  “Big casting directors tend to want to find brand–new faces to appear in the designers’ shows; they want to launch careers. They then mix the line-up to include the models with huge social followings to give designers both kudos and as big an audience as possible.” According to Catt, there’s huge cachet and financial incentive in launching a model’s career — and then seeing their social media following explode. Take Binx (the new Kate Moss), a 20-year-old from Tennessee, whose first campaign, for Céline, only appeared last year, but who now commands a personal Instagram audience of 111k, while clocking up 32 F/W 2015-16 catwalks in the process. Equally, Anna Ewers (the 22-year-old new Claudia), starred in Alexander Wang’s S/S 2015 campaign, walked in 
33 of the last season’s shows and now has 112k Instagram followers.

Social media can also be used as a tool to find models. Marc Jacobs has twice mined Instagram to cast his campaign stars. “It seemed like a great idea to me; [it] seemed cool, current and strong,” he told WWD. “We wanted the ads to reclaim the spirit that the collection had when we first conceived of it.”

Doukas’ Storm Models has gone one step further and created an app in conjunction with technology entrepreneur Dawson King, called Feels (as in internet-speak for ‘feelings’), which gives wannabe models the opportunity to post pictures of themselves and be ‘discovered’.

And what of models with no social media footprint? Do they even exist? Vanessa Moody (the new Stephanie Seymour), 19, and Julia Nobis (the new Carolyn Murphy), 21, may have chosen to be invisible where social platforms are concerned, but at the F/W 2015-16 shows they were anything but, commanding 94 catwalks between them, which just goes to prove that there is still more to a model than her Instagram account. They also prove that there is no single physical template — Moody is all-American in her wholesome classic beauty, while Nobis is what bookers call ‘editorially strong’, meaning far from classic but unusual, unique. 

And that’s the big difference between the OS and the YS: today’s diversity in terms of race and gender far outweighs that of the ’90s. Sure, there are the queens of social media (see Taylor Hill’s 1.6 million Instagram followers), the Victoria’s Secret mega models reminiscent of Cindy Crawford, and the likes of androgynous Argentinian Mica Arganaraz — a dead ringer for the Danish Super  Freja Beha Erichsen. But colour, gender (think transgender Andreja Pejić) and simply more unique–looking women are all part of today’s YS makeup, from Kenyan-born Malaika Firth, the first black model in 20 years to land a Prada campaign, to those who represent a completely different aesthetic to that favoured in the ’90s. There’s Bhumika Arora, Molly Bair, Willow Hand and Issa Lish, to name just a few.

So do the YS have the staying power of the still-working OS? “From my experience, the talent that stays the course is the one that consistently reinvents herself and keep her work original,” says Doukas. “That’s how real talent distinguishes itself from 15 minutes of fame.”  

When we were putting together the model trend report after the F/W 2015-16 collections, we noticed that the young catwalk stars reminded us of the original ’90s supermodels. Anna Ewers is a dead ringer for Claudia Schiffer; Binx Walton is the cheeky rebel, à la Kate Moss; Kendall Jenner has the sexy girl-next-door looks of Cindy Crawford. But what started out as a bit of a fun game (Supermodel Snap?) actually holds real cultural significance. “It’s not only the way they look, it’s what they represent,” explains Rosie, who books all the models that appear on the fashion pages of ELLE UK. “Twenty years on, we’ve circled back to the era of superstar models. But where the original supermodels were the frst to be acknowledged by the mainstream media, today’s models are in charge of their own power and status.”

So, what ingredients make a supermodel today? A beautiful face? A killer body? A social media following of over one million? It goes without saying that a model’s physical attributes are still a priority, but it comes as no surprise that her stature in the industry — and her earning power — can also be measured by her social media footprint. “You need to be known by everyone from the couture houses of Paris to the good old Daily Mail,” says Sarah Doukas, industry veteran and founder of Storm Models. “These days, the Super is also the girl who gets the brand on to the front pages when she opens a couture show in Paris. It’s about star power and bringing that to a brand or project.”

Where the Original Supers (OS) relied on TV and print advertising, the Young Supers (YS) are able to harness the power of the digital age. “This allows a model to become a brand in her own right, and connect directly with her audience,” adds Doukas. “What we are seeing today is as significant as the original supermodel era, but now we know all about their lifestyles, opinions and tastes, which gives a whole new dimension.” In other words, social media has allowed models to become more than mannequins; it has given them the power to project their personalities and become the architects of their own careers. “As media businesses in their own right, they can charge accordingly, earning 10-50% more thanks to their social media following,” she adds.

It’s easy to see why Kendall (with nearly 45 million followers on Instagram), 19, and Gigi Hadid (more than eight  million), 20, are being booked to open and close the fashion world’s most important shows, such as Chanel and Marc Jacobs. Their celebrity status, via Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, respectively, was confirmed before either stepped foot on a catwalk. They are the ultimate media-stars-turned-models.

But note every model has a TV show dedicated to their every move — and despite this, they’re still striding down 50-60 catwalks a season. “Because the reverse can also be true,” says Elite London’s head booker Joe Catt.  “Big casting directors tend to want to find brand–new faces to appear in the designers’ shows; they want to launch careers. They then mix the line-up to include the models with huge social followings to give designers both kudos and as big an audience as possible.” According to Catt, there’s huge cachet and financial incentive in launching a model’s career — and then seeing their social media following explode. Take Binx (the new Kate Moss), a 20-year-old from Tennessee, whose first campaign, for Céline, only appeared last year, but who now commands a personal Instagram audience of 111k, while clocking up 32 F/W 2015-16 catwalks in the process. Equally, Anna Ewers (the 22-year-old new Claudia), starred in Alexander Wang’s S/S 2015 campaign, walked in 
33 of the last season’s shows and now has 112k Instagram followers.

Social media can also be used as a tool to find models. Marc Jacobs has twice mined Instagram to cast his campaign stars. “It seemed like a great idea to me; [it] seemed cool, current and strong,” he told WWD. “We wanted the ads to reclaim the spirit that the collection had when we first conceived of it.”

Doukas’ Storm Models has gone one step further and created an app in conjunction with technology entrepreneur Dawson King, called Feels (as in internet-speak for ‘feelings’), which gives wannabe models the opportunity to post pictures of themselves and be ‘discovered’.

And what of models with no social media footprint? Do they even exist? Vanessa Moody (the new Stephanie Seymour), 19, and Julia Nobis (the new Carolyn Murphy), 21, may have chosen to be invisible where social platforms are concerned, but at the F/W 2015-16 shows they were anything but, commanding 94 catwalks between them, which just goes to prove that there is still more to a model than her Instagram account. They also prove that there is no single physical template — Moody is all-American in her wholesome classic beauty, while Nobis is what bookers call ‘editorially strong’, meaning far from classic but unusual, unique. 

And that’s the big difference between the OS and the YS: today’s diversity in terms of race and gender far outweighs that of the ’90s. Sure, there are the queens of social media (see Taylor Hill’s 1.6 million Instagram followers), the Victoria’s Secret mega models reminiscent of Cindy Crawford, and the likes of androgynous Argentinian Mica Arganaraz — a dead ringer for the Danish Super  Freja Beha Erichsen. But colour, gender (think transgender Andreja Pejić) and simply more unique–looking women are all part of today’s YS makeup, from Kenyan-born Malaika Firth, the first black model in 20 years to land a Prada campaign, to those who represent a completely different aesthetic to that favoured in the ’90s. There’s Bhumika Arora, Molly Bair, Willow Hand and Issa Lish, to name just a few.

So do the YS have the staying power of the still-working OS? “From my experience, the talent that stays the course is the one that consistently reinvents herself and keep her work original,” says Doukas. “That’s how real talent distinguishes itself from 15 minutes of fame.”