10 December 2015

History of the Supermodel and Beyond

American Vogue October 1999 Photographed by Annie Leibovitz
Vogue US, October 1999
Women and glamour are two words that will always go together in the modern era - for all women, from all demographics that is what it's come to be. But think back into the 1950s when fashion was becoming more intensified and pursued in society, there was women and glamour of course, but what makes it's so much more significant is an icon that so many women would come to think off today: the cultural icon of fashion, the supermodel. 


In every modelling era, if one could highlight it like that, much is learnt about that era by the respective model, or models who represent it. From Lisa Fonssagrives to Twiggy to even the model representatives of this day and age that of the new generation, the 'social media' model generation - there was a rise of the model culture until its peak and finally the decline of a trend and decade. Not much is reflected of the models themselves when their time is up, but it says a lot about the way their audiences moved forward in a sense of being positively power-driven in society and fashion thinking to change the female perspective.

tumblr_lb8xq667TR1qdaolio1_1280
Vogue US September 1991
The term supermodel loosely started around the 1940s with various models like Bettina Graziani and Lisa Fonssagrives - Graziani started her incredible career by working with the likes of Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy, who were the big names of the era. With her small waist and hourglass body frame, she became the ideal muse for many looks that made Dior what it is today - the elegant, classic look. With her immense popularity and how much she was sought after, she was reported to have asked for no less than a thousand dollars per hour of her time. (Sound similar to Linda Evangelista's 'We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day' quote?)
Fonssagrives was highly sought after during her career, appearing on the cover of Vogue magazine over 150 times - with each cover she was on, she became more popular and successful. This became the target goal for all upcoming models within that era before Vogue started switching models to celebrities for their sales! Fonssagrives basically started an unspoken rule that Vogue was a job that any model needed into order to become successful - appearing on a cover of Vogue became the pinnacle for the modelling industry. Her signature style was the ultimate look for the new ideal of femininity - post WWII and moving out of the 'house maker' ideal was a big deal for women at the time, so not only was she a fashion muse (where she was also a Dior muse), but also changed the way women thought and spoke in mannerism and customs.  

024-bettina-graziani-theredlist copy
Bettina Graziani by Georges Dambier 1953 (L) and Lisa Fonssagrives for Vogue February 1950 (R)
The real rise of the supermodels is said to have said to begun around the 1960's when the fashion world took a change from Fonssagrives' success - their style and look changed from the typical haughty voluptuous look into a more tomboyish, thin shape. Enter Twiggy - one of the few new supermodels of the era. Best known for her very thin frame, short haircut and doe eyes, 'Twiggy' Lesley Lawson became the new it-girl for the fashion world's change into androgynous style. By 1967 She became a global phenomenon in terms of print and editorial work interstate and internationally, but spoke to the many audiences at the time. From the reckless and risk taking youth culture to the more mature women of the era, she unfornateuly retired in 1970 only four years after her career skyrocketed, however she was and still is considered one of the greatest discoveries in the industry. 
From Twiggy, the industry went into a complete shift from androgynous models to looking towards pin-up models. Models who became the new inspiration for readers were the likes of Cheryl Tieg and more, they were beautiful who were lacking nothing of beauty, but all had a healthy physique that was desired for. Her success took a different route that of Vogue when she appeared in Glamour and Sports Illustrated.

a8e10bc6f5cf0058187c7ebd1c4e0505 copy
Twiggy by Barry Lategan 1966 (L) and Cheryl Tiegs for Huffington Post 1970 (R)
While the rise of the supermodels was still heated up within the 1970's, let's not forget honourable mentions to Donyale Luna and Beverly Johnson who were the first models of colour to appear in Vogue - Luna in an editorial and Johnson on the cover, which took the world by storm and paved the industry for more models of colour. One of the models to follow in Johnson's Vogue cover is Iman, a Somali-American supermodel who became an instant sensation for her beautiful look and strut - she was considered the 70's muse to legendary designers such as Clavin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent (respectively known now as Saint Laurent). She is considered the mother of all models of colour, having broken down racial barriers and branding herself not just a model, but also a beauty and business woman with her own cosmetics line in 1994. 

a8e10bc6f5cf0058187c7ebd1c4e0505 copy
Holy Trio: Beverly Johnson Vogue August 1974 (L), Donyale Luna backstage for a show (M), Iman for American Vogue October 1989 (R)
The late 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of the modern supermodel - these beautiful women weren't just clothes hangers on the runway but were houes hold names - going on talkshows and being endorsers to other products and services beyond the fashion industry. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington became the it-girls of the decade - not only were they sought after models on the runway but they were also sought after outside of their professional lives - partying binges, making ruckus and relationships with rockstars non-stop. Some say that these supermodels took advantage of their new found fame in a backfiring way - their flamboyant lifestyle and outrageous behaviour took a toll on those around them. Some models continued to get jobs aside from their demands while others were kicked to the curb.

Vogue UK January 1990 'Supermodels era issue'
Vogue UK January 1990 'Supermodels era issue

This is around the same time Evangelista's famous quote was stated in an interview that fired the it-girls into Hollywood-level stardom that caused the demise. No one can leave out Kate Moss when one speaks of a supermodel of the 90's - scouted shorter than the usual height of models and questioned the traditional concept and ideals of beauty, Moss became the epitome of the heroin-chic look that included a crazy party-lifestyle and the skinny jeans trend. 
Continue on from the late 1990s to present day, one can see that the amount of models who appear(ed) on the cover of Vogue went down because audiences were getting bored and tired - print and advertisers began to cease booking jobs with models and turned to celebrities. There was only so many models these days that can merit supermodel status that of a celebrity. 

'Supermodels of 2014' W Magazine March 2014, Photographed by Mario Sorrenti
'Supermodels of 2014' W Magazine March 2014, Photographed by Mario Sorrenti
Many names came and went with their professionalism and popularity. It came to its peak and then passing on with identifiable looks and personalities that continued to mould itself on the masses of models who were, and still are trying today to reclaim the title of supermodel. While there are outstanding new names like Cara Delevingne, SooJoo Park Kendall Jenner, it seems like some older supermodels like Naomi Campbell and even Linda Evangelista are still reigning in the industry, decades after their supposed downfall - it seems that an indicator of who a supermodel is, is simply their ability to be so memorable that they remain in the fashion industry, and in the public eye immortally.