What’s Behind The Return Of The Sassy 90’s Style Supermodel Who’s Actually Allowed To Smile?

Girls with personality were big news at Paris Fashion Week. Finally!


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

When two of the top supermodels of the moment, 21-year-old Cara D and 25-year-old Joan Smalls (ranked #5 and #1 on Models.com respectively) jived down the catwalk at Stella McCartney's Paris show last week, it was a big moment in the world of fashion. Not just because Stella's collection was stellar - which it was, fyi: all star-print rubber-soled brogues, ginormous knitwear and suits with squiggle embroidery - but because suddenly the models were having loads of fun. Both on the catwalk and backstage.

Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn
Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn

It's been a long time since models have been allowed loads of fun, let's be honest. Until recently, we'd got used to super-skinny wan-faced young models shuttling down the catwalk like very gorgeous sheep. In a marathon fashion month full of 3am call times and designer whims, it seemed that the models were, in short, to be seen and not heard.

Things seemed a world away from when Linda, Cindy, Claudia, Christy, Naomi and latterly, baby Kate stormed the fashion world like the super-sassy, take-no-shit big league household names like they were. Who can forget Linda's alleged misquote, that she wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000? They ruled the roost and bounced down the catwalk like they owned it (most iconically, for Versace.)

'Versace actually 'made' the modern concept of the supermodel,' explains Premier's Alex Shah. 'Before him, in the nineties, it was all very minimalist and Zen-like. He made models into supermodels and put them in his campaigns [rather than actresses] which was very unusual at the time.' Casting Director Paul Hunt of JN Casting - who cast Holly Fulton, KTZ and Ashish's London shows - agrees. 'The emergence of the supermodels in the '90s came about largely due to the lack of "glamorous" film stars at that time. It was '90s grunge and everyone was being terribly earnest!'

Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington

And Paul says you're seeing a similar trend, today. 'Seeing such joyous images of Joan Smalls and Cara dancing down the catwalk is a relief once again from so much serious, po-faced fashion', he says. 'At Chanel's Haute Couture show, a cast of gorgeous young girls such as Binx and Charlotte Free were led by Cara skipping girlishly down vast staircases in trainers - this is about appealing to a younger generation of customers, too, which Marc Jacobs has been adept at for years.'

Similarly, major models like Izabel Goulart and Joan Smiles had knowing little half-smiles on their faces at the H&M Paris show. They looked confident and party-ready. 'For us, fashion should be fun and not too serious', explains Victoria Chappell, of H&M. 'When we're casting, we look for cool, young women who should inspire our H&M customers.' There's no doubt that fashion - particularly the London scene - has become a hotbed of fun and not only because of the resurgence of 90s fashion. Designers (particularly those emerging British talents) such as Holly Fulton, Happy Ashley, Ashish, Christopher Kane, Simone Rocha, Sophia Webster, as well as Jeremy Scott of Moschino, Chanel and Fendi's Karl Lagerfeld (remember the Karlito furbots at Fendi?), Marc Jacobs and Stella all look to inject some lols into their collections.

'Most clients ask for girls with character, personality and a sense of individuality,' agrees casting director Adam Hindle, who cast the Pringle, Issa and Isabel Marant shows this season. 'Two of my favourites at the moment are Binx and Misha Hart, who is a new name with a big character.' Super sassy young British models like Edie Campbell, Cara, Jourdan, Rosie Tapner and Eliza Cummings are also getting more and more bookings. 'Because there is this big "cool girl Brit thing" at the moment which all the designers want a bit of. There is a move away from homogenous/clone casting. There are girls around now who have the personality and awareness to know what's needed to be a good model.'

Eliza Cummings

The new slew of 'models with personality' include Chloe Noorgard (a favourite of Ashish) and Charlotte Free, who have both become infamous for their brightly coloured hair. Equally, where once they would have been airbrushed out of campaigns and perhaps prevented her from being booked for campaigns, Cara (and supermodel Freja Beha) is revered for her cool tattoos. Individuality in looks as well as personality is now championed - as the streetstyle scene bears witness too.

There's no doubt that top models like Hanne Gaby Odiele and Caroline Brasch-Nielsen have raised their profiles through their now renowned off-duty style, with photographer Craig Arend celebrating this through a website called Models Off Duty. 'Being a streetstyle star is definitely a big thing for a model now,' says Alex. 19-year old French model and one-to-watch, Marine Deleeuw (who walked for every major show this season) 'has amazing style' says Alex. Every time that picture of Marine in a checked coat, denim dungas and Nike Blazers is re-Pinned, her profile grows - something which clients are more than aware of.

Chloe Noorgard and Charlotte Free

But how did we get back to this model-happy '90s heyday? 'A lot of this change is to do with social media and the internet. These girls have a voice now and it's used as a currency,' explains Alex. Building their personal brand is now paramount for a model - it's no longer enough to just be a pretty face. 'Clients wants girls with big social media figures. They want more for their money, so they will have cross promotion written in to their contracts. We help our models manage their profiles and we would definitely intervene if they posted something via Twitter, or Instagram that intefered with a client.'

Paul agrees: 'We are now asked by clients for a talents' social media presence, when casting someone. Social media info is as important as providing measurements, models are aware of what they CAN'T tweet or Instagram!' he laughs. 'They are prepped on what designer secrets they are now allowed to give away.'

And once they've got that presence there's nothing stopping them doing that other 90's thing - and expanding into areas off the catwalk. *'*Models are once again advertising cars, foodstuffs and branching out into non fashion, which is similar to the 90s when models wrote books (ahem) and advertised Pizza Hut. You could even buy Naomi's wigs!' reminisces Paul.

Jourdan Dunn presents a cookery show on Jay Z's TV channel in the US - Well Done With Jourdan Dunn - whilst the seasoned catwalk pro, Karlie Kloss (depsite being just 21-year-old) has a healthy range of Karlie's Kookies. Georgia Jagger has co-designed a range of jeans with denim brand Hudson, whilst Adam Levine's fiancee, Victoria's Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo recently collaborated on a denim collection with LA brand, THVM. Ever busy, Cara debuted her bag collab with Mulberry over London fashion week and is a burgeoning actress and musician (her debut lead role Kids In Love comes out later this year.)

Karlie Kloss

'The girls and their agents are clever and savvy, like they were in the '90s. They know that projects outside of fashion pay vastly more', explains Paul. 'If they are clever, like Karlie and Cara, then they will go out there and grab those opportunities whole-heartedly, with both hands.' And a smile!

Follow Pandora on Twitter @pinsykes

Pictures: Getty, Rex

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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