The supermodels of the 1990s were a completely special time in fashion history where models reached superstar status. I mean, after all, it wasn’t until Anna Wintour began putting celebrities on the cover of Vogue that other magazines started to follow. Now we scarcely see models anywhere but Tumblr, even celebrities have monopolized the modern advertising campaign. In contrast to today, the models weren’t waif and rail thin, they were buxom, slender but curvy, Amazon women. They each had a distinct set of features, that were special and unique compared to today where the runway seems to favor facial conformity; usually a specific brand of Eastern European features, angular faces, full lips, big eyes and slightly androgynous. Those features are obviously beautiful, I am so not hating on that jam but I think the ’90s were a time when the cultural Zeitgeist postured toward individuality and I think that was reflected in the facial features preferred by the runway at the time.
Just look at Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista, all gorgeous, yet they each look completely different one another. I think that’s pretty cool. It’s no wonder George Michael included them in his “Freedom ’90” video. The models, who had worked their way up to the top during the 1980s, were now acting, making club and talk show appearances, and become spokeswomen. This level of fame empowered them to take control of their careers, branding and demand a ton more money. They became moguls in a business that usually strips women of their autonomy as models. It was Linda Evangelista who said, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” Which is like, daaaaaaaaaamn, girl. This doesn’t surprise me, some of the Chanel and Versace ads of the 1990s were pretty freaking FIERCE.
Although the phase couldn’t sustain itself. The models became too expensive and times were changing. Fashion was becoming less glamorous, more grungy and minimal and the models needed to fit that aesthetic. Kate Moss came along with her itty bitty body and bare face introducing the heroin chic look that is still favored today. The look was and is a source of much controversy. It initially reflected the heavy heroin usage that became rampant in the U.S. In the HBO documentary About Face, I specifically recall fashion editors distraughtly and regrettably discussing the “kind of unhealthy lifestyle” (drugs and perhaps, eating disorders) they encouraged the models to live in order to look waif-like. Although many models have this figure naturally, it’s no secret that seeing such thin bodies idolized can make girls who don’t look that way naturally turn to extreme measures.
Many believe it’s impossible to have a supermodel reemergence because the climate of the industry and the nature of fashion has changed too drastically. The waif look essentially meant that they needed much younger models because they needed to be more slender and the inclusion of predominantly Eastern European models who are in the early teens limits their job opportunities because they’re so young and cannot speak the best of English. Of course there have been some buxom models imported from Brazil (Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, etc.) but many of the lean towards commercial and lingerie as opposed to high fashion and couture.