The age of supermodels


supermodels are back on runway | maggie riser, naomi campbell, gisele bundchen, amber valletta
For as long as it existed fashion has always been about youth, fantasy and being a tool for women wanting to create the fantasy of eternal youth. It began with Chanel and Balenciaga who understood women's desire to feel young regardless of their agen, but it was Yves Saint Laurent who really presented the concept of youth revolution with this very first collection for Dior. Not only he was the younger ever designer to take over one of the most important couture houses, he had a different, modern, vision of couture and the woman who wore it. And his woman was young.

Yves Saint Laurent at Dior in 1958
Unlike Chanel or Balenciaga who often used models of all statues in order to suit their clientele and show the clothes on "real women", Saint Laurent's designs appealed to those wanting to look youthful - and the choice of mannequins reflected that.

Jean Shrimpton in Mary Quant 1963
By the 1960s, with the Courreges' dresses, Quant's mini skirts and Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche  the models who presented the collections became the whippet-thin and gazelle-esque creatures for those skimpy clothes would only look right on the young and svelte figures. The irony was that the new silhouette was rather aspirational for the mere mortals. As ageist as it might have been, the new designs and models created a dream of fashions that can make anyone, practically anyone, look chic, young and sexy.

Twiggy by Ronald Traeger for Vogue May 1967
With every decade that passed, the models became younger and slimmer - they were perfect for the 1970s floaty hippy fashions, punk, Calvin Klein denim, 1980s g-string and lycra, 1990s minimalism and "heroin chic".

Kate Moss by Corinne Day for Vogue 1993
Then came the era of supermodels - the girls who were still slim, but had sensual curves - the type of figure that were perfect for the Gianni Versace's idea of an ideal woman. Those few years (and the times of Diane von Furstenberg wrap dressDonna Karan's easy pieces and Alaia's incredible creations) were, most likely the only time when women were officially allowed to look like women, with the bottoms, bosoms and feel beautiful in their own skin - it was the time of youthful grown-ups with plenty of sex appeal and attitude. The cabbage soup was forgotten - we focused on aerobics and Cindy's Next Challenge  instead.

Cindy Crawford by Herb Ritts
But the youth revolution blossomed again. The late 1990s and early 2000 brought the Brazilian and Eastern European models and a new generation of actresses and celebrities. The industry girls were stunning, young and as slim as ever. The movie starlets came in a standard size "0".  They were starring at us from the extra large screens drip-feeing the minds with an idea that being desirable equated fitting into the hip-hugging Gucci trousers or Dior leathers and looking young. The thighs were out of question, and so were the wrinkles - aided with botox, the face became smooth as baby's bottom with its surface reflecting the light rather than life experiences.

isele Bundchen photographed by Nick Knight for Dior Fall/Winter 2002 campaign
Ironically, the models have always been just as affected by the youth fetish as us. The industry has demanded the almost unobtainable idea of beauty and the figures that promised easy tailoring and flawless catwalk presentation. For the girls it meant a busy, but incredibly short career - by the age of 25 most would be considered old and out of demand. I remember somebody telling me that "she wasn't modelling as much anymore because, at the age of 26, she was practically a veteran."

supermodels by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue
Of course, there were always exceptions... The iconic Carmen Dell'Orefice. Kate, Naomi and Elle from the "good old days". Kati Nescher, Saskia de Brauw, Gisele, Laetitia Casta, Liya Kebede, Valentina Zelyaeva and Malgosia Bela are all the 30+ stars. They've always worked appearing in fashion campaigns and magazines. But it is only recently that many of these familiar and dear faces returned to the runway.

It started a few years ago when the former Armani and Versace muse Nadege du Bospertus walked for DSquared2 in 2008 alongside Esther Canadas and Fernanda Tavares. Then there were Laetitia at Vuitton Fall/Winter 2010, Kate at Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter 2011, Kisten Owen who appeared at Prada, Mary Katranzou and Schiaparelli, Carolyn Murphy at Calvin Klein Fall/Winter 2013, and Naomi who closed Diane von Furtsenberg in 2012-2013. Those were the first and quiet steps but at the end they lead to 2014 and the era of supermodels comeback.

In addition to Diane von Furstenberg Naomi Campbell was seeing at Pucci, Liya Kebede appeared at the much talked about Louis Vuitton, Gisele and Caroline de Maigret - at Chanel, Maggie Rizer - at Michael Kors, Amber Valletta joined by Esther De Jong, Audrey Marnay, Malgosia Bela and Natasha Vojnovic - at Lanvin, Alessandra Ambrosio - at Bottega Veneta, Mariacarla Boscono - Versace, Fendi, Emilio Pucci, Ferragamo and Givenchy, Jacquetta Wheeler at Marchesa and Gemma Ward was warmly welcomed as the model who opened Prada.

The wonderful era continued with the arrival of couture were Eva Herzigova and Amber Valleta shone at Versace last Sunday.

Eva Herzigova & Amber Valletta at Versace Atelier 2015
Once again fashion proved its magic power of transformation - of the times, the rules and the age frames. And although it might not have shared the secret of the eternal youth with us yet (and, lets be honest, still presented the young age and appearance an advantage - and who can argue with that), it certainly proved that age, as a number, has nothing with being a supermodel, just as it doesn't have anything to do with being truly beautiful or "in fashion".

Photo source:, Yves Saint Laurent at Dior in 1958, Jean Shrimpton in Mary Quant 1963, Twiggy by Ronald Traeger for Vogue May 1967, supermodels by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue, Kate Moss by Corinne Day for Vogue 1993, Cindy Crawford by Herb Ritts, Gisele Bundchen photographed by Nick Knight for Dior Fall/Winter 2002 campaign, Nadege du Bospertus, sther Canadas and Fernanda Tavares at DSquared2 Spring/Summer 2008, Eva Herzigova & Amber Valletta at Versace Atelier 2015 via


  1. To me it has to be Gia though! The first (though Janice Dickinson will argue) and a true shooting star!

  2. What a fascinating article. I must say, I didn't realise that Chanel and Balenciaga had once used models of all ages and sizes to accurately reflect their clientele and I have to say that I find the idea utterly fascinating. Perhaps not as visually appealing as Yves Saint-Laurent's youthful models, to be sure, but nonetheless.

  3. This was such a great and informative post, I really enjoyed reading it!

    Bella Pummarola

  4. I perfectly know everything about supermodels as I grew up with them! My fav is Nadège!!!

    Don't Call Me Fashion Blogger

  5. I really enjoyed this post as I recognised almost all the names that you mentioned. Also loved that you included a photo of one of my favourite models ever: Jean Shrimpton.