Haute Historian: The Supermodel

May 13, 2013 • Haute Historian, Magazine


Their long lean limbs, clad in luxurious garments glide up and down the runway. We see them in photos and video footage. If we’re lucky enough, we’re already in the audience watching all the fashion magic happen. These people are the presenters of fashion and we sit in awe at the beauty of the designs and the design of those beauties.

They’re models.

However, for the most part, we don’t know their names and we probably wouldn’t be able to recognize them in everyday life. But there are those few runway mavens that have made the leap from unknown face to some of the most sought after faces in the world. These women are Supermodels.

Fashion and models go hand-in-hand, but the supermodel is the evolutionary product of that primitive bond. Although there is some debate over who actually coined the term “Supermodel,” there is no denying that such a person exists. In the 1970s, Janice Dickinson reigned supreme on the runways and magazine covers. She has publicly stated that she was the first supermodel and was even the one who coined the term. Some even go as far back as the 1930s and dub Swedish model,  Lisa Fonssagrives as the first supermodel. She graced the covers of Vogue, Life, Time, Vanity Fair and Town & Country.

Although models have been around for decades, it was the wave in the 70s,  80s and 90s that really got people on board with the supermodel. In those few decades we became acquainted with Janice Dickinson, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Elle Macpherson, Kate Moss, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Gia Carangi to name a few. These women graced covers of magazines, appeared in lucrative campaign ads, walked the runways for famous designers who knew them by name and even branched out into other roles such as film and television. They gave fashion a much needed personality. These women were the superheroes of the fashion industry, there was nothing they couldn’t do.

Along with their fame, came exposure to the dark side of the fashion world. Supermodels like Kate Moss and Gia Carangi battled very publicly with drug abuse. Moss got clean but Carangi succumbed to her addiction at just 26. The film Gia, staring Angelina Jolie, was made of her modeling life and struggling with heroin. On the contrary, models like Naomi Campbell helped break down racial barriers in an industry and society that was not used to black models. In fact, she became the first black model to appear on the cover of French Vogue. Campbell was also the first black model to be on the September Issue cover of American Vogue. Despite her world famous attitude and temper issues that seemed to get the best of her later in her career, she succeeded in making a name for black models in the industry.

Now, in 2013 some say that Brazilian beauty, Gisele Bündchen is the only true supermodel left. She’s one of the highest paid and most sought after models. Yet, I beg to differ that she’s running the scene on her own. With young blood like Karlie Kloss, Coco Rocha and Chanel Iman already dominating the fashion world, it’s only a matter of time before another wave of supermodels emerges again. As I said, fashion needs models and models need fashion, and if that symbiotic relationship is still in existence there is always the potential for supermodels to rise up.

– Jamie Wilson

1. Gia Carangi 1980s
2. Naomi Campbell 1987
3. Janice Dickinson Paris Vogue
4. Gisele Bundchen Harper’s Bazaar Brazil, November 2012, Photo: Terry Richardson
5. Chanel Iman

 Source: Courier Online


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