FASHION MODELS EVOLUTION

ETYMOLOGY

The word “model” comes from the Latin “modulus”, which meant “small measure” or “standard”. Indeed, models used to be seen as standard representations of objects or people.

“LA POUPÉE MANNEQUIN”

As you probably know, France has played an enormous role in the development of fashion and was — still is — a world reference thanks to the savoir-faire and sense of style that the country has always shown.

A “poupée mannequin” (source : lesitedespoupees.com)

THE PROFESSIONALISATION

Charles Frederick Worth was a French dressmaker who still is considered to be one of the founders of modern “haute couture” as we know it today. In 1858, he asked his wife, Marie Vernet Worth to model his creations, and thus launched the beginnings of modeling as a profession. Marie Vernet Worth wore her husband’s garments as a full-time job, in public, to attend various mundane events. As Charles Frederick Worth’s business grew, she started to train other women to model as well and their Paris fashion shows rapidly became eagerly awaited representations.

Charles Frederick Worth & Marie Vernet (source : http://wwinlsf.blogspot.com/2014/02/meet-father-of-haute-couture.html)

THE BEGINNING OF THEIR RENOWN

It is at the beginning of the 20th century that models finally started to know the fame that they have today. In 1923, the first modeling agency was founded in New York City and in 1928, the first modeling school was built in the United Kingdom. Models finally were allowed to give the garments a little bit of character. Their careers could be composed of more diverse tasks such as walking for fashion shows or posing for illustrated magazines.

Lisa Fonssagrives — (source : Vogue)

MODELS BECOME MUSES

Customers stopped wanting models to look like them : they wanted to look like the models. As early as the 1950’s — not the most feminist decade — Suzy Parker was the first to earn more than 100 000 $ per year, a tremendous amount of money for that time. Lauren Hutton was the first model to land an exclusive partnership with a beauty brand — Revlon — which has made exclusive contracts with brands become the goal for any model.

Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick (source : i-d.vice.com)
Donyale Luna (source : thecut.com)

THE SUPERMODELS ERA

Supermodels were highly-paid — think multi-million contracts — and worldwide famous models. In the fashion industry, the term has not been used to describe other renowned models than the 80’s and 90’s ones. The group is quite restricted but I am sure that you at least know the “Big Five” : Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer, who even gave her own definition of the word — “in order to become a supermodel one must be on all the covers all over the world at the same time so that people can recognise the girls”. They stole the show everywhere they set foot, especially with Peter Lindbergh’s now iconic photography [insérer la photo]. Supermodels were symbols of health, sexiness and success : Elle Mcpherson’s nickname was as simple as “the Body”.

Naomie Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford & Tatjana Patitz by Peter Lindbergh (source : Harper’s Bazaar)

THE CULT OF ANOREXIA

In the 90’s and early 2000’s, beauty standards changed once again and society valued being thin and skinny as the ultimate goal. Models such as Kate Moss were all the rage thanks to their naturally slender bodies, but the trend started becoming unhealthy as she was praised for having a natural “heroin face”, as women were encouraged to look child-like and as more models were displaying clear signs of anorexia. “James Is a Girl”, a New York Times essay from 1996 about James King — a model — highlighted the terrible working conditions, the psychological consequences, the over employment of underage girls and the constant exposure to drugs, alcohol and inappropriate behaviors.

Kate Moss (source : Vogue)

MORE RIGHTS AND DIVERSITY

Nowadays, big names in fashion display and advocate for more diversity : Winnie Harlow books contracts with brands such as Puma or Diesel and shows that difference is beautiful. Riccardo Tisci has also closely worked with Lea T., a transgender model, and called her his muse many times.

Lea T. (source : thecut.com)
Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated — (source : businessinsider.com)
Ekaterina Ozhiganova and Gwenola Guichard, founders of Model Law — (source : hypebeast.com)

TOMORROW’S MODELS

With the growing influence of digital in our current world, many models’ careers are launched and boosted thanks to social media. The influence of Gigi & Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner or Emily Ratajkowski is immeasurable.

Bella Hadid & Lil Miquela for Calvin Klein — (source : thecut.com)
Our platform, Eva Search

SOURCES :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_(person)#:~:text=Modelling%20as%20a%20profession%20was,describe%20this%20type%20of%20work.

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