Supermodels: timeless icons before Instagram

Star models from the 80s-90s continue to inspire the world of fashion. These icons of an era still fascinate, as shown by the recent Apple series.


The Supermodels never cease to fascinate. This Monday, January 22nd, Claudia Schiffer graces the cover of Grazia to talk about her upcoming film as a producer. Just four days earlier, Kate Moss celebrated her 50th birthday, still in the spotlight. These iconic women have made a comeback since 2023, featuring in new covers of major magazines, fashion shows, collaborations, and even a documentary series in their honor.


The Global Phenomenon of the 90s


Since the 30s, models had already begun to enjoy some notoriety. But it was not until the 1980s that the phenomenon of Supermodels really took off. Their strong personalities added to their extraordinary beauty to provide spectators with a real show, becoming emblematic of an entire era. “Broadcast channels, especially television, helped amplify the impact of fashion, where designers and fashion houses entered the daily lives of a much broader audience than the traditional runway audience,” describes Serge Carreira from the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.


Three models initially emerged to form “The Trinity”, namely Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington. Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, and Tatjana Patitz joined them to form the Big Six. Together, they made up a diverse group, allowing the audience to better identify with these true stars, symbols of female power and sisterhood, marking the carefreeness of an entire era. “When we went to Saint-Barth to take photos, I told the girls we weren’t there to work, not obsessed with the shoot. We weren’t in a hurry. They had to be rested, comfortable, happy, not stressed,” recalls photographer Gille Bensimon.


The immense popularity of these supermodels strengthened their positions with brands, ensuring significant sales simply by their presence. The top models had an extraordinary power and aura. “I won’t get up for less than $10,000 a day,” Linda Evangelista once declared.


Sublime, Powerful, and Timeless Women


During their careers, the Supermodels, as true businesswomen, had agreed to set a minimum rate for their contracts. Cindy Crawford later created her own brand with a cosmetics line and even real estate investments. Last August, she participated in a campaign for MCM, a German leather bag brand.


Embodying the “heroine chic” trend with a 90s athletic form, Kate Moss remains an indispensable reference at 50 years old. An 18-carat gold statue of her, created by Marc Quinn, stands in the British Museum. Even Stromae pays tribute to her in his song “Tous les mêmes,” singing, “Only Kate Moss is eternal.” She also launched her own modeling agency in 2016 and a cosmetics brand in 2022.


This Monday, January 22nd, Claudia Schiffer features on the cover of Grazia for the release of her spy film on February 2nd, Argylle, which she produced. Her cat will be part of a star-studded cast including Henry Cavill, Dua Lipa, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Samuel L. Jackson. Prior to this, the famous model also returned to service for Versace in September 2023 to close the Spring-Summer 2024 fashion show.


In September 2023, AppleTV released a documentary series of 4 episodes, The Supermodels. Directed by Roger Ross Williams and Larissa Bills. The series traces the stories of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington. This release characterizes the nostalgia for the pre-social media era of modeling. To celebrate the documentary’s release, the four stars graced the cover of Vogue titled “The Greatest of All Time” (GOAT). They continue to captivate the imagination of an entire generation.


Pre-Instagram: Nostalgia for a Bygone Era


With the advent of social media, the mysterious aura surrounding Supermodels has been fading. The democratization of the profession and the feeling of closeness have desacralized the status of models. Just like our acquaintances, they appear on our screens, continuously exposing their lives. Brands are using increasingly rational metrics such as the number of followers, views, and comments, instead of focusing on personality. The fascination once held for models, heightened by the distance of television and magazine covers, is no longer prevalent. There is also a loss of sophistication in the profession with the rise of reality TV shows. The phenomenon of influencers has replaced that of Supermodels, who have now acquired the status of legends of the past. It is the era of the Kardashians and the new generation of top models like Kendall Jenner, Bella, and Gigi Hadid, whose fame dissolves among other influencers. This definitively marks the end of the Supermodel hegemony, built on the spectacular and the fantastical.



Featured Photo: ©Peter Lindbergh

Curieuse et dynamique, Lhou Lagrange est constamment à la recherche de nouvelles aventures. Elle s’intéresse principalement aux nouvelles technologies, aux sciences sociales et à la géopolitique pour décrypter les tendances sociétales et rester agile. D’une âme polyvalente, elle combine ses connaissances et ses compétences pour servir sa jeune plume.


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