FOR what seems like forever, models have been the stuff of our dreams, these unattainable women that smile out at us from the glossy pages of the magazines we obsess over. Models have influenced our subconscious judgement our whole lives: the blushing brides we dressed up as in bridal magazines when we were children, the flawless made-up women we wanted to be during the teenage angst years, especially the women in Vogue that wear the most spectacular outfits that are so out of our reach. But have we ever thought of these women as savvy businesswomen or are they just fancy versions of clothes hangers in our minds?
Just think, how many models can you name? For someone highly interested in the fashion industry, this may be an easier game than most but for the average woman walking down the street; it’s an extremely difficult task. We can all call out the usual suspects: Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, the list could go on, but these women aren’t just models, they’re brands, fully-fledged businesswomen and occasional scandalmongers.
Models cannot just be models anymore, they have to prove themselves to the world in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible and they have to dance for us like performing monkeys to win approval. Elle Macpherson has launched her own underwear empire and took over the reins of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model when former supermodel Lisa Snowdon left. Kate Moss is a muse for the higher powers in fashion but still has time to launch her own lipstick line. Lily Cole, a model preferred by everyone from Chanel to Marks and Spencer has a first-class degree from Cambridge. These women can’t just have the ability to walk and pose any more, long gone in the stereotypical Zoolander model, where models are so stupid they’ll have a petrol fight. Models need to be able to create their own empire, to know figures, have business knowledge and know when it’s time to leave the modelling game aside behind and market themselves differently. Most of all, they need to be intelligent.
We don’t just aspire to look like these women anymore, we aspire to be them. A model in this day and age has to earn the respect of women, not jealousy. Scandals like Kate Moss’s alleged cocaine habit or Naomi Campbell’s rage issues have nothing to do with their ability to wear a form-fitting dress after or how they’ll take their next photo. These famous women are looked up to just as much as Michelle Obama or Christine Lagarde, not because of how they can fit an outfit but because they have just as much global influence, if not more.
The fashion industry has changed a lot in the last twenty years in many, many ways. Way back when, everyone’s opinion was ranked before the models if it even counted at all. The designer, the stylist, the photographer, everybody had a say except the model who was expected to show up and look pretty. Now things have changed a huge amount, the phenomenon of modelling and fashion has shot through the roof with the help of ‘Next Top Model’ programmes in so many major countries round the world and we demand so much more for our buck.
In a recent interview with Alexandra Shulman, Editor of British Vogue, she stated that she had never used Jennifer Aniston on the cover of the magazine as she requires full copy approval with her photographs, a privilege that is unheard of in Vogue. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/2012/apr/01/alexandra-shulman-vogue-editor-fashion?INTCMP=SRCH). Models have to follow the same adverse rules and why? They are not editors; they aren’t trained to understand the reader, just to impress them. However, this phase of wanting copy approval and more say in the process is becoming more prominent in the fashion industry, especially to do with the A-list celebrity models we all know and love.
After a recent spread for Elle Brazil, Coco Rocha was reported to be furious to be portrayed as ‘showing too much skin’ on the cover of the magazine. Rocha said on her Tumblr page, ‘I have long had a policy of no nudity or partial nudity…I strongly believe every model has a right to set rules for how she is portrayed’. (http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2012/04/coco-rocha-mad-that-elle-brazil-made-her-topless.html) But in an industry like modelling, when your body is your tool and your money, can you dictate how it is used? You have the right to not be taken out of context completely, but when you wear an outfit and pose in it, can you complain about the way it then looks? When an artist leaves his painting to be sold, can he dictate where it will be placed in the buyer’s home or how they hang it?
As modelling has changed, so has the fashion industry. It isn’t enough to buy the services of a pretty or interesting looking canvas anymore, you’re buying a person. Even more than that, you’re buying a brand. There is no way of using a model and disregarding her after a fifteen minute catwalk show, you buy not only her, but her reputation. A model has to be so much more than a mannequin, she has to be an inspiration and impressionable (in the right way!) as the world of fashion is spreading to the younger market like an epidemic.
Modelling isn’t a profession anymore, it’s an economy. You’re buying and selling everything about yourself, not only your look, but your personality, your reputation and your temperament. Models have to be businesswomen in this day and age as they have to look for their own jobs and they also have to book them. A photographer will not work with a difficult model, no matter how famous so bringing an extra couple of talents and fallbacks to the table can not only be a huge career boost but a mean money maker too. Models like Coco Rocha and Kate Moss can demand things but in the end, if they’ve sold themselves into the world of modelling, will they ever have the right to choose?