It started out with mannequins, but that all changed in the 1850’s when Charles Frederick Worth had his wife model his clothes and, voilà, models were born. Fast forward to a few decades later and modelling agencies were a thing and women could make money from it. They started making so much money that, Linda Evangelista once said that she doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.
Anyways, the models became super models who ruled the world at one point and I guess they still do. Millions of girls, myself included, wanted to be them and travel the world taking pictures for magazines and strutting our legs on the runways. Models have also been muses for designers through out history and continue to do so. I think the best thing about models is that they are not perfect and we can all see ourselves in them…the moles, the weird foreheads, the tooth gap…they are all humans, just like us. The modelling industry has also been consistent in not only making little girl’s dreams come true but also providing constant work for millions of people, from photographers, make up artists, agents and many other creatives.
But the face of modelling has been changing over time. First, actors and singers started to join in by doing campaigns for fashion houses. Models had/have to compete with known celebrities for fashion campaigns from the fashion houses. But through all of this, models continued to strive. They could still do the runways, be on the fashion pages and secure big deals… they could still survive in this fashion jungle.
Fast forward a little and this has also changed in the recent years. Models and celebrities are not enough anymore. With the rise in social media, also came the realisation that dreams can come true for all of us, even if we are not so tall. The age of influencers came into play. With the right number of followers, you can also get a piece of the fashion pie and to be honest, this is one of the most beautiful things about social media. But this didn’t affect the models that much. There was enough to go around and the two could exist in the fashion world harmoniously. I actually believe more opportunities for creatives have been created because of this.
As if this was not enough, another component was added to the mix. Where it used to be different girls from all over the world were discovered by an agent at the super market, made their way to Europe, worked hard and earned their stripes over the years, it has now become about the daughters of famous people and reality stars. The new models come with a name, status and great genetics (even if they are bought). They also have a following not only from us mere mortals but also the paparazzi and that kind of publicity, even the big brands can’t buy. These are the models who can afford to pull a ‘Kendal’ by picking and choosing their work. These ladies are the ones who don’t really seem to need do to this but they do it because it looks cools.
So where am I going with this? Well, I was just minding my own business when all of the sudden, I see, Margot, Shudu and Zhi… Balmain’s Virtual Army . Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing’s virtual army of models to be exact. I mean I already had issues with Shudu for many reasons and now we have 2 more… Yikes! I know that we have to evolve and push boundaries but for some reason, I can’t seem to yet get my head around it, and it’s not because of the idea but the implications of it.
I mean, what does it all mean? Are models now going to be virtual? Is this a once off or the start of something? Let’s say this does become a thing, what would happen to all the models, the make up artists, the companies that organises the fashion shows, the agencies, the photographers and the endless people who all form part of the fashion industry?
Am I just being dramatic or do you also think that we should we have this conversation and discuss it’s implications on people’s lives and the industry in general? I mean, do we even really want perfect models? Also, just when the industry is starting to be more inclusive (race, weight, height, gender), when the models are making more money, when average people can also have a piece of the dream and when our creative juices are flowing even more…we are going to flip the script?
So, what is the best way forward? How can we use technology to push boundaries and still maintain the human component? Do you think that it’s possible? Let’s have a conversation.