Katherine Devlin examines the changing job description of the model- and what this means for fashion
When superstar singer Beyoncé appeared on the cover of the iconic September issue of American Vogue (see image 1), there was a mixed reaction from readers. This was not only because she is professionally a singer as opposed to a model: but because the feature did not include an interview with her. The situation caused some confusion among onlookers since it is usually expected that featuring a well-known celebrity on the cover of a fashion magazine indicates some sort of exclusive story about their career or personal lives. In this case, however, Beyoncé acted primarily as a model, simply being photographed in the clothes. This role reversal is becoming more and more common. This year alone only two professional models appeared on the cover of American Vogue: Karlie Kloss in March and Cara Delevingne in July. However, Kloss shared her cover with singer and celebrity Taylor Swift whilst Delevingne appeared after making the career shift to acting. The line differentiating between models and ‘celebrities’ is becoming increasingly blurred within the industry, with actresses and singers now regularly expected to add ‘model’ to their job description.
This hasn’t just been happening on magazine covers. Fashion brands are opting for celebrities over professional models to front their campaigns. The stars of Marc Jacobs’ Autumn 2015 campaign include iconic singer Cher, film director Sofia Coppola, actress Winona Ryder and singer Willow Smith. We note also that actress Jennifer Lawrence has been the official face of Dior since 2012 and that singer Katy Perry was recently named the new face of Moschino. This trend is also evident in men’s fashion, with Prada’s spring 2015 menswear campaign featuring a host of actors including Ansel Elgort (see image 2), Ethan Hawke and Jack O’Connell.
For professional models, this means that the pressure is on for them to have a fully-fledged public presence and celebrity image. We need only look at the so-called ‘Victoria’s Secret Angels’ who each have a trademark personality for consumers to follow. In comparison, supermodels of the 80’s and 90’s such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista- who famously proclaimed that she wouldn’t “get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day”- were able to maintain successful modeling careers without the aid of social media. Models are no longer simply ‘mannequins’ chosen to appear in fashion magazines and campaigns based on looks alone. Brands want someone with whom the public have a relationship. Oftentimes, it is easier to have a well-known actress or singer represent a brand as consumers will relate the familiar public persona of the celebrity with the ideas and tone of the brand. Vogue Australia in their June 2015 issue referred to Gigi Hadid, who has 5.7 million Instagram followers, as a “social supermodel”. Karlie Kloss’ social media enterprise ‘Klossy’ allows her to have direct communication with her fan base on a multitude of platforms. Models like Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Emily Ratajkowski are becoming actresses. This effort by models to have the popularity and individuality needed to succeed in today’s industry is also an effort to undo the perception that models have no personality or talents outside of their looks.