By Erika Lopez
The fashion industry is always about what’s new, what’s different, and how designs and brands are evolving to meet the needs of clients around the world. Yet designers understand that it’s not very exciting to just look at clothing items. Part of what makes fashion an art form is the presentation of clothing on actual people. Models add depth to the otherwise 2-D pieces of clothing when they walk in runway shows.
Runway modeling has existed since the early nineteenth century but has changed significantly over the years. For one, runway shows are no longer secret events. Initially, they were solely for buyers and sellers of department stores. Today, shows remain somewhat exclusive -- tickets can be expensive and hard to come by if you don’t have connections to the industry -- but at least it’s possible for the public to attend shows. Many designers and brands make up for this fact by utilizing technology to broadcast or stream their shows, thereby allowing anyone with internet access to virtually attend them. (Think the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.)
Today, it’s nearly impossible for runway models be “secret.” And no, not just because of their height. Most runway models also take part in photo campaigns for popular magazines and brands. Their faces thereby become very recognizable.
Designers also did not pay their models very well. Today, runway modeling, especially for models who are well-known, can be extremely lucrative. The average hourly wage is $162.50. If a model is working 40 hours a week (and oftentimes they work more), they can make over $300,000.
Over the years, the ideal model aesthetic has also changed. In the early twentieth century, most runway models were caucasian and brunette. However, today, they come from all different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Talent scouts travel all over the world in search of the next “it girl.” For example, Irina Shayk, today a famous runway model, was once living in poverty in Russia. Her dad was a coal miner and after his death, she had to work two jobs to support her family. Shayk was then discovered at a local beauty pageant and her career took off from there.
Regarding body type, the fashion industry has changed its preferences.In the past, there were not nearly as many restrictions for models as there are now. Models could be on the shorter side. Sometimes being voluptuous was even preferred. Today runway models have a standard body type - tall and slim. Some designers set a lower height limit of 5’8’’ and, while weight can vary, most models are between sizes 0 and 4. Designers claim that these restrictions exist to maintain an emphasis on the clothing rather than on the models themselves. However most of the people buying these clothes are not within this small size range. As a result, there has been a lot of debate regarding the industry’s restrictions on models. Some argue that they promote unhealthy body images for young girls, while others claim that runway modeling is an art not to be taken literally.
It is important for the industry to listen to such constructive criticism of its practices in order to evolve to meet the needs and desires of consumers. Positive change comes from new talent, which is why I’m hopeful for the new age of runway models.
Here are three up-and-coming models who may be the faces of a new generation of runway modeling. Many of these women have already walked in big shows in Paris and Milan. Each has a unique look that will further diversify the fashion industry.
Lauren de Graaf from the Netherlands has already walked for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani.
Sophie Katherine Jones