Caitlyn Jenner will be the new face for H&M’s women’s sportswear collection. The 66-year-old, two-times olympic gold medal winner announced her collaboration with the Swedish brand on her Twitter feed, sharing a backstage photo and declaring her pride at being part of this campaign, which can be inspirational for many. It is not the first time that gender identity becomes a topic in the fashion world: today’s catwalks mirror the diversity and the difference seen in the real world, and more and more fashion houses choose to work with “unconventional” models to prove that beauty is neither tied to gender, nor to limiting, rigid beauty standards. The H&M Studio Autumn-Winter fashion show in Paris was the perfect example of this newfound diversity in fashion: transgender models like Andreja Pejic and Hari Nef participated, as well as plus size model Ashley Graham and over-60 icons like Pat Cleveland. H&M is not the first brand to assert the beauty that can be found in diversity: 24-year-old androgynous Stav Strashko, who appears on catwalks wearing both women’s and men’s clothing, is part of Diesel’s Spring-Summer 2016; black model Winnie Harlow, affected by vitiligo, modelled for Desigual; not to mention Lea Cerezo, a trailblazer for gender diversity in fashion, was hired by Givenchy for its 2010-2011 Autumn-Winter collection. All this would have been unimaginable until 15 years ago: the web, the media and reality TV have definitely changed the whole scenery, opening the door for all those who had been considered different until then, and therefore outsiders. But let’s take a look at how modelling was born as a profession, and how it developed over the decades.
The first model in history was Charles Frederick Worth’s wife. In 1853, Worth, American’s Haute Couture’s founding father, asked his wife to wear his creations, rather than just display them, as was customary in those days, on store window dummies. There were no pre-defined physical standards at the time, actually, most designers used to work with women of multiple sizes, in order to show diversity in their designs. It was at this time that mannequins started becoming commonplace for live fashion presentations. Over the following years, the role of models became more and more prevalent thanks to the introduction of photography, and therefore, the beginning of fashion photography.
Ford Models, one of the first and the more prestigious model agencies, opened in 1946, and transformed into a career what had been a hobby until then. Some of the legendary names of the time: Lisa Fonssagrives, who appeared on the cover of Vogue more than 200 times; Dovima, Carmen Dell’Orefice and Wilhelmin Cooper who were all mostly famous in the industry at the time. In the 1960s, model agencies started popping up like mushrooms all over the world. London, and its innovative approach to fashion, became central for the fashion industry at the time, thanks to women like Jean Shrimpton, Joanna Lumley and Twiggy, who turned beauty standards upside down at only 16, in 1966, with her short hair and small size (168cm.)
In the 1970s and 1980s, work conditions improved for models, and they started getting actual salaries: Margaux Hemingway signed a stunning 1-million-dollar contract that landed her on the cover of Time magazine. Meanwhile, Ford Models started scouting for blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls in Scandinavia, as well as more exotic beauties in Brazil, ushering in more ethnic diversity. Beverly Johnson was the first Afro-American model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine in 1974.
The 1990s are known as the Top Model decade. Linda Evangelista famously declared to Vogue: “We refuse to wake up for less than 10,000 dollars a day.” Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Stephanie Seymour became the world’s most famous models, earning for themselves the title of “supermodels.” Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated’s increased popularity pushed demand for sexier, curvier models such as Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer and Tyra Banks. On the other extreme were models like Kate Moss, and the tendency to glorify thin frames, bordering unhealthy — this tendency gave rise to ethical issues within the fashion industry, causing controversy that is still being discussed today.
But it was in the 2000s that a new factor appeared that would change the fashion world: social media. Never before were models as close to their fans as they are today. Models like Kendall Kenner, Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevigne have millions of followers on their Instagram accounts. It is also thanks to the web that more different models could emerge: disabled models; models with Down syndrome; bald and albino models. None of these women conform to classical beauty standards, all of them are gorgeous in their uniqueness. This is a change that reflects the change happening in society that does not just involve physical beauty standards, but also gender becoming more and more fluid, as can be seen in the new generation of models that choose not to identify with just one name, and sees fashion as personal expression that is not connected to sexuality — one prime example is that of Jaden Smith, who wore a skirt for Louis Vuitton’s Spring-Summer campaign.
The fashion world is constantly evolving: today there is a huge market for models of every age, size, height and shape! We, at TheBlondeSalad, definitely believe that this is added value. We should be our own inspiration, and if our example can be helpful for others, then that will be for the better. Our lives are our own catwalks, let’s never forget that we are unique creatures. Fashion is a beautiful game, there is space for all to play, together. Oscar Wilde used to say: «Be yourself. Everyone else is taken». Those words could not be more current.