Naomi Campbell. Ujwala Raut. Gisele Bundchen, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Madhu Sapre, Mehr Jesia, Sheetal Malhar, Shyamoli Varma.  Supermodels who reduced us mortals to jelly in the late 80-90s. Did the era end with them? We just saw a super-power comeback at the 20th tribute by Donatella Versace at the Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018 and hopes are anew. Dressed in lame gold, the girls still took our breath away, and might just give the millennial models sleepless nights all over again.

Versace super models spring summer tribute


In the late 80s, German Supermodel Claudia Schiffer told Vogue, “In order to become a Super Model, one must be on all the covers all over the world at the same time, so that people can recognise the girls.”  By January 1990, British Vogue hit the world with the faces of five stunning beautiful women — Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz and Helena Christensen.  The world, along with me, had swooned, drooled and fainted. Together, these women symbolized grace, unbelievable good looks and a body that stepped off bed for $10,000 a day, no less. As a young girl growing up in the Middle East, I had died and gone to heaven. Was God on LSD whilst creating them? We were all ugly ducklings.

While I devoured music magazines like Smash Hits, No 1 and Vogue in heated school girl frenzy, George Michael’s scandalously hip MTV music video had gob smacked me in the face (and world-over) with `Freedom’ and the  Fab 5. These Supers had stepped into our living spaces and occupied our imagination and some wet juvenile fantasies. Soon, it was Amber Valletta (now actor), Yasmin Ghauri, the incredible dark panther-woman Imam, models marrying movie stars and rock idols, it was a heady mix.  You did not need heroine to die a slow death!!


Closer to the end of the 90s — which changed the way we perceived fashion and music — the leggy Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen stepped right out of Victoria’s Secret and into the bedroom of every hot blooded male and female on this Planet. Seriously, this was a very unfair God…Perhaps my grievance did finally get to Him. Because soon boredom set on to the catwalk. It seemed He had hung up His boots and palette. The world went loopy, white Euro trash hippies hit the ramps with skin, bones and vacant stares.  The dream had collapsed along with the economy and the Berlin wall. Call me old fashioned, but you simply cannot replace good taste with acid dyed laundry.

As if in answer to the prayer, a phenomena called Madonna soon threw us off axis, when The Artist called Prince whiffed her underwear on stage. For a while the nuns in my college went temporary ballistics and sealed my forehead with blasphemy (remember the rosary earrings, fishnet stockings teenagers and us adopted around the world?). Ahem!!


Nothing since then has fired up the juices with as much fervor as when I understood this was the world at my feet and I was stepping right onto those toes.  Fashion Weeks in India came and went. Models  Deepika Padukone, Sheetal Malhar, Shyamoli Varma, Jessica Radhawa, Bhawna Sharma, Indrani Dasgupta, Lisa Ray, Nina Manuel, Madhu Sapre made us sit up and notice. India’s answer to the fast growing in numbers fashion magazines attempted the magic of the West… Some failed, some sailed…I warmed the benches at every fashion week trying to get my hit-fix.  Where were the Super Models to give me heart-burn?

Fashion writer, colleague and former editor of Femina, Sathya Saran, has seen many a Miss India. She defines a Super Model as, “Someone with presence. Who is individualistic enough to have her own style, yet be any designer or brand face or muse. Someone who has staying power and global appeal. Definitely not a `me too’ spaced-out-good-looks-only woman.”  Having seen India coming to terms with fashion, Saran believes that all is not lost. “In India, at least now, there is a little individuality, a little depth in today’s models, though they perhaps could more easily educate themselves.”

Having edited Femina for a good part of a decade and more, Saran acknowledges that the term `Super Model’ is now just a word the Indian media pushes around a talent of their favour. “International ramp worthiness and being versatile as a print/moving image or ramp model on account of her talent and capability, perhaps is the other denominator,” she asserts. Who then is India’s Super model, if any?  “Find me one,” Saran retorts, “Laxmi Menon and Ujwala Raut were the last,” she concludes.


Belgium based jewellery designer Sissi Kolins is easily recognized in the pages of European Elle, her work sought after by Europe’s society Page 3. “The young generation don’t know what fashion was in the 80s. Then all it took was a famous actor or a model to wear your design and bingo your image was all over the tabloids and fashion pages. That was the power of the Super Model. She could drive the world with her image and people loved it,” Sissi says. “India has good models too, the USA has big names. It is good if a model inspires admiration, but I believe personality and being a good person with a good image is even more important. Otherwise, they end up being prisoners of money, and in that is the death of them.” Sissi says.

A sentiment Goa based Spanish fashion designer, Susana Gago Garcia of Miss Monkey also shares. “Kate Moss!! She’s over 40 and still rocking. And she’s been modeling for the last 30 years. Now that’s a Super Model,” she agrees. A globe trotter, Susana believes the 80s defined the Super Model. “Big names and big figure girls. The Super Model died out with time. Nothing is forever. There are lots of gorgeous models these days, but not with the impact that super models like Naomi Campbell, Jasmine Le Bon, Cindy Crawford had on the 80s and 90s. Of course, Celebrity sells, so it’s just a marketing strategy to use actors as models these days. They are well-known and their image sells. It’s all about selling a product at the end of the day,” Susana elaborates. “I think overdoing the Super model, killed it,” is her cut and dry conclusion.

If the future looks grim, fret not, there is always Social Media frenzy created by the Kardarshian-Jenner-Hadid-Smalls sisters. All we can do is pray that some miracle finds us in awe again. Will the Supers stay and burn the cash registers once again? Till then, count your blessings for small mercies.

#EthelDaCosta #Supermodels #Versace #MilanFashionWeek #Vogue #Fashion

Images: Wire, Google, Balmain, Getty