In the last 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 stunningly 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, I had died and gone to heaven. Was God crazy when He created them? Or, was it LSD?
While I devoured music magazines like Smash Hits, No 1 and Vogue in heated 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 Super Models had stepped into our living spaces and occupied our imagination and some wet juvenile fantasies. Soon, it was Amber Valletta (now a movie actor), Yasmin Ghauri, the incredible dark leopard woman Imam (This IS good taste, people), models marrying movie stars and rock idols, it was a heady mix. You did not need Heroine to die a slow death!!
The Heady 90s
Closer to the end of the 90s — that 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 God 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!!
Rewind to India 2000s
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 Verma, 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.
End of the Super era
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 25 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 sisters. All we can do is pray that some miracle finds us in awe again. Till then, count your blessings.