It seems a long time since supermodels were at the height of their fame, and since then there have been famous models, beautiful models, strange models, and models who look so thin they would blow over in a gust of wind. What makes a supermodel? First of all, they have to have another-worldy beauty, a completely unique look, and an ability to make every outfit morph into something you have to have. They don’t come in one-size fits all – some have sunny, girl-next-door personalities and some, er, don’t. Whether naughty or nice, I love them all. The word ‘supermodel’ is bandied around so easily, and yet the jewels in the modelling crown are still rare. Models in the 1950’s where mostly cultured, society gals. It was Twiggy who was probably the world’s first supermodel, who showed that a girl from a working class background could set the fashion world on fire. The 1970’s were all about leggy blondes (hello Jerry Hall!) but it was the 1980’s that really made stars out of models. I remember seeing Yasmin Le Bon on the cover of Just Seventeen, wearing a mega-watt smile, a leotard, and boxing gloves, and knowing that I was witnessing something really special. If any designer could be credited for really creating the supermodel, it was Gianni Versace, who paid his girls legendary amounts of cash to walk in his shows. The Vogue cover, above, ushered in a new decade when the saying that a supermodel “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” would come back to bite them. For a while there, models were the new movie stars, and we wanted to follow their every move. It all changed with one photo shoot, and one girl. Corinne Day’s infamous photo shoot of Kate Moss for Vogue saw the end of supermodels as we knew them. Pale, tiny-framed and with those extraordinary features, the gloss and the glam of the ‘big’ girls was shot down. There have been a few noted names since, but to me, the arch list-maker, these are my Top Ten supermodels of all time. I could have included many more and Miss Moss is not included because, I suppose, she belongs in a category all of her own.
JEAN SHRIMPTON, quite simply known as ‘The Shrimp’ was the face of the Swinging 60’s, and her gamine but classic looks replaced the haughty, hourglass form of her 1950’s predecessors. Her career really took off when she became the muse to legendary photographer, David Bailey. The pair fell in love, and became the power couple of their time. A favourite at Vogue, The Shrimp caused great controversy when she turned up to a race meeting in Melbourne wearing a mini skirt. Now aged 69, and famed for her complete lack of vanity, Shrimpton now runs a successful hotel in Cornwall. Her life with Bailey was recently immortalised by the BBC in their Let’s Take Manhattan series. Her wide-eyed chiselled beauty set a standard in the fashion world and Kate Moss owes her a huge debt of gratitude. The timeless supermodel.
IMAN, the world’s first black supermodel, was brought up in priveleged surroundings in Somalia and studied at University. When she first came to New York, her background was changed into that of an African princess from a rare tribe. Known as the most elegant supermodel, and beloved by designers like Yves St Laurent, she soon became a Vogue regular. She also set up her hugely successful cosmetics range in 1994. A confirmed charity worker, she is an Ambassador for Save the Children. Happily married to music superstar David Bowie, now aged 57, her career was celebrated by the Council of Fashion Desginers America (CFDA) when she was named as a Fashion Icon. Quite simply, grace personified.
CHRISTIE BRINKLEY was the early 80’s picture of all-American beauty. She had a huge crossover appeal from Vogue to Cosmo, and gave up studying art in Paris to take her place in fashion’s hall of fame. A famed Sports Illustrated superstar, Christie became a household name after appearing in the video for Uptown Girl, the eponymous song written for her by her then husband, Billy Joel. The ageless supermodel, Brinkley has been a Cover Girl model for several decades and now, aged 58, she has never looked better. With her every-woman appeal, she is a regular on U.S. television screens and is often a tabloid story, having been not so lucky in love as she has been in fashion. A shrewd real estate investor, and a human and animal rights activist, she is a free spirited and independent beauty who turned supermodels into pin-ups.
LINDA EVANGELISTA was a successful model in the 1980’s until a haircut, by Julien D’Ys, propelled her into the fashion stratosphere. The model’s supermodel, she has graced more Vogue covers than anyone else. The Canadian beauty, and muse to Steven Meisel, may not have enjoyed the same commercial success as some of her coounterparts, but during the reign of the supermodels there was no-one to beat her. A favourite of all the fashion houses, from Versace to Vivienne Westwood, she has been out of the spotlight for a while but has recently become the face of Chanel eyewear. Now aged47, she will always be celebrated as a fashion chameleon who cold turn any look into a winner – the sign of a true supermodel!
CINDY CRAWFORD ended the reign of the blondes in the 1980’s to become the face of the all-Americana super-beautiful girl-next-door. After being scouted in Illinois, she left University and refused to remove her now infamous mole. A favourite of designers and magazines, Cindy knew her power as the curvy supermodel could set her on the role to commercial success. She started off with a fitness video empire and to this day has a hit skincare line as well as still being the face of brands such as Omega. Her Playboy appearances in 1988, and 1998, both shot by Herb Ritts, did nothing to tarnish her fashion crown, but just cemented her status as one of the most beautiful women on earth. Her daughter, Kaia, has recently modelled for Versace and has all of her mother’s gloss and grace. A never-to-be repeated face, though many have tried, and failed. Unmatchable at 46.
CHRISTY TURLINGTON will always be known as the most classically beautiful suprmodel. Discovered whilst out horse riding as a teenager, she made fashion history by signing an exclusive and hugely lucrative contract with Calvin Klein. A favourite of photographers Peter Lindbergh and Arthur Elgort, she was a highly celebrated editorial model and also a commercial brand’s dream – her contract with Maybelline means she is still a fashion and beauty regular. Intelligent and savvy, she dropped off the fashion radar for a while to earn her degree, and is happily married to actor and director Ed Burns. Now a documentary maker in her own right, aged 43, she spotlights the issues of maternal mortality and the dangers of smoking with vigour. The Audrey Hepburn of fashion.
NAOMI CAMPBELL is quite simply the best model to ever take to the catwalk, and one of Britain’s finest exports! Scouted aged fifteen in Covent Garden, she was soon gracing the pages of Elle and advertising Miss Selfridge, and became a favourite of Versace and Azzedine Alaia. Her infamous cover of Time magazine celebrated the barriers she broke down for black models in the fashion world, after her cover of French Vogue in 1988 made fashion history. Still much in demand, she has a lower profile personally after many years of being a tabloid sensation, famous for her romances and reported temper tantrums. Campbell, now 43, has never received as much attention or credit for her charity work, but she continues her role supporting the White Ribbon Motherhood campaign. The best legs in fashion. Ever.
KAREN MULDER made her name as the ice-cool supermodel, a modern day Dutch version of Grace Kelly. A favourite of Karl Lagerfeld, YSL and Valentino, her statuesque and regal beauty made her much fought over by fashion editors everywhere. One of the first Victoria’s Secrets superstars, she cut short her career in 2000 and sadly has only been in the press in recent years due to sensationalised stories of her ill health. Now aged 43, she was known in her time as the triple threat – whether on the catwalk, on an editorial shoot, or representing a brand, Mulder made everything she touched turn to gold. A much missed face on the fashion landscape.
HELENA CHRISTENSEN started off her career as Miss Denmark but soon became known as the sexiest supermodel,and like Ms. Mulder, was one of the original Victoria’s Secret Angels. Also an editorial wonder, Christensen brought a glamour to her photographs that became much more subdued in real life, where she prefers vintage fashion, and cars! Once the girlfriend of rock legend Michael Hutchence, her beauty will forever regin supreme every time MTV play’s the footage of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. At 43, Christensen is still a successful model and now works behind the camera as a noted photographer. The most beautfiul eyes in fashion.
GISELE BUNDCHEN put an end to frail chic, for a while at least, when her bombshell Brazilian beauty became just too hard for the fashion world to ignore. It took a while for Bundchen become established as her face and reknowned curves put paid to super-skinny chic, and as we embarked on a new century, a sense of optimism and a desire for bling gave her the chance to dominate magazine covers the world over. A relentless success, whether for Louis Vuitton or Victoria’s Secret, she is now married to sports star Tom Brady. Bundchen still graces the pages of every glossy, and as a business woman in her own right, she still remains the highest paid supermodel in the world, aged just 31. There has been no-one to take over her mantel this century, which makes her more than a fashion legend.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Herb Ritts.