One of my favourite music videos of all time is Freedom 90! By George Michael. The song itself is incredible, emphatic and timeless and you can’t help but heartily sing along whenever its on. But for me, the accompanying music video is what made the song. There she was, a flawless Linda Evangelista, complete with peroxide blonde crop, sitting on the floor mouthing the lyrics with a deadpan stare into the camera. And Cindy Crawford, smouldering and naked in a bathtub. The girls seemed like goddesses, of Milan runways, TV screens and magazine covers. And their glamour and diva antics gave me my first few glimpses into the insane and unpredictable world of fashion. I wasn’t alone… there was no one who did not know the names of Christy, Naomi, Claudia and Cindy in the early 90s. Not simply clothes hangers, the girls transcended fashion, they were in music videos, fronting Pepsi campaigns and opening restaurants...they were the faces of the brands that defined pop culture, and bar the explosion of a waif-like Kate Moss shortly after and Gisele Bündchen some years later, we hadn’t seen a model reach that level of first-name-only fame since — until this year.
The new supers? Kendall, Gigi, Bella and Hailey. Four girls who have 65 million followers between them. Whether you like it or not, these girls literally have the reach of the world at the tips of their fingers and are using their good looks, family lineage and social savvy to become the second wave of supermodels.
Now, I don’t consider myself part of their core demographic. I don’t shop at Victoria’s Secret and I like to think I am not easily swayed by any #ads that may find their way on to my Instagram feed. I can’t bring myself to follow (I instead search their names, scan their feeds and log off), but I can’t deny the power of their brands and reach or that there is something fascinating about the moment.
Of the 400 million people on Instagram and 40 BILLION images shared since the app started in 2010, the single most liked photo on the social media channel is of Kendall Jenner lying in a white lace dress, with her hair styled to resemble a halo of hearts. The caption, a simple heart emoji. 3.3 million likes for that.
Those are some incredible numbers when you think of all the influential celebrities, world leaders and companies that have active Instagram accounts. The second youngest member of the Kardashian/Jenner phenomenon, 19-year-old Kendall has managed to turn her association with a show that most fashion insiders would look down on, E!’s Keeping Up with The Kardashians, into a bona fide modelling career. This year alone has seen her front campaigns for Balmain, Fendi and Calvin Klein and late last year, she received the modelling gold star, a contract with beauty mega-brand Estée Lauder. Gigi Hadid, 20, also received a career-making beauty contract by way of L’Oréal-owned Maybelline, in addition to joining her friend Kendall in the Balmain campaign as well as recently booking the spring/summer ‘16 Versace campaign. And last week, she was named the new Global Ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger which will see her design a collection in tandem with the Tommy design team. Her little sister Bella Hadid is also getting in on the action, with 2015 bringing her several magazine covers, a Samsung campaign lensed by Steven Klein and a recent turn at the Chanel pre-fall show in Rome. Her click-bait romance with The Weeknd doesn’t hurt matters.
Then there is the fourth member of the new model brat-pack, Hailey Baldwin, daughter of Steven Baldwin and his wife Kennya. Even though she’s a favourite of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger and stylist Katie Grand has taken a liking to her, she’s still a little less established. But at 2.6 million Instagram followers, that will probably change soon. Even the male modelling world’s most popular new face, Lucky Blue Smith, is someone whose popularity boils down (in part) to social media. It’s no longer enough to be a pretty face.
A social endorsement from any one of these models can quite literally sell-out product, with the CEO of analytics company D’Marie Archive, Frank Spadafora, recently estimating brands will pay the likes of Kendall and Gigi between $125,000 and $300,000 for a post on their Instagram pages.
The acceptance of these new supers by some of fashion’s most exclusive houses shows no one wants to be exempt from this new movement. These girls represent the convergence of celebrity and fashion - with personality and a level of relatablity that seems to sum up the friendlier more inclusive moment fashion is in as a whole. Want to be front row at Givenchy? Good luck with that. But you can go backstage with Kendall via her account and watch the backstage buzz, no problem.
As fabulous as they were, we knew nowhere near as much about the 90s supers. And whilst this added to their allure, in 2015 personal reveals make up the currency that rules. Whilst 90s supers fronted brands, Hailey, Gigi, Bella and Kendall have the faces and reach to become brands all unto themselves and with them gaining more followers with every scroll, we are sure to see a whole lot more of them in 2016.
Words by Lynette Nylander