Arts and Entertainment

Bring Back the Supermodel!

The issue with influencers walking the runway is that they lack the skills and experience models have with displaying outfits and carrying themselves on stage.

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The epitome of style, innovation, and design, New York Fashion Week exhibits the fashion world’s boldest new ideas each year. The now-glamorous event began as an alternative to Paris fashion showcases during the city’s occupation by Nazi Germany. In 1943, Eleanor Lambert, America’s first fashion publicist, was on a mission to showcase American designers on a global scale. During the war, Americans were expected to support domestic designers and famous French ones like Elsa Schiaparelli and Augusta Bernard were replaced in public demand by names like Norman Norell and Hattie Carnegie. Lambert’s goal was to establish New York as the new fashion capital of the world, and she succeeded; her invention of New York Fashion Week was a raging success. New York Fashion Week changed the way models were presented in the fashion industry, with many gaining immense praise for their dedication to the field. In recent years, however, many models have come forward claiming that modeling has lost its professionalism due to the runway takeover of influencers, many of whom lack the skills to model high couture.

Before the 1970s, New York Fashion Week was used to showcase only American designers, but later, celebrities partnered with brands to increase popularity. Inviting celebrities like Cher, Madonna, and Jane Fonda heightened excitement around the event and increased engagement with the public. Modeling has always been a job consisting of rigorous dieting and exercise, long hours, and extensive practice to ensure their walks bring the clothes they are wearing to life. Supermodels like the “Big Four” of the 1990s (Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington) were known for their versatility and adaptability to a wide range of styles. Their charisma and commitment to the industry made them the most sought-after models of the decade. Later, in the early 2000s, the Victoria’s Secret Angels gained immense popularity. Models like Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, and Candice Swanepoel became known for their striking features and perfect hourglass bodies, epitomizing the untouchable female beauty standards of the time.

However, with the increasing popularity of social media influencers, many brands have requested that influencers—not models—represent them on the runway. During New York Fashion Week 2023, influencers like Paige Neimann (Creators Inc.) and Heidi D’Amelio (Indigo Boutique) received backlash for their runway walks. A viral video of Paige Neimann walking the runway for Creators Inc. received comments about her clumsy walk and unprofessional attitude. Many models, including Taylor Hawkins, spoke out: “Just because somebody has a lot of followers does not mean that they need to be at Fashion Week events,” Hawkins said. The issue with influencers walking the runway is that they lack the skills and experience models have with displaying outfits and carrying themselves on stage. Giving these influencers opportunities to walk the runways not only degrades the professionalism associated with modeling but also takes lucrative Fashion Week jobs away from actual models, for whom achieving this exposure could lead to life-changing career opportunities.

Though many brands thought having influencers walk the runway would increase engagement and bring in more press, it did quite the opposite. Most viewers reacted negatively to the influencers, saying that their presence took away from the exclusiveness of New York Fashion Week. While influencers can be brand ambassadors on social media, they should leave modeling to the professionals.