I still have glossy cut-outs and glamourous images of Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and many more international supermodels, saved away in my reference files. Up until my final year, my college walls had charts with catwalk images of our very own, home-grown supermodels. Sheetal Mallar, Madhu Sapre, Noyonika Chatterjee, Jesse Randhawa, Mehr Jessia… the list goes on.
As fashion and retail moved at breakneck speed, so did the era of the supermodel. But as retail markets and brands became bigger, the runway saw the end of the supermodel phenomenon.
Carol Gracias, Nethra Raghuraman and Nina Manuel still make ramp appearances but Lisa Haydon may be hailed as the last supermodel of this generation. Even Haydon has since moved to filmdom, occasionally gracing the runaway as a showstopper for celebrated designers.
Internationally too, you can count the number of supermodels on your fingers. Apart from Kendall Jenner, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid, no one has really broken out of the endless model pools and bagged big ticket campaigns.
Which begs the question: whatever happened to the quintessential muse? The seductive women, sometimes sinewy, at times voluptuous, but always injecting life into a designer’s creation. What happened to the beautiful women with intriguing personas whose sheer thought would convert bundles and bundles of fabric into classic timeless garments?
The answer lies in the fact that the entire ecosystem of fashion has changed. Brands and magazines prefer to have celebrities — actors, TV and reality stars, musicians — on covers and for endorsements. Even if campaigns carry models, a bunch of different faces are bound to feature. None identifiable as the singular ‘muse’ of the collection or label. If you look closely, you’ll notice that almost all the campaigns coming from large design houses, nationally and internationally, have ensemble campaigns. Case in point, the iconic campaigns of Anita Dongre, which captured real people, casually sitting around in the perfect family wedding backdrop. Or the ‘sisters’ campaign by Balmain last year, which featured the Jenners and the Hadids.
If you ask me, the influencer circle of the fashion world has drastically changed. It’s now the era of fast fashion and quick impact with Instagram celebrities and bloggers. They are the new world ‘inspiration’ for design houses and brands, simply because they instantly connect you to your target audience. Moreover, the female consumers today do not identify with women who don’t look like them. And unless it’s a celebrity we are talking about, nor do they aspire to be like them.
A lot of designers have shifted the idea of inspiration from a particular person to a larger scale. Today, they may still hold their first ever muses close, but they’ve clearly moved to thinking of the Indian woman at large as their modern day muse. And this means Indian women in various shapes and sizes, with all their wonderful flaws and strengths. From the woman who goes out to jog in her salwar kameez and trainers to the woman who only wears couture, they all are the new ‘supermodels and muses’.
Gupta is a leading fashion designer. She tweets as @MasabaG