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Photo by REX / Shane Partridge
Photo by REX / Shane Partridge

Fashion: Models needed, flaws OK, even preferable

When it comes to models, pretty is out, edgy, even "flawed", is in.

For the past few days, I have been knee-deep in the quest to find the perfect model for our upcoming fashion editorial in the Savoy in London. It should be easy – we are, after all, in one of the largest fashion capitals in the world. The problem is: models are wanted and needed by every fashion editor in the world. Not to mention advertising campaigns and runway shows. Competition is fierce, and many of the girls are out of town on the fashion week circuit – the agencies as empty as a ghost town.

Anyway, what has been much more interesting than my fruitless search for the right model has been the type of girl being offered at the agencies. It seems that the industry’s notions of beauty are changing somewhat. Which is a whole other story, but to try to explain: fashion editors seem to be looking for something new. We’re on the lookout for something unusual – someone who grabs our attention and creates a buzz. Classic beauties such as Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson, although undeniably beautiful, simply don’t excite anymore.

The very “flaws” that would have got a firm no from agencies in the past have suddenly become the very reason, behind this new breed of models success. Think Cara Delevingne, with her thick bushy eyebrows, who walked almost 50 shows this season at Fashion Week or Georgia Jagger with her signature gap in her front teeth heading up many major campaigns of the moment.

Even Marks & Spencer is in on the trend, celebrating its diversity. Its new campaign includes artist Tracey Emin, author Monica Ali and boxer Nicola Adams to represent the brand – all previously unlikely models for a world-class advertising campaign for the fashion industry. Perhaps years of mass production have created a niche for unique personal style and the ability to stand out?

Don’t tell Kate, but pretty is “out”. Which is exactly the point – striking profiles, edgy haircuts, a face full of freckles or angular oversized features mark them out as individuals in a sea of bronzed Amazonian limbs and ethereal doll like faces.

My point is, the models who are making it right now are not the girls you would necessarily pick out in a line-up. Of course, we have been playing with the notion for a while. Opting for alternative models is not exactly a new idea. In the 80s, Jean-Paul Gaultier was known for street casting some very unexpected models for his shows. In the 90s, girls such as Sophie Dahl and Kate Moss made headlines for breaking the mould, as did Beth Ditto for making the cover of Love magazine, (which happened to be one of the most well-received issues of the decade). This season, companies ranging from Alexander McQueen to Saint Laurent chose to work with a few models more unusual (not to mention fuller and older) than normal.

It’s a nice change, and a chance for us all to challenge our own preconceived notions of beauty and basic principles of taste. Most of us, as experimental as we might think we are, simply follow an innate attraction to cues learned as a baby. In short, we like what we know or what we think we should like.

So perhaps next time you choose to ignore a new, unusual face on the cover of your favourite magazine that doesn’t quite fit the mould we so aspire to, why not celebrate the fact that “different can be a good thing? Regardless, it won’t last, so celebrate while you can.

ktrotter@thenational.ae

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