Unlike the light entertainment industry, the fashion industry isnâ€™t known to have an appetite for nostalgia. But a quick flick through this monthâ€™s glossy magazines suggests otherwise. For fronting the new campaigns of several major league fashion houses are a host of familiar faces.
Thereâ€™s Linda Evangelista, with her trademark haughty sneer, wearing Pradaâ€™s new austere lace look, Naomi Campbell shaking a waist-long mane of hair in an Yves Saint Laurent dress, and a black-bobbed Claudia Schiffer posing in front of a shabby-chic door for Chanel. It is unmistakable: the original first-name-only supermodels are back. So back in fact that Vanity Fair has dedicated eight pages of its new issue to Evangelista, Schiffer, Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Stephanie Seymour and Christy Turlington photographed in various states of undress by Mario Testino.
For an industry hung up on youth, it would seem to be a surprising move. Evangelista is now 43, while Campbell and Schiffer are both 38. All replace models almost half their age from previous seasons. But the return of the supermodels has nothing to do with the fashion industry promoting the beauty of grown-up women above teenagers. Nor does it suggest the return of 90s fashion, or even the industryâ€™s frustration at the inability of an army of teenage Russian models with vacant looks.
This change in direction is in fact all about a far less glamorous factor: the shrinking global economy. Received fashion wisdom goes that a recognisable face is the most reassuring way to persuade consumers to part with their cash in lean times. Since Evangelista appeared in the Lâ€™Oreal adverts, the cosmetics giant has reported a 20% increase in sales. No wonder Prada has followed suit.
Simon Chambers, managing director of Storm model management, supports the supermodel-brings-revenue theory. â€œBy going straight to the stars of the supermodel era, clients are benefiting from immediate face recognition and are wisely targeting where consumer power is strongest,â€ he says. In other words, Linda can persuade you to buy a $2,000 tote â€” the subliminal advertising message being that she has lasted ages and so will this bag.