Familiar faces - and a wrinkle or two - on the catwalk

Fashion talk You know the global credit crunch is taking effect when those original supermodels have to come out of early retirement.

You know the global credit crunch is taking effect when those original supermodels (remember those girls who wouldn't get out of bed for less than $10,000?) have to come out of early retirement. This week I scanned the newly-out August editions of fashion magazines to discover who would be the face or faces of, the autumn/winter 2008-09 season and got quite a shock. Rather than take their pick of the fresh new kittens from the catwalk (like the 16-year-old Karlie Kloss from the USA or the 17-year-old Eden Clark from the UK), many designers have reverted to the model equivalents of Norma Desmond who, fashion-wise, belong in the last century.

Linda Evangelista stars in Prada's latest campaign as a sort of chilling Mrs Danvers look-alike in severe black lace. Eva Herzigova is Louis Vuitton's poster girl in white mink cinched with a black bow belt. Claudia Schiffer dons a black wig for Chanel. Naomi Campbell flashes a thigh and cleavage for Yves Saint Laurent. In what is unfolding as a sort of financially charged game of musical chairs, Daria Werbowy, who perhaps never became a household name but nonetheless has been super successful campaign-wise, switches her loyalties from Chanel to Dior; the Brazilian pin-up Gisele Bundchen moves from Dolce & Gabbana to Aquascutum; Nadia Vodianova swaps Calvin Klein for Versace and until we see any evidence that the troubled singer Amy Winehouse, is really going to be the face of Roberto Cavalli, Isabeli Fontana is keeping her seat warm.

"Twenty-seven used to be retirement age," my model expert chum, Elaine Dugas, from the leading London agency Models 1, tells me. "Now it's becoming a little blurred, especially in beauty." I agree. Sharon Stone, 47, models Dior skincare, Catherine Deneuve, 60, Mac anti-ageing cream and Penelope Cruz, 35, Elnett hairspray - a favourite of grannies. As a member of the over thirties club, I find it reassuring to still be finding Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow still smiling (or should that be snarling?) at me from fashion pages. 'Twas ever thus.

In their heyday, these glamazons reigned supreme - for at least a decade - and commanded large fees because they were just so good at catwalking and wearing clothes. Which, alas, is no longer the definition of "supermodel". And they were fierce and bitchy with great attitude, which suited the "feel" of that time. No wonder wimps and waifs like Kate Moss, with her bandy legs and greasy boyfriends, didn't get a look in.

Most of the class of 2008 who completed maximum mileage on the runways during couture - Coco Rocha, Lily Donaldson, Jourdan Dunn - are good models but "super"? I think not. We're entering a season when models must pull off structured tailoring the likes of which have not been seen since the Fifties. Convincing women are required, not elfin fairies, not rebellious debutante dilettante dafties or willowy teenagers who look like a piece of string with a knot at the top.

The Italian designer Miuccia Prada, herself a young 56, is responsible for flipping fashion on its head. Prada cast Kim Basinger, 52, as the face of Miu Miu. She looks more like tousled festival groover KT Tunstall than Mrs Robinson. All this at a time when extreme youth was your open ticket into modelling. The Gold Coast Aussie modelling sensation Tallulah Morton, from Barrenjoey High School in Sydney, was working with Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue when she was 13.

Prada reckoned that when men hit 50 they buy sports cars. Women, in contrast, buy Miu Miu. But don't think that wrinkles are the new black or that the fashion industry is in any way condoning old age. Even under a strong magnifying glass, you won't find so much as a fine line on any of the "thirty-something" (or whatever they claim to be) supermodels? which is one reason the original line up have never looked so good.

And I was kidding about retirement. Once a supermodel always a supermodel. I'd say $500,000 a day wouldn't even come close to their fee these days. A friend of mine has another theory? something to do with recycling. It's happening everywhere else, why not in fashion?

Published: July 12, 2008 04:00 AM


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