Are ‘Weird,’ Severe-Looking Models Out of Fashion?

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The fall 2009 Prada campaign. Models from left: Kendra Spears, Julia Hafstrom, Ymre Stiekema, Anna de Rijk. Photo: Courtesy of Prada

The Wall Street Journal argues that because of the recession, weird-looking models are going out of fashion, making way for girl-next-door types. When people are scrimping, weird models might scare them away from investing in $3,000 handbags. But in boom times, people will buy luxury goods no matter who's staring back at them in the shop window, regardless of whether she's shaved half her head and has safety pins through her earlobes. "Smart agencies will see the value in cultivating natural beauty," Wilhemina model scout Roman Young told the paper. "Agencies will be more hesitant to pour thousands of dollars into development ... of weird girls with weird haircuts who are very skinny, very severe-looking. All the agencies are looking at the bottom line."

The appeal of skinny, quirky-looking models hasn't seemed to diminish in the fashion world since the recession. The Journal points to Prada's fall 2009 campaign star Ymre Stiekema as an indication that "natural beauty" is back in vogue. Is it, though? Look at the campaign. She's sitting there with messy permed hair, red eye shadow, garter boots, and a dress that looks straight out of Gladiator , with her eyebrows barely visible. It's terribly chic in its own way, but for people who don't look at fashion stuff all day, she probably looks pretty out there. And let's not forget Givenchy's fall campaign star Ranya Mordanova, who has a black bowl cut, pale skin, and bleached eyebrows — just about as far from girl-next-door as models come these days. Also, Lanvin hired 42-year-old androgynous Kristen McMenamy for its fall 2009 campaign.

Elite manager Micki Schneider says there will always be a market for quirky ladies in fashion, adding, "in general, the American public wants more-accessible models." That's probably true. Maybe the question we should be asking is, If girls next door really are back in fashion, why does the industry insist on bleaching their eyebrows?

Girl-Next-Door Looks Come Back Into Fashion [WSJ]