The hooplah over curves has led to some changes in runway and editorial castings. More realistically sized models are landing work that might have a few years ago gone to a 16-year-old waif. But it's unclear if these are fleeting changes or true signs of a new era for fashion in the new decade. Designer Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein and Maria Cornejo revealed they're hungry for change in a panel discussion with the Washington Post's Robin Givhan on Friday. Costa said he had been afraid of changing the casting direction for his runway shows, since Calvin Klein himself "started" the "waif movement." But he's trying to turn the tide, which is why for his fall 2010 show, he cast models like 39-year-old Stella Tennant and 43-year-old Kristen McMenamy.
"It was a very conscious effort to change in the past two years, to give it a twist, to make contact with the customer, because in reality, no 16-year-olds are buying my clothes — she's 45. I love to think my customer is 45 because that's the woman I want to dress. It's the moment when a women is so comfortable with herself. That was the intent, to bring models who were wonderful then and are still incredible now."
Still, he chose 16-year-old Jac to open. When Costa said he would love to do a street casting one day, Cornejo replied:
"I have to say, the first show I did in New York, I did have all real people, only one model, and it bombed. The editors do not want to see the clothes on real women. It's more exciting for them [to see the clothes on models]. They want to be able to say: 'Oh, I shot her last week.'"
Cornejo says she faces another big problem with casting for her shows, which have a much smaller budget than Calvin's. The agencies send her who she can afford, which are the new, young, skinny 16-year-olds who don't have to be flown in and paid an exorbitant fee, and aren't semi-retired from the industry.
"Most of the time I say, 'You're too young, you're too skinny, you're too pretty, my daughter is older than you.' I don't want to endorse that idealism of a girl when I have a teenager. I don't want people to think, 'Oh my God, she's got an 18-year-old [daughter] and she's sending 15-year-old anorexics down the runway."
Even if that is what editors like, Cornejo says her clothes don't get shot anyway since she doesn't advertise. Not that she reads the magazines and weeps — she prefers to curl up with National Geographic:
"I'm 47 and most of the time I personally feel totally alienated by fashion magazines, I don't even want to look at them. Anybody can make a 15-year-old model look good. It takes a lot to make a 47-year-old look good. There's just this really big disconnect. I always say to my assistants, 'I can't wear this to Trader Joe's.'"
That is also probably something many top fashion editors don't look for.