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The term ‘Supermodel’ | The Encyclopaedia

The term ‘Supermodel’ | The Encyclopaedia

The fashion community today has evolved since the rise of the 90s supermodel. We have many top models, but they’re not neccesarily supermodels. Naomi Campbell famously said that Gisele Bundchen, was the last true supermodel. But what is a supermodel? Some of us think that all it takes is for a model to be in high demand. Whilst that is true, this is a multifaceted answer. Let’s discuss this, so that you can learn more.

In essence, a supermodel is a model that is far busier than your average model. In business terms, think about the role of a manager and a senior manager. Supermodels and models work in the exact same way. The goal for agents is to push their clients into supermodel status, as this is where the huge contracts lie. Let’s begin with salaries.


Salaries work differently in fashion as a model than they do in an office job space. Models get paid per show and per campaign they star in. For example, some runway models will be paid £500 to walk a show. These models tend to be new and are just breaking into the industry. As with every new joiner, it’s the experience that counts. Once you gain popularity in the industry and have an established walk, you will command a higher salary.

Supermodels in the 90s such as Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell were known to charge five-figure salaries per show. You may be shocked to hear this but it’s true. Supermodels like Naomi and Linda are known to sell out collections. Celebrities will want to wear these items on the red carpets, garnering further traction for the designer. Supermodel Frankie Raydar was offered more money to cancel appearances for other brands.


Campaigns come in two shapes and sizes. There are beauty campaigns and fashion campaigns. Beauty campaigns such as L’oreal and Cover Girl used supermodels to sell more products. Historically, brands would use conventionally attractive women to star in beauty campaigns. Fashion campaigns on the other hand was highly driven by a models ability to top the industry. Supermodels would frequently walk in a fashion show and star in that seasons ad campaign. For example, Gisele Bundchen opened the Christian Dior 2003 spring-summer show and starred in the fashion campaign.


Runways or the catwalk is a major arena for models to boost themselves into supermodel status. Supermodels must wear the clothes and not the other way around. They have to create a sense of theatre when modelling and command the stage with their presence. Excellent runway models include Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Yasmeen Ghauri, Carmen Kass and Natsha Poly.

An image of supermodel Yasmeen Ghauri.
Yasmeen Ghauri – 90s supermodel

The runway serves as the space for a creative director to showcase their designs for the up-and-coming season. As the fashion industry has changed, there aren’t many shows that focus on choosing girls with strong walks. Therefore, it easy to notice the girls that stand out. Another way to note the girls with the strongest walks is by how busy they are during fashion week.

First comes New York, then London, then Milan and finally we wrap up the season with Paris. by the time Paris comes around, supermodels are crying. They barely receive any sleep and have to travel around the globe constantly. Supermodels walk in every show, and if not they are offered large amounts of money to turn down catwalks. Think about Frankie Raydar again.


Creative directors are humans and they don’t always look a the past for inspiration. Supermodels are primary sources of inspiration for designers. For example, during the early 2000s, supermodel Amber Valletta was a muse for Versace as were the four models in the 90s for Gianni Versace.

A supermodel is like a chameleon. Linda Evangelista was nicknamed the chameleon because she could transform into anything and still cary grace and beauty. Designers are tortured with the need to reinvent the meaning of fashion and seasonal attire. A supermodel walks into the studio and everything fits or makes sense. A desginer has never done punk before? Okay, we’ll try this look on Carmen. We’re not sure if we should do Couture? Bring in Coco Rocha to play around.

Muse’s are there to inspire everyone. A supermodel is the muse that books the show, the beuaty campaign and the fashion campaign. Similarly the supermodel may accompany the designer to the Met Ball.

Today’s Supermodel

Models are no longer discovered via flea markets or on a school trip. You can be scouted on social media or walk into a casting call yourself. Also, the original 90s supermodels are now parents. Naturally grown net worths and having a well connected parent can launch girls into the spotlight without working for it.

They are able to command high salaries because they already ahve an audience. They may even decline shows because they star in highly publicised campaigns, so they don’t need the money. Kendall Jenner famously said that she cherry picks her runway shows every season. Technically, a supermodel must command both runway and print. If a model receives a high salary and stars in campaigns for high fashion houses, they may just qualify for supermodel status.

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