Beauty

REMIX, REMODEL, REUSE

Tim Blanks on the return of the supermodel this fall



 

Tim Blanks


 
Tim Blanks

REMIX, REMODEL, REUSE
Tim Blanks on the return of the supermodel this fall

YOU ONLY NEED A PASSING acquaintance with my opinions to know I love supermodels. But real supermodels, like the ones who fired up magazines in the ’60s and the second wave of über-supers who came along in the late ’80s and turned fashion into the entertainment industry’s most dazzling tributary. Everything since has been an increasingly pallid echo of those glory days.

Just how pallid was made plain by my recent encounter in Berlin with Veruschka, the woman who’s been called “the original supermodel.” She was born Countess Vera von Lehndorff. Her father was executed in September 1944 by the Nazis for his role in the military conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. After that, her childhood was hell. Fashion offered her an escape into what she thought of as a fairy tale, where she could play, like she’d never been able to while she was young. Vera reinvented herself as Veruschka, a girl with a Russian name (it was her nickname as a child) and a mysterious past. America fell at her feet.

I may have been knee-high to a grasshopper at the time, but I remember the 1967 cover story in Life magazine as well as the magazine shoots where Veruschka would disguise herself as animals, forests, fabric, even stones. Now, she is nearly 70 and, if your face is the roadmap of the life you’ve lived, hers clearly hasn’t been easy. But listening to her vivid stories of how she approached modeling in the ’60s and ’70s, when she was working with Richard Avedon and Franco Rubartelli (the photographer who took the 1968 picture of her in Yves Saint Laurent’s safari jacket with a rifle slung across her shoulders, which few aficionados would deny a place in the top 10 of all-time best fashion photos), underscored the shortfall in her modern equivalents.

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Speaking of shortfall, when I met up with Kate Moss in London, where she was being photographed by Mario Tetino, I had to laugh at the thought that she was always considered the waifish riposte to glamazons like Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford. I mean, come on, Kate was always pretty tall for a girl. She has been at the top of her profession for two decades, so she clearly has an X factor that sets her apart. I’ve never been able to tell why she’s the muse of so many artists and photographers; though, to her canny credit, she’s done a wonderful job of preserving her mystique by rarely giving interviews. Like Diana, Princess of Wales, Kate felt the speaking voice didn’t quite gel with the physical illusion. I was expecting something Sarf London–ish (not quite fishwife, but getting there), so imagine my surprise to hear a deep, sultry murmur. I was seduced. And, like Veruschka, there was also the face-as-roadmap moment.

But that only emphasized what we’ve been missing in our models, super and otherwise. They are, after all, quite literally the face of fashion. Miuccia Prada championed the ugly chic we’ve been living with for years now. So what do you think it means that she has picked Linda Evangelista, la suprema of the über-supers, to front her advertising campaign for fall? With Steven Meisel taking the pictures! They’re a team every bit as evocative as Veruschka and Avedon.

And in one of those intangible instances of synchronicity that bemuse fashion-watchers, Fall ’08 seems to offer a career rebirth to other great faces of a generation ago: Claudia Schiffer in Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo, Stephanie Seymour in Loewe, Christy Turlington in Escada. In her campaign for Dsquared2 (also photographed by Meisel), Amber Valletta could almost be Veruschka. The world has glorified witless youth for too long. Now, it’s almost thrilling to see the apotheosis of well-seasoned beauty. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

EDITOR, ELIO IANNACCI

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