Gay men from every generation will always have opinions of what era of supermodels was the greatest. For me, as I was coming of age it is that magical moment between 1987 and 1997 when the superhuman goddesses of beauty like Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Kristy Turlington reigned as “The Trinity,” appearing together often in campaigns for Gianni Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier and any designer who was powerful enough (and with the budget) to book them. Don’t forget Linda once infamously told a reporter, “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.” For the record, with her level of beauty, skill and supernatural chameleon-like ability to become anything and everything a creative director wanted, she was worth every penny.
The 90s supermodel era was the first time models seemed to become self-aware of the value they contributed to the advertising industry. The deluge of fashion ads featuring the world’s most striking faces in the industry was impactful and could move products, as young girls (and many boys) wanted to emulate their favorite models. As a society, we began to know these girls’ faces just as easily as we recognized our family members.
We trusted them to sell us everything, and before long they were referred to in the press by their first names, some even immortalized by RuPaul in the famous roll call chant from his debut, smash hit song, “Supermodel” (You Better Work).
I can still remember the summer of 1990 when the supermodel phenomenon really gained momentum. A fun little show called “The House of Style” aired on MTV as I was graduating high school, and they announced their on-air host. She was that beautiful brunette ‘model with the mole.’ That’s what we used to call her. She had been in endless fashion ads over the past few years, and then suddenly, a TV host, known by her actual name, “Cindy Crawford.”
Cindy, Naomi, Christy, Claudia and the other magnificent mannequins of that era who need no last names, were not just models. They were artists, self-aware collaborators who understood their unique combinations of height, lean bodies, and impossible beauty – all the things that could establish a model as a top designer’s preferred muse. Then, of course, there were the designers themselves. Among the most brilliant as far as I’m concerned, the French-born Thierry Mugler.
Known for his signature style of exaggerated femininity where no corset could ever be cinched tight enough, Thierry’s impact on the 90s is undeniable. It was a colorful rollercoaster of some of the most brilliant designs of his generation or any generation for that matter. His runway shows were always a visual feast, where sexy met the theatrical, featuring looks like full plummed bird feather headpieces, sleek body-formed latex catsuits, couture gowns with gladiator-inspired breastplates and of course that fantastic leather bathing suit with the motorcycle handlebars worn by Emma (Sjoberg) Wiklund in the iconic, “Too Funky” music video by George Michael.
In fact, the “Too Funky” music video serves as a time capsule of Theirry’s role as a fashion visionary for the decade. His daring, provocative looks paired perfectly with artists like George Michael, who were themselves the style influencers of the day. Remarkably, Thierry’s brand is just as hot in 2019, as he boasts a current roster of big-name celebrities presenting themselves on the world’s red carpets wearing his carefully constructed masterpieces.
Among his current clients are Miley Cyrus, Beyonce’, Solange, Kim Kardashian, and who could forget at this year’s Grammy’s when Cardi B arrived on the red carpet in Mugler’s vintage, 3 dimensional Venus in a clam shell couture gown.
The 90s were an incredible time for music and fashion, giving birth to one of the most vibrant periods of inspiration in youth culture and the world in general. It’s heartbreaking that another master of the era, Gianni Versace is no longer with us. However, Donatella has done a fantastic job maintaining the Versace brand’s integrity and bringing the fashion house forward. Jean-Paul Gaultier is another one of my personal favorites who has kept his relevance with continued mastery of creating the avantgarde.
As for models, there are some exceptions, but I find most of today’s models uninspiring. They hover through the modern landscape of fashion runways, almost with a look of disinterest and seemingly without real emotional connection to the legacy of the art of it all. That connection is what made the 90s girls so magnificent.
Luckily, for those of us craving a look back on the golden era of 90s supermodeldom, there’s Youtube, but for a real treat, we can head on over to Thierry Mugler’s official Instagram account, which features his personal favorite highlights from his runways shows of the past, serving beauty, grace, theatrics, and of course, sheer catwalk genius.
This piece is an opinion piece by one Contributing Writer for Instinct Magazine and may not reflect the opinion of the magazine or other Contributing Writers.