image: Google
image: Google

Bella Hadid has graced the covers of over a dozen major magazines over the past few months alone. She and her older sister Gigi have appeared in an almost countless number of ad campaigns within the past couple of years and there is nary an hour that goes by – literally – that Vogue does not tweet an image of one of the sisters or post an article that contains a photo of them.

We have been inundated with all things Hadid and the result will not be terribly unlike what happened when Louis Vuitton began pumping logo-covered bags into the market in the mid-2000’s; logo fatigue hit and no discerning consumer wanted any part of anything covered in Louis Vuitton’s monogram. The result at hand is a bit different, but it is Hadid Fatigue, nonetheless.

The monotony that is creeping up as a result of the overexposure of the likes of the Hadids, brings two interesting inquiries to light. One: Who will replace the sisters as the industry’s next best-sellers? Second – and maybe more importantly: How is such a model cultivated?

First things first. There have been some buzzy names to take the runway in recent seasons, but there was not a clear successor to the throne of the Hadids – with their larger-than-life social media followings and abilities to garner the same level of press as Hollywood’s biggest starlets for just a fraction of the price.

However, as of Spring/Summer 2018, there is a potential new “it” model in our midst: The shockingly beautiful 16-year old Kaia Gerber, the daughter and spitting image of supermodel Cindy Crawford.

While TFL has not been one of the websites chomping at the bit and proclaiming Gerber – who is signed with mega-agency IMG – as the next “supermodel,” one recent casting feels significant – and sheds light on how the selection of the next big wave of models is chosen nowadays, versus how these girls came to be in the recent past.

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That cataclysmic event: Gerber was cast in Prada’s Spring/Summer 2018 show. It was not her runway debut – no that took place in New York, when she stepped onto the runway for Raf Simon’s S/S 2018 Calvin Klein show. Nor was it her Milan Fashion Week opening spot; Gerber nabbed the coveted role of opening Fendi’s S/S 2018 show this week.

Nonetheless, Gerber’s presence on the runway at Prada is meaningful, or at least it would have been, maybe three or so years ago, before the likes of Kendall Jenner and co. stormed the fashion industry, Instagram followers in hand.

You may recall that before models were selected largely based on their social media numbers (in all seriousness, models are now asked to sign into casting sessions not only with their names but also their social media handles and followers stats), many of the most promising were cast thanks to Prada.

Yes, prior to the reign of the social media models – the ones that have managed to make themselves, so to speak, and land big-name runway spots, ad campaigns, and collaborations, due to their ability to build followings and wield influence on Instagram – Prada made models.

The famed Italian design house has – technically – always been in the business of making garments and accessories, but for many years it was also known as the launching pad for young models, as well. In terms of casting, Prada was the design house that came to mind when thinking of the best new faces at any given time.

It was Prada, after all, that had a hand in catapulting the likes of some of the biggest models of the past couple of decades.

For 15 years, Prada’s casting could be attributed to master model maker, Russell Marsh, whom the Telegraph described as having the “ultimate influence in the modeling world.” The publication continued on to note, “A turn on the Prada catwalk seals a career, and Marsh has launched some of the most successful models in the business, including Lara Stone, Daria Werbowy, and Gemma Ward.” (And do not forget Sasha Pivovarova and Arizona Muse, etc.).

And this practice was alive and well in 2011 when New York Magazine’s The Cut wrote that “landing a Prada catwalk exclusive is widely considered to be the holy grail of runway bookings, turning an unknown face into one to watch in an instant.” 

Is a spot on the Prada runway – even in an exclusive capacity (meaning that the model has been contracted to only walk in that show during the Milan week or maybe even during the entire fashion month) – enough in 2017? It seems unlikely. Even if it is enough, chances are, a model will get further, faster, if she has a million – or at least a couple hundred thousand – Instagram followers to show for herself.

Interestingly, whether these new-age models – the ones that are extremely tapped into the social media world – have the shelf life that their Prada predecessors did (Note: neither Hadids nor Jenners walk for Prada; Miu Miu, yes; Prada, no), that seems unlikely. Girls with big names, and big followings, from the outset do not have the potential to be the slow-burn-type of models that Prada’s current casting director Ashley Brokaw says are some of the model appealing. They come out of the gate, guns blazing. 

But these might actually be completely different metrics. Comparing Insta models to longstanding runway figures – aka those that are consistently tapped for campaigns and runway shows for years and years – appears to be a bit like comparing apples and oranges, and a longer discussion best saved for another day.  

As for whether Geber is an apple or an orange, I would argue that she – not unlike her mother in her heyday – has a bit of the appeal of both. She has the name and following to give a traditional Insta model a run for her money. However, Geber also has the potential for a longstanding career just like her mother, who, last year, still had possessed credibility and relevance to land Balmain’s Spring/Summer 2016 campaign, almost 30 years after the height of her supermodel moment.