CELEBRITIES vs. MODELS: ROUND TWO?

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Designers have been dressing celebrities for as long as their existence. From Hubert de Givenchy ingeniously outfitting Audrey Hepburn to Armani finding the meaning of extra brand value with Richard Gere, designers have never been shy to exploit what linking fashion to Hollywood could bring them.

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy

Audrey Hepburn dressed in Givenchy for Breakfast at Tiffany's 1961.

In most cases, such pairing equals increased sales. It is no surprise that these days we cannot turn the pages of a fashion magazine without being bombarded by celebrity endorsements. In fact, for the majority, celebrities have become household names as their lifestyles continue to be just a click away on Google. We witness the lives of celebrities as if they were our next-door neighbor or a friend although they remain to be complete strangers. The real appeal is in this non-mutual relationship that we have formed with them. There is constantly updated information out there to enable us to identify ourselves with them whilst aspiring to be them, as there still is the element of unattainable glamour.

Madonna for Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer Collection 2009. Photography by

Madonna for Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer Collection 2009. Photography by Steven Meisel

This trend fits the bill of many designers perfectly. Just think how many Manolo Blahnik shoes were sold to women that identified themselves with shoe-obsessed Carrie from Sex and the City. The numbers were probably more than a conventional fashion campaign could ever bring in as the premier of the movie alone caused the shoes featured in it to sell-out.

Gisele Bundchen for Dior Spring/Summer Collection 2009

Gisele Bundchen for Dior Spring/Summer Collection 2009. Photography by Craig McDean

While perfection may not be as relatable, professional models fulfill a need celebrities cannot compete with, since they offer blank canvases for creative directors to paint their vision on. Their adaptability among their features is their biggest asset. Gisele once told the US edition of Esquire Magazine “I can be whatever you want me to be”, which enforces the point that models blend in with the client’s vision. They are not hired to sell their own lifestyle but the imaginary universe created by the brand concept. Models, with their active contribution to imagery, quite deservingly managed to shake of the image of being mere clotheshorses as well. Countless models have risen to fame as a result of successful campaign ads. Kate Moss shot to fame in the nineties with the campaign ads for Calvin Klein’s CK brand by portraying a pretty girl next-door look, however she also managed to turn up the ‘chic and elegant’ for Chanel.

The public is catching on though…. When selling a personality you are leveraging the trust people have in that personality. When celebrities start endorsing products they do not even use, the power of that endorsement diminishes, and the effectiveness of the campaign is dulled as the ability to identify with that product slowly fades away. Moreover, the range of brands a celebrity is affiliated with may not complement each other and hinder long-term relations with specific brands. On the other hand, a model can be reused for many brands by adjusting to different concepts while keeping a fresh face.

Kate Moss in Calvin Klein Ad

Kate Moss for Calvin Klein 1993. Photography by Herb Ritts

Nevertheless, using celebrities remains to be the easiest way to bring fashion into the public eye but whether it will serve as the most effective and sustainable way seems to be unclear. Therefore, the intense debate between models and celebrities stealing their jobs will not cease any time soon, but there is a silver lining, which many seem to miss. If celebrities were to endorse everything left, right and centre, would their appeal of an unattainable lifestyle still be as powerful and alluring for those products they are trying to sell? We can safely assume the answer to be no.

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