At a recent Vogue magazine event, soon-to-be-departing Creative Director Grace Coddington discussed her displeasure with what she calls “Instagirls.” These models, specifically Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, are not rising up the ranks of the fashion world in the traditional way. The reality star-models already had huge Instagram followings before they achieved modeling success. The fiery redhead sees this as a detriment to the fashion industry. Ever the perfectionist, Coddington is not one to miss any essential steps, admitting “I’m very picky, I don’t like compromises on things.”
The Vogue Creative Director has a long history with grooming unknown models for a successful career is not too keen with the notion that models are coming to the magazine with fame, but without any working experience with the fashion bible. Anyone who saw the documentary The September Issue can attest that Coddington is the unsung creative genius behind the glossy pages of Vogue, and her opinion garners a great deal of respect and consideration. She speaks of a disconnect between the model and the publication.
“Something about the younger girls a little time ago, when they’re hungry — and I don’t mean anorexic — then you can develop the relationship. By the time I worked with Kendall [Jenner], she was already really established. I like to grow with them… I don’t feel she’s part of me, we didn’t take the journey together.”
Could this be more about the changing face of fashion or a reluctance to admit the power of social media? The Guardian summed up why the modern “Instagirls” have so dramatically changed the fashion world: more viewers. Circulation of Vogue magazine is just a small fraction in comparison to the millions of Instagram followers models like Kendall, Gigi and Cara have.
“One cameraphone snap by Cara Delevingne reaches 25.7 million Instagram users at the touch of a ‘share’ button, while US Vogue’s circulation has remained more or less constant at around 1.2m since Wintour took over in 1988.”
No longer representing fashion, the new “Instagirl” is about a popularity contest and that does not mean that the models are creating anything as memorable as the work of the 90s supermodels like Cindy Crawford or Linda Evangelista.
What may explain Grace Coddington’s distaste for “Instagirls” and fashion following social media and not the other way around is that fashion is not about being popular. Fashion is about surprise and creating work that is challenging and perhaps a little bit uncomfortable. Not everyone is going to instantly like the newest fashion trends, which is opposite of social media where the audience has more control than the artist. The like button can make or break you. This does not encourage leadership and vision something that Coddington has always had throughout her career, along with courage and impeccable taste.
“I used to be able to tell [who was going to be a famous model]. I find it more difficult to predict now — now this whole thing is based on how many [followers] you have on Instagram, and not on the person, and that’s a world I don’t know.”
The world of supermodels is quickly going by the wayside for the “Instamodel.” After Cindy, Christy, Naomi and the others moved on from the fashion world, models no longer graced Vogue covers. Instead, actresses became the new supermodel, now giving way to “Instamodels.”
Even 90s supermodel Cindy Crawford realizes that showing up on time, with nails groomed and well rested is not going to cut it in this modern modeling world. Her mini-me daughter Kaia already has an Instagram following of over a half million and Kaia’s modeling career is just at the early stages! It will not be long before Kaia will be gracing multiple covers of Vogue magazine and her following will be in the millions.
At the recent Vogue Festival in London, Coddington took questions from fans. One asked about “the relative importance of trends.” The Vogue creative director definitely had an opinion, and it appears the dreaded “like” button was in the back of her mind as she answered this question.
“I think [when] trends are prominent I think they’re just boring. Because it’s what everyone does, and I think it’s more interesting when you do something everyone isn’t.”
Browsing portraits to draw got me stalking the 1960's Grace Coddington.. ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/BmIeitPtpQ— Patti (@anapattrice) May 14, 2016
Coddington started out her career as a model. After a serious car accident that required plastic surgery and ended her modeling career, she went behind the scenes and created spectacular art and crafted daring stories out of fashion. She used models without makeup. She created real rebellion when she had to smuggle out film of Jerry Hall posing on a Soviet monument, during the height of the Cold War. Now, Coddington has to use her imagination to create something spectacular out of limited props and meager funds.
“You’d go on a Vogue trip to Africa for two weeks. Now it’s two days and it’s not even Africa – it’s Miami, and you’re trying to make it look like Africa!”
As Coddington is retiring soon, this magic will be made by someone else. But will the artistic vision remain, or will the pages of Vogue look like anyone’s Instagram feed?
Do you think Gigi and Kendall are less “hungry” for success?
[Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images]