New York Times story on models as trendsetters

  1. Tasty Tastemakers of the Runway

    BRIANNA BARNES lounged backstage at the tents in Bryant Park last week tricked out like a droll buccaneer. Her outfit — a billowing man’s shirt cinched at the waist, its cuffs trailing from the sleeves of a cropped leather jacket — was unearthed at a thrift shop, she said. She bought her thigh-high boots on eBay.

    “As long as it looks good on me, I don’t care if it’s Salvation Army or Dolce & Gabbana,” Ms. Barnes said. “If it makes me feel good, I pick it up.”

    Never mind its grotty provenance. Her look was as avidly studied as any trapeze dress or cocoon coat paraded on the runways during New York Fashion Week. Ms. Barnes, 21, is a model, one in a youthful troop of behind-the-scenes style setters, adept at assembling the flotsam of their own wardrobes into compelling fashion statements. Early adopters, their looks are studied by their peers, closely watched by young women across the country and followed by merchants, stylists and editors, to say nothing of the designers whose clothes they parade.

    “We’re always looking at what the models wear,” Tommy Hilfiger said, surveying the young models waiting backstage before his show at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday. Because they are slouching in dressing rooms and striding the runway at rehearsal time, “these girls have an inside track.”

    “They’re at Marc and Karl doing all the shows,” he said. “They sit in our design studio hour after hour. They see all the ideas.” And give them a personal spin.

    Savvy, inventive and often cash-strapped, models are adept at improvisation, mastering the mix of high and low. Their off-hours attire, pieced together from designer collections and vintage finds, is scrutinized as an indicator of fashion’s next hits. “Models are a great barometer of trends,” said Robert Burke, a retail consultant in New York. “There is no focus group in fashion that gets more exposed to new directions.”

    Or that gets more exposure. Along with the style of Hollywood stars, that of models is sedulously documented on fashion Web sites and in fashion glossies, making their clothes cool by association. “When a model wears clothes one is free to engage imaginatively with the looks and the narratives they suggest,” Anna Wintour wrote in Vogue in 2004. Roberta Myers, the editor in chief of Elle, was more direct. “No matter what they have on, it ends up looking chic,” she said.

    Retailers are more detached and methodical, studying the style of models as a guide to looks that will resonate with shoppers and find their way onto the streets. Layered knits, skinny jeans, long beefy cardigans, flat shoes, miniskirts and tunics worn as dresses are a handful of the trends said to have been spawned backstage in the heat of recent fashion weeks.

    “Sometimes when there is about to be a change in silhouette, I look to the models to see what they picked up on,” said Stephanie Solomon, the fashion director at Bloomingdale’s. “The first time I saw leggings was on a model coming out of a runway,” Ms. Solomon recalled, adding that the style presaged a trend to voluminous tops worn over stalklike legs.

    Based on last week’s observations, she predicted that ’60s-inspired triangle coats, abbreviated swing dresses and black tights worn with little flat boots, all reminiscent of mod icons like Edie Sedgwick and Penelope Tree, would have a long street life. On the evidence of what models zeroed in on, “the kicky factory girl mood seems to be overtaking a more classic, well-bred look,” Ms. Solomon said.

    As is perhaps inevitable. Fashion, as old hands in the business like to point out, is kick-started by the young, who freely adapt the looks being worn by their favorite models. They embraced drainpipe jeans after Kate Moss endorsed them as a badge of street chic. Inspired by Ms. Moss, who is credited with sparking any number of trends, her legions of admirers also took to Ugg boots and Balenciaga bags.

    Many models receive designer clothes, and variations on them resurface. “We give the models little gifts after the show,” Mr. Hilfiger said. “A year later you end up seeing them in somebody else’s collection.”

    Conversely, what the models reject can point up trends that are likely to die on the vine. “There is a saying in fashion,” Mr. Burke observed, “that if the models don’t want any of the clothes they are showing on the runway, the collection is doomed.”

    Yet for all their sway over trends, few models are innately stylish. Small-town girls, for the most part, they are quick studies, appropriating what they see on their peers, mixing it with a luxury-label coat or cardigan, then customizing the look with vintage finds.

    The English model Agyness Deyn, 20, stood in full makeup backstage at Zac Posen last week wearing a short reefer coat in throbbing pink. “It’s Bill Blass,” said Ms. Deyn, whose personal style was widely noted during Fashion Week. “I found it at a flea market in New York. I had my tailor cut off the sleeves above the wrist so it would look younger, and I added this wide leather belt that I found at a vintage shop in Manchester.”

    Ms. Barnes honed her taste for gently used clothes only after seeing them on colleagues and friends. “I’m totally converted,” she said. “I was never a big fan of the rounded toe, but now I can’t get enough of it. And I used to hate anything that was slightly ’80s, but today I’m thinking, ‘That’s not so bad.’ ”

    Comfort, too, dictates what she wears. In a week of temperatures that plummeted into the teens, Ms. Barnes could not be induced to give up her leggings. Nor would Lara Stone part with the long black sweater cape she wore like a talisman backstage at Mr. Posen’s show. “It’s a blanket,” she said. “It keeps me snug. That and my comfy flat shoes, and I’m good to go.”
  2. Thanks for posting this, Coach.
  3. thanks for posting this! i always loved how models dresses than celebrities.
    models have their own style and def. not over the top unlike some celebs :yes:
  4. ^^I agree. I never thought about designers watching what they wear. I thought it was great insight into an industry in which I'm so far removed.

    Thanks Prada. I love all your postings.
  5. I think it's very true to a large extent ... but it is still true that "few models are innately stylish."
  6. Thanks for the article, coachwife6!

    That was a really good read. :yes:
  7. I actually disagree somewhat with the article. I believe that trends are started by us. If you observe at what people wear in urban centers and you start following the trends then you see how they filter up to models and designers. I watched a show today on Style about this subject. For instance, arge door knocker earrings were usually associated with ladies of ethnic background who fashionably strutted them not on the catwalk but in Queens or Brooklyn. Chanel caught on the trend and made their own upscale version for the catwalk.
  8. shhhh. We are not supposed to know this. The designers would get so mad if they found out.:graucho:
  9. :roflmfao: