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Arrivederci, Claudia

The Milan and Paris shows introduced a new breed of catwalk model. Goodbye Claudia, hello Shirley, Esther and Guinevere. By Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs by Gavin Bond
Fashion moves quickly, but fashion models move even faster. By the age of 25, most are over the hill and, if they're lucky, reaping the benefits of their property investments, trying to make a new career for themselves in Hollywood, or putting their names to ranges of underwear.

The Death of the Supermodel has been brewing for some time. But, this season in Paris and Milan, it finally happened. Helena Christensen put in only a few appearances; Linda was nowhere to be seen; Nadja Auermann was selective about which shows she did, and even Kate Moss was a rare sighting. In their places marched the New Model Army, the newest faces on the modelling scene who have been snapped up for the runways before they have barely cut their teeth.

So new are they that even the fashion pack, usually so adept at spotting who's who, are unable to identify them. There is a whole new breed of anonymous, seemingly interchangeable blondes, so young that many of them are chaperoned. But they are the next generation of household names. This week, Kate Moss imagines what she would say to Elvis in the television adverts for Mercury one2one; next week it could be Jan Dunning, already featuring in the Gucci ad campaign of the summer, or Iris Palmer, the aristo wild child who has misbehaved on the catwalks from Anna Molinari in Milan to Chanel in Paris.

Miuccia Prada, the designer whose label has promoted the waif-like styles of the Nineties, insists that her models are as anonymous as possible so that press and buyers will concentrate not on the girls but on the clothes. This desired anonymity is a reaction against the days when models became more famous than the designers themselves.

Linda Evangelista, an Eighties icon, was slender rather than skinny, and womanly. The new models are girlish and often a little odd, or just plain quirky. Designers like Prada want clotheshorses - or wire coat hangers - not fantasy women. Skinny girls can get away with wearing a fine layer of chiffon over a big pair of knickers

Nevertheless, the new breed will eventually become celebrities, too. The other new names to watch include the 19-year-old Amy Wesson and her fellow American Michelle Hicks; the Swedish Anna K; South African Georgina Grenville; Esther de Jong, an eccentric Dutch string-bean; Guinevere, star of the Jil Sander campaign; Kylie Bax from New Zealand, and Shirley Mallman, the feline, blonde Amazon who, until a few months ago, was working in a show factory in a Sao Paulo suburb. It was her first season but, wherever she went, she stole the shows, supermodel or not