Susannah Frankel: Ready To Wear

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Summer may have barely begun, but it won't be long before the autumn/winter collections make their way into designers' stores – and with them the ad campaigns that flag up their arrival. A quick overview suggests that the days of the celebrity-as-model are over, for now. Sharon Stone/Victoria Beckham/Lindsay Lohan et al are conspicuous by their absence.

Placing a celebrity centre stage has its pitfalls, as shown by Stone's recent ousting from Dior due to her outspoken stance on China's human-rights record. Far safer, then, to return to the professionals. Models generally make it their business to be seen and not heard, after all.

But not just any model will do, it seems. Instead, it is the apparently irrepressible Nineties super, not her younger and fresher-faced little sister, who is ruling the roost. Linda Evangelista has been taken on by Prada, Naomi Campbell by Yves Saint Laurent, Claudia Schiffer is back at Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo, Eva Herzigova has landed Louis Vuitton and Christy Turlington is the new face of Escada.

It couldn't be more perfect. Not only are these women some of the finest practitioners of their profession in history, but they also double up as celebrities in their own right. Given the nervous economic climate, that makes them an extremely safe bet. Even better, they conform to society's current – and surprisingly down-to-earth – love affair with the "woman of a certain age" (Sex and the City, anyone?), which, while probably ephemeral, is a good thing while it lasts.

The exceptions that prove the rule are Charlotte Gainsbourg, who is the poster girl for Balenciaga next season, and Vanessa Paradis, modelling for Miu Miu. Both are less predictable than the Hollywood A-listers that preceded them. They're European, for a start, and therefore lower-profile and cool as cucumbers by comparison.

Gainsbourg's skinny, dark and apparently low-maintenance looks are the perfect expression of Nicolas Ghesquière's vision for Balenciaga. Paradis, meanwhile, is something of an all-round heroine. She has the looks of a porcelain doll and the brains to have survived the ignominy of being a teen star and being locked in a cage by Karl Lagerfeld. And she lives with Johnny Depp and their two children, God love her. This is a woman to look up to indeed.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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