Fashion world turns clock back for the return of the 90s supermodels

Watch out, Agyness Deyn, the original supermodels are back. After more than a decade in the fashion wilderness, some of the most bankable names from the 1990s have been scooped up to front some of this autumn's biggest campaigns.

Three of the original "Big Four" that Gianni Versace sent down the catwalk in 1991 will be back on the billboards. Linda Evangelista, who celebrated her 43rd birthday this month, is starring in Prada's autumn/ winter adverts, and Christy Turlington is the face of Escada. Also getting a look-in are Claudia Schiffer at Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo, as well as Eva Herzigova at Louis Vuitton and Amber Valleta at Dsquared.

The original supermodels – older, wiser and perhaps less likely to be to photographed falling out of nightclubs drunk – have great appeal to top fashion houses because they want a less risky, more professional edge to their marketing.

Stefan Lindemann, the Grazia shopping editor, said: "Supermodels have got retro value but also the recognition factor. In the 1990s, people began to want new faces but now they've had them and, in between, the original supermodels have become celebrities. They're become famous for being themselves.

"They're not as naughty as other celebrities. People like Lindsay Lohan go in and out of rehab and fall out of nightclubs drunk. Supermodels never do that. They're well-behaved and have a different work ethic."

The revival of Schiffer and co follows a bleak 12 years during which fashion designers and magazine editors relied on endorsements from Hollywood actors and international sports stars to sell their products.

In 1996, the US design house Donna Karan chose Demi Moore and Bruce Willis as the stars of their autumn ad campaign and the rest of the market followed; billboards around the world were increasingly populated by big-name entertainment figures or anonymous teenage waifs. By the end of the year, Calvin Klein was sounding the death knell of the supermodel, saying people "just aren't that interested in models". And while a few trusty staples such as Kate Moss and Gisele Buendchen persisted, the professional supermodel almost ceased to exist.

But this year things have looked a little different. For its spring-summer campaign, Louis Vuitton chose bold, colourful images of big-name models including Stephanie Seymour, Eva Herzigova, and Claudia Schiffer, lounging on leather sofas or draped across vintage cars. Since then, a host of other brands – Chanel, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent – have followed.

It appears to have been a profitable move. Since casting Linda Evangelista in their adverts, the cosmetics giant L'Oréal has reported a 20 per cent increase in sales over 18 months. And that is one trend that brand CEOs are bound to follow.

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