Fashion gives redheads their moment of flame

Tamsin Blanchard on this year's blazing rivalry on the catwalk
GINGER nuts are the hot new thing - and we're not talking biscuits. The day of the supermodel is well and truly over. These days, all you need is a pot of henna and a few freckles and the international catwalks will be at your feet.

Naomi Campbell made a few special appearances in Milan last week for Narciso Rodriguez and Versace. But Kate Moss, Amber Valetta and Helena Christensen stayed away. They just don't have what it takes any more and are not prepared to dye their hair red to conform to the season's must- have shade.

With her mousy brown hair, Moss pales into insignificance next to the Ginger Queen, Zora Starr, the 18-year-old Londoner whose strawberry locks have landed her a plum job as the face of Miu Miu, Miuccia Prada's younger spin-off line. Starr is the ringleader of the red brigade, alongside Sunniva, the 19-year-old fragile beauty from Norway who has risen to catwalk fame in six months, after being photographed for Italian Vogue.

Then there is Maggie Rizer, the 20-year-old from Staten Island, who was studying speech therapy before she was plucked, by Meisel again, to join the ginger ranks. She appeared in three stories in last July's Italian Vogue and on the September cover alongside a 20-page couture story.

Another American, Taylor, also has the look (or should that read luck) with her shiny red curls. Taylor grew up in Miami and has been modelling for five months. At 22, she was training to be a pastry chef in New York. "I'm modelling to save up money to open a bakery," she said before her turn around the runway for Moschino. "Red hair is definitely a trend right now." She is sensible to cash in on having "the look". Redheads are just a fad. It was blondes last season and might be bald heads the next..

Quite why it is the turn of the redhead is unclear. It is part of the fashion zeitgeist which decrees that designers from London to Milan will opt unanimously for box pleat skirts as they have this season. Perhaps Ginger Spice is to blame. Sally Courtis, fashion editor of British Elle, has her own theory: "Karen Elson started it all," she says. Elson is the girl from up north who took the fashion world by storm last season with her pale creamy complexion, her barely-there eyebrows and her flame- coloured hair.

Since she has cropped her hair (and gained a couple of pounds) she has found herself not quite in so much demand. "Once the industry got its head round Karen's quirky individuality, the rest followed," says Courtis. "The new breed of models is slightly fragile looking. Redheads have that delicate complexion and a kooky look so right for now."