Supermodels reject Paris catwalk `pin-money'

IT WAS a week of sublimely elegant design at the Paris fashion shows. But the re-appearance of long-lost style on the catwalk was as nothing compared to the disappearance of glamour personified. Naomi, Linda and Christy were nowhere to be seen.

It sent the doyenne of fashion writers, Suzy Menkes, into paroxysms of dismay. "Artistry Is In, Super Models Are Out'' the International Herald Tribune headline roared, as the queen of the fashion pages bemoaned the lack of Campbell, Evangelista and Turlington.

It was enough to send top couturiers into a huff. The following day, Italian couturier Valentino placed a full-page, $25,000 advertisement in the paper with a picture, taken at his show, of models Elle MacPherson, Nadja Auermann and Claudia Schiffer.

"You are all wrong... much love from Valentino and `The Super Models'!!" he wrote.

While Valentino believes that Naomi, Linda and Christy do not own the sole rights to supermodel status, few would deny the extraordinary fame the triumvirate has enjoyed in the past five years. Indeed, as last week's headlines showed, their very absence can cause a stir.

When they attend the shows, the media complain that they are bored of them; that Linda is not worth the thousands that enticed her out of bed that morning.

Indeed, their very absence can cause whispers about the death of the supermodel.

But the supermodel is not dead, or even on her sickbed. The original Big Three have simply graduated from the catwalk.

Supermodels are relatively new to the rarefied world of haute couture. Until recently, the haute couture shows in Paris were dominated by mannequins who specialise in catwalk work - it was Gianni Versace who first brought high-profile editorial girls to his couture catwalk. Now they are so well paid that the $15,000 pin-money they would earn for a catwalk show is not worth the stress of the quick-fire costume changes.

Linda Evangelista was busy last week, filming a new campaign for Coca-Cola to compete with Cindy Crawford's commercials for Pepsi; Naomi Campbell had more pressing engage- ments auditioning for a movie with the "Muscles from Brussels", Jean-Claude Van Damme; Christy Turlington, who is featured in both American and British Vogue this month, decided simply to bow out from hours of tedious fittings and catwalk mincing. And Kate Moss - not the ideal shape for a couture model - was getting on with her life w ith movie star boyfriend Johnny Depp at the Golden Globe Awards in LA.

Other supermodels write books - Kate Moss's picture scrapbook is published this spring. They sell fizzy drinks, and Cindy Crawford's contract with Revlon is worth $7m alone. She is her own business, Cindy Inc.

The absence of the triumvirate has paved the way for the new generation to shine through. They might not yet be household names, but models like the red-headed Kristen McMenamy and Karen Mulder are regarded by those in the business as catwalk superstars.Platinum blonde Debbie Harry look-alike, Nadja Auermann, with legs longer than Linda's and Naomi's, looks super-human and has been photographed in the world's glossiest glossies over the past year.

But not all the supermodels stayed away. Elle MacPherson, the supermodel who is officially the oldest of them all, was making her catwalk comeback. MacPherson, 31, also known as "The Body", is a multi millionaire with her own money-spinning underwear line and the recent launch of her Cindy Crawford-style fitness video.

Claudia Schiffer, who has deals with Sygma and Limited Exposure in Hello!, as well as a contract with the soft drink Fanta, certainly does not have to get out of bed for any amount of money. She was there for a simple reason - she says she simply likes doing the shows.