Cara’s Hot, Kate’s Not: Supermodels and their sphere of influence.

“There’s definitely a truth to the fact that these girls are models of the moment and they are the zeitgeist of global culture. They have the Instagram following but, these girls are not real models. These girls are not magic.”

(Robert Verdi – global tastemaker)

This year’s Milan fashion week opened with a gold-encrusted bang. Closing the iconic Versace show, on the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death no less, were Naomi, Carla, Claudia, Cindy and Helena. Assembled like fashion’s own answer to The Avengers, the otherworldly supermodels, draped in liquid gold Versace gowns, glided down the catwalk to rapturous applause. Fashion is an industry notoriously full of stiff-upper-lips and inscrutably stylish faces. Remember how Miranda Priestly expressed her level of distaste via a sliding scale of lip-pursing?  Yet, the return of these five models caused a tidal wave of loose lipped, beaming adoration. Po-faced editors and deadpan industry stalwarts leaped from their seats in pure, unadulterated adulation. The original 90s supermodels inspire an unfettered kind of hysteria, in even the most composed of front-row fixtures. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that today’s supermodels – or rather, as Vogue dubbed them, ‘insta-girls’- of the moment Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid were walking in that very same Versace show. Despite being revolving fixtures on Vogue’s homepage, their star-power was essentially extinguished in the presence of the Naomi, Claudia, Cindy, Carla and Helena…The original supers. 

SoundOut BrandMatch ranks these ever-evolving spheres of influence, be it models or any other famous face with ease and clarity. Bringing a sense of order to an over inflated and constantly fluctuating industry. So with BrandMatch – powered by our 2 million strong panel of consumers-  we did just that to create an Influence Index [1].  BrandMatch can accurately determine the strength of a consumer’s emotional relationship with a public figure, which directly corresponds with their level of influence. Hence, the Influence Index isn’t simply a social media follower count. It’s consumer driven and offers a quantitative and qualitative ranking of supermodel influence, whereby a consumer’s perception of, and relationship to, these models forms the Index. In other words, the Influencer Index positioned the models by determining how much people care about and relate to these women. 

No doubt, the original supers wielded immense influence and- as evidenced by the Versace show and our Influence Index- still do. But Cara Delevigne still trounced all competition and this has everything to do with her social media presence. Social media has blown apart the playing field. The influence of the old-guard and the new are, in some ways, barely comparable. It’s not just a whole new ball game. The balls are gone, and so are the playing fields. In their place we have 6-inch screens, cramping thumbs, and a compulsive need to just. Keep. Scrolling. 

Supermodels have always been inherently zeitgeist-y and thus, incredibly influential. Being the face of a generation signifies something deeper than mere aesthetics. The deified supermodel tends to embody the aspirations and value systems of a given generation. Indeed, in 2017, Insta-girls are the embodiment of a hyperconnected generation. The most prominent being Cara Delevigne, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Emily Ratajkowski. This shimmering squad of rich kids, heiress’, celebrity daughters and reality TV alumnae have crash landed on the catwalks, iPhones at the ready, enveloped in a distinctly nepotism-scented haze. They’re social media savvy and have effortlessly amassed millions of followers across their platforms by carefully cultivating their personal brands. In such turbulent, Trumpian times, this new generation of models are an escapist fantasy for us mere mortals. We live (or just scroll) vicariously through them.

Still, the ‘Supers’ are Naomi, Kate, Linda, Cindy, Christy, Claudia and Elle; this group of women who merged fashion and celebrity. They understood ‘personal brand’ from the get go. Two full decades later we are jumping on the bandwagon. They were the personification of glamour, luxury and conspicuous consumption, but there was little sense of who the supers actually were. Broad brushstrokes painted their public personas: Naomi launched mobile phones and Cindy loved Coca-Cola. Like the notoriously silent Kate Moss, they were seen and not heard, and when they were heard, all they uttered were splutter-worthy remarks like: “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day”. They were ideas of people, fleshed out no further than their implausible waist measurements.

Now we are fed a flabby diet of the ins and outs of insta-model lives - both the mundane and the ostentatious. This means that in 2017, to be seen and not heard simply will not do. This is clear in the results of our SoundOut Influence Index which shows: Cara’s hot and Kate’s not. Cara saturates our social media feeds and news outlets; she’s starring in blockbuster movies, writing books and has 40m Instagram followers. Her omnipresence is mirrored in her level of influence. On the flipside is Kate Moss, undoubtedly an icon, but her approach to celebrity is a silent one. She’s a face rather than a personality.

Indeed, in 2016, Moss caused waves when she left Storm Models after 27 years. She then took another, retreating step from the limelight when she launched her own talent agency ‘Kate Moss Agency’, last year. The fashion industry is so changeable and SoundOut BrandMatch can accurately chart levels of influence at any point in time. Like now, influence lies at the feet of the vibrant, social media heavy weight Delevigne.  Still, the ‘insta-girl’ image is still just as controlled, and just as curated, as it was in the 90s. But now it’s through the faux-divulgent lens of social media. Their meticulously plotted, yet totally blithe, FOMO inducing content. It’s exhausting and it’s addictive. Whether it’s Bella Hadid draped in body chains aboard a luxury yacht, or Gigi Hadid showering boyband beau Zayn in delicate kisses. 

The insta-girls know this, but more importantly, so do brands. Those innocuous double taps can translate into serious buying power. According to Leonardo Chavez, Maybelline’s global brand president, Gigi Hadid’s social media follower count played a central role in their decision to hire her as the face of the brand. “Gigi is extremely connected, and beyond being connected, she is fantastically engaged with women around the world. She is extremely relevant for the millennial consumer, not only because of who she is externally—her beauty, her fashion, her style, her sexiness—but also because she is a girl that has amazing confidence, has amazing drive and is willing to share that with women through social channels.”. Today, modelling is a numbers game, meaning brands and agencies no longer need to take risks. As Chavez alludes to, a perfectly symmetrical face and a great walk are both great, but what big brands are really after is social media clout. 

Selling things has always been a part of the job description, but not until now has it been so crucial for them to relentlessly sell themselves. Our fascination with their lives means that brands are tripping over themselves to score a cameo role in the model’s feeds. At the core of every fashion designer, or brand’s campaign, is the fundamental desire to relate to their audience. Celebrity itself generates a snowball effect: the more we see someone’s face (especially on a device as personal as our phones), the more feel we know them, and the more we care about them. 

Though the 90s supers will always be iconic, influence in the fashion industry comes and goes in cycles. A quintet of supermodels returning to the runway after two decades may have shut down Milan fashion week, but that’s just the nature of nostalgia. When it comes down to influence and selling power, it’s the new vanguard of models who have the monopoly. People and brands value youth, personalities, and trending faces.  Copyright © 2017. Tiffany Amuah[1] For this test, our SoundOut BrandMatch panel was comprised of 500 men and women from the US between the ages of 16-34.

Copyright SoundOut 2019