Apr 20, 2011

Where Did All the Eastern European Models Go?

My friend T.J., a Chicagoland fashion fanboy, had quite a reaction to "A Model's Moment."  I asked him to share his thoughts here.  Join the discussion!

Right after I read Emily's take on the transient nature of the model, I had to ask her: "Where did all the Eastern Europeans go?"  I'd noticed that Slavic sylphs took quite the backseat for the Fall 2011 shows — and didn't know why!

A few potential pitfalls may have been responsible for the lack of Eastern Europeans: 
1. Did agents forget to tell them about tax returns, resulting in financial ruin?  
2. Did the pressures of supporting multiple family members back home cause them to buckle?  
3. Perhaps the luxury-goods industry's expansion in China played a part; blue-chip castings have made room for more Asian models.  Go, Liu Wen, go!

Liu Wen:

The possibilities are endless.

But the phenomenon is nothing new.  When I first started paying attention to castings, it was all about Brazil ("FREE THE GISÈLE TWO!").  Before Brazil, there was a Belgian invasion (Delfine will always be unstoppable).  And prior to that, the look was all-American, following a steady importation of icy-cool Brits (what's your Zoe Gaze I.Q.?).


Zoe Gaze: 

But the post-9/11 look was robotic sameness, achieved by sending an unending stream of terrified-looking androgynes — almost exclusively Eastern European — down the runways of the world.  As disarmingly symmetric, gorgeous and impossibly long-legged as Olga Sherer and Diana Farkhullina are (two of my faves), the all-Eastern European lineups of the past few years were torpor-inducing.  Numbing.  Wearing.  Did casting directors choose convenience over creativity?   Or were designers pressuring them to cast hangerlike blanks, now that some ready-to-wear lines are borderline couture and require the audience's full attention?



Gorgeous but with the same features. 

Whatever the reason, it was a case of too much, too soon (and I'm the descendant of a Russo-Polish grandmother!).  One-of-a-kind beauties and women of color were shut out during the affair, and it's a relief to have them back!  Imperfections are of the moment, too.  Did you know that the luscious Joan Smalls has untreatable scoliosis?  I love that she admitted that.  It's humbling and makes the fantasy of high fashion less intimidating to real women.

Joan Smalls:

Do I want our tried-and-true Eastern bloc girls to make a comeback?  Of course!  But not all at once, please.  As a model, you don't want to be outshone by other girls with striking similarities.  That's what made the legendary Natalia Semanova so special during the Gisèle era!

Who are your favorite new faces?  Why are there fewer and fewer new Eastern European catwalkers?  Will Eastern Europe make a comeback on the runways?  Discuss!

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