The Ins and Outs of Personality on the Runway

Hey! Glad to see you back,

For today’s Freestyle Post, I decided to write about a realization I made a while ago (as I’m sure many others may have), the In’s and Out’s of personality on the runway. Most people that stake claim to “loving fashion” more than likely take a liking to runway. It’s sort of the big shebang in the fashion industry where designers get to showcase their designs that once only resonated as ideas, but now come to life for onlookers to interpret, criticize, and… wear of course. We know that with the seasons’ change, new trends are introduced in addition to styling techniques and projections from forecasters, but what about the muse? The model.

I’m no model connoisseur, but I am keen on the history of many and being an observer, I have realized that models’ presentations have changed drastically over the years. Let’s think back for a minute to 1987 (No, I wasn’t to be born for another 3 years, but that’s why I love the Internet), Oscar de la Renta’s spring/summer show, which included Supermodels like Iman, Veronica Webb, Yasmin le Bon, Paulina Porizkova, Dalma Collado and more, was a lively show full of models with various backgrounds, looks, and personalities that all had a chance to shine on that runway. It wasn’t taboo to twirl and turn until the model’s heart was content, it was encouraged! They did just that, as they still kept in mind that the ultimate goal was to model the beautiful dresses and gowns to be marveled over. Take a look at some footage from that show below. The quality is not so good, but hey…it was over 20 years ago!


As you can see, the models seemed full of joy, grace, and simply did their own thing. If you go even further back to the early 70s, specifically the fashion event that changed the face of American fashion in the light of our European counterparts, The Runway Battle of Versailles ’73, we see that this marked the change that allowed for models to be more expressive on the runway and move away from the very robotic old European way of modeling. This is a perfect indicator of the fact that the fluctuation of expression on the runway has been occurring for some time, but that the constant wave seems to continue it’s pattern of “In and Out”.

Throughout the 90s, the notion of “fun on the runway” was popular, and I believe it is what allowed models the chance to prove themselves and create signature aspects of their work to later gain them the title of Supermodel. Think Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and even Tyra Banks, they are known for their quirks and namesake signature walks, turns, and smiles on the runway, but what has happened to that element of character and life on the runway?

Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Tyra Banks

90s models, they brought character to the runway!


Today’s runway seems to be on a downward sloping trend toward the “Out” end when it comes to models being “themselves” on the runway. Yes, I understand that it is about the clothes, but as a consumer and lover of the visual imagery that runway shows bring, personality brings the lively theatrical element back to the runway. It’s fun, unexpected, and personable! I guess they don’t want that? Besides the Victoria Secret fashion show and Betsey Johnson’s fashion week shows, traces of smiles, excessive but properly executed spins and twirls, and “I’m not just  a number” odes are nonexistent. The sad truth. Now, the runway has went back to its robotic ways, everyone is the same. Yeah, there are one or two models every season that get a little more shine and gets bumped up to supermodel status overnight, but it’s just not the same. Not like back in the day where it wasn’t really based on hype, but when models earned their credibility and star status by becoming trusted muses of famed designers who cherished the ground they walked on. In a Q & A I did with Iman a couple years ago, she stated “Unfortunately, models are no longer muses! When I used to model, designers always asked me how I felt about the clothes or how I would style it. Our opinions mattered then but unfortunately now the girls are all told to walk the same hence making them more like mannequins.” See, it’s not just me, guys! I would love to see life resume on the runway, smiles and winks and extra hip dips, all of that!


New York Fashion week

Today’s runway! They all look the same!


I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few runway shows at New York Fashion Week, so I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and although the shows are exceptionally beautiful with aesthetic genius, I can’t help but wonder why after  the light tricks, runway illusions, and apparel designs have left the runway, people lend a little hand clap and rush off quickly to their next destination. I think the missing element is the character and life models used to be encouraged to bring forth on the runway, the things that people can feel and want more of. That’s what it is. It troubles me to think of how long it will take for the trend to head toward “In” again, or if it will land at a plateau where only a few designers and models will continue to employ this entertaining style of runway, while the rest continue to line up by who can be the most robotic. Is anyone else with me on this one? Do you want to see personality return to the runway or are you cool with today’s norm of the unwritten uniform policy?

Let’s have a conversation!

1 Comment

  1. mychelle February 11, 2013 / 1:58 PM

    I couldn’t agree more. I love the twists, twirls, and fun. I was just thinking wow these fashion shows remind me of the older, much older ones that were although artful and creative still drab with is came to exciting the viewers. I don’t what kind of meeting was had to bring the “mannequin walk” back but I vote NO!.

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