The modeling industry has evolved a lot in the past few years. While many still picture the golden era of supermodels, in which Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Co. rose to fame during the 90s, a lot of what it means to be a model has changed in the meantime. Today, the internet and societal shifts have shaped the job description to something new. What does the modeling industry look like in 2022?
Industry Shifts in the Modeling World
Like any other industry, fashion businesses and models need to adapt to society as it changes. Today, we see different opportunities and more diversity than we have years ago. However, this isn’t a new development. Different periods of time have always created certain trends and demands on what a model should look like.
A diverse cast of models and body types can be found in past eras, as well. In the 1970s in North America, heavier black and ethnic models dominated the runways. As society changed, the big names in the industry were pressured to eliminate “otherness” from their roster. As a result, predominantly light skinned models were used to appeal to western audiences.
In the early 90s, heroin chic was the popular style on runways. The often androgynous models had emaciated features, pale skin, dark under eye circles, and stringy hair – all common side effects of drug use. It had its roots in the popularity of grunge and the use of heroine becoming more prevalent among middle-class and wealthy people, after it lost the stigma of being unsafe and tied to the AIDS epidemic in the 80s.
After a lot of criticism for glorifying drug use, this era faded towards the end of the decade, with models like Gisele Bündchen putting a larger focus on “sexy” models with curves and other voluptuous, feminine features.
Then again, in 2007, models turned into thin, android like “puppets” with vacant stares, that minimized any sort of expression to put the focus on the clothing rather than the person wearing it.
Today, with the increasing visibility of diverse identities in media and a stronger focus on physical and mental health, we are seeing a wide variety of models from different backgrounds, with different gender identities and body types, or even disabilities. In 2022, model agencies, like Showcast Models, host a larger group of diverse and unconventional models.
What changed today?
There are several influencing factors that lead to shifts in the modeling style and job in any given era. Modeling in the 21st century was shaped by:
The internet might be the most influential factor here. It significantly changed the way our world works in every aspect. It is easier to connect, share, and access international content. Social media platforms and other internet media have created new industries and career options.
With influencers on the rise, people with an interest in modeling have new channels to work. We can see this in the many fitness, health, fashion, and beauty bloggers, YouTubers, streamers and more. Today, people have an easier time showcasing themselves, but also a much larger competition.
People who have an interest in working as a model don’t necessarily have to hope for agencies to accept them into their portfolio. They can build a following and generate interest via their social media profiles to find an in into the industry. For many professional models, marketing themselves over these channels has become an integral part of their career.
Social Justice Movements
The internet also made it easier to recognize systemic problems all across the globe. Struggles come to light much easier today, than they have before smartphones and social media were invented. This created a larger group of people who learn about and advocate against several oppressive structures.
This includes things like racism, ageism, ableism, sexism, and many other injustices and unequal treatment of different fringe groups. We can feel this societal shift in the pressure put on media and marketing. While many companies have shunned “otherness” for years, today they must either include a larger diversity and environmentally conscious practices, or face scandals and boycotts.
Things like pride-colored collections in the pride month June show a larger acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, a thing that would not have been possible decades ago. The same is true for bigger representation of POC, disabled bodies, and different body types, or other things that have conventionally been dubbed not attractive by the industry for ages.
Focus on Health and the Environment
As a result, companies are also forced to treat their models with greater care. There is a greater societal pressure against things like the “heroin chic” trend and systems that force a large group of people to starve or otherwise harm themselves in order to be successful.
A bigger focus has been put on the influence models, media, and other role models have on humans, their perception, and self-worth. Many studies can prove today that beauty standards represented in media can be actively harmful and lead to waves of depression, eating disorders, beauty treatments, and plastic surgery.
As a result, the industry – whether based on their own ethics or because they are pressured by society and governments – is forced to include more and more diverse and healthy body images, and actively fight harmful structures and practices they have established in the past.
The same applies to factors like sustainable business practices, and any industry process that might harm the environment and animals.
While we live in chaotic times, society has changed for the better in many ways. Today’s media and industries are more inclusive and sustainable. Tools like the internet have created new opportunities and shone a light on injustice and unhealthy structures. As a result, the modeling industry now includes a more diverse cast of models, and puts a bigger focus on mental and physical health, and the beauty standards they are portraying.