Saskia de Brauw for Giorgio Armani Resort 2013 Collection 2

The Fashion Upsurge of the Jolie-Laide — “Pretty-Ugly”

Famously, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald was quoted of saying, “after a certain degree of prettiness, one pretty girl is as pretty as another.” 

That sentiment cannot be truer of the fashion industry at the moment as aesthetical beauty has been displaced by the power of imperfection.

Hanne Gaby Odiele for S Moda October 2012

Hanne Gaby Odiele for S Moda October 2012

Gone are the stereotypical super models of the late 80s, best remembered for their glamour and idolised figures. They have been replaced by the new wave of Jolie-Laide models, which literally translates as “pretty-ugly.”

Stella Tennant for Italian Vogue 1999 by Tim Walker

Stella Tennant for Italian Vogue 1999 by Tim Walker

The fashion industry has progressed from the cookie cut type of the 50s ‘New Look’ of nipped in waist with padded hips.

The zeitgeist of the times has progressed to models not being booked for their commerciality, but instead for their individuality.

Mark Selzer sums it up best as, “the stylized model body on display, a beauty so generic it might have a bar code on it.”

Consumers of fashion have become bored of perfection and instead realise that to appreciate beauty fully you need to have a concept of ugliness.

Fashion photographer Helmut Newton was one of the first to influence the move away from conventional beauty.

In the 70s he said, “I’m not looking for a perfect body, whatever that means, because I find that boring.”

Famously in French Vogue, 1977 he mixed dummies with live models to highlight the voyeuristic nature of fashion and how models were being seen as objects to be adorned and adored, resulting in an embodied corporeality.

Kate Moss by Corrine Day for British Vogue, 1993

Kate Moss by Corrine Day for British Vogue, 1993

The 90s was the first time truly when aesthetical beauty became blurred to embrace other norms, with the introduction of ‘Heroin Chic’ becoming influential.

The style was most notably portrayed by Kate Moss and the image by Corrine Day in British Vogue, 1993.

In it, we see the supermodel of the time not as a glamorous beauty, but instead as an androgynous, waif like representation of beauty.

She’s not being heavily stylised in fashion imagery, but instead captured in a nonchalant pose, capturing the spirit of the time of relaxed style.

The 90s also saw fashion itself starting to challenge conventional beauty.

In 1999, Viktor and Rolf sent models down their catwalk as spectres lost of their bodies, and hence their souls — totally challenging the notion of increased materialisation and consumer consumption of fashion.

The Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Autumn/Winter 1999/2000 collection gave wave to models cast as alienated androids.

And in 1999’s Italian Vogue, famous fashion photographer Tim Walker cast model Stella Tennant as a product of design to be shipped away in the form of a fashion mannequin.

Arizona Muse for Self Service, issue 35 by Alasdair McLellan

Arizona Muse for Self Service, issue 35 by Alasdair McLellan

Since the 90s, models which have become more in favour are ones that have a uniqueness and eccentricity to them. No longer are fashion models seen to as hangers for the clothes.

Instead, they are the embodiment of the clothing and hence are looked upon with creative stimulation to translate the designers vision through the clothing onto the watching public.

Fashion has become less about how it is marketed and instead as encouragement of individual creativity through use of unique models.

At present, models which are in high demand have notes of imperfection about them such as the gap toothed Lara Stone and Georgia Jagger, the defined eyebrows of Arizona Muse, the domed forehead of Hanne Gaby Odiele and the masculine Saskia de Brauw and Stella Tennant — collectively better known as the new breed of Jolie-Laide.


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