SAM AND THE SUPERS
With Apple’s hotly-anticipated docu-series ‘The Super Models’ being released to the excitement of fashion fans everywhere, it’s been a real personal delight for me to be able to travel back in time to 1980s New York, where fashion as we know it today really began. While there have always been Supermodels - women who transcended the moment and became more than what was expected of them (think Audrey Hepburn, Grace Jones, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton) - it was my generation of Supermodels that coined the phrase the world came to recognise.
Focusing on the lives of Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford as they began embarking on their modelling careers, join me as I reflect on how it was being part of the tightly knit team of creatives playing a pivotal role in defining, shaping, and refining their individual images as they evolved over the years.
I met the original Original Five - Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz - when they were all teenagers starting out in the world of runways, magazine covers, and editorials. I was first introduced to Christy Turlington in 1985 on a shoot for American Vogue, and Tatjana Patitz the following year when she shot with Terence Donovan. That same year, Linda Evangelista showed up in London to work with Alex Chatelain. Then there was Naomi Campbell, a leggy fifteen-year-old schoolgirl from Streatham with her own brand of zeitgeist.
Italian Vogue, April 1990.
Photograph by Ellen von Unwerth.
Working with these glamazons at such close proximity, for so many years, meant that I was able to witness firsthand how incredibly professional, confident and hard-working these girls truly were, and deservedly earned every accolade that was bestowed upon them. One shoot with Linda springs to mind:
“I watched her open the doors of a church in a little town in Umbria, dressed to the nines, hair and makeup perfectly in place, flying out with a dozen Dobermans running behind her. I had her mum hanging off me in mortal fear, and all Linda was concerned with, was which diamonds the photographer wanted her to highlight—the earrings or the bracelet? She completely choreographed her own leap into the frame. Of course, she not only did it flawlessly, but not a hair out of place.” (Sam McKnight, Hair by Sam McKnight, 2016)
The demands of our jobs changed with the times as we left the big, dramatic ‘Dos and makeup of the Eighties behind, and embraced the neutral, accessible glamour of the Nineties; it was during this period that the title Supermodel became cemented, with Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen, Yasmin Lebon, Yasmeen Ghauri, and obviously, Kate Moss joining these prestigious ranks.
Christy Turlington as Jackie O for the 1990s.
American Vogue, February 1990.
Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier.
Synonymised with strong individual identities and female power, these women possessed far more than their own beauty, and this was reflected in the more off-duty, everyday looks playing to their unique style and sense of self that we created on the runway and at shoots. Of course, there were exceptions; the runway at Vivienne Westwood was never one for the ordinary!
Kenar campaign 1992–93.
Photograph by Laspata DeCaro.
Alongside a close-knit team of creatives including the likes of Oribe, Francois Nars, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Mary Greenwell and Steven Meisel to name a few, these individualistic women with their own special brand of beauty rose to iconic heights, instantly recognisable across the world.
"Occasionally I’d get a sense of how it was all playing in the outside world, and it would always come as a shock to see just how famous the girls, who I had all met as teenagers, were becoming. Once I had been working on a Revlon campaign with Cindy Crawford, and she came into the store with me in full Revlon makeup. It was like a visitation. The staff crumpled. One woman fled to the back of the shop in tears - quite remarkable to witness." (Sam McKnight, Hair By Sam McKnight, 2016)
British Vogue, January 1990.
Photographs by Patrick Demarchelier.
This nostalgic journey down memory lane with some of the most hardworking, progressive, and admirable people that I have had the pleasure to not just work alongside, but become lifelong friends with, is something I am so glad is being shared with a global community of couture enthusiasts. Giving us the opportunity to reflect on the profound impact and enduring legacy left by these four iconic women, this docu-series is a chance to celebrate how they revolutionised the fashion world and continue to shape it to this day.